Creative freelancers—for example, writers, designers, web developers—tend to work alone. Unless you’re turning your freelance business into an agency, you’ll likely do a lot of your work solo. Maybe you’ve outsourced a bit, though not consistently, but I’m going to show you why hiring a creative freelancer VA has huge benefits.
I’m a solo freelancer with no dreams of scaling into an agency. While having an agency and hiring others sounds like a fun challenge, I like the freedom and independence of doing my own thing. I do copywriting and digital marketing for a handful of clients. I enjoy doing fun, creative work on a daily basis, but I felt bogged down by managing the work.
I came into my work thinking that having a virtual assistant as a one-person shop was frivolous and unnecessary. I can manage my own admin work, email, and tasks, right? But as I noticed small things starting to fall between the cracks—and got frustrated by having to do my repeatable tasks when I had creative work waiting for me—I thought I’d give it a go and hire a creative freelancer VA for myself.
Here’s how I did it, what I learned, and why I’ll never go back.
Preparing for a Creative Freelancer VA: The Mindset Shift
As a freelancer on the FreeeUp marketplace and a member of the FreeeUp content group, I’ve read a lot about how FreeeUp approaches outsourcing, how VAs can help manage email, and other benefits of hiring a VA.
For some reason, I always thought these benefits were reserved for managers or business owners with groups. I had in my head that it would be weird to be a creative freelancer who hired a creative freelancer VA. But I actually found in my research that it’s more common than I originally thought. Based on my starting point, most of my preparation was spent shifting my mindset to see that I deserve a VA and can better serve clients if I have some help.
At first, it was hard for me to think that hiring a freelancer—as a freelancer myself—would make sense. As I said, it originally felt frivolous for me to get a creative freelancer VA. But in doing research and talking with mentors, advisors, and FreeeUp, I saw that the benefits of a VA could definitely extend to someone like me.
Organizing My Work
Once I made the mindset shift and decided to go ahead and hire a creative freelancer VA, I spent a good chunk of time organizing my email and my tasks to make sure everything was in order. This was actually a good use of time even if I weren’t hiring a VA! But doing so definitely made onboarding easier.
Since I work with multiple clients, I have work plans documented all over the place. Some of my work is on Trello boards, other work is in Monday, and yet more work is in other advanced project management systems. Basically, each client has their work in a separate place—and that gets kind of overwhelming to check, manage, and make sure deadlines were met.
I used to spend hours each week moving my work from these client boards into my own task management system (I happen to use Asana). For me to be successful, I need to see all my work in one place. But I realized that I didn’t have to be the one moving work around between systems.
I already had a pretty good system built out, so I knew the VA would be able to follow something structured and even provide recommendations for improvement. I just needed another freelancer to help me out.
How I Found a Great Creative Freelancer VA
You can probably guess where I found the VA I hired: FreeeUp, of course. Nathan, the co-founder of FreeeUp, was one of the people I talked to when I was debating whether to hire a VA or not. I knew I’d be able to find a great VA at a good value.
I posted a request looking for an email and task management VA. Here’s what I used:
Title: VA for Managing Email and Task Management
Description: Looking for a freelance VA to help manage my inbox (Gmail) and task management (Asana). You’ll help me track work requests as they come in and we’ll work together to plan my tasks each week.
I envision less than an hour per day of inbox management, plus a weekly call to plan and review work.
Hours and timing each day are flexible; we’ll figure out what works for both of us.
I’m looking for someone detail oriented and organized to help me keep my work in order and on track.
FreeeUp connected me with several VA options (I specifically requested a few different ones) based on my request. I interviewed them and made my decision based on availability, skills, past experience, and how we connected during the interview.
I knew since I was using FreeeUp that I didn’t have to worry about vetting for communication skills, internet speed, or attitude. These items were a given for any freelancers I met through FreeeUp.
Long story short, I hired someone who fit my needs! She’s from the Philippines, was brand new to FreeeUp, and has a marketing VA background. She, of course, has a name, but for privacy reasons, I’ll continue referring to her simply as the VA I hired.
Processes & Procedures
I wanted to make sure to set this new VA up for success from the start. So I created a Google Doc with my expectations, task details, where to find everything, and how to access my accounts. I keep the document updated any time something changes (which is fairly often), so it always has the latest information.
