There’s a lot to do when launching your first online course. From content creation, to list building, to coming up with a launch strategy, to actually managing your course once it’s live the list of tasks can seem unmanageable.
If you’re feeling the stress of it all, don’t worry—you’re not alone. And you don’t have to do this alone. Even if you’re a first-time course creator, outsourcing part of the workload to a virtual assistant can make a task that feels insurmountable totally doable.
The idea of outsourcing or working with a VA can be intimidating, but I built my business around virtual assistants, and I can show you how to get it right.
Over the past year, I’ve been developing courses through Teachable to help aspiring virtual assistants start their own at-home business from scratch. I’ve taught hundreds of students in my courses, and have made upwards of $200,000 in the past 6 months with my Teachable courses over at The Virtual Savvy, a virtual assistant training school. It came with a lot of hard work and delegation.
Learning how to delegate is one of the best things a course creator can do, but it can be difficult to know what to delegate and when. In this post, I’m going to give you the down-low to all things outsourcing. I’ll teach you what to outsource, how to outsource, and even give specific ideas and lists of what to delegate before, during, and after your course launch.
What is outsourcing?
Before we jump into how to outsource, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of what outsourcing is and why it’s important to run a successful online business.
Outsourcing is the process of hiring (either domestically or internationally) another team or individual to complete various activities for you.
Specifically, online course creators will often hire a virtual assistant to offload tasks so they can get more done faster.
The tasks you pass along may be monotonous or laborious, so you can be freed up to focus on what really matters. The tasks may also be those that you aren’t naturally skilled at (such as copywriting, proofreading, graphics, etc.), so you outsource that task to someone who is more skilled in that area.
We’ll get into the specifics of the types of tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant a little later in this post.
But first, let’s answer the big “why”.
Why should you hire a virtual assistant?
I’ve talked with hundreds of course creators and I see the same thing happening time and time again. We are spending too much time on the small stuff.
If we were honest with ourselves, most of us are spending 80–90% of our time doing the maintenance tasks for our courses and only 10–20% of our time marketing and selling them.
This means that we are spending more time on things that don’t make us money.
However, if we could outsource the majority of our maintenance tasks, then we would have more time to spend on the things that will actually sell our course and bring in income.
The bottom line—your personal productivity is limited by time. Whether you have 10 hours or 80 hours a week to work on your online course, there is a limit.
When you start outsourcing, that time gets multiplied. When a course creator masters the skill of outsourcing, there is literally no limit to what you can get done.
By outsourcing the tasks that aren’t core functions of your business, like customer care, editing, proofreading, billing, etc., you’re able to focus on the aspects of your online course that add value to the customer and will allow you to market your course and expand your business.
Before you go out and hire your first (or next) virtual assistant, there are a couple of investments you need to consider. These are:
- The financial investment
- The time investment
The financial investment
You need to go into your outsourcing arrangement with a firm idea of your budget. A virtual assistant’s rates can range dramatically, depending on who you plan to hire. There are three types of Virtual Assistants (VAs) that you can hire:
I’m writing this post from the U.S., so when I say “international,” I mean outside of the States. Many international Virtual Assistants advertise their services for as little as $3–$5 per hour, so if you have a limited budget, this is a good option for you. Keep in mind, however, that if you need to work with someone who has personal experience with your local market, you may want to reserve the work you do with VA services in this category to simpler, rote tasks that are easy to communicate virtually. You can find international virtual assistants using freelancer hiring platforms like Upwork.
If you do have a need to work with someone closer to home, you may want to hire a VA domestically. You’ll often pay more for a virtual assistant that is based in the U.S. (and also the U.K. and Canada). If you are English-speaking only and you need help with tasks that require detailed communication, or if your work requires familiarity with local market trends, you may find that the increased investment is worth it to your business.
