How to Save Time as a Blogger: Hire a Virtual Assistant

Hire a Virtual Assistant

Who knew that blogging can take so much time? When I started Frugal Rules about 15 or so months ago, I knew it would be work, but I didn’t realize how much time it takes to build and maintain a growing blog. You have the networking aspect, responding to emails from members of the press and advertisers, and marketing of your blog…oh yeah, and…the business that I run with my wife. After speaking with other bloggers, I knew I was not the only one sitting up at night with my blog, but I still plugged along.

While sometimes I wish that I were, unfortunately I am not a machine and thus need help running the blog, especially if I plan to take it to the next level. This is where hiring a virtual assistant for your blog comes into play.

You Can’t do it All

I had avoided the calls to hire a virtual assistant for some time. Mrs. Frugal Rules was telling me to hire one, and other blogging friends were telling me to hire one. I guess part of it goes back to that I didn’t like the feeling that I was giving up ownership of the blog somehow.

I was looking at it the wrong way. There is only so much time in the day and I can only do so much. This is also not to mention the fact that I don’t know everything – shocker I know.   ;-)   After giving it some thought I saw the need to hire a virtual assistant, two in fact, to help take some of the weight off my shoulders and ideally to help free up more of my time to do more marketing-related things to grow my site.

What Can you Hire a Virtual Assistant to do?

For those who don’t know, a virtual assistant is basically anyone you can hand off certain tasks to so that you don’t have to do them – speaking simplistically of course. If you’re thinking about trying to hire a virtual assistant for your site but don’t know what to hand off, there are a number of things you can outsource, such as:

  • Carnival submissions
  • Blog commenting – this is one you need to be very careful with, assuming you want quality of course
  • Social media management
  • Social bookmarking
  • Email management
  • Uploading posts and pictures into WordPress
  • Work on internal linking for SEO purposes

This is just a simple list of what you can hire a virtual assistant to do and is not meant to be exhaustive. You can go as far or as little as you want, though I’d suggest starting off small as you get used to working together and make sure they can handle the smaller tasks. Assuming they can, then it should be a somewhat natural transition to give or train your virtual assistant additional responsibilities.

I know that I am not unique to the feeling that hiring a virtual assistant for your blog is giving up some ownership of it. Now that I have gone through the process, I see it from another angle in that it can be really beneficial to helping you grow your blog by freeing up your time to handle other higher level things.


Hire a World of Talent at Elance

Where Do You Start When Hiring a Virtual Assistant?

So, this begs the question of where do you go if you want to hire a virtual assistant? Thankfully, there are a number of companies out there that have virtual assistant candidates to choose from, such as oDesk, Elance and Freelancer.com to name a few.

I can’t really speak to the others, but I went with oDesk as I read some good reviews about them and seemed to be a good place to hire a virtual assistant from. That said, my steps are assuming you’re going with oDesk to hire your virtual assistant and may vary somewhat if you go with a different freelance/contract work service.

Post the Job Ad

The first thing you’ll want to do is post your job ad. My tip is to be specific and clear about what you’re wanting from them. You may want to ask them to type a certain word at the beginning of their response to make sure they’re reading the posting and not just someone trying to get the gig from you. Many will tell you only what they think you want to hear and this tip alone helped me weed out those who obviously did not read the description. In my case, I asked them to type “frugal” at the beginning of their application, those that did not do this automatically got thrown out.

Ignore Their Rates

After you post your job ad, you can then wait for the responses. As we’re personal finance bloggers I know we all want to be wise with our money, but I say ignore the rates in the beginning unless they’re just crazy high. As I’ve learned, many are willing to negotiate. That said, look at their most recent reviews and how they’ve tested on the self-assessment tests. If you’re wanting to hire a blog commenter then you want to make sure they have a good grasp of English.   :-)

Get in Touch with the Quality Matches

Once you’ve weeded out those who don’t have good reviews or crazy rates, you’ll want to get in contact with the remaining candidates. What I did was send them a sample test to check for accuracy. My tip is to test them on one of the more simple tasks and ask them to write out how they’d do it. Make it clear and make it simple to understand so you don’t make it more difficult than it has to be.

Interview The Remaining Candidates

Assuming the sample test has worked out well, you’ll want to interview the remaining candidates – which really should only be a small handful at this time. There are a variety of methods to do this, and I went with Skype to interview them. This allows you to ask more in depth questions, clearly communicate what you’re wanting, and discuss pay rates. It’s from this information that you can decide which virtual assistant you want to hire.

As an aside, if you go through oDesk to hire a virtual assistant, they offer a service to help you with much of this for your first hire. Speaking personally, I did not use it, but it looked to be a very helpful service if that is something you feel you’d benefit from.

Get Started With Your New Virtual Assistant

Going back to the point of the post, if you’re looking to hire a virtual assistant then time savings is one of the biggest benefits of doing so. In addition to that, you get the benefit of handing tasks off that you may not be as skilled in as you’d like and ultimately allow you to work on other things you’ve maybe been putting off.

