I love blogging. I love writing articles that are helpful and interesting. I don't like the details. I don't like finding images and posting the entries. I don't like submitting the entries to social media sites. The good part is that there is no reason why I have to be the one to do those tasks.
I solve this problem by outsourcing the tasks that I don't particularly like doing and which don't need my brain to be completed. My current VA lives in the Philippines and does work for me daily. He posts blog entries for me, finds images, checks my social media profiles, and more. His help has allowed me to streamline the blogging process so I can focus on the part that I do love to do.
Today, I would like to show you exactly how I started outsourcing my blogging tasks and how you can do the same. Outsourcing your blogging tasks is easier than you think. (Click to Tweet that!)
Step 1: Find a Virtual Assistant
I use Odesk for all of my outsourcing. Odesk allows you to see what your contractors are doing when they work so that you know that you are paying for actual work done. Over the last 5 years, I have spent more that $10k on contractors on Odesk (most when I was running my own web development firm). The key here is to find someone who is experienced in working with bloggers. I like to know that my assistant has a good basis to jump into the work without that much training in the software.
To find a good VA, include questions with your job post and ask potential applicants to answer them. This has two benefits. First, if a candidate doesn't answer them, you know that they are not good at following directions and would probably not make a good assistant anyway. Second, the responses will let you begin to evaluate the applicant's skills. You will know how well they communicate and how much experience they have.
Here is the job posting that I used to find my current assistant. Feel free to use and change it to fit your needs:
Hello and thank you for your interest in this position.
I am looking for an EXPERIENCED blogging VA. You would be good for this position if you:
- Have worked as a VA for a blogger in the past.
- Know how to understand and edit basic HTML (including div tags)
- Am really experienced using Wordpress, including setting up plugins and other admin jobs.
- Know what Creative Commons is and how to select Creative Commons images from Flickr.
- Know how to use the Internet really well, including Social Media sites, web applications, affiliate sites, etc.
- Use Gtalk and is available for at least a portion of the US (central time) work day (preferred).
- Are a self starter and don't need to be micro-managed.
- Are really good at English. I prefer native speakers of any type of English (American, British or Australian).
- Am very detailed oriented and able to keep track of lots of random bits of information.
I'm not looking for the cheapest. I'm looking for the best. This is not a full time position. It will probably require less than 10 hours per week. Hours will vary a lot. This is a long term position. I'm looking for someone who will learn more and grow with me.
Please answer the following questions:
- Please describe your experience with this type of position in the past. What did you do? For how long? Give links if possible. Be really detailed.
- Have you ever ran a blog of your own?
- Give me the HTML for a div with width of 200 pixels and height of 300 pixels with a paragraph inside.
- Please find me a creative commons picture of a cat on Flickr.
- How comfortable are you with web applications? List some of the sites that you use regularly or relevant sites that you have used in the past.
- Can you commit to this position long term, even if the hours are fairly low? All tasks need to be completed within 24 hours of requested.
- Do you use gtalk? What hours do you work?
- Please describe your ability with English. Are you a native speaker?
- Explain your experience using Wordpress. Be detailed.
- Why should I hire you?
You will be asked to interview over gtalk if you seem like an acceptable candidate. I will hire all good candidates for a more in depth test of ability before choosing the final selection.
If you don't answer the questions, you will be disqualified immediately.
Each of the questions asked above serves a different purpose.
- Gives you a general overview of the applicant's blogging assistant history.
- Extra bonus if they know about blogging from the blogger's point of view.
- You need to make sure they know enough HTML to post your blog entries. Since my entries include divs, I wanted to make sure that this would not be an issue. The answer to this is one of the following:
<div width="200px" height="300px"><p>This is a paragraph</p></div>
<div style="width:200px; height:300px;"><p>This is a paragraph</p></div>
- Many people don't understand Creative Commons. The answer to this is a link to an image of a cat on Flickr that says "Some Rights Reserved" on the right (as opposed to "All Rights Reserved".)
- They need to be able to use various applications on the web, such as social media sites, Aweber, and more.
- Set some expectations and make them agree to them.
- You need to make sure this person will work well with you. I use gtalk to communicate and want someone who works when I'm not working, so I ask them this.
- This is important because if they can't speak English well, they won't be able to communicate with you well (unless you speak their language, of course). I've had many assistants before now just not work out because they can't understand me.
- Make sure they can use the blogging system that you use.
