Last updated: September 15, 2023
I use virtual assistants every single day to run my life and my business. They help me with scheduling, emails, documents, book promotion, and a ton more.
I think almost every small business owner, self-published author, influencer, or high-performing executive should hire an assistant. I have two.
But what does my team actually do for 60 hours per week? And how could you use a virtual assistant, also called a VA?
In this post, I’ll give you a raw look at 79 of the tasks my VAs have done over the past two weeks. Perhaps it will give you an idea of things that you can delegate to be more productive.
For more real-world sample tasks and assignments, see my previous article on how to use a virtual assistant. And if you want to hire your own virtual assistant, sign up for my Friends Newsletter and reply back to the welcome email. I’ll send you my best practices for hiring.
Each of the tasks are sorted by section in approximate level of difficulty, going from easiest listed first to hardest at the end.
A few things can’t be automated, and a few things get high priority for me. These are those things.
- Manual sales reports: Send a Kindle, Paperback, and Audible sales report from the prior day to group chat. We haven’t figured out how to automate this information, so someone has to log in and manually check the sales reports each morning.
- Similarly, I ask for a daily Amazon Ads sales update each morning. They pull this info and post it to our group chat.
- LinkedIn: Review my LinkedIn for new connection requests and inbound messages. Reply to messages based on prior conversations, and screenshot messages which need my attention or personalized response. I will answer them in batch later in the day, usually via a video recording where I record both myself and my screen. I use the software tool Loom for training videos, it has been a game-changer.
- Email digests: Each morning, my primary VA sends me an email digest summary via WhatsApp. She filters through my email inbox to look for important messages that I needs to take action on.
- Email management: Archive many automated email messages and newsletters, unsubscribe from certain things, and handle small email inquiries based on prior documentation. See the full section below for more email handling.
Ugh. Scheduling. It is pretty hard! Most of the scheduling work that my team helps me with is podcast-related. I’ve been a guest on 70+ shows since my book launched. Otherwise, we manage my calendar in Google Calendar.
- Called my dentist to reschedule an appointment due a travel conflict.
- Booked and confirmed a sushi reservation in Austin for me and my friend Paul Millerd.
- RSVP’d to a few events during my recent trip to New York City. For each of these, they also made sure that a calendar entry was added and ensured that it mapped the address into Google Docs. Then add the link to the event in the calendar Description field, and then copy-paste the event information there as well.
- Updated our team’s internal party calendar with upcoming parties hosted by readers of my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party.
- Compiled information about my upcoming meetings that were scheduled on Calendly into a digest for me to quickly review everyone’s questions and comments.
- Bought a ticket to this Austin Beer Pong event in April. Added ticket QR code and relevant info to my calendar to make sure the driving directions would work in Google Maps.
- Booked tickets for The Babylon Bee Live in Ft. Worth that my friend MJ is speaking at. Added it to my calendar and attached the etickets to the Google Calendar so I can easily pull it up when I arrive.
- Booked several podcast interviews for me and scheduled them according to my preferences. Ideally we can schedule to have two interviews in one day, which helps to batch these together. Booking podcast interviews is a whole somewhat-complicated process. Email me if you want me to write an article about that!
There are a lot of random requests that pop up: ideas that I have, messages to send, new blog posts, stuff like that. To assign these, I’ll dictate a voice memo, record a Loom video showing what I want, or type the information into Trello or our shared WhatsApp channel for new task requests.
- Processed an Amazon return for socks (too small!) that wasn’t going through via their website. Had to live chat with support, then they sent me the return label QR code.
- Republished my blog post about trade show booth photos into a new LinkedIn article to see if posting natively on LinkedIn drives any more engagement. Results were so-so.
- Imported email list from Twitter’s Revue service, which shut down, to my email newsletter hosted on ConvertKit.
- Checked with a credit card company, Chase Ultimate Rewards, to send me an updated Priority Pass card for airport lounge access.
- Updated my expense tracker spreadsheet, which I use to track credit card spending to accumulate airline hotel miles in conjunction with the MileMethod service I love.
- Built a new Google Sheet for my TikTok videos to check which ones have been successfully cross-posted to Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, and YouTube Shorts.
- Researched for dermatologists in Austin that accept my Aetna insurance plan for an annual checkup.
- Confirmed annual subscription to Bloomberg Businessweek with Bloomberg support, allowing us to save 20% on annual pricing.
- Followed up via email with a few museums that I have sent small grants to.
- Filled out 2022 tax information for BookBaby, a distribution partner that handles expanded eBook distribution for The 2-Hour Cocktail Party on Apple Books, Nook, Google Play, etc.
- Submitted an invoice and W-9 form for my recent work with the HostCon event and conference in Houston.
- Transcribed a voice memo that I sent on WhatsApp, which I will use to post into a private Facebook group for readers of my party hosting handbook.
- Imported email addresses into ConvertKit for one of my friends to help her start her own newsletter.
