Monday, January 19, 2015

Ask the Assistant: 5 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Information

So you’ve decided to hire an assistant, but you’re nervous about handing them the keys to your castle. Don’t worry! I’ve got some tips to help you protect yourself.

Please note, I am not an attorney and this post should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.


Once you find your new assistant, you might consider asking them to sign a brief contract, which includes a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement and defined guidelines about invoices and billing.

If you hire through a 3rd party like odesk or elance, you should review their standard agreement that comes as part of any hiring relationship.


Estimates - When you first start working with someone, you don’t want to be surprised by a giant bill. If you are delegating tasks that you don’t have the skills or knowledge to complete on your own, you might not have much of an idea of how long they will take. Especially if that is the case, you should ask for an estimate of how long the project will take.

Hourly Budget - One of the things I highly recommend when it comes to starting with an assistant is that you set an hourly budget. Tell the assistant that you would like them to work on X, Y, and Z tasks, but please don’t spend more than 5 hours total.  Let the assistant know that when they hit the 5-hour cap, you would like to receive an update. At that point, you can decide if you want them to continue working on the projects or if you want to pause their efforts until the next billing cycle.

Initial Investment - Keep in mind that starting with an assistant is an investment for both of you. It will take them slightly longer in the beginning to complete your projects because they are getting to know you, setting up notes and procedures, and learning how to do tasks in the manner you prefer. The longer you work with someone, the more valuable should become.


In my previous article, How to Find and Vet Assistants, I recommended that you ask to see a sample invoice. Hopefully, this invoice will be broken down by line item so if you are asking your assistant to work on a wide variety of tasks, you can see how much time each task requires and make decisions about which outsourced items give you the biggest return on your investment.

Ask if the assistant can invoice you via PayPal or a similar 3rd party, or ask to mail a paper check. I think this usually goes without saying, but do not share your credit card information.


If you ask the assistant to start communicating with others on your behalf, ask to be carbon copied on all correspondence during the beginning of the relationship. This will give you a chance to stay up to date on everything. An assistant can save you tons of time if you will allow them to communicate with:

·      Schools, Libraries, And Booksellers
·      Your Publicity Team & Publisher
·      Bloggers/Reviewers
·      Other Freelancers You Use


You don’t have to share passwords with your assistant. However, if you choose not to share any passwords or allow them access to any accounts, you will be seriously limiting the amount of things your assistant can help you with.  This is where establishing trust comes in.

If you feel twitchy about emailing your passwords or you’re worried about having to change all of your passwords if you decide to terminate a relationship with an assistant, I recommend you use LastPass. You can open an account with LastPass and share your passwords with others without them ever seeing the text of your passwords.  It works like the “keychain” on a browser (EX: Would you like Safari to remember this password for you?), but it allows you to share the passwords with others. Your assistant will also have to have a LastPass account for this to work.

BONUS TIP: You can make someone an “admin” of your Facebook page without having to share your Facebook password.  Instructions here:


I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have questions. Check out my post next month about exactly which items are the easiest to delegate.

Mel Jolly, founder of Author Rx and Author’s Atlas, has been “Keeping Authors Out of the Loony Bin Since 2009.” Mel started out as a Library Assistant in Young Adult Services where she specialized in outreach to at risk teens at juvenile detention centers and inner-city schools. Melissa has always had a true passion for connecting readers (and non-readers) to books and now enjoys channeling that energy into teaching all authors the tips and tricks she’s learned about how to thrive in the publishing industry through workshops and the Author’s Atlas blog. To follow along with Mel's tips to help you Get Organized in 2015, sign up for the Author's Atlas newsletter at

Mel Jolly

Author Rx
(828) 308-2925

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