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Hi, I'm Marisa, founder of Quill & Co. We work with doers and go-getters ready to do something truly ambitious so that they can stand out and find brand clarity.
For our third episode in the Guest Expert Series, Morgan Moore gives us the scoop on working as a Virtual Assistant and how we should approach out-sourcing. In the designer space especially, outsourcing is oftentimes tossed around as a clear-cut solution to growing your business, but we often don’t talk about the details that go into finding the right match for your business or what tasks you should focus on out-sourcing. If you’re not yet a member of Quill Collective, feel free to join now to watch the full interview replay or catch the show notes below to learn more about Morgan and her work as a Virtual Assistant!
Q: Tell us some background around your career as a creative and a virtual assistant. When did you start your business and how did it come about?
A: I started my business in August of last year, so I’m still new to the space and owning your own business which is exciting! Previous to that I was working in New Orleans in the film industry. My background is in design and art and I was working on film sets as a painter. Similar to many folks impacted by the Pandemic, Covid really wrecked havoc on that industry. At the time, both my husband and I were working in the film industry and because of this experience, we thought it would be a smart idea to diversify our income streams so both of us weren’t entirely dependent on the same thing. It was from this thought that I began to explore the virtual world and work with designers and other creatives.
Q: In the design space, outsourcing is sometimes incorrectly viewed as this “catch-all” solution for scaling your business. From your experience, how can creatives know that they’re ready to start outsourcing and hire a virtual assistant?
A: Before trying to decide the answer to that question, I think it’s really important to brainstorm what tasks you’re struggling with and what you would want help with. I suggest starting there because the term Virtual Assistant in itself is quite broad, and there are different kinds of Virtual Assistants who specialize in certain industries or kinds of tasks, something I didn’t know in the beginning but I’ve learned along the way. There are social media managers, launch strategists, online business managers, Pinterest marketers, the list goes on and on! So for designers specifically, it’s crucial that they distinguish if they need help with design-related tasks or if they need outsourcing in other areas of their business. And from there, they can have a clearer vision of the kind of help they’re looking for and research specialists for set tasks.
Q: Going off of that, when I was looking to begin outsourcing I took some time to write down all my tasks, how long they were taking, and rank what items could be passed off to someone. Is there a method you recommend when trying to determine what tasks you want to outsource?
A: Yes, definitely! I would suggest folks do a time audit of not just the tasks you’re ready to give up, but all the tasks in your weekly routine. Don’t be afraid to be super detailed in this process and write everything down. Then you’ll be armed with a clear picture of your actual workload. When we work for ourselves, we tend to know up in your head all the tasks you do but when you go to actually write it down it can surprise you by how much you actually are doing in a day as a small business owner. From there you’re able to go through all the tasks and determine what are the things you would like to pass off to someone else, or tasks that are eating up your time and you could easily hire out.
Q: Something that you said can resonate with most of us: this idea of having all this information in our heads but not written down anywhere. How important is it for business owners to have a pretty solid set of Standard Operating Procedures (also known as S.O.P’s) written out before bringing on help?
A: I think it’s a great question and it is something that is definitely helpful. It’s so critical that they know what specifically they need help with. I’ve gotten on some discovery calls with amazing would-be clients, but if they cannot clearly articulate what they need help with then it’s hard for me to really move the needle for their business. Business owners will of course want tasks done how they would do them ideally, but if they don’t have that outside of their own head then it’s hard for someone like a Virtual Assistant to successfully execute tasks to that standard. That being said, you don’t have to have it all figured out to seek help and begin to outsource. But it is crucial that you know what details matter to you and where you need help the most.
Q: For people that might feel overwhelmed about getting all those processes out of their head, do you have any tips?
A: I’m a post-it note girl but I also love Trello and find it works best to brain dump or map out my tasks digitally. I think Trello is great for anyone trying to see the big picture since it’s so visual and then it’s helpful to have it digitized so nothing gets lost.
Q: What does your day-to-day look like as a VA?
