A rare combination of skill and passion for taking amazing shots will draw someone into the photography business, but by itself won’t be enough to get them through the daily operations.
In fact, when they get into the routine back-and-forth of running a business, they’ll find that their attention keeps being pulled away from the aspect that got them into it: the photography.
They’ll have marketing to do, and briefs to cover, and travel to book. They’ll have so much to do outside of their listed role that they’ll struggle to focus on the quality and frequency of their work. That’s where outsourcing becomes so important.
So how can virtual assistants lighten the load? And how do they compare to conventional assistants? Let’s find out if they present a solid option for professional photographers.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is much like a standard assistant, except they work remotely over the internet and the phone (some work from home offices, others move around with their laptops), and they are paid pro rata instead of drawing a set salary.
You can hire just one virtual assistant, or hire a virtual assistance service that brings in as many virtual assistants as needed to carry out the work assigned to it. The former is cheaper, of course, but won’t scale to requirements.
What Things Can Virtual Assistants Work On?
There are plenty of important things you can outsource to a virtual assistant. Here’s a quick summary of the items in the piece linked:
- Diary Management
- Photo Editing
- Website Updates
- Social Media
- They incur legal complications. Tax liabilities, insurance requirements, workplace safety needs, training provisions and vacation allowances, to name just some.
- They require space and tools. You need to find somewhere to place them within your workplace for them to be able to do their job, and find them resources (e.g. a computer).
- They get paid regardless of their workload. If you have a really quiet day (or one on which you get so busy that you don’t find the time to give them any work), they’ll have nothing to do, but still draw their salary.
- Their role is specific. A typical assistant will have a set idea of what their job involves, and they’ll want to stay within those parameters.
- Their scope is limited. If their workload suddenly got much larger, they might not be able to get it all done (plus overtime is expensive).
A good virtual assistant can do all of these things for you to an excellent standard. And what about those all-important client testimonials? They need to be requested and collated and deployed optimally. You don’t need to do it all. It’s not the best use of your time.
Can a Virtual Assistant Help Grow My Business?
Absolutely. Another benefit of using a virtual assistant is that they’re likely to be quite technically-minded; after all, they do almost all of their work online. And with the level of automation available through modern software, you probably won’t even require their assistance indefinitely— you can simply have them set something up for you, and then make use of them on occasion should you wish to do some maintenance but not feel comfortable doing it yourself.
Some such automation tools are completely free, like Circular, which connects to Twitter and allows you to queue up tweets well in advance. You can have a VA set it up for you, then create a large batch of tweet options for you to review at your leisure. If you’re looking to use social media more to share image samples, getting it configured could prove invaluable.
Then there are the freemium options that offer free functionality to begin with but then charge you as you do more with them, like Moosend, which is designed to help people automate email marketing and is a very reasonable option for smaller subscriber lists. Within the free trial, a VA could use its form creation tool to set up custom sign-up forms and paste them into your website to gather valuable information about what your users are looking for.
If you’re not incredibly computer-minded (and plenty of photographers still aren’t), then using a virtual assistant to ease you into the world of technical tools could be a huge boon and extremely cost-effective.
What’s Wrong With Using a Standard Assistant?
To see specifically why a virtual assistant can be much more effective than a conventional assistant, let’s first look at all the downsides of using a standard assistant:
What Makes a Virtual Assistant Different?
Having a virtual assistant neatly dodges most of the issues we just looked at, because:
- They’re not a standard employee. A virtual assistant operates as an independent contractor, meaning you only really need to pay them on time.
- They have their own setup. You don’t need to find them a desk or get them a laptop. They already have everything they need to do their work.
- They charge for work done. If you don’t have any work for them to do for a couple of days during the week, it won’t cost you anything.
- They can handle varied tasks. Because of their non-traditional nature, they’re far more open to different tasks, like fielding office calls or handling PR.
- They can scale well. With no set hours, there’s no concept of overtime and it’s quick and easy to take on additional virtual assistants to handle a massive workload.
Is a Virtual Assistant Really Worth It?
A professional photographer’s reputation is incredibly important to their overall success. Because photography is an art, not simply a science, it is heavily subject to personal opinion, and glowing reviews from your clients about the effects of your work and the quality of your service will be vital for winning over prospective clients.
That means you can’t afford to compromise on what you’re offering, and which is what will happen if you try to do everything yourself. You don’t have unlimited time or energy; you’re not superhuman. In the end, either your work or your service will suffer.
And though you may feel reluctant to trust someone you haven’t met, you should bear in mind that pieces of software such as Slack and Google Drive make it straightforward to stay in communication with an employee over the internet— plus you can require them to use specific tools that will allow you to carefully track and monitor their work.
As such, hiring a virtual assistant (or using a virtual assistance service) may well prove extremely cost-effective for your professional photography service.
Are you struggling with a workload that keeps you from doing what you’re best at? A virtual assistant is a great alternative to doing it all yourself. You can read about some virtual assistant services here, and decide which, if any, is right for your business.
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who loves how the internet is making so many things easier. You can read more of her work on her blog Victoria Ecommerce.