We did an onboarding call to go through the document. Because of the structure of my work, the onboarding call was very overwhelming. I’m glad I had it all documented because it was the first time I realized just how complex my workflow was.
After a week or two of working together, she asked me to walk through some of the documentation again. Which makes sense because it’s complicated. I ended up recording a screenshare video walking through the processes; now she has that to reference at any time.
I knew I hired a good one when she asked for clarification! I value when people ask questions and provide feedback, and I had included that as an interview question and project expectation.
At this point, she does her weekly tasks—mostly getting my planned work documented in Asana—without any oversight from me. She can do them whenever it fits into her schedule, as long as it’s before our weekly call. Speaking of…we have weekly check-in calls to talk about work in progress and any barriers that may exist.
My Experience Since Hiring a Creative Freelancer VA
I went into the experience of hiring a VA without too many expectations. My hope was to be able to focus on doing my work instead of planning my work. Other than knowing my goals, I was open to the experience, trying it out, and seeing how it worked out.
I’m happy to report that I’m incredibly content with my decision to bring on a VA. Having someone to help with my email and task management has helped me stay focused on my creative work and get more done for clients. I don’t think I can ever go back to working without a VA. I’m sold!
A few of the things I worried about when starting to use a VA didn’t end up being issues at all:
- Time Difference – I tend to work at night, so the time difference between the US and the Philippines actually works really well for me. We meeting on my Monday night, her Tuesday morning.
- Account Access – I worried about giving someone else my password, but I put everything in LastPass and that keeps my information secure and updated.
- Client Communication – I struggled with how and whether to tell clients about bringing on a VA. I ended up telling most of my clients because my VA accesses their systems, so I wanted full transparency.
As long as I continue to maintain consistent, clear communication with the VA I hired and set her up for success, I know I’ll keep seeing the benefits of my decision to bring her on.
Benefits of a Creative Freelancer VA
I mentioned a lot of my reservations about the decision to hire a VA because I am, myself, a freelancer. But the benefits have made my questioning seem silly in hindsight.
As someone focused on creative work, having someone do my task management has freed up my brain space to focus on client work. I can just sit down at my computer, see an already-prioritized list of tasks, and get to work. Since some of my clients are billed hourly, I’m spending my time more wisely and billing more hours. That means additional revenue and more-than offsets the cost of a great VA.
The process has also forced me to be more disciplined. To help the VA I hired to be successful—in other words, I have someone else counting on me—I have to keep all my client boards in tip-top shape. Each task needs details and a deadline. Before I hired a VA, I was lax about these details, but now, I keep work updated in one place and the VA gets that information everywhere it needs to be.
If you’re a freelancer and have had some of the same reservations I had about working with a VA, set those doubts aside and give it a try.
Outsourcing is Addicting
I’ve heard the FreeeUp founders—and even clients I’ve found on FreeeUp—talk about how addicting outsourcing is. I had my doubts, but now that I’ve experienced the benefits first-hand, I can understand it. Once you start, you’ll find opportunities for outsourcing all around you.
In fact, I have more work lined up for the creative freelancer VA I hired, who I plan to bring in on some client projects. I’m able to do so because I hired a VA with extra capacity and a background in helping with marketing tasks.
While I still have no intention of turning my business into a full-blown marketing agency because I really like working on my own, I can now really see the benefits of outsourcing. I plan to look for more opportunities to use other freelancers in my existing work structure.
Set Preconceived Notions Aside
If you’re looking for new ways to revitalize your freelancing business, try hiring a VA if you haven’t done so already. Set aside the doubts and see if you like it. You could free up your creative mind, increase your capacity, and let you focus on the work you truly enjoy.
To hire a VA through FreeeUp, create your client account, submit your request with what you’re looking for, and use some of the processes and procedures I talked about in this post. Ask each candidate similar questions in their interviews so you can pick someone who’s a good fit for your specific needs, and see what impact a VA can have on your business.
If it’s your first time outsourcing, check out the following resources for best practices:
- 5 Signs You’re Ready to Start Outsourcing
- 10 Most Common Mistakes of Outsourcing
- Outsourcing & Scaling Podcast
- How to Outsource Your Inbox to an Email Virtual Assistant