- Made a list of small Texas museums for me to consider as part of a grant program that I am thinking about.
- Edited our internal documentation for how we handle certain repeat tasks. This will be helpful when we hire a new member on our team, as one of my VAs is transitioning out to another job.
- Transcribed a long voice memo describing a travel packing list from me, based on me forgetting to pack a belt on my last trip. Then they created a Google Doc for me around that which I can use to check off items before my next trip.
- Review of our internal chat channel where I post new tasks to claim any previously unclaimed tasks. We’re just using WhatsApp now and it seems to work fine.
- Research about Texas vehicle registration and how to renew it for my Tesla Model Y.
- Published an issue of my Friends Newsletter as a LinkedIn article as a test to see if there would be any engagement on it. It was decent!
- Filled out dates and other details for a consulting service agreement that I am working on.
- Drafted a new job description, and then posted to an online jobs site, for a new hire on our team.
- Filtering through said job applicants to check minimum requirements. Sending screening questions to select candidates.
Even with aggressively managing my Inbox, I still get around 60 new email messages per day. Here’s how we triage those messages.
- Emailed a podcast host (Pursuit of Learning) to request the video files from my recent interview.
- Emailed my headshots to Molly from Caveday for my upcoming workshop as part of their Deep Dive series. I also made this headshots article on my website, which I recommend for people to easily find your preferred photos.
- Drafted and emailed bullet points and a talk title for a Virtual Summit talk that I was invited to attend, based on prior speeches I have given about my book.
- Replied to dozens of my emails based on transcriptions from voice memos I sent. Most emails that my team handles require a custom reply from me, and I will often dictate my replies in a Loom video. My team then types them in and sends the messages on my behalf.
- Emailed my bio and headshot to another organization for the Virtual Summit he will be speaking at. This is an example of an inbound message sent to me (someone asking for his bio and/or headshot) that my team can handle without my input.
- Sent reminder messages to first-time party hosts that we track in my private party calendar. With my teams help, I offer free party accountability coaching for readers of my book. We send them little reminders or bonus resources to help ensure that their first party is a success.
- Drafting replies to new inbound emails. As a result of widely sharing my email address online and in my book, I get a lot of inbound emails. My team tries to help reply to a few of these when there are template answers with repeat questions.
Book and Author Tasks
I’m investing a lot of time and money into promoting and supporting my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. These are just a few of the things I do behind the scenes as a self-published author.
- Shipped free books to several of my friends and LinkedIn contacts. We order books via Amazon’s Author Warehouse at a cost of approximately $10 each, including shipping.
- Podcast links: Added several podcasts to our list of podcasts that I have been on, plus my PR page about my book. Emailed the hosts afterwards to thank them for having me as a guest and letting them know that we linked their show.
- Updated a private Google Map that I keeps which shows a list of readers of my book. This is manually generated from entries on the Party Hosts Hall of Fame list.
- Weekly review of our Amazon Ads that we run for my book to optimize the ads. Deleting low-performing search terms, etc. Checked various ASINs for the past 65 days with no sales and then added those as negative targeting.
- Submitted a product description update for The 2-Hour Cocktail Party on Audible to include my 2022 Kirkus award.
- Resubmitted product description update for my paperback book on Amazon. The new description we wrote wasn’t accepted for some reason on paperback, but was correctly listed on Kindle.
- Updated Amazon Ads billing credit card to a new credit card that I’m using to get the 80,000 miles signup bonus. This is another card from the MileMethod consultant that helps me sign up for every 3-4 months for the new credit card bonuses to get first-class flight credits and free hotel night stays. It sounds like a scam but it actually isn’t.
- Updated our list of awesome party hosts with photos from their parties. I try to collect a picture from everyone who reads my book and hosts a party, and we post their photos on that page.
- Started making a list of people who wrote Amazon reviews for my book who we might be able to ask to cross-post their reviews on my Goodreads page.
Website and WordPress Tasks
Unless you have a blog or get involved in the nitty-gritty of websites, you can probably skip this section!
I spend an inordinate amount of time and money on my websites because it is a hobby that brings me joy. Here’s a look at all that goes into keeping my websites fast and functional.
- Updated a WordPress plugin that we use on my two main websites, www.party.pro and www.nickgray.net (this blog). We do monthly security updates of plugins to confirm everything is working on the site and that nothing breaks with the automated updates.
- Troubleshooting a cache and CSS issue. Deactivated Cloudflare plugin and added it to WP Rocket. We use both of these to help speed up my websites, which in turn results in slightly higher Google rankings and a better overall user experience. The next thing I want to figure out is how to get better TTFB scores using Cloudflare more.
- Set a domain name that was about to expire to renew automatically on Cloudflare. I like using Cloudflare for domain name registrations! Better than Namecheap, GoDaddy, etc due to slightly lower costs and tons more functionality.
