This may sound obvious, but time management as an entrepreneur is a skill set vital for success. Sometimes (read: always) it feels like there’s just not enough hours in the day to get everything done, especially if you’re juggling the grind of your regular day job too. In today’s post I’m going to show you how I manage to squeeze more work into the same hours every day…
Anyone that’s read Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week will be familiar with the idea of Virtual Assistants or Freelancers but if you haven’t yet, let me explain how these magical online angels can help you work faster without having to take on the risk of building a permanent team.
For the unfamiliar, VAs/Freelancers are personnel who provide support services from remote locations to businesses online. Generally they work on an hourly basis and can work on anything from one off small tasks all the way up to long term on going positions where they’ll learn the nuances of your business and work just like a regular full-time employee.
Speaking from experience, the factors that make virtual assistants or freelancers valuable are the same factors that can make them a liability, so I wanted to dedicate an entire article to share the things I’ve learnt working with various VAs over the last few years and share some of the tips I’ve found to help make that relationship as productive and stress free as possible.
When I first started, I spent a lot of time figuring out what I could outsource and what I really needed to do myself. This has always been a weakness for me as I know I’m still very attached to doing things myself and learning to let go of tasks is still bloody difficult.
That said, when you see tasks on your to-do list that don’t require an in-depth knowledge of your business or are things that can be dot point instructed easily, this is where I’ve found VAs/Freelancers indispensable for getting those jobs off your list and onto someone else’s so you can focus on the bigger picture.
The types of tasks I’m referring to (and I’ve used freelancers for) include:
- Logo Design
- Photo editing/Social Media asset design (Profile images, Banner Creation, Cover Photo Design)
- Data Entry
- Instagram searches and database creation/maintenance
- Factory liaison and partner communications
- Travel bookings and research
- Video editing
- Front End Website design
I’m sure there’s a million more tasks they can perform, but I want to make sure i’m speaking from experience here.
My Favourite VA/Freelancer Platforms:
Whilst I’m sure there are a multitude of freelancer platforms out there, I’ve found the following sites to have plenty of capable candidates ready and waiting to help take your business to the next level with trust worthy and secure payment gateways.
Fiverr – Great for one off jobs like Logo Design, Photo Editing, Creation Of Social Media Assets (Cover Panel Images, Banners, Mastheads, Article Images)
Upwork – Great for larger projects, I’ve used freelancers from this platform for more on-going type work like Influencer database creation/management, Factory Liason, On-Going Assistant tasks (travel bookings, handling day-to-day data processing and emails) and website design projects.
99 Designs – I love this site for logo design and creative concepts. For one payment you get a massive range of variations in the creative asset you’re looking to produce which helps you narrow down on the ones you like quickly and easily
Things To Be Aware Of:
Whilst the benefits greatly out weigh the negatives of working with freelancers and I don’t want to scare you away from using them, it pays to have a clear plan before you engage with remote personnel because you’re not together in the same room to be able to iron out all the nuances.
Generally this means spending a little more time at the front end of your project in order to achieve success and lower stress at the results end.
To help explain how I handle these challenges I want to share a small case study from my own business to put this into perspective.
Influencer Data Mining Case Study:
As part of the initial phase of my business I wanted to engage with Instagram Influencers in my niche to help build the brand and buzz online, leveraging the small (non-existent) budget I had available. Whilst I follow a number of these accounts myself, I obviously don’t follow all of them and wanted to cast my net as wide as possible.
This task was essentially a data mining task, I wanted to recruit a freelancer to build and update a database but given this was in a niche that the majority of freelancers were unlikely to be familiar with I needed to make sure they understood which accounts to track and which ones to ignore. I also needed to make sure who ever I hired was able to find these accounts relatively fast because like anything else in the entrepreneurial realm, time is of the essence.
This is when I decided to devise a test where i’d create my version of a Freelancer Fight Club to find the best possible candidate as fast as possible by utilising the fact that freelancers work on an hourly basis. The goal here was to narrow down on the best candidate as fast as possible without having to discover, recruit and train each freelancer one at a time.
My first step was to search through Upwork to find Virtual Assistant/Data Entry freelancers who looked like they might be suitable based on their profiles and previous work experience. As this task was quite straight forward I didn’t want to spend too much, so limited my search to profiles who’s hourly rates didn’t exceed US$15/hour.
I created a shortlist of 10 accounts who’s rates ranged from US$6/hour up to US$15/hour and created a brief to send them all. I believe in being as upfront with everyone as possible, so I specified this initial brief was just a 2 hour test and that they were competing with other freelancers to win an ongoing job with a lot more hours involved.
I’ve included a download link here where you can download the exact brief I sent so you can see how I worded it and structured the test. You can also download the template I provided for the freelancers to input the data into from here.
Within a week I had submissions back from all 10 of my freelancers. As expected I had a range in levels of quality of reports back from my selected freelancers and hourly rate turned out to be no indication as to how well each freelancer understood and complied with my instructions.
As mentioned in the brief my criteria for assessment was limited to speed, relevancy and accuracy and each freelancer was informed of these criteria upfront.
In the end the candidate who outperformed the others came back with over 50 accounts that fit my description in the 2 hour trial. Compare this to the worst performing candidate who only provided 12 accounts and it should become obvious why this small test which cost me less than $150 was so vital.
One thing to mention here is that I made sure I gave all 9 unsuccessful freelancers detailed feedback on why they didn’t make the cut. Almost all of them emailed me back to say thank you for being so upfront and for providing insight into why they didn’t get the job.
I wanted to mention this here because if you’re thinking of using freelancers, please remember they’re people too. Just because they’re working for comparatively low hourly rates, they’re not beneath you and you should treat them with respect and offer them value back to help their growth – an attitude I feel based on my conversations with freelancers is lacking in the space.
I’d now narrowed my search down to the one freelancer who won the trial, but to add another layer of protection I wanted to ease into the job with one last test to make sure they were going to provide the same consistent level of results knowing they’d “got the job”. I also didn’t want to have the problem of committing to one freelancer and dedicating time only to find out down the track they weren’t suitable or cheated on the initial test costing me money and more importantly time to re-brief and recruit another candidate.
This is where I briefed her with the following instructions which you can download here, to make sure with a longer job time frame, I wasn’t going to be disappointed with my selection.
The results from this second round 6 hour trial were in line with my expectations generating roughly 20-25 accounts per hour, so i formalised the role and put a final briefing form together for my chosen influencer and had her work in an on-going basis for months on end to build the giant database I then utilised to reach out to various accounts.
All in all I was incredibly pleased with the results of my trial and the reports the freelancer generated for me over a series of months and this database was crucial to getting my social media ticking over and product to start selling all with a very minimal advertising budget that I had set aside to launch the brand.
I hope this guide helps you make more use of your time and to get more done with the same 24 hours we all have access to in a day.
If you have any questions about the case study, templates or anything freelancer related please leave them in the comments or contact me via Facebook or Instagram on the links below as I’d love to help if I can.
Till next time…