- by Lina Gardiner
WELCOME JENEL! Thank you for joining us and popping in throughout the day to answer questions.
How did you become a virtual assistant? (What interested you in this job, etc.) It’d also be interesting to hear about your Masters in Writing.
I had a lot of weird and seemingly unrelated skills I’d picked up over the years in various jobs and schools. I had a Bachelor’s in Spanish, a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction, a paralegal certificate, a real estate degree. I knew a little graphic design and basic HTML from my time as a curriculum assistant in Saudi Arabia, working on the school system’s internal website, but I didn’t know enough to be a graphic designer or a website designer.
When I first started as a VA in 2008, I marketed myself to small businesses. But then Susan Mallery, a classmate and friend from Seton Hill University, hired me for a small project, and then for another, and soon, she committed to me as her assistant and recommended me to two of her friends, Kate Carlisle and Maureen Child. I am thrilled to specialize in author assistance. I couldn’t be happier.
Can you give us an overview of what virtual assistants do for their clients?
Every VA has different skills and expertise, so it will vary greatly. A good VA will help with all of those time-consuming extras that keep you from writing. Here are a few of the things I do for my clients:
Street Team Management
Graphic Design (posters, swag, ebook covers)
Website Content Creation (bonus content for series, etc.)
Social Media Support
Simple Website Updates
Beta Reader Services
Blog Tour Coordination
How do you usually manage your day?
Triage. I always have more on my to-do list than I can accomplish in a day, which is great because I love being busy, and the variety keeps me entertained. Some tasks take less brain power, such as mailing prizes to readers, so I save those for the end of the day. I do the thought-heavy tasks when my brain is fresh.
Is there a limit to the number of authors you can accommodate?
There’s a limit to the amount of work I can handle, and the three authors for whom I currently work keep me very busy, I’m happy to say. Susan Mallery, in particular, has four new books plus an ebook exclusive coming out this year, beginning with the incredible EVENING STARS in March.
What aspect of being a virtual assistant keeps you most busy?
Right now, I’m getting organized to attend the RT Convention with Susan Mallery, so I’m designing and ordering all of the goodies that will be in the fabulous goodie bags she’s giving away.
I’m also designing some fun bonus content for Kate Carlisle to give away at upcoming mystery conferences. We’re doing a Time Killer booklet for Kate with a word search for each book in her Bibliophile Mystery series, plus a “Find 12 Changes” puzzle with two versions of the cover of her next book, THE BOOK STOPS HERE.
What, would you say, are the most requested tasks for your authors?
Social media support is a biggie because the need for new content is relentless. More importantly, though, we strategize ways to drive those fans and followers to join the author’s mailing list, which is the most powerful tool an author can have to impact early sales, and the only tool that is completely in the author’s control. We don’t know what changes Facebook and the other social media sites will make in the future, but we know we’ll be able to stay in touch with readers on an author’s mailing list.
Without being personal, can you share what the average cost/hr is for a virtual assistant?
(Not necessarily your wage, but virtual assistants on average).
I don’t know that I can speak to the average hourly rate. A few years ago, I wrote an article for the Romance Writers Report about VAs, and I asked a few about their rates. One was as low as $5 per hour, and one was as high as $50. My rate is $40 per hour. I’ve even connected with a couple of women online who identify themselves as VAs but who do the work on a volunteer basis for authors they love. I think the chances of finding someone who has the skills you need—and the commitment, and the work ethic—for $5 per hour are pretty slim. You want a professional in your corner, someone you can trust to do an excellent job and someone who will represent you in the best way possible.
What do you like most about being a Virtual Assistant?
I love the variety of work I get to do, and the opportunity for creativity. I’ll give you an example… Susan Mallery writes an ongoing series set in Fool’s Gold, California, which has been wildly popular with readers. I create all of the bonus content on the Fool’s Gold website, www.foolsgoldca.com. I write little between-the-books updates on the characters. I design logos for all of the local businesses. I designed a map of Fool’s Gold. At the moment, I’m designing a more detailed map of downtown Fool’s Gold, which will be included as a trifold brochure in the goodie bag Susan will give out at the RT Convention in New Orleans this May.
Do you attend any of the industry conferences? (Just curious)
I haven’t, but I don’t rule out the possibility. I’m sure I could learn a lot!
Jenel Looney has been an Author’s Virtual Assistant since 2008. She lives in Central Texas with her husband and a very spoiled little dog. Connect with her online at www.facebook.com/JenelLooneyVirtualAssistant.