Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Virtual Assistant

I am not good with technology. I never did learn how to program the VCR. Luckily, the PVR we have now is almost idiot proof (almost), but I still get my daughter to operate it if I want to record a TV show.
So it’s no wonder that I needed help when my blog went wonky. My right sidebar developed a huge space between the first piece of information, my website address and the rest of the gadgets. The labels and blog archives were located at the bottom of the page where no one was going to see them. Nothing I tried managed to fix it. And then my preview function suddenly quit working! I was ready to pitch this whole stinking blog!
I checked the yellow pages in my phone book to see whether I could find someone local to help me out. I found plenty of people who could set up a website for me, create an advertising campaign, or market a business using traditional and social media. After checking out several websites for these businesses, I came to the conclusion that a) they all were way too expensive for me, and b) none of them addressed my specific needs. I wanted someone who would take me by the hand and show me how to fix my blog or go in there and do it herself. And I didn’t want it to cost a lot of money.
And then the answer came to me in the mail.  The March 2011 edition of RWA’s Romance Writers Report carried an article entitled “Is it Time to Hire a Virtual Assistant?” by Jenel Looney. A virtual assistant can help a writer with dozens of tasks, freeing up the writer’s time to do what she really wants to do—write. A virtual assistant can help with marketing efforts, such as coordinating social networking efforts to make sure the writer is taking full advantage of the promotion these sites offer. A VA can help with updating a website, or can assist with design. She can set up a blog tour for you, which I know from experience can be time consuming. She can also contact review sites to set up book reviews on the writer’s behalf, if her publisher isn’t already doing that. A VA can help brainstorm the types of marketing materials such as bookmarks, sticky notes, pens and other goodies you want to give away as prizes for contests or as gifts at conferences. And speaking of contests, your VA can keep track of entries, draw a random winner and mail the prizes.
The great thing about this article was that it not only extolled the virtues of virtual assistants and listed what they could do for me, it told me where I could find one. Ms. Looney provided the website of the International Virtual Assistants Association ( She also offers this sage advice:
“I recommend starting with one small project to test the waters. Find out for yourself whether your VA has the skills you need, and whether she follows through on her promises. Limit your commitment in the beginning to give both of you the opportunity to determine whether you’re a good fit.”
Following Ms. Looney’s advice, I posted a request on the IVAA website, outlining my problems with my blog. Within 24 or hours (or less) I had a couple of replies. I chose to work with Amy Moore of Amy’s Winning Ways ( For a reasonable fee, she fixed my blog problems and gave me some advice about some other issues. I hope to work with Amy again sometime in the future.
Have you ever had technical problems you couldn’t fix yourself (or am I the only inept one?) Do you ever wish you had an assistant to help you with the many non-writing tasks a writer needs to do? Have you ever hired a virtual assistant or some other kind of outside help?
In totally unrelated news, please join me at this weekend, April 8, 9, & 10 for a chance to win a Nook ereader! All you have to do for a chance to win is to comment on my posts or on the posts of any of the authors attending. There are tons of other giveaways as well. I hope you drop by!


  1. This is funny, Jana - not funny haha, but coincidental funny. I was just thinking that I could probably market myself as a virutal assistant. The term has been in my vision everywhere I look these days - including here on your blog. Did you know there's also a Canadian Virtual Assistants' group (

    As for me hiring a virutal assistant - I'd like someone who could do my Day Job, freeing me up to do the stuff I want to do. That would be great except my pay check would be going to my VA! OK, not a great idea.

    Glad you got help with your blog :)

  2. I'd never heard of a VA before I read that article in the RWA Report. One would definitely come in handy at times! And I can see the real benefit when it comes to marketing and arranging blog tours and such. Someday, when I have something to market...

    Glad you found the help you needed!

  3. I hear your angst, Jana. I can't believe I have a blog and a website, and did it all on my own! I could definitely use a VA - especially with things like sizes and layout, etc.

    Great post, thanks.

  4. Janet, I think you'd be a great virtual assistant. And no, I didn't know there was a Canadian associations of virtual assistants. How cool!

    I wish I could afford to have someone take over a bunch of my non-writing efforts, because I'm not technically inclined and really, I'd rather be writing. So if you ever hang out your shingle, let me know!


  5. Karyn, I never heard of a VA either before that article. But it was exactly what I needed at the time. Talk about serendipity!


  6. Joanne, so far I've muddled through, creating a website and blog, Facebook and Myspace pages. But I know I'm not taking full advantage of any of them. Part of the reason is lack of time,and part is lack of knowledge. I find maintaining everything a lot of work.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  7. Wow, what a nice post, Jana! My husband just stumbled across it (after Googling my name... just because he loves me ;D). He brought his iPad to me and said, "Have you seen this article?" I'm so glad to hear that my article helped you. Thanks for sharing!

    Jenel Looney

  8. Hi,

    A virtual assistant can help you regain control of your life at a sometimes surprisingly low cost. It can also provide a full-time dedicated resource for busy professionals and small business owners. Thanks a lot...

    Virtul Assistant Ecommerce

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.