|(free-stock photos.com. Paulus Rusyanto)|
As far as I'm concerned, no one needs a virtual assistant more than the expat freelancing mom. Man, do I want one. I’ve dreamed of having one long before I ever heard the term.
In my fantasies, I imagine this person to be sort of a doppelgänger: an alter ego who lives the freelancing life that I would if I were back in the U.S. While I’m here in Paris writing in various cafes with a café crème at my side, my virtual assistant would loiter at the magazine rack Barnes & Noble, sipping a Starbucks chai tea latte, checking out new magazines and potential markets. While I’m snoozing away or tending to a sick kid at 2am, she’d be listening to and taking notes at a freelancing webinar that takes place at 8pm EST. Between the two of us, we'd make one whole freelancer!
Now, I realize that this could happen, at least in theory. Even a quick perusal of the internet reveals a number of virtual assistants that specialize in assisting freelance writers. What’s more, there are even freelance writers that have a “virtual assistant” component to their business. These are the ones I’d hire. The most efficient virtual assistant would already be familiar with the freelance writing world and its networks, sources, terms, and perspective.
But, alas, I can’t afford a virtual assistant right now. Even though apparently prices can start as low as $25/hour (although I imagine that most cost more), I currently employ a real assistant without whom I could not do one. single. thing: a babysitter. In a couple of years, when the kids are both in school, I’ll definitely reconsider the matter.
If you’re short on time and have a few bucks to spare, here’s 7 ways a virtual assistant could help you be a more efficient business person -- and free up more time for you to write.
1. Find markets/jobs. God, wouldn’t I love this one. A virtual assistant could trawl job boards, review magazine databases, or otherwise search for publications that would be a good fit for your ideas. He could also help unearth writer’s guidelines and find out the names and email addresses of the appropriate editors for your pitches.
2. Create a database. As your VA does the above, she could (and should) create a database containing all this information so that it’s always at your fingertips. Make sure the database is a flexible one that can be easily updated with your own notes regarding each publication.
3. Fact-Check. The very idea of getting my facts wrong scares me silly. A VA could double-check your research, giving you a little extra comfort before hitting “send.” Your VA could also check out the background of someone you’re considering using as an expert.
4. Attend conferences or webinars. As I indicated above, I’m forever finding interesting webinars and conferences that are at hideously inconvenient hours or locations. Your VA could occasionally serve as your eyes and ears.
5. Research potential clients. You want to do a direct mail campaign but want to tweak each letter/email so that it’s tightly targeted? Your VA can help dig out key details and fact to flesh-out potential clients so that you can add that personal touch to each letter.
6. Interview Transcription. Got a recorded interview? No need to spend an hour or more transcribing it, when you’ve got a VA to take care of it!
7. Administrative Tasks. And of course, a VA can do the standard assistant type stuff: sending out invoices, contracts and other correspondence for you. He can also keep track of payment status, scheduling and even take phone messages. I imagine this last aspect can be particularly useful for an expat freelancer with clients in the U.S. – they get to hear a human voice even if they call at an inconvenient hour for you.
Freelancers: Have you used a VA? Care to share your experience?