How to Hire a Virtual Assistant for the Holidays

If you've never hired a virtual assistant before, you're not going to want to go hog wild a couple weeks before Christmas. You have enough on your hands! But this may be a good time to try one out on some of the tasks you're having a hard time keeping up with right now. By next year's holiday season, you'll know just how to utilize this tool – and hopefully have a well-trained virtual assistant you can use in a pinch.

• Figure out what you can delegate. Take a few minutes to list all the things you have to do between now and Christmas. Now consider what you could delegate if you had to, including administrative tasks and

social media marketing.

Taylor McCoy, who runs the handmade jewelry business Native by Designz, has hired virtual assistants and worked as one herself for other artists, mainly marketing jewelry and crafts online. At one point, McCoy was promoting products for 15 different clients, as well as her own jewelry, on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Tumblr.

• Find someone who knows your product. Successfully marketing someone else's jewelry takes a certain touch. It requires trust, genuine understanding, passion for the products, and a strict schedule. "It doesn't matter if it's a stretch bracelet or a Swarovski crystal necklace, every product gets promoted," McCoy says. "It's no more or less than what advertising does for a car: I have to sell you this product in two sentences or less, or 140 characters."

• Look online. McCoy knows many people who have had luck finding virtual assistants on odesk. But she recommends starting with the people you network with online. Consider approaching another jewelry artist who's good at promoting his or her own work. "Look around and see who's advertising on social media and does it in a way that makes you want to buy something," she says. "Maybe they would like to work for you. With the economy, people often need a few extra dollars." It doesn't hurt to ask.

"At the very least, you need to find someone who already knows about products in your selling venue," McCoy advises. "I wouldn't suggest using someone who paints to advertise handmade jewelry, but someone who makes the jewelry, has an interest in it, can distinguish the beads from the rocks from the plastic from the paper – that can work."

• Put the word out on Facebook and Twitter. If you're looking for someone to promote your jewelry on social media, look for them there. McCoy found her own virtual assistant on the Facebook forum of a business group she participates in – but went through four people before she found one who understood how to push her products.

• Audition before you commit. McCoy interviewed each candidate to get an idea of their timeframe, professionalism, accessibility, and how interested they were in the pieces. She paid each one to promote a list of products for two weeks, and then observed.

"Were they just posting my stuff on Facebook and not saying anything about it? Just doing shortcut tweets? If it wasn't getting me any sales and views after two weeks, I tried someone else," McCoy says. "In two weeks you should be seeing some type of number rise."

CATHLEEN MCCARTHY is a freelance writer whose stories on design, travel and business have appeared in Town & Country, AmericanStyle, Art & Antiques, Washington Post, and her own site, The Jewelry Loupe.

NET PROFITS appears regularly in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and focusing on using the Internet for jewelry selling and is of special interest to those with a home based jewelry business. Learn more about marketing during the holiday season in "Tips for the Holidays," December 2012, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

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