Is It Time to Hire Outside Help to Keep Your Author Business Running?
If only we really could buy time back when we needed it, life as an author would be so much easier. Sadly, we’re still stuck with twenty-four hours in a day, like everyone else. And, of course, we don’t want to spend our lives either literally working 24/7 or feeling like we do. We all need breaks away from what we’re doing. We all need time to switch off and enjoy life.
Just as importantly, when we are working on our author business, we want to be doing the best we can with what we’ve got. And that means working on the things we personally need to be doing.
If you want to grow your author business, at some point, you will have to hand over some of your tasks to other people who can help. More than that, you may well be dying to do that just because you’ll feel happier. Think of the tasks you really hate doing in your author business, whether it’s updating your back matter, writing your newsletter, or managing paid ads.
The problem with tasks that you really don’t want to do isn’t just the time it takes to do them; it’s the time you spend dreading doing them, putting them off, and tootling around on Facebook because you can’t face your to-do list. If you add up all of that time lost over an entire year, it’s probably hours that you could have spent doing the things that move the needle in your author business.
But what can you delegate? How do you do it? What does it cost? There are a lot of questions when it comes to delegating parts of your business, and we’ll cover what you need to know to get started in this article.
Where do you start?
When deciding what to delegate, it’s best to start with making a list of the things only you can do.
Think about how you run your author business and look at the tasks you do regularly. Which ones really have to be done by you and no one else? Unless you want to use a ghostwriter for your books, number one on your list is probably writing. What else on your to-do list drives your business forward or supports you financially? Those are the things you should focus your energy on the most.
Once you have that down, make a list of the tasks you could outsource in order to free up the most time. On this list, include anything that you dread doing, anything that people with the right expertise can do better and quicker than you, and anything that will save you noticeable amounts of time that you can put to better use.
Unless you’re already in a great financial position, you’ll likely find that you have more things you’d like to delegate than budget to do so. Your next step is to prioritize and decide which tasks will make the biggest difference to you that you can currently afford.
After that, you’re ready to start looking for the right people to help you take your author business forward.
What can you delegate?
Handing parts of your author business over to someone else shouldn’t be worrisome. In fact, chances are you’re already doing that. Most authors don’t do their own book covers or editing. You likely have an accountant or a bookkeeper to help with your taxes. You’ve probably paid for a newsletter builder or to get your book promoted by a site like Freebooksy or Robin Reads. You’re already taking advantage of someone else’s skills and knowledge to gain something for your author business in exchange for money. That is delegating. But you can apply the principle to far more.
Many authors have one or more virtual assistants to help them get beta readers, manage their ARC teams, run their Facebook groups, create promo graphics, send out their newsletter, and more. You can pay people to do pretty much any aspect of your author business for you, including plot generation, marketing, editing, formatting, newsletter swaps, website design, social media management, selling your books directly, and uploading your books to the various publishing platforms.
The business side of things is sorted, but we’re not done yet. What about at home? Do you really love cleaning all that much? What about laundry, cooking, or the list of honey-dos that you’ve said for months that you’d get around to doing eventually? Yes, those things are a part of life, but if you have the budget and they’re getting in the way of you getting the words down, then it might be worthwhile to consider outsourcing home tasks as well.
But how much does it all cost?
There are too many tasks that you could outsource for us to give you a definitive list, but outsourcing can cost less than you think.
Virtual assistants can start as low as around ten dollars an hour according to a quick look at different VA pages on Facebook, but experienced business managers can also charge as high as five- or six-figure full-time salaries to run everything for you. Delegated, a VA hiring platform, offers an in-depth look at rates and provides some hiring tips (https://delegated.com/resources/virtual-assistant-cost-calculator). Costs can be even less if you delegate to somewhere like the Philippines, where rates are far lower.
Pro Tip: You will need to manage time differences, but depending on where you live, you may be able to save by using an assistant from a different country. For example, if you live in the UK and hire a US assistant that bills at ten dollars per hour, you’ll actually pay around eight pounds an hour (variable depending on the current exchange rate), compared to hiring a UK assistant who charges ten pounds an hour.
Formatters, editors, cover designers—all of these necessary author helpers have a whole range of prices. Our advice? Do your research, look at examples of their work and testimonials, then buy the best you can afford right now without breaking your budget or getting yourself into trouble. You can always upgrade to better covers or formatting, or outsource more tasks, when you have a bigger budget down the road.
Pro Tip: Where can you find a great VA? Our best advice is to ask other authors and get recommendations. You can also search for Facebook groups that connect authors with assistants. Or you could try sites, such as Fiverr, Upwork, and People per Hour, though we stress the need to do your research and perhaps start with a trial project.
Can you still delegate if you have no budget?
The short answer is “yes.” There are various author groups on Facebook where you can advertise for what you need. You can get lucky and find someone who’d love to help in exchange for free books. You might be able to swap skills with another author to get what you need. Newer virtual assistants may provide free or lower cost help for a certain period of time in exchange for testimonials or reviews. You may even find that a fan would love to help just because they like you.
You really don’t have to wait. With a bit of creativity, you can find ways to hand off at least some things from your to-do list.
Things to think about
Naturally, there’s going to be a learning curve with new hires. When you’re used to doing everything on your own, it can be hard to let someone else manage things for you. You’ll need to spend time training your new people on what you want and how you want them to do things.
For a while, you might feel like you have more on your plate, but as your new helpers start to learn the ropes, you’ll find that suddenly you have more time to write and more mental space to relax.
The other thing to consider is that you may be handing over sensitive information about your business to someone else, so you have to be sure that you’ve done your research and chosen the right person. For example, you’ll need to provide confidential financial and business information to anyone working as your bookkeeper, accountant, or lawyer, so take your time choosing those people.
Think about security. Depending on their roles, your new hires may need to have access to your KDP and Draft2Digital dashboards, and you don’t want to give those to just anyone. Luckily, software, such as LastPass (https://lastpass.com/), will let you share access without revealing your username and password. AVirtual also has an excellent article on maintaining security in these situations: https://avirtual.co.uk/2018/11/16/share-private-data-with-virtual-pa/.
Take up references, interview potential new hires in person or on Zoom, and get to know them before you get started. You’ll be spending a lot of time with this person, especially at first, and you need to be sure you’ll get along. Perhaps start off with just one task or a short-term hire to see how things go before bringing someone new on full time, and don’t be afraid to let someone go if it’s not working out. This is your business, and you’re building a team that has to work for you.
Also cover yourself with a contract, whether that’s between you and the site, if you use something like TaskRabbit (https://taskrabbit.com), or you and your new hire. Specify terms and conditions, pay, hours and tasks, notice period, if applicable, and everything else you want to cover to make sure everything is spelled out should anything go wrong. It’s likely that your virtual assistant will already have a standard contract, but if not, We Are Indy has a helpful sample contract and information on what should be included (https://weareindy.com/blog/a-guide-to-virtual-assistant-contracts-and-templates).
Although you might not be able to delegate everything you’d like immediately, you can start small and get there over time. Delegate what you can, then use the time and mental space you’ve freed up to build your business so that you’re making more money and spending time doing those things that make your heart truly sing: writing, spending time with your family and friends, actually having weekends, and having the room and freedom to have time off when you need the break.
Delegating means knowing that your author business will keep powering along nicely with the team that you built to keep it going, even when you aren’t there. Is that worth the cost? We say definitely.