Dear Indie Annie,

I’ve hired personal assistants (PAs) and virtual assistants (VAs) in the past with varying degrees of horrible experiences. But I know myself, and I keep burning myself out trying to wear all the hats. I could put out more books a year if I didn’t have to do the things that slow me down the most. Where do you find PAs? How much money and time is too much (or not enough) for one? And once you have a PA/VA, what do you ask them to do?

Perplexed about PAs

Dear Perplexed,

I know what you mean. One just can’t get the staff these days.

I’m joking; obviously one can. But that cliché runs as true today as in any Victorian melodrama. In my experience, a good team takes time to build, and often we expect the “help” to come to us fully formed and ready to hit the ground running. What an awful phrase!

Another adage that sadly rings true is that you get what you pay for. The nub of your question lies there, in my humble opinion. The question is not “What should I pay that person?” but “How much is that person’s time worth to me?”

When people start out, they waste a lot of money—that they often haven’t even earned yet—on PAs, VAs, fancy websites, and courses that suck away their investment and offer little in return. They are then burnt by the experience and wary of investing in someone else’s time again. They were finding solutions before identifying what needed to be solved.

There are many author services out there touting how they can support you with X, Y, or Z offerings, and it’s easy to believe you need all of it, exactly as described. However, what they offer may not be what you need, at least not at this point in your career. 

So, my lovely little Perplexed, the best place to start is to sit with your process for a while and draw up a clear specification of work. You may realize there is a lot on offer you don’t need or are happy to manage yourself. 

For example, your PA or VA may do book tours, a service whereby they convince book bloggers and vloggers to review and promote your latest release. In some genres, such a service would be amazing; in others, a waste of money, time, and effort. The same with building your presence on social media. Are the platforms they know best really the ones where your audience hangs out? If you haven’t done the prework on what you need, then it is easy to be dazzled by a package that, in reality, won’t serve you at all.

Does your prospective PA/VA understand your audience? A good PA with a shared passion for your genre and established links could be worth their weight in gold. But that is just one factor to consider. Your PA may advertise themselves as the Romance Queen, for example, but that is not enough to gauge how effective they will be for your Romance titles. Part of your prework is to write a list of questions for them to answer, just as in any job interview process. 

How many clients do they currently have? Can you ask for references? This request should be a no-brainer, to be honest, but it would amaze you how many shy author types feel it is inappropriate to ask. 

How many hours a week are they available to work? Ten, twenty, thirty? I may only need the PA to work for me for two hours a week interacting on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, but if that same PA has ten other clients all wanting the same two hours, and they can only work three hours a day, Monday to Friday, when are they going to fit me in? In reality, they are already overextended. Adding me to their client list will mean they need to find an extra five hours a week, and that may not be possible. Efficiency and effectiveness will slide.

I know, I know, asking such questions may feel intrusive; however, in my experience, I would rather pay someone a decent hourly rate that allows them to use their skills and expertise with a smaller number of carefully selected clients than fight for attention from someone struggling not only to meet deadlines and expectations but also make ends meet.

Which takes me full circle to my earlier question: how much is that person’s time worth to me? Again, this is all about doing your homework. How much time do you spend on those administrative tasks versus how many words could you write in that time? At the beginning of your career, it’s hard to attach a value to those words, but dear Perplexed, I hear from your question that you are already making some money from the sales of your books. You must have a sense of how much your words are worth.

Paying another person to do those tasks frees you up to earn more money. Does your budget allow you to honor that saving at a respectable hourly rate for your PA? At first, it may be hard to see how, for argument’s sake,  $30 an hour is a fair exchange if you can’t identify that you can then earn $50 an hour. But if and when you can, the math is much easier. Until then, you may have to take a deep breath and trust this investment will be worth it in the long run.

And to ensure that it is worth it, you have to do yet more homework. Ask fellow author friends if they have any recommendations. Look behind the flashy headlines and check that the PA/VA can deliver and has delivered on their promises before. Ensure those promises are what you actually need, and don’t be swayed by the shiny stuff you don’t need. Remember, you are the client. A good PA/VA will be adaptable to your business needs. Be clear about what exactly you are buying in terms of their time. Detail this as much as possible in a mutually agreeable contract that you both sign. Have regular meetings to update and check on progress. And remember, building a profitable working relationship takes time and investment on both sides. Manage your expectations, provide time for training and development, and carefully monitor progress. If things start going awry, deal with it straight away.

You’re the boss! You need to act like one. Set standards, give clear instructions, and provide positive feedback, and both of you can grow together.

Happy writing,

Indie Annie


Indie Annie

Indie Annie

Have questions about your own writing and publishing? Ask Indie Annie, our take on the advice column, penned by an irreverent and sassy avatar with a flair for fashionable scarves and a tipple in her teacup.

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