This week we have a teleclass with Marcia Hoeck on working with a virtual assistant. I began partnering with my virtual assistant, Terry, about 16 months ago. I know some of you have had occasion to work with her. Why did I make this decision? I wanted to grow my business and knew I didn’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. I also knew I wasn’t as skilled at some aspects of the business as someone else might be. And, I knew I got a better return on my time investment working on other projects.
How did I first learn about virtual assistants (also know as VAs)? That I’m not sure about. In 2004 I began working with a VA on my husband’s behalf and quickly realized the benefits. Dawn, his first VA, started by taking over his e-zine, something I had been doing. Today, she has another business and he has another VA. Partnering with a VA left him with more time to work “on” his business, rather than “in” his business. I was sure it would do the same for me.
How can quilt professionals use a VA? First get clear on why and how you can use some help. Are your books woefully behind? Some virtual assistants specialize in bookkeeping. Do you want to grow your business online with a monthly newsletter and don’t know where to start? Many VAs are skilled at html, so they can handle lots of online tasks. Here are eight ideas to get you started:
1. Start with the bookkeeping mentioned above. If this is not one of your skills, look for a VA who is skilled in this area. She can bill your clients and follow up on overdue invoices, keeping you abreast of a situation that you need to handle. She can pay your bills and balance your books.
2. If you are a quilt teacher, you can have your VA manage all your bookings. She can keep your calendar, handle inquiries for teaching, know when you need to be where, get your handouts prepared and shipped to your event. She can even book your travel.
3. If you are a pattern designer, your VA can handle your back-office support activities, including order processing, delivery confirmation and follow-up.
4. Most quilt businesses have a web site and/or blog. Your VA can handle posting, linking, site updates, etc.
5. If you are a longarm quilter, your VA can handle initial inquiries and schedule your work. She can keep track of your supplies and order them for you when you are low.
6. If you are coming out with a new product, you can find a VA to work with you to develop a marketing plan.
7. If you’re an art quilter and preparing for a show, your VA can send invitations, contact the press, help you create advertising and publicity materials, etc.
8. Many quilters today have online newsletters, or e-zines. Your VA can manage your database and work with you to get your newsletter sent out in a timely manner.
I’m sure as you look at your business, you can find tasks that a VA could do. As you go through a typical week, track the tasks that you handle. Many of these tasks, particularly those of an administrative nature, are ones that your VA could do. Sure you could hire someone locally, but you’ll find advantages to having someone do them virtually. The big one is that your VA owns her own business just as you do, and she’s committed to building her business. She’s also responsible for her own taxes, insurance, sick or vacation pay.
I found in the time that I’ve worked with my VA that I’ve been able to build The Professional Quilter into the International Association of Professional Quilters. I could not have done this without the help of my VA. Not only does she handle some of my administrative tasks, she’s a good sounding board for my ideas. A bonus is that she’s a quilter. Regardless of whether you choose to work with someone virtually or hire someone to come into your office, when you turn over some of your work, that lets you spend time working on your business not in your business. And that’s when your business can grow.
The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership here.