- Published a new blog post with adult summer camp activity ideas. This is a new article that another freelancer wrote for us as an experiment for more diverse content.
- Updated this Read the Book Now page with an updated party checklist link. We’re now directing people to enter their email address to get the party checklist PDF instead of just providing it as a Google Docs link.
- Fixed a broken link for Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack on the Music Playlists for Cocktail Parties article.
- Updated the featured and social share image for How to Host a Baby Shower article. I still need to add better photos to this!
- Fixed a 404 page internal link error for www.party.pro that surfaced during an AHREFs audit.
- Edited our OptinMonster campaigns in the Party Supplies page and re-uploaded photos as gallery. We sometimes run A/B tests on these campaigns to try to improve our opt-in rates for more email addresses.
- Updated the featured image on my personal blog for Notes from Sam Walton: The Inside Story of America’s Richest Man. Also updated social share image.
- Downloaded complete backups of both of my websites and uploaded them to our shared Google Drive account.
- Updated the list of venues for where to host a party based on Google Doc edits from a content freelancer that I work with.
- Enabled JetPack’s “Related posts” feature for www.nickgray.net to see if it will generate more traffic.
- Added CSS code to fix spacing for campaigns in Party Supplies List blog on www.party.pro
- Republished Party Supplies List article with body copy changes to add more descriptions and update some of the supplies.
- Updated my new article My 5 Tips for Mexico City: Easy Advice for Visitors blog with screenshots from my YouTube Shorts video.
- Updated the featured image on the article What Does “Curb Your Dog” Mean? Signs, Photos, History.
- Watched a Loom video that I made about Respona, a new tool that his friend Louis recommended for booking podcasts. Then spent time navigating through their website to see different features.
- Published a new article called 7 Community Event ideas.
- Purchased a new license for WP Rocket, a plugin that we use on both of my main websites to improve speed and loading times.
- Published the How to Create a Cocktail Party Invitation: Examples & Templates article, which we’re testing for a content strategy.
- Updated the Amazon link on the Party Supplies page for the harmonica, which had gone out of stock.
- Published 42 Cocktail Party Ideas for 2023 article.
- Updated the 16 Office Party Ideas & Examples for 2023 article.
- Created accounts on Clicky and Plausible, two website statistics services, to test them out in case we transition off of Google Analytics before the forced GA4 upgrade.
- Added the Clicky & Plausible analytics tracking code to both www.nickgray.net and www.party.pro
- Checked Cloudflare to disable the domain name for a special project that I was working on. Later also disabled the domain name website, which I had created using Carrd. I like Carrd for whenever I need a super simple website. It is what I use for my family office home page.
- Added additional notes to a blog post we’re drafting that compares EmailOctopus vs ConvertKit.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
I have a bunch of notes about how to hire a VA that I can share. Sign up for my Friends Newsletter and reply back to the welcome email. I’ll send you my best practices for hiring. If you’re already subscribed, send me an email here and I will write you back.
There are two main ways to hire a VA:
- Freelance hire, for 30 or less hours per week. You can use a service like Upwork to hire a virtual assistant for hourly work. Or a dedicated virtual assistant freelancer service (there are a few) which requires less screening on your part. This is where most people should start.
- Direct hire, for full-time work. This is what I do but it requires a LOT more up-front effort. To place the job ads, screen candidates, interview, etc. You might also consider hiring a VA headhunter, as I’ve worked with before, to do the screening for you. One of those services, Shepherd, charges around 35% of the full-year hiring costs to do all of the recruiting and interviewing to present you with top candidates. I have thoughts on a few of these services. Email me for my full list in a Google Doc.
Virtual assistants can be a helpful first-hire for many solo entrepreneurs. At my last company, Museum Hack, I did exactly this. I hired virtual assistants to help me with customer service and sales support in order to grow the company.
Each day I use my virtual assistants to help me with a wide variety of administrative, email, and marketing tasks. I’m extremely grateful and thankful for all that they do. And now I’ve written this post to give you some ideas of how you might use one.
Are you a self-published author thinking about hiring a VA? I’d be curious to know how it is going! Email me to say hello. I’d also like to hear from small business owners. Maybe we can swap tips and tricks.
To get my full list of hiring tips and to see the job descriptions that I post when I’m hiring, sign up for my Friends Newsletter and reply back to the welcome email. I’ll send you my best practices for hiring. If you’re already subscribed, send me an email here and I will write you back.
- “The article made me wonder at what point do you decide to hire a VA. You recommended it for small business owner, self-published author, influencer, or high-performing executive. I’m not any of those, I’m just curious about it.”
- “I think the first hurdle in hiring VA’s is thinking through what they can do for you, so this article is great for that. The next hurdle is writing good requirements/clear instructions. Then coming up with a good test to find the best one for the job.” -Andy Knopp
Original post: February 3, 2023 -- Last updated: September 15, 2023