A virtual assistant can make a difference to your event planning business. But how do you know when the right time to hire one is? I talked to a highly-experienced event planner about how she finds, trains, and managers virtual assistants.
Meet Jac Bowie
Jac is the owner of Darling Don’t Panic, a wedding planning and travel services company with a focus on Australia, Bali, and New Caledonia.
Jac’s colorful event planning journey began as a producer of burlesque shows before diversifying into a broad range of theatre shows. She produced and planned an eclectic, varied mixture of events, including speaking tours, book launches, and more.
Jac’s logistics experience enabled her to bring big West End shows to Australia, in which she handled ticket sales, PR, and visas. Then, a few years ago, Jac turned her hand to wedding planning.
“Yeah, I did my first wedding and was nervous as hell,” Jac told me. But with her vast experience, it was a good fit.
What Are A Virtual Assistant’s Responsibilities?
The VA’s tasks depend on their experience, as well as the event planner’s needs. One of the most vital responsibilities, however, is to help you, the planner, with your digital work.
Jac told me, “I had an amazing VA who understood all of the systems used, like Aisle Planner, and Dubsado, but also project management tools like Trello. But by complete coincidence, she’d completed did a wedding planning course too. That was fortuitous in that I was able to lean on her a lot more than would be normal for a VA.”
Apart from managing event planning software, Jac expects the virtual assistant to help with repetitive tasks. “Anything I was doing repetitively and that I thought she could handle, I would hand over.”
The VAs will pick up on things quickly, but you’re the manager. And any good manager takes the time to empower their team through support and training.
But be careful. Sourcing vendors may be a tedious task, but that’s not necessarily appropriate to hand off to the assistant. Selecting vendors and getting quotes is outside the scope of what you’d entrust to someone else, at least at first.
Let Your Virtual Assistant Grow With Your Event Planning Business
But, Jac points out, this isn’t always the case.
“On the flip side,” she said, “I did have an assistant who later became a planner for us. She was really interested in getting all the quotes and doing that kind of work. Their goal was to become a planner, and they asked for more planning tasks, and that worked quite well.”
Be open to expanding the virtual assistant’s role, but only if they’re looking to learn. If you’re lucky enough to find a virtual assistant with a love of event planning, then do take advantage.
When to Hire A Virtual Assistant
Jac hires a VA when things feel like they’re getting out of hand. “When I feel like I’m being bogged down with stuff that someone else can do, my inbox is overflowing, or the leads need manual follow-ups. As soon as I get that impression, I’ll absolutely work with a virtual assistant.”
That’s a fantastic point. Growing your team, whether by adding an associate event planner, intern, or virtual assistant, should only be done when work gets backed up. As your workload increases beyond what you can accomplish while maintaining your high quality, an assistant is liberating. You can pass off the chores, and focus on the art of event design, or the logistics of executing events.
Have An Onboarding Handbook For Training
Adding a new team member, whether a VA or a fellow event planner, Jac recommends having an onboarding handbook ready.
When it comes to joining her team, “You need to understand the background of the business. You need to understand how we deliver our service in the Darling Don’t Panic way.”
“Usually, when we’re hiring a virtual assistant, it’s to deal with inquiries from people that haven’t booked yet. The VA needs to answer questions as if they’re a wedding planner.”
The handbook provides the virtual assistant with the resources needed. And, speaking personally as someone who trained a lot of people, I’m adding my agreement here. A well-prepared employee is an empowered, effective teammate.
Jac also uses screen recording tools to give the assistant visual references and walk-throughs of Darling Don’t Panic processes.
Jac trains VAs on tone, and phrasing. “If the VA is on the front line and they’re dealing with clients, I need them to speak in the same way I would.” So Jac gives her VAs examples of how she’d respond to queries or sign off in emails.”
Don’t Micromanage Your Virtual Assistant.
Rather than micromanage, look for a natural fit during the hiring process. Jac evaluates the way they communicate before bringing the VA on. Then, at first, Jac reviews their emails before it reaches clients. She aims to catch and train out any problems early. It allows for trust later.
The other thing Jac looks for in the hiring process is experience with industry-standard tools.
“I think that if somebody understands Trello, Loom, Dubsado, that tells me this person is up to date with the latest tools. And that they’re capable of adapting to what we’re using now and in the future.
Play To The VA’s Strengths
Don’t hire a virtual assistant to help with your emails and then expect them to be an event planner. Instead, give them tasks that fit with their experience, and you might discover unexpected benefits.
“I play to their strengths,” Jac says. “If someone’s really good at Instagram, let them have Instagram! I think that every person’s skill set is going to be different, and you might find that you’re shuffling things around to get the best out of that VA. It may not be the job description you in the ad, but going into it with flexibility is key.”
Where To Hire A Virtual Assistant For Your Event Planning Business
There are several platforms out there, like UpWork, on which you can post ads for a VA. Jac’s used them in the past but now has a different idea. Now, Jac recommends piggybacking on the software you use for your event planning business.
Many tools have online communities, like Facebook groups. Jac recommends posting something there. That way, you’ll find someone familiar with a core part of your admin toolkit.
Hiring A Virtual Assistant Is A Good Business
If a VA frees up your time, it’s worth the investment. A virtual assistant can mean more time for family and friends or more time to do your best work for your clients. And that’s a solid win.