- Hannah Dixon is a virtual assistant and freelance coach who juggles many different projects.
- She works efficiently by using accountability groups and by automating and outsourcing certain tasks.
- Here’s how she maintains her productivity, as writer Robin Madell put it.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hannah Dixon, a 34-year-old virtual assistant and VA coach currently based in Bangkok. The insider verified his earnings with documents. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
In my early days as a freelance virtual assistant, I juggled many clients with very different projects and very different deadlines. I had a few hacks in my toolbox to help me be as on the ball as I could have been, which led to missed deadlines, mixed schedules, and the loss of a client. for repeatedly forgetting things.
I was also engulfed in what I call “entrepreneur’s guilt”, where every moment I felt like I had things to do for my clients, resulting in 18-hour days. who earned nothing but a headache. It made me feel the work I was doing.
I had to find ways to streamline things and save time as I started freelancing for more flexibility and freedom. So I came up with three basic systems for working effectively and efficiently.
1. I hold myself accountable with Mastermind and coworking groups
Remote work can sometimes feel surprisingly isolating. Plus, when you’re all alone, it can be a lot easier to succumb to limitless online distractions.
To help avoid these pitfalls and hold myself accountable for getting my work done, I’ve joined and hosted free and paid Mastermind groups, which have monthly check-ins to ensure I’m progressing and properly investing my efforts.
An online Mastermind group is a collection of people who work towards similar goals but bring different expertise to the table. These groups often meet via video on a regular day and time each month or week and take turns discussing what’s going on for them. Group members support each other with resources, ideas, and connections and generally act as a sounding board.
I joined my first Mastermind group about a year and a half into my freelance career. It was a free Mastermind that I set up, made up of business colleagues who were at a similar stage to me. I reached out to them individually and invited people I thought would be the best fit for the group, or people I just admired. We met every two weeks on a Wednesday for 90 minutes. Beyond that, we had check-ins every other day via group messages which took little to no extra time.
Although I am not currently in any Mastermind group, I will be creating one soon. The ones I joined or hosted were small and private, with member limits and start and end dates. However, I now run three Facebook communities, including Next Level Virtual Assistants, which is my main group open to the general public. We occasionally host digital coworking.
I run a private support community dedicated to our fee-paying students, and that’s where I spend the most time and check in the most, like weekly coworking, digital decluttering, or fun social events. I spend about an hour a day interacting in these groups, answering any questions students may have, and ensuring a constant presence. There are days, like weekends, when I don’t need to show up at all, and many of our regular posts and events are automated.
My community works using the Pomodoro technical. We start by setting goals together, followed by 60 minutes of focused running, followed by a 10 minute break, and repeat.
2. I accept automations
I also quickly discovered that the right tech tools can speed up repetitive, time-consuming tasks and free your mind so you can focus on more important tasks. tools like Zapier and email autoresponders have lightened my workload and made my life easier.
One of the best ways I’ve used Zapier is our online job portal. About a year ago, I stopped posting virtual assistant opportunities to our student group because they were hogging the feed, and created a dedicated Slack channel for them. In the beginning, I was manually posting offers as they came in. But by using Zapier, I was able to automate this workflow, saving me time.
I also use Zapier to alert my team in our Slack workspace of any student payment failures so we can quickly track them. Likewise, we receive notifications of successful payments, which is always nice.
Your systems need to support your productivity. For example, when I open a Google Chrome browser every morning, it’s set to always land on my project management tool Trello as a visual reminder of what I need to do. (You can set this up by going to “Settings”, then “On Startup”, then “Add New Page” and inserting the URL.)
Dampen helps me stay consistent with my social media presence by allowing me to schedule my posts in bulk rather than having to post on the fly. Since I regularly use Instagram and send people to my bio link, I avoid problems with frequent link changes (or forgetting) by using Link tree to post and manage all my links in one tidy place.
Niche-specific tools like Group funnels saving me not only tons of time but also money. Group Funnels is a Chrome extension that integrates with Facebook groups, Google SheetsZapier and your email marketing software — for me it’s ConvertKit.
If you are a community manager on Facebook like me, you have the opportunity to ask members a few questions when they apply to join. You can ask if they want a gift and leave their email address in exchange, with Group Funnels, in one click. It works to add masses of email addresses from these replies to your autoresponder.
Before Group Funnels, I was paying someone $30 an hour to manually copy and paste every email address. This is one of my favorite automations to date.
Another productivity hack that has been invaluable as a virtual assistant is using tools like Doubsado to automate onboarding procedures and send invoices. For online business owners at all levels, setting up a reservation system like Calendment or something similar removes all the guesswork from scheduling across time zones and creates a seamless automated experience for those who want to talk with you.
3. I outsource instead of trying to do everything myself
When I was in school, I told my mom how disappointed I was that I was failing math, and she told me something that stuck with me all my life: “You don’t don’t have to be good at math. That’s what other people are for.”
This is where outsourcing comes in. I have the utmost respect for entrepreneurs who start and tinker with everything from scratch – that was my start too. Still, it’s crucial to know when you should start outsourcing the things you’re not good at. These tasks take valuable time away from the things you need to do to grow your business.
Like me, you can start looking for other virtual assistants for specific ongoing tasks in your business. You can start by mapping out what you think you should delegate, then ask for referrals from reputable sources such as Mastermind groups or other online communities – or you can hire from student pools of assistant training programs. virtual.
I currently work with four VA’s. Their hourly rates range from $25 to $50, although for two of them I just pay a flat rate each month which has been determined by both workload and how the exchange feels for both of us energetically.
Since virtual assistants are independent contractors, I set deadlines for tasks/projects, and when and how they work on them is up to them. My technical VA and I have agreed to work together every Thursday, which allows us both to plan to be more productive on that day each week. It’s actually decreased my weekly workload overall because Thursdays have become such an intense day where we explode so much.
I’ve found that by hiring team members myself, my revenue has increased by about 15% in one year. Having an outsourced team can really help you scale while minimizing the risk of burnout.
Are you a successful virtual assistant? Email Alyse Kalish at [email protected]