A: Since I work with so many business owners, it’s really important to schedule my time. I live and die by my Google Calendar and time-blocking. And this can be overwhelming to start, but the best suggestion I ever received was to make some set time for yourself. For me this looks like a solid two hours in the morning consistently every day where I have the space to work on my own stuff in my business, take a walk, get a coffee, or just chill. Once 10 AM hits, it’s full go mode for client work. I’ve found that this helps me a lot because it can be easy to forget to make true time for yourself.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who feels ready to begin outsourcing?
B: I think the most important thing when trying to bring someone on is to find someone who you can communicate well with. Especially for folks who are outsourcing for the first time, it can be scary and overwhelming to have another set of eyes in your business. That being said, it’s crucial that this person aligns well with the communication style. Discovery calls are a great way to feel this out and I definitely recommend getting on more discovery calls than you think you actually need. You may find someone who you loved connecting with via their Instagram but when you get on the call you realize it might not be the best fit personality wise. If you communicate well with someone but maybe they’re missing a skillset or a tool you use in your business, they still may be a better fit than another applicant who has all the systems down pat but doesn’t understand you well. That’s why these discovery calls are so crucial to finding the right fit for everyone!
Q: What’s something that people might find surprising about the work that you do?
A: While I can absolutely execute the day-to-day tasks and stay on top of those, I love the strategy side of things. I want to know about big ideas for the business even if they’re not fully concrete thoughts yet. I get excited about helping my clients work on those big projects that feel insurmountable. It brings this element of business strategy to my work and it’s also highly rewarding to collaborate in this way. Something that I love about working with designers specifically is that you all have such cool projects and ideas, oftentimes around website design and strategy. While I’m not a web designer, it’s really fun to work on projects surrounding templates or even just learn more about what goes into web design through my clients.
Q: How do you stay organized working with so many clients and personalities. Do you require all clients to be on set platforms you use, like Trello, or do you work with them in the systems they already have?
A: So this really depends on the client. Whenever I’m on-boarding a client I’ll ask them what systems they have in place, and sometimes they don’t have much yet and that’s more than okay. We’ll work together to develop something that works for the both of us from the beginning for the both of us. Something that I like to use with the majority of my clients is Airtable, which is a great platform for collaborating on social media content. I’ll take them under my wing in terms of setting up Airtable and helping them learn how to best utilize this tool. But I also have clients who already have their own systems, ones that they love and have cultivated to work best for their businesses. In those cases I integrate into the systems they already have and from there they we observe areas that could be improved.
Q: Share with us more about your social media management template and how you’ve used it for yourself and for your clients?
A: I began to use Airtable because with social media content creation there’s quite a bit of back and forth between the assistant and the business owner. I found Airtable to be the best solution for us to collaborate on content development in an organized way. Airtable also allows you to change to a calendar view, which is great for getting the “big-picture” view of your content strategy plan.
Q: Someone listening to the live webinar asked, “At what point do you know when it’s time to actually start outsourcing? I don’t feel like I have my best systems or practices in place yet, but would like to bring on a Junior Designer to take on more projects.” What would you recommend this person?
A: It’s always scary to make that leap and begin outsourcing and it’s hard to know when the exact right moment is to bring someone on, but my advice would be to not wait until you’ve hit burnout but to try to hire before you reach that breaking point. I say that because it will take some time to on-board someone and have you both get adjusted to working together. It’s not like you hire someone and they immediately get your flow and know how to work the way you want them to work with you. It takes time and the best thing you can do to make that process more seamless you can to hire before you’re deep in the trenches.
Q: Where can people connect with you and are you currently accepting more Virtual Assistant clients?
A: You can find me on Instagram and connect with me there! I currently have one spot open for VA services and I also do Pinterest Management separately, so if you’re interested in beginning a conversation don’t hesitate to reach out on Instagram!
What a great and much-needed conversation with Morgan all about outsourcing, working with Virtual Assistants, and how you know it’s time to begin working with one. Morgan was gracious enough to offer a Virtual Assistant Guide that will help you determine which tasks to outsource first, as well as the Airtable template mentioned above to all members of Quill Collective. If you haven’t yet joined Quill Collective yet, now’s your chance to be a part of our creative network and to also snag those amazing freebies from Morgan!