Are you ready for another dynamic conversation with our popular “Ask the Expert” feature on The Other Side of Organized blog? This year, we’ve enjoyed inspirational dialogues about motivation with Dr. Shannon Reece, time management with Julie Morgenstern, clutter with Lorie Marrero, letting go with Geralin Thomas, next steps with Yota Schneider, and change with John Ryan. This month as we shift our focus, I’m thrilled to bring you virtual assistant and helper extraordinaire, Janet Barclay to share her wisdom about enlisting help.
Janet and I met through our social media channels about two years ago. Some of her friends knew some of my friends and our connection was born. Janet is a wonderful, generous promoter and people connector, hosting a monthly blog where she invites organizers to share their best posts on specific topics. My deepest gratitude and thanks goes to her for all that she does and for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about Janet.
Janet Barclay was a professional organizer from 2002 to 2008, during which time she developed a passion for creating websites and newsletters and began providing these services to her organizing colleagues. When she realized her true calling was in the area of web design and virtual assistance, she stopped offering organizing services and now specializes in blog design and support for professional organizers. She manages and writes for several blogs, including Your Organizing Business, where she shares tips for new and experienced organizers and hosts the monthly Professional Organizers Blog Carnival. When she’s not at her computer, she enjoys reading, watching movies, and healthy cooking. You can connect with Janet on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, website, or blog.
Linda: As a professional organizer turned virtual assistant you’re an expert on encouraging others to enlist help. What are some of the benefits your clients experience from outsourcing tasks and projects?
Janet: Many clients have me proofread their website content, blog posts or newsletter articles. Even good writers make occasional spelling or grammar mistakes, and making sure these are cleaned up before the text is published ensures that they put forward a professional image and makes a better first impression to prospective clients, media representatives, and anyone else.
Some of my clients don’t have the technical skills required to build and maintain a website or blog, so by delegating that work to me, they don’t have to devote time and energy to learning how to do it themselves. Even those who are tech savvy benefit, because they have more time for serving their own clients, and can therefore earn a higher income and achieve greater satisfaction with their work.
Linda: If someone is unsure about getting help, what do you suggest?
Janet: Consider what will have the biggest impact on your time and stress management if you were to remove it from your own to-do list: it may be tasks that you dislike, those for which you lack skills, or those that will be least expensive for you to pay someone else to do.
It’s often less stressful to start with a small standalone project than to hand over responsibility for an entire part of your business all at once. That will get you used to relinquishing control, give you a taste of the benefits of outsourcing, and find out whether you and the service provider are a good match.
I realize that for a lot of business owners, outsourcing work for the first time can be as scary as a parent leaving a child with a sitter for the first time, but delegation is as vital to the growth of a business as time away from the parent is to a child’s development. I know how liberated I felt after deciding to outsource my bookkeeping, and many of my clients have expressed similar feelings.
Linda: Finding the right fit when searching for help can be challenging. Do you have any tips?
Janet: When you’re talking to different virtual assistants or other service providers, ask questions about your specific needs, such as "What experience do you have working with [a particular software program, online service, or industry]?" In many cases, it’s worth paying a higher rate for someone with expertise in a particular area, who can also offer suggestions to market and grow your business that you may not have thought of.
Even more important than cost is compatibility between you and the person you choose to work with. It's important to discuss expectations up front – both yours and theirs – including how work assignments will be handled, turnaround time, and communication during the assignment. If you're going to need same-day turnaround, or if you want to be able to contact your VA by phone or Skype without scheduling something in advance, make sure he or she will be able to accommodate that.
Linda: What has been your biggest personal challenge around seeking help?
Janet: I haven’t always been diligent about documenting procedures and carry a lot of information in my head. That makes it difficult to delegate certain tasks, because if I’m too busy to do them, it’s just as hard to make time to explain to someone else what has to be done or to write out steps for them to follow.
Linda: Is there anything you’d like to share about enlisting help that I haven’t asked?
Janet: Life is to be enjoyed, so if a particular task is draining you of energy, whether physically, emotionally or mentally, why are you doing it? There is someone out there who is probably better at it than you, and who even enjoys it, so do yourself a favor and let them take it off your plate!
Thank you, Janet for your wonderful honesty, insights, and strategies about enlisting help. Your advice that “life is to be enjoyed” resonates with me. If we can delegate to free us up to do what we do best, and delight more in the time we have, why not relinquish control? I invite all of you to join Janet and me as we continue the conversation. What are your enlisting help successes or challenges?