I often encounter business owners who struggle to find the right contractors simply because they aren’t familiar with the different purposes of each role. In fact, my own contractors experience this dichotomy regularly. My virtual assistant has been asked to build websites. My copywriter has been asked to handle social media. It’s time to clear up the confusion! To get the best return on your decision to hire your first contractors, we first need to take a deeper look at what each service offers and how to decide which contractor is right for you.
Virtual Support Staff
I LOVE my virtual assistant (VA). She is such a huge part of my team and time management. But I also recognize that her role is unique from other virtual support I may need, such as an online business manager (OBM). They both have distinct responsibilities and outcomes for your business.
Virtual Assistant (VA)
A virtual assistant is precisely what the name implies: an assistant who does tasks for you remotely, or virtually. A VA is task-oriented and takes on specific assigned projects to help you achieve defined outcomes. In essence, their work is determined by you and what you assign to them each day or week. Most VAs maintain between 5 and 10 clients at a time and are very focused on completing defined achievable tasks.
Online Business Manager (OBM)
An online business manager, on the other hand, is like having a business strategist in your pocket. They work with their clients to create custom-built strategies, and then they manage the project from start to finish. Unlike a VA, the OBM provides intentional, strategic input into your business, helping you determine goals, establish budgets, and then managing how those outcomes are achieved. They do not often fulfill the detailed tasks required to complete a project—those are assigned out to VAs or other members of the team. Instead, an OBM typically has fewer clients (between 2 and 5 at one time) and is focused on helping you grow your business.
Creative Support Staff
When you hire your first contractors, it isn’t uncommon to seek out a creative professional who can fulfill a litany of roles. Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to hire a web designer who can also write copy, take photos, post on social, and run your marketing campaign?
If that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it most likely is!
While some creative professionals provide crossover services out of necessity, you will achieve the most effective results when you hire your first contractors based on specific skill sets that you need. These are the most common skilled professionals a business will need to hire and how each one uniquely supports your business.
A graphic designer handles your print material for your business, such as business cards, brochures, and speaker one-sheets. Graphic designers can also provide logo design, branding style guides, and branded assets for you to use for social media (so all of your photos and posts express brand continuity).
There are a lot of DIY designers as well as DIY software options available these days, so be careful when selecting a contractor. A good graphic designer understands the aesthetic aspect of a design and how to properly use it in a variety of formats and mediums.
For example, your logo needs to be in a specific format (vector) so that you can shrink it down to put it on pens or blow it up large enough to go on banners, all without losing any graphic quality. Your graphic designer will understand the different ways in which your logo needs to be applied and design it accordingly.
A web designer is someone who focuses on the design and user-friendliness of your website. A website designer is different from a developer (someone who builds a website on the backend) though some web designers have both skills. When you hire a web designer, they will help you design a functional website that reflects your brand and connects with your audience in a visually appealing way. A developer then integrates the design with the backend functionality of your website, such as e-commerce capabilities, newsletter integration, apps, and much more. When hiring a web designer, confirm whether or not they also develop—or work with a developer—who will help bring the project to completion.
A copywriter is someone who writes the content for your website, marketing, social media, or lead funnels. There are different types of copywriters, however, that focus on specific areas. You could hire an email marketing strategist, a conversion copywriter, or a UX copywriter, or even a content writer, who is more focused on creating marketing content for your blog, e-books, free downloads, or any other long-form content.
Regardless of their specific skill, the goal of a copywriter is to write content that conveys your message, unique brand voice, and offerings in a compelling way that connects with your ideal audience. Many people try to write their own content, but find that they are too zoomed in on their business or product to clearly communicate their offerings. Instead, their website, marketing material, and social posts don’t have the impact they need to grow their business. Working with a copywriter doesn’t mean you lose control of your words, however. Personally, I like to do the first draft of any content I need—mostly to clarify my thoughts —and then I have a copywriter clean it up.
Photography is another creative service that comes in a variety of options. When building your brand or business, it helps to know what type of photography you will need for your website, social media, and marketing materials.
Brand photographers are focused on your business persona, product, services, and business as a whole. They tend to be more expensive because they spend more time understanding your business in order to capture photos that creatively represent you and your company.
Headshot photographers, on the other hand, are focused on capturing professional photos of you or your team to use on your website or on marketing materials. They will provide a small selection of headshots for you to choose from but are not aiming to capture the entire essence of your brand.
Stock photos are images that are available for purchase on the internet and are not specifically taken for your brand or business. These can come in handy when in a pinch, but should not be a permanent replacement for high-quality, branded photography.
When choosing photography for your website, it’s important to decide the feel that you want your imagery to convey. Some people opt to only use textures and colors to express their brand, while businesses built around a central person or product (coach, speaker, restaurant, retail store) will benefit more from brand photography.
Sometimes you can find what I call a “unicorn,” someone who has multiple skills due to their experience and longevity in the field. These are wonderful to find, but also few and far between. I consider myself a unicorn because I’ve been trained as a graphic designer, marketer, and as a coach. I’ve taken enough marketing classes and continuing education over the years to be impressive with copywriting and development, but I am also smart enough to have a team that can do those things when I hit my own limits.
A word of caution about unicorns: some creative professionals who are starting out will offer many different services out of need, but not because they are highly skilled in all areas. Be careful in vetting who you hire and ask specific questions about what you need. The right support can propel you forward, save you time, and produce an incredible return on your investment. The wrong support can set you back both in time and efforts.
How to Find the Right Contractor
Now that you understand the different roles each contractor fills, how do you decide who you need to hire?
Start with your business goals.
I recommend making a list of your key projects or the overarching goals you need to accomplish. Making a list is the best way to get your thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto paper.
Next, divide your list into categories using symbols. Put a heart (♥)next to tasks you LOVE to do, a star (*) next to ones you want to do but don’t have time to accomplish, and an “x” next to tasks that make you want to pull your hair out. Then, look at the items on your list with a “*” or “x” next to them. Find the right professional contractors who can help you with those items.
As you interview them, be clear about your desired outcomes so that you and your contractor can be sure their skill set is in alignment with your business goals.
Not quite ready?
Not quite ready to expand your team but know that you need to start tackling these day-to-day business operations so that you can master them? Consider joining me in the Daily Business Momentum Program. In Lesson 5, we talk all about establishing your systems. Once you’ve been working on them for a while, you will feel ready to hand them off to a new team member to free up more time for yourself!