I will give a disclaimer though, have realistic expectations when you hire a virtual assistant. Unless you catch lightning in a bottle, then you likely can’t start off with handing a ton off right away as there will be a learning curve. Start off slowly and allow them to get a grasp of what you expect.

Along with the realistic expectations, realize that they may not have as much time as you would like or not have all the skills you’re looking for. If this is the case, then don’t be opposed to hiring a second virtual assistant to help with those other items and tasks.

Most importantly, it’s key to maintain clear and regular communication with your virtual assistant and treat them how you would want to be treated as no one wants to work for a tyrant. If you manage it wisely, they can become a valuable asset to your team that can help you grow your blog by freeing up your time for other blogging items.

I apologize for the near 1,400 mega post, but wanted to make sure I provided a step by step process by which I was able to find a virtual assistant so you have a framework to follow. That said, if you do have any questions in regards to hiring a virtual assistant, just let me know in the comments or contact me.   :-)

Have you ever thought about hiring a virtual assistant for your blog? What would you do for your site if you were given extra time each week?

 

Photo courtesy of: Alan Clark

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About the author:

I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. You can connect via Twitter / Facebook.

52 comments on “How to Save Time as a Blogger: Hire a Virtual Assistant

    • I really think you should look into it seriously Holly. It’ll take some time commitment up front, but will be well worth the cost assuming you find a good one.

  1. In my case hiring someone to handle my blog promotion / networking is not the way to do it. I’m very fast/organized with promotion/commenting, so it takes me maybe 1 hour/day to do it. I also write fast, so it’s not such a huge deal. My main issue would be that many people don’t provide a good service (or at least I’m the control freak who’s never pleased with it), so I’d only outsource maybe some HTML coding (which again is not always a great solution, since many are not even able to do this properly), otherwise everything has to be handled by me :)

    Anyway .. in the case I’d want to outsource, the tips are indeed very useful.
    dojo recently posted..Must have WordPress PluginsMy Profile

    • That’s exactly the issue I’m talking about Dojo. There are others out there that are good and can make your life much simpler in terms of a blog, but a lot of it does come down to a trust issue. Like I said, we’re not robots. ;)

  2. This is a great article John — thanks for posting. I’ve had good luck in the past with Odesk, but you do have to really stay on top of your employees and give them clear directions, or you can run into some problems.

    I’m in that weird space between my site being a part-time hobby and the knowledge that if I spent considerably more time on it (that I don’t currently have) I could make it a success.

    Hiring a VA to do some of these tasks might make sense for me, so this was perfectly timed…
    Brad @ RichmondSavers.com recently posted..Lending Club Update December 2013My Profile

    • Thanks for the kind words Brad! You’re right about oDesk, and I think any VA really, you do need to stay on top of them in order to see solid progress. I think that’s why communication is so important so both parties have the same expectations.

      I was in that same spot as well when i hired my VAs and so glad that I did as it frees up my time to focus on bigger picture things as opposed to dealing with things that can easily be outsourced.

      Glad to be of help, let me know if you have any questions. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this John. Bookmarking this page to come back to later. As you know, I’ve told you I need to hire a VA, but it’s really one of the things that I know nothing about. Hiring writers? Not so hard. Hiring a VA and making sure you are getting the right value? Not nearly as straightforward.

    Also you should never apologize for 1,400 word posts. Longer posts are usually more valuable for readers imo…which is probably why they often rank higher than short posts.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..The 4 Qualities of Successful EntrepreneursMy Profile

    • Not a problem DC, I’ve been putting it off for a while. :) I was in the same spot when i hired my VAs, I had no idea what I was doing or what to be looking for. Hiring a writer has been generally easier for me as well. That said, I think that’s why it’s so important to take your time and clearly outline what it is you’re looking for in a VA. That will go a long way to help you in the long run. Like I’ve said to others, feel free to shoot me any questions as I’d love to help.

      I know, longer posts are generally better for a variety of reasons. Just wanted to make sure no one would be poking their eyes out with railroad spikes. ;)

    • That’s exactly it Kurt – you can farm out those things you don’t like to do and focus on the things you’ve been neglecting. It’s a nice little benefit to have, especially for procrastinators like me. :)

  4. If I hired one, it would certainly be for SEO and social media. I honestly don’t know a thing about Pinterest! Like Brad, I think I am at a crossroads between keeping blogging as a hobby where whatever money I make is like a treat vs really trying to grow it as a business and assume it would make regular income. After this month, I should have some clarity as to where I want to go. There is just too much going on right now to think !
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Out of the Flippin’ House Flipping BusinessMy Profile

    • The social media was one that was big for me Kim. I don’t know a blasted thing about Pinterest either, so I handed it off to my VA. :) I can understand that crossroads as I was there as well, though I can also understand being busy this month of all months. :)

  5. I’ve got a couple writers who do sponsored posts for me and one VA who does only blog carnival submissions. I tried one out for social media but it was not worth it, I signed up for dlvr.it instead and it is way more cost-effective.

