A while back, there was a great discussion happening on the Holistic Nutrition Hub Community on Facebook about how a virtual assistant might be able to help struggling nutritionists with their businesses.
To help you decide whether or not a VA could help you and your nutrition business, we interview Patricia Eales, a virtual assistant turned RHN. In this engaging Q&A, Patricia tells us everything you need to know before you commit to working with a virtual assistant.
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Sean: Hi Patricia! Thanks for taking some time to answer my questions today. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Patricia: My name is Patricia Eales, R.H.N. I am a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Master Reiki Practitioner, and Virtual Assistant/Social Media Manager for healthcare professionals.
Before becoming a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, you worked in the admin world for quite some time. Can you tell us a little bit more about it and what you did back then?
For most of my adult life, I was an Executive Assistant for COO’s, CFO’s, Chairmen and Presidents of Major companies. I had reached my mid 40’s and had suffered complete and total adrenal fatigue resulting in quite a number of health issues. I liked what I was doing in the support aspect, but I was finding the demands of being a single mother of 2 and trying to keep the high-stress lifestyle, completely overwhelming.
I was introduced to the Virtual Assistant world back in 2007 and really enjoyed being able to have my own business doing something that I was really good at, and was able to work around the busy life of my children’s school and activities. I took a lot of Social Media Management courses so that I would be able to better support those clients. The skills and experience that I had from my corporate world transferred extremely well into the virtual world.The skills and experience that I had from my corporate world transferred extremely well into the virtual world. - @PEalesNutrition on transitioning from EA to VA Click To Tweet
Very interesting! I know that a lot of holistic nutritionists struggle with time management and staying on top of all the administrative work involved with running a nutrition business. Can you tell us more about how a virtual assistant can help with this?
A virtual assistant can help do the things that you may not know how to do or even want to spend the time doing.
As nutritionists, we are given a firm education and base in which to help clients. Unfortunately, many schools don’t teach in depth the business end of running that business. Many nutritionists can get caught up in the background details of doing their business, and not have the time to actually make the money they need to in their business. This is where a virtual assistant can definitely be an asset.
Social media seems to be one of the biggest obstacles for many new nutritionists. They may not know where to start, or how to be consistent, which is extremely important in the online world. Many hear that they SHOULD be on this platform, or that platform, but don’t have a plan to do it effectively. Hiring a virtual assistant to help with planning and scheduling will help new nutritionists have more time to focus on growing their nutrition business and working with actual nutrition clients.Hiring a virtual assistant to help with planning and scheduling will help new nutritionists have more time to focus on growing their nutrition business and working with actual nutrition clients. - @PEalesNutrition Click To Tweet
I’m sure like many others, they have purchased Done for you programs, lead magnets, free challenges, etc., all with the intent of using these to build a following and client base – either through social media or an email list. While some of these programs do come with instructions on how to use them, again, many people may be unfamiliar with how to use email, blog posts, social media to utilize these.
That’s where an experienced Virtual Assistant can help – by working closely with the client, and using an Editorial planner or other system, scheduling emails, blog posts and social media can be done with an end goal in mind, in a consistent and clear basis.
What are the main benefits of hiring a virtual assistant to handle those tasks?
Definitely, the main benefit is to free up time doing behind the scenes tasks, to allow the nutritionist the time to work on programs, and client needs.
A virtual assistant is given the tasks that direct people to the nutritionist so that the nutritionist can focus on the money making aspect of the business.A virtual assistant is given the tasks that direct people to the nutritionist so that the nutritionist can focus on the money making aspect of the business. - @PEalesNutrition Click To Tweet
On the flip side, what important tasks should a nutrition practitioner handle themselves and avoid outsourcing?
The personal touch things should not be outsourced. While it is definitely a plus to have someone be a copywriter for you to clean things up and make the words more impactful, the words still need to be the nutritionist’s own words. This goes for blog posts, emails, and social media. The VA can clean up the blog posts and emails and schedule all that is necessary, but the nutritionist should be the one answering on the platforms.The VA can clean up the blog posts and emails and schedule all that is necessary, but the nutritionist should be the one answering on the platforms. - @PEalesNutrition on what NOT to outsource in your nutrition business Click To Tweet
Are there any exceptions to this “rule”?
Some of the done-for-you programs are extremely good, but you definitely still need to add your own personal story or feel to them. (Read more about done-for-you programs here)
What questions should a nutritionist ask a virtual assistant prospect before hiring them?
Because I am a nutritionist, and many of my clients are in the same field, I always make sure that I offer a non-compete, non-disclosure, and confidentiality agreement to my clients. This ensures that the client can feel comfortable knowing that I am not going to use any of the materials, ideas, etc., in my own nutrition business. Even if the VA isn’t in the same field, you need these agreements from them as they could be working with others in your field, and you want to make sure they aren’t sharing your intellectual content with others.
What is the VA’s specialty and is it what you need? Many VA’s are general specialists and many others specifically support in only one or two things. For example, Pinterest is a great platform but not one that I excel at doing effectively. I don’t want to spend the time learning how to do it, so I have personally hired someone to manage my Pinterest. (I can do the rest, but Pinterest just frustrates me) That is the one social media platform that I don’t offer to my clients.
For some people, it is important that the VA is in their time zone. For others not that important. If they aren’t in your time zone, what is there response time and office hours? Will you be waiting a long time for responses to immediate needs?
How does the VA communicate? Do they use a project management system like Trello to keep track of client requests and tasks? Maybe they use Google Docs. Communication is vital for a strong working relationship and it should be easy to use.
What sort of time reporting system do they have? Do they report to the client on a daily basis, weekly or monthly, or project basis.
If they work with a number of clients, how do they prioritize the work?
What storage systems do they use for confidential files, and what sort of back up do they utilize?
What back up do they have in case of computer crash, internet outage, etc. when a deadline is nearing?
How much does a Virtual Assistant charge per hour?
You can definitely outsource on some platforms for quite a low price, but you do get what you pay for. I am sure that in the hundreds of thousands of overseas support people there are a few gems, but there are more that struggle in doing the job necessary.
Some VAs charge by the project, and some charge for contracted amounts of hours per