Virtual Assistant: Job Description
I’m in the process of hiring a virtual assistant to help me out with my website development and design business. I’m going to be documenting the process so others might learn from my mistakes, successes and progress.
Last Friday, I finally stopped Waiting for Change and pulled the trigger to hire a virtual assistant through Chris Ducker’s Virtual Staff Finder service. It’s been years since I think I need some help and months since I know I need some help. I had a good start of things back in October (thanks to the Monthly Experiment’s Delegate Project). But it fizzled out. Why? I think I wanted someone who had a longer-term goal of working with me.
I watched Chris’s 5 videos introducing the world of virtual assistants which were very helpful. Everything from how to choose the right “type” to collaboration methods to payments and holidays. Lots to cover. The first step was to choose which type of VA I need. For me, that was quite straightforward. VSF boils them down to 5 types:
- General Virtual Assistant
- Article / Content Writers
- SEO Specialist
- Web Developer
- Web Designer
I have (and love) graphic designers I work with on a regular basis. Their work is stellar and I think it would be difficult to replicate. I see them as creatives, the soft sciences, right brainers. It’s also work I do–and enjoy immensely. But a web developer, someone who knows how to code, how to set up a SQL database or change a record in a table of that database, figure out some weird widget that’s not working, that’s the kind of help I see as easier to delegate as it’s more of a hard science, there is less room for subjectivity.
What Do You Actually Do All Day?
Before I could ask someone else to help me with the work I did all day, I needed to chart, map, analyze and think what I actually did all day so I could more readily see what I could delegate. This process can be a bit of an eye opener. I found that I spend quite a bit of time talking with potential (and existing) clients about possible new projects, how we might make it work based on what they’re looking to do. That’s quite a bit of time on the phone. I also spend a substantial amount of time with follow-up emails about little fixes here and there: design, techy, questions about SMTP servers for email on Android phones. Whew. Ugh. What about actually building and working on the design of sites? Those are surprising and unfortunately smaller chunks of time. I always use house analogies in talking about websites and say that “I can build a house in a day, but that gazebo jacuzzi you want on the roof? That’s going to take a week.” Still, there’s lots of set up to be done with domains, hosting, WordPress, themes, plugins, users, settings, stats, etc.
At first glance, I thought, “I can document every single thing I do so that it’s extremely simple to follow and complete each task.” I have a growing number of WordPress tutorials that I could expand on and then just have the VA do #2, #4, #7, and #13 and they’d be done. Great, wonderful idea. Sounds very efficient. However, what about those little tasks that aren’t as common, might take a bit of research and a bit more technical knowledge and/or experience? Maybe they don’t come up as much, but if it’s not straightforward and the answer isn’t just a help video away, it’s going to take more time. Maybe 5 easy tasks take an hour total but just 1 more complex task could take that same hour easily.
Aim a little higher than what you think you need
If I think I only need someone to do the simple stuff (set up hosting account, install WP, configure plugins), then I’ll be missing out on what they might be able to do if they knew more. The more experienced web developer can also do the set up and the installs but then he’ll have a better chance at the more difficult job, too. In other words, find the person who knows how to do A, B, and C rather than just A and B.
Chris warns you about the Super VA Myth and trying to find a replica of yourself (a superstar and impossible to replicate, no doubt) or finding that VA that can do all 5 of the types of positions listed above. Find one type of VA who does that job well.
I’m not a programmer. I’m even proud to not be a programmer (IMHO it shows how powerful WordPress can be that a non-programmer can build websites with it). But there are often situations when more technical knowledge is handy for a fix or a tweak. I joke that I can spell PHP … but I can’t write anything from scratch. I also don’t care to learn. I’ll Google the problem and cobble together a solution. But that takes time. It also takes some experience. For example, I might see a solution but know that it won’t work as well as I’d like it to for some reason. But if a VA would have the skill (and patience) to Google for a solution and put together some possible solutions and I choose one? Wow. Dreamland.
I’m going to make some headings and then some example bullets of actual tasks below. This is what I’m actually going to send to my VSF contact.
WordPress Website Developer Job Description
I run a WordPress development and design business and I need help mostly with the more technical work involved, “Website Developer.” Anywhere from the very beginning (pointing a domain name to a hosting account) through WP set up, install, configuration (theme, plugins, users), to design and maintenance and updates and upgrades.
We build, design and redesign websites using exclusively WordPress. We don’t code them from scratch, we find an excellent (supported, reputable, and well-built) theme and customize it with design and features. We try to use standards in themes, plugins, and code to “future proof” the client and their site. If we were building a car, I’d want to use only OEM parts (from the manufacturer) and not hack and chop and “customize” too much so that upgrades later won’t break things and so that someone else could easily fix it and users/owners can easily use it.
Here are some typical WordPress tasks.
- WP installation: on variety of hosting companies
- WP config: settings, add users, etc.
- Plugin selection and config: which plugins to use, set up, config, connect (e.g. JetPack or Google Analytics)
- Theme installation and customization: from uploading a logo to creating a custom widgetized area on the home page; bonus: knowledge of WOO Themes, WOO Commerce
- CSS styling: from basic e.g. change color of a heading (easy) to formatting background gradient image in a drop-down menu (more difficult)
- Social media connections: using e.g. Publicize to connect site to Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Content: adding new content, creating pages, posts, categories; adding text, images, featured images, embedding video, links, embedding Google maps; knowing how best to paste in Word document content
- Graphics: e.g. cropping, resizing, optimizing images (e.g. from a 3 MB photo from a digital camera to a 600 x 600 pixel image optimized for the web; knowledge of batch processing is a plus)
I spend quite a bit of time during set up and migration of sites with a variety of hosting companies. If the applicant is familiar with hosting companies and their tools (e.g. cPanel, PHP MyAdmin, etc.) that’s a big plus.
- WP Set up/install: manual or automatic on host
- WP migration: moving WP from one server/host to another, maybe sometimes manually (export + import SQL DB)
- Hosting companies: familiarity with some big companies (e.g. GoDaddy, HostGator, BlueHost, etc.); or at least knowledge of the tools they use e.g. cPanel
If the candidate has a general knowledge of how domains are configured and used, that would be a big help.
- DNS: point domain to hosting company (and email)
- Change DNS: moving a site’s hosting from one company to another
- Registrars: familiarity with the interface of the big domain registrars would be a plus: e.g. GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc.
Email is often a challenge to set up correctly and help the client get it working on their phones, laptops etc. A simple understanding of how email works is a plus.
- DNS/MX records: at domain, point email to e.g. Google Apps or another email provider
- Mailing lists: working with e.g. MailChimp or Aweber to set up a form in WP site
Development / Programming
- WordPress functions: some understanding of the WordPress functions, loop, structure, etc. is useful
- WordPress plugins: knowledge of plugins would be useful to know when to use what plugin for what feature request (for example, I only use Gravity Forms for forms as it’s just the best plugin)
- WordPress themes: some knowledge of themes is great, but I’m planning on using mostly WOO Canvas
That’s all I have for now. I need to send this out. I’m going to run it by a few people and send it out!