“The path to greatness is along with others.” – Baltasar Gracion, Spanish Priest
My writing business is moving into young adulthood, and instead of wondering where my next project is going to come from, I’m looking for more money, more projects and more clients. The only catch is, I don’t want to work any more hours.
Ahh, there’s the rub.
The “secret” here is not so secret at all. Of the 28 hours I spend behind the desk, only approximately 14 are billable hours. That’s a dismal 50% billable rate. I simply must increase my billable hours to 75% of my total time, which will increase my income by 25%, with no time adjustment on my part. How?
By hiring and training a virtual assistant.
Fully one half of my hours are spent on administrative tasks like seeking clients, pitching clients, producing Letters of Agreement or contracts, maintaining websites and blogs, invoicing, answering questions and updating spreadsheets. Look at that list again. Every single one of these chores could be farmed out to someone else.
There are a lot of hang ups when it comes to hiring virtual help. As a freelance writer, I understand that. But each of these issues can be solved.
- Can’t afford it you say? Let’s look at it this way: if you bill at $70/hour and pay a virtual assistant $30-40/an hour, by regaining those billable hours, you’re netting $20-40 more per hour.
- How can I be sure I’m getting quality help? Well, how do you help your clients to feel comfortable hiring you sight unseen? You probably provide a portfolio of work, with client references and a track record showing at least a couple years of service. Look for the same thing.
- I want to pay a fair price. Virtual Assistants (VAs) work on much the same system as freelance writers. You won’t be the only client, and you’ve got to accept that. I’ve estimated a rate of $30 per hour to hire a VA. You’ll want to do your own research. Consider what administrative assistants make in your area, and take into account your own billing structure when setting your pay rate. Be open to what the VA suggests, or visit the International Virtual Assistants Association.
- What about training? This question goes deeper than what’s on the surface. Another way to increase your productivity and your billable hours is to automate your processes. For example, once you’ve found a system that works for you in procuring new projects, or in invoicing and billing, document the details in what will become your business manual. This manual will then become your training manual.
- I can’t deal with the down time. Down time should be built into your schedule. Successful businesses need a time to relax and recharge after completing big projects- think of the day after taxes are due at a CPA firm, or the day after Christmas in the retail industry. You and your team need to push and give to meet deadlines and bang out quality projects, but you also need to regroup after success. This downtime is the perfect opportunity to bring on your VA. Suspend new projects, and dedicate your time to high quality training, keeping yourself available for questions and doling out your VA’s responsibilities in manageable increments.
Investing in a new addition to your team won’t be easy. Syncing your schedules, dealing with miscommunications and ironing out expectations are all challenges that you will meet together. But doing so will take a load off your shoulders, increase production, and boost your bottom line.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford