Here at Entreprenewlyweds, we are big fans of working smarter, not harder. The only way that we are able to run multiple businesses is to outsource the work that is not key to our businesses. In some cases these are professionals (ex. our accountant and lawyer), but in other cases these are virtual assistants that we hire. There seems to be a lot of mystery around virtual assistants, what they are and how to actually outsource work to them. In this post, we will walk through the process at a high level steps of outsourcing work to a VA and an example of how we have done it with our blog editing.
This post will just scratch the surface on outsourcing and focusing your work on your business instead of just in your business. We highly recommend The E-Myth Revisited and The 4-Hour Workweek for additional discussion on these topics.
Document the Process
In order to hire something else to do something, you first need to clearly define what they need to do. Anytime that I am working, I think to myself “is this something that I can eventually outsource someday?”. If the answer is yes, I focus on documenting the process so that I can eventually hand it off to an assistant.
Storing Your Procedures
We use Google Drive heavily in our businesses, especially with anything that we need to collaborate on. We also use Dropbox for storage, but Drive is much better for collaborating since Google Docs is built in to drive and allows multiple people to edit a document at once. In Dropbox, doing this will create multiple documents and create a mess.
We first create a folder in Drive called Procedures. Within this folder, we then create a folder for each grouping of procedures. In this case, we created a “Blog Writing and Publishing” folder. It contains both a procedure for writing a blog as well as a procedure for editing and publishing.
Note: Even though we create all of the content (ex. we don’t outsource the actual blog writing), we have document and created a procedure for this. Not only does it help us clarify what we need to do, but as we start having guest writers in the future, we can simply provide them with that procedure so they know what to do to create their blog on our site.
Writing Your Procedures
The next step is to actually outline the steps in the procedure. I prefer to do this live as I am actually walking through the procedure. This ensures that I don’t forget a step and it allows me to capture screenshots as I go. I use Skitch (from Evernote) to capture screenshots.
We use a standard format for each procedure so they are consistent and easy to switch between for an assistant. Below is an excerpt.
Hire an Assistant
Now that you have your process documented, you need to find someone to outsource it to. When it comes to hiring an assistant, there are a few different ways to proceed.
Your Spouse – As mentioned in a previous post, Ariana was my first assistant. When our daughter Elena was born, Ariana took over several of the administrative tasks related to our real estate and liquor store businesses. Because our businesses were paying her, not only did it free up a lot of my time, but it also kept the money within our household.
College Interns – This is a great option that is often overlooked. College students are often looking for an opportunity to apply their education in the real world to not only get experience, but to also be able to list it on their resume. We have hired several college students (some for free in exchange for college credit and some for pay). We have had great success with this option. Not only are the students typically skilled from various classes, but it also helps them build their resume and experience.
Craigslist – Another option is to post an ad on Craigslist. We have used this option with mixed success. It is great if you want to find someone local, but it is also important to make sure you interview any respondents to make sure they are a good fit.
oDesk/eLance – While there are other websites that focus on virtual assistants, these are the two most well known. You can post an ad or view postings from people looking for work.
Train the Assistant
One you have found an assistant, it is important to define expectations and to train them on the tasks that you would like them to perform. We typically like to start off with 1 or 2 tasks, review the procedure document with them, then let them work and see how they do. A couple things that we look for on the first few jobs are:
- Is the assistant delivering the product that we expected?
- Are they doing it in the time that we expected?
- Are they asking questions when necessary? Are they asking too many/too few questions?
- Do they seem pleasing to work with?
- Can we trust them to operate with little oversight in the future?
After a task or 2, we review the work with the finished product with the assistant. We provide feedback on their work and answer any questions. As long as things are proceeding as expected, we continue working together. If things are not meshing, feel free to part ways and hire another assistant. It’s much better to cut the cord now than to continue using an assistant that is not making your life easier.
Now this is our favorite part. The upfront work of documenting the process, hiring the assistant and training them is done. The next step is to start assigning tasks, and if possible automate those task creations.
Back to our example for this post, we have outsource the editing and publishing of our blog. At this point, our blogs are posted 3 days a week (Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday). We use GQeueus to track our work, so this is our process for assigning and monitoring work for our assistants.
Create Category & Queue
GQeueus allows you to organize your work into categories and queues. There is both a free and paid version. We use the paid version with some additional features, but we can share queues with our assistants and they can use the free version. For those not aware, a queue is simply a list of tasks. So we have a queue for each assistant .
Create & Assign the Tasks
We then go in and start creating tasks on the assistant’s queue, tagging it for which business it is for, assigning a due date/reminder and including notes/instructions about the task. Below you can see the 3 tasks for editing our upcoming blogs. We have assigned the tasks to our assistant and included a link to the above procedure in Drive.
Now the best part… because these are the same 3 tasks each week, we setup these tasks as recurring, so they will automatically generate each week. This means we can focus on writing fantastic articles and the other important tasks of our business because we have outsourced this activity.