- I always ask this question at the end of my posting. It is interesting to know what the application thinks is their best qualities as a contractor.
Once you post your application, wait a while before going through your candidate list so that you give people from all timezones a chance to apply. Then select the candidate that you think is best qualified. Don't be fooled into choosing the lowest priced candidate. You will probably get applicants bidding around $1 an hour. In my experience, these are usually scams or just bad employees.
Finding the right person can be a bit of trial and error. You may not choose right the very first time, but I know there are good assistants out there. Just be sure to choose the best candidate you can from your applicants.
Step 2: Set up Systems and Train Your Assistant
Now that you have an assistant, you have to get them up to speed. First thing to do is to have your assistant familiarize themselves with your blog. Tell them to take an hour and explore your blog, looking at how things work, including the HTML that goes into your blog, if this is relevant to what they will be doing.
Next, give them access to any accounts they will be needing, such as your Wordpress backend, your newsletter account, and your social media profiles.
Lastly, you will want to walk them step by step through the process that they will be going through each time you have a blog entry ready to be posted. In order to walk them through the process, just give them a little bit of the work to do at a time and check the work as they go, making sure each step is done correctly before moving on. For the process that I go through, I broke it down as such (with the emails that I sent to my current VA when he was getting started):
Step 1 - Find an image for my blog post.
Welcome to the team! We are going to start with something pretty straight forward.
I have a blog entry that will need to be posted this week. The first step is to find a picture for the entry.
I'm attaching a document with the blog entry for this week.
Please read the entry then look on flickr for a Creative Commons image that is usable for commercial purposes that can go with this entry.
Email me links when you have one or two possibilities.
Step 2 - Put the post into Wordpress (saved as a draft)
Thanks! Good work. Over time, you will learn my preferences for images. This time, I prefer this one:
It is simple and very related to the post.
The next step is to post the blog entry with the image. You have the blog entry.
IMPORTANT: Be sure that you save the entry as a draft. Do not publish it.
Log in at: (put blog login info here)
then look at this entry:
This will give you a good idea of how I format my posts.
Take the div code from the top of this entry for use in the new post. Replace the image, url, and username.
Also note that there should be a added at the end of the first paragraph.
Once you are finished, save as a draft (don't publish!) and send me an email letting me know that the entry is ready for review.
Step 3 - Convert the post into a newsletter broadcast in Aweber (but don't send it).
Okay, the next piece of the blog post puzzle is the email newsletter.
Attached to this email is the text to use for the newsletter.
Log into Aweber.com
(log in info here)
Be sure the the pursuitofepic list is the current list and create a new HTML broadcast. Choose the Custom Theme with Keep My Content. Add one 'Article 1' and one 'Article 2'. Everything above the bar in the file goes in Article 1 and below the bar goes in Article 2. Don't change anything on the Sharing and Scheduling pages. Just save the email.
IMPORTANT: Do Not Queue the email. I will do that after checking it over.
Email me when the email is set up so I know it is ready to be checked. In future weeks, I'll have you do the blog posting and newsletter at the same time. Let me know if you have any questions on this.
Step 4 - Post the link to the published entry in Hootsuite.
Awesome! Everything looks great. I have gone ahead and published the blog entry. The last step of this process is to publish the post to my social media profiles.
For social media, I use Hootsuite to connect everything together. Log in here:
(login info here)
In Hootsuite, I would like you to post the entry to both Twitter and Facebook saying:
"Here's to getting up and doing something great!" + the shortened url to my post.
Please email me when you have posted this.
The walkthrough process took a couple days to complete since each step was completed while I was asleep, but the feedback I was able to give was valuable and my assistant didn't get overwhelmed by directions. After this first time, you don't have to break the work down in such detailed steps.
Step 3: Outsource!
Now you have an assistant hired and trained! All you need to do now is to give them work to do. Each week, just write up your blog entry and send it to your assistant. They can then follow the same process that you walked them through all at once and reply to you when everything is ready for your review. All you have to do is go in, read over it, and hit publish and send on your blog and newsletter, respectively.
To make the sending even easier, I write all of my blog entries in Evernote and just use the share option in Evernote to send the post to my VA. Then I can write the short note for my newsletter in the email that comes out of Evernote. That way everything is together and ready to go for my assistant.
In the comments, let me know your experience with outsourcing blog entry posting and similar tasks. Also feel free to post questions if you have them.
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