    Going forward, I’m going to hire another writer but in more of a staff writer/weekly contributor role and I’m looking for a VA to help with e-mail/other various tasks.
    harry @ 4HWD recently posted..How Often do you Complain About Your Situation?My Profile

    • Yea, I use dlvr.it for sharing, though I have my VA doing social bookmarking and networking with others on some of those sites. Sounds like you’ve got a good combination going.

  6. I think about this all the time, especially when it comes to SEO, marketing, and carnival submissions. I’ve never done a carnival submission because of time. That’s crazy!! The biggest thing holding me back is cost. I someone just can’t justify it yet unless I know I’ll get a ROI. Any advice on if I should move forward with it or not?
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..How I Made 10k in Side IncomeMy Profile

    • I can understand that Tonya, it can be difficult to pull the trigger on especially if you’re looking at cost. My advice would be, assuming you want to hire one, is to start small with something like carnival submissions and see how it goes. Or, you could go as simple as putting a job description out there and see what kind of response you get. If you go through oDesk or Elance you can get pretty good rates so it wouldn’t cost a whole lot. If you have any questions, let me know. :)

  7. It’s probably something I’ve contemplated for the future. But not sure if I should do it now since I’m not making anything from the blog. Maybe having a VA will boost traffic and in turn make it worth it. I don’t know. Oh and I’ve seen the carnival submission services…do you think carnival submissions and those services are worthwhile. I definitely have to look into improving SEO. Thanks for the tips.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Save Money While Holiday ShoppingMy Profile

    • That is an understandable situation Andrew as you’re now looking at how much do you want to spend with not making money on the blog. I think carnival submissions are still generally worth it. Paying someone else to do it…it depends on how long it takes you each week. I came up with a system to submit to 15 or so each week and it took me 20-30 minutes to get it done. I’d rather pay my VA to do that so I can free up that time for higher level duties.

  8. Jeremy has a couple of VA’s who he likes and trusts and at first he suggested they do some stuff for my blog as well and I agreed until they made the mistake of submitting my blog to a jerk carnival so now NO ONE touches my blog but me LOL. Girl Meets Debt isn’t at the success level yet where I need a VA. Maybe someday. :)
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted..GMD 2013 Blog Awards!My Profile

    • Thanks Kyle! It is nice to offload some of that work and free up some time to work on some higher level things. Let me know if you have any questions as you move closer to that.

    • Thanks Hank! I think the per project option is a great route to take as I think it can help you get some experience with it and see if you find someone who works well. I can understand that concern and the work does vary from week to week, but the nice thing is you only have to pay them for the work they actually do – at least if you go through Odesk.

  9. I blog for fun and don’t make any money. I just hope that some of my posts help others make the most of their money. Since I don’t make any money from my blog, I can’t afford to hire anyone. Right now, I am happy with the way my blog is set up, so all I have to do is write great content.

    I am happy that so many PF bloggers are making money and can afford to hire others. Seems like a win-win.
    Bryce @ Save and Conquer recently posted..The Most Popular Retirement InvestmentMy Profile

  10. I’m no where near at the size yet where I would consider using a virtual assistant personally. Although another factor I would need to consider is if the blog is actually generating revenue. I have no issues paying the server costs for just a personnal hobby. If I start paying a virtual assitant though, it’s become more of a business and one that I would want to be running profitably before expanding staff.
    Micro recently posted..Settle your debt for less than the full amount – The debt settlement process in detailMy Profile

    • I agree Pauline, ideally that is what I’d do as well. However, you do have to let go and start to view it as a business if you’re wanting to see it grow.

  11. I cannot stress enough how much virtual assistants have helped during the creation of my product. Virtual assistants can help you with all that time consuming tasks that only drift you away from what is really important on your website/blog.

    There is a common misconception that virtual assistants cost a lot of money. Matter of fact is there are some of them that charge very affordable rates.

    I hired a virtual assistant to help me out to develop my Investment Course on my site, it was a wonder working with her. She charged me $4/hr from the Philippines we couldn’t be any happier. On her side she was making a decent amount of money (take in consideration $4 can go far on the Philippines) and I was getting the work done faster too.

    There are some sites such as Elance that makes sure both parties are acting in accordance to what the contract says, it also monitors each movement so that they can’t scam you. Give them a try if you are serious about your business.
    Frank @ Wall Street College recently posted..Market Lessons: How my Emotions Got on the Way of Making $1,802.My Profile

    • That’s awesome Frank! I agree that the dollar amount can sound bad, but it really can go far for many of them.

      I’ve heard the same thing about Elance and am thinking of trying them out for a thing or two. I’ve felt pretty lucky in those I hired at oDesk, but have heard good things about Elance as well.

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