The average rates for virtual assistants in the U.S., the U.K., or Canada can range from $18–$40 per hour. The best place I have found for domestic virtual assistants is to search entrepreneurial Facebook groups like Virtual Assistant Savvies. This is my Facebook group that has over 12,000 virtual assistants for hire.
Hire a specialist:
Lastly, you may want to hire an expert for a certain task for your course. Maybe you know your business needs an expert copywriter. Maybe you want to pay for a custom sales page or for a Facebook Ad to be created for your course. Know that you’ll pay more for these services, but it can be a worthwhile investment if the individual has proven results.
You should expect to pay anywhere from $50 per hour to thousands of dollars per project, depending on the scope of work. I suggest looking for personal recommendations from other course creators when it comes to finding an expert. If you’re a member of Teachable, you can ask other creators in our community, teachable:hq.
The time investment
It’s important to note that there will likely be a time investment on your part to train your new Virtual Assistant. This individual will be brand new to your business and your processes. I’ve found that it usually takes 3–4 weeks for a new virtual assistant to really get accustomed to a client.
During this time, communication is key. Have weekly meetings via phone, Skype, or Zoom to talk about the work that needs to be done for that week. If there is a complex task you need help with, shoot an on-screen video using a tool like Screencastify to show your Virtual Assistant exactly what you need done.
Yes, it takes time to train someone, but if you are willing to put in the time investment, you’ll end up saving yourself time in the long run.
Where do you need help?
If you have gotten to this point and you’re thinking, “This is the next right step for me”, then read on. I’ve created a step-by-step process to help you choose, hire, and train your new virtual assistant.
You physically only have a certain number of hours in a week to complete all the work that needs to be done to run your online business. It’s up to you to decide what your Most Profitable Tasks (MPTs) are in any given week. What is it that you do that will ultimately generate the most income? Anything else that is taking up your time and energy is really distracting you from your MPTs.
Before you go on the hunt to find the perfect virtual assistant, you’ll need to know what tasks you are looking to outsource to your new VA. In other words, what are you delegating so you can focus on your MPTs?
Again, you may end up hiring a generalist (a Virtual Assistant that can handle a variety of tasks) or a specialist (a Virtual Assistant who specializes in one specific area like bookkeeping, graphic design, proofreading, etc.). Here is a list of 25 most common services offered by virtual assistants:
- Content Creation (blog posts or your course content)
- Email Newsletters
- Video Editing
- Sales Funnels and/or Facebook Ads
- Customer Service and/or Email Management
- Graphic Design
- Web Design
- Custom Sales Page Creation
- Social Media Management
- Community Management
- SEO Services
- Webinar Setup and Assistance
- Transcription and/or Data Entry
- Billing and/or Processes
- Internet Research
- Responding to Blog Comments
- Maintaining an Editorial Calendar
- Social Media Graphics
- Ebook Content and Design
- Accounting and/or Bookkeeping
- Affiliate Management
- Branding Services
- PR / Press Releases
#1 Make a list of all the tasks that you do on a regular basis. Look back at your past week or even your current to-do list. From this list, circle all of the things that you could potentially hire someone else to take off your plate.
#2 Based off of the items you circled, decide if you want to hire a generalist or a specialist. From there, decide if you want to hire a domestic or international Virtual Assistant.
#3 Create a job description for your virtual assistant, based off of the above information. You can use these questions to help create that job description:
- Your Name
- Your Email
- Your Company
- Your Blog / Website / Teachable Site
- What tasks are you looking for a VA to assist you with?
- How many hours per week or month will you need assistance?
- What is your budget?
- Is there anything else that a VA should know about you or your company?
Where to find your VA?
Once you have your job description written up, it’s time to start the hunt for the perfect virtual assistant. Here are some of my top recommendations for where you can begin your search:
Ask other business owners that you know and trust if they have someone who helps them with their tasks. Personal referrals are a great way to find quality help for your business.
Email your list:
If you have an existing email list, this is a great place to start to find the newest addition to your team. These are the people that already know, trust, and follow you. Someone who already believes in the vision of your business could be a perfect fit for you.
