Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Need an Author Assistant? Is it Time to Hire Help?

So you’re ready to hire someone? That’s great! Sara Blakely, the inventor of Spanx, says one of her biggest lessons learned is “that you have to be willing to hire your weaknesses.” We all have weaknesses and even if you’re good at most things, not having enough TIME to do everything can be a problem.

The question is where do you start?

Assess Your Needs
Spend some time tracking what you do each day.  Use a timer and a notebook and track what you do and how long it takes. It’s important to do some actual data collection. I’ve found that things always take longer than I think they will. This might be a little painful, especially if you’re in denial about how much time you think you spend on Facebook versus how much time you actually spend on Facebook. For example:
·      Social Media – 30 minutes
·      Answering fan mail – 45 minutes
·      General email – 30 minutes
·      Creating a to-do list – 15 minutes
·      Writing – 1 hour
·      Mailing prizes to giveaway winners – 1 hour 15 minutes
·      Working on cover art/searching for stock photos – 1 hour 30 minutes
·      Tracking sales data – 1 hour 45 minutes
·      Writing guest blog post – 45 minutes
·      Creating author newsletter – 2 hours
·      Answering blog comments – 15 minutes
·      Website updates – 1 hour

Divide and Conquer

Now that you have your list, divide it into groups. Mark the items that are easily outsourced. Tasks like scheduling your social media posts, mailing swag to fans, and sending out your newsletter could all be done by an assistant.

Put the things that can only be done by you into another category. However, before dumping something into the “only me” list, ask yourself if that item has multiple steps. Can you train someone else to do part of the prep work for you? Make a list of those steps.

Keep in mind most things can be at least partially outsourced to someone else. This means, part of your decision-making will revolve around what you are comfortable outsourcing.

BONUS TIP: If you track how much time it takes you to do each task, this will give you a good idea of how long it will take an assistant to do these tasks for you. This will be extra helpful when it is time create your budget.

Set Goals
Before you even begin to look for a freelancer, it’s important to determine your objective.

·      Are you hiring because the freelancer has skills that you do not?
·      Are you trying to expand your business or are you simply unable to keep up with everything?
·      Are you trying to create more time in your day? If yes, what are you going to use that additional time to do?
·      How is hiring someone going to enhance your career?

Your goals may shift once you start working with someone, but it’s important to pinpoint what you need right now so you can work towards achieving that goal.

Set a Budget

It may sound like a dream come true to have someone else take over a portion of your workload, but don’t forget the financial repercussions. You don’t want to hire an assistant and then realize two months later that you can’t financially sustain the relationship.

I read The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing by the authors of the The Indie Voice, and one of the things that stood out to me most was Denise Grover Swank’s chapter about looking at your writing as a business. Create a plan that includes your projected publishing schedule, earnings, and expenses. All of these items should inform your decision to outsource some of your workload and ensure that you are able to stay within your budget.

Ask yourself:
Do you make a profit from your writing?

 How much do you allocate for your business expenses and how much of it goes to personal needs?
·         Do you have anything left in your business budget for outsourcing? If not, where will you find the extra money?

If NO:
·        How much are you going to allocate for your starting your business?
·        Don’t forget to budget for:
o   Product Expenses (cover art, editing, formatting)
o   Platform (website)
o   Outsourcing
o   Advertising and Materials (swag)
o   Education and Travel
o   Fees and taxes

The amount you will need to spend on a freelancer will vary widely based on your needs and the experience of the freelancer. The key is to find someone that meets both your needs and your budget.
In next month’s post, How to Find and Vet Assistants, I’ll cover more of what an Author’s Assistant actually does as well as the cost of hiring one. Tell me, have you thought about hiring an assistant?

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

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