I have been thinking about hiring a virtual assistant for months. You see, recently I have found myself getting more and more overwhelmed by work. It doesn’t matter how much I organize my time I simply have more work than I can handle right now.
Between writing fiction, and non-fiction, then writing the posts and pages for my seven websites, plus all the technical work, admin work, answering emails, not to mention growing my own vegetables and looking after my dogs, hens, guinea fowl and ducks – it’s simply all got a bit too much.
Now, don’t think I’m complaining, or if I am, I know it’s a good complaint as it’s great to have lots of work especially since it’s work I love doing.
However, even work you love can get too much and that’s why I have been thinking about hiring a virtual assistant to perform some of my tasks.
INTRODUCING THE MEATGRINDER
The first task I needed help with was formatting my books prior to their publication as eBooks so that they would look good, read well and be accepted by Smashwords temperamental ‘meatgrinder.’
Formatting is not that difficult and there are plenty of websites supplying really good step by step guidelines but it still takes time and as I said I don’t have a whole lot to spare.
I have heard many times that being accepted for the Smashwords premium catalogue can be tricky. I am not a lover of tricky, or fiddly type of work, plus I just don’t have time, or the patience to do the formatting myself.
I have heard a few people recommending Elance or Odesk. For no particular reason I decided to try Elance first of all.
Of course the thing about hiring a virtual assistant for the first time is that the process of doing so is in itself work.
You need to think about and decide exactly what it is you need done and how you can delegate this to a complete stranger. This is quite worrying as you need to trust this person with your work.
Writing up an accurate job description is also very important and to avoid misunderstanding you need to include as much detail as you possibly can.
My first job description was fine and attracted a good response from many formatters The freelancer I chose was experienced and recommended. He was prompt and efficient and we seemed to work together quite well.
When I uploaded the files I received a message saying the files had been successfully uploaded. However I made a rookie error of paying the freelancer and a few days later I received an email saying the files were rejected by the premium catalogue.
As for Smashwords meatgrinder well let’s just say they don’t call it the ‘meatgrinder’ for nothing. The freelancer tried a few more times but then became frustrated and in the end they just gave up.
This meant I had to start again with a new search for a new formatter. This time I was more careful. I split the job into small stages and I specified that the person I hired would not receive the last stage of the payment until I received confirmation of acceptance by Smashwords.
This weeded the applicant list out a little. I chose my next freelancer very carefully, reading and checking the reviews and work history.
The next freelancer made some changed to the files, pointed out some errors made by the previous freelancer and I uploaded the files, feeling confident that they would be accepted.
But, I was wrong. Smashwords rejected the files again and so with a feeling of deja vu I contacted the freelancer. This time the freelancer tried a few more times before giving up.
At this stage I was wondering if I was somehow jinxed with Smashwords but I’m not really superstitious and decided to try again.
The next freelancer proved the most patient and good-humored and these two qualities are probably the most important when dealing with our friend the meat grinder. This freelancer kept going despite several Smashwords Premium Catalogue rejections and since that initial first working experience she has successfully formatted several more of my books.
Hiring a virtual assistant has really taken a lot of the stress away from me. I love writing but as I say, I don’t enjoy the technicalities of preparing the books for publication.
So if you are on the fence about hiring a virtual assistant I’d say go for it – just be very careful with your job description. Don’t pay and review until you are absolutely sure the job has been completed and is correct.
UPDATE – BE CAREFUL!
I have recently had an experience when a freelancer I hired turned out not to be the individual I had hired but was actually part of team pretending to be an individual. You can read about my experience in my post how not to hire a virtual assistant.
Best wishes and the very best of luck with your own writing.
P.S. Don’t forget to leave a comment or a question below in the comments box. I love hearing from you and I always reply.