A great place to turn for finding help in your business are entrepreneurial Facebook groups. Ask who has worked with quality subcontractors and virtual assistants to help grow their online course.
Upwork is a great resource for finding quality freelancers and virtual assistants. You have the ability to create a personal profile and post specific jobs. You can interview candidates, read reviews of their work, and hire and pay through the site.
How to hire the right virtual assistant?
You’ve started the search for a Virtual Assistant and the proposals are coming in. Now, it’s time to start the interview process. As you interview, here are a few questions to ask yourself when searching for that perfect fit:
Are they self-starters?
When viewing the proposals, is there anyone that went above and beyond? Maybe they sent you a very personalized proposal instead of something that was obviously a template. Maybe they did some research into your company before applying. If you can find an individual who exceeds what you asked of them, you can be sure that they will continue to be a self-starter once you are working together full time.
Are they reliable?
It’s difficult to tell how reliable a Virtual Assistant is going to be just from the interview and onboarding process. I normally recommend starting out with a trial month to assess how you work together. After that is complete, come together and decide if this working relationship is something you want to continue with.
Remember, the Virtual Assistant won’t be perfect at his or her job within those 30 days. However, you should be able to assess after one month if this individual is generally reliable and competent to do the job.
Do they have the skills?
Natural skill is an important factor when choosing a virtual assistant. If you are hiring someone to do graphics, you want to make sure that their design work is high-quality. If you are hiring a copywriter, their work needs to be grammatically correct and easy to read. If you can’t assess the applicant’s skill from the proposal they send you, perhaps ask them to send over an example of their work or send them a quick trial project.
Onboarding your new VA
Once you have decided who you are going to hire to assist you with your online course, it’s time to onboard that new Virtual Assistant. Here’s the process that we personally work through every time we onboard a new subcontractor:
The onboarding checklist
Set up an Initial Meeting
Have an initial meeting to outline the job description and expectations
Have clearly defined Pay and Time Expectations
Make sure you have an understanding of how much you will pay your new VA, what their invoicing process looks like, and how / if they will keep track of their time spent on projects for you.
Sign a contract
Sign a contract. Even if you will only be working together for a trial 30 days, it is still important to have a contract in place to protect you and your business.
Define a Meeting schedule
What will your meeting rhythm look like? I recommend meeting via Skype or Zoom once a week to discuss projects, make goals, and review progress.
Set Communication Expectations
How will you communicate throughout the week? Are you available by phone? Can your VA expect to reach you via email? You may want to consider using a tool like Slack or Trello for specific project communication.
Train your VA
Any time a training or explanation is needed for a specific project, I suggest using video. Film an on-screen video to explain what you want to happen in a project. Get your VA on a video call and walk through a specific process with them, so they can see what is expected and answer questions along the way. If your VA sends a long email with detailed questions, consider picking up the phone and talking with them or sending a video with your spoken response.
Remember, effective communication is the key to a healthy virtual assistant / client relationship!
If you are ready to take your online course to the next level, hiring a virtual assistant may be the next best step for you. Throughout this Ultimate Guide to Outsourcing, we covered what will take for you to hire your first or next Virtual Assistant to support your business.
Here are the tasks that you’ll need to complete in order to successfully bring on the support you need (so your business can grow):
- Understand the financial investment.
- Understand the time investment.
- Make a list of your MPTs (what you should be focusing on).
- Make a list of the tasks that are not your MPTs (what you should delegate to someone else).
- Decide if you want to hire a generalist or a specialist, domestic or international. Decide your budget at this time, as well.
- Write out a detailed job description for the type of assistance you are looking for.
- Use personal referrals, your email list, Facebook groups, or freelancing sites like Upwork to post your job.
- Interview potential virtual assistants.
- Choose which VA to hire, and onboard them to help you with your tasks.
Now it’s time to take action. How are you going to grow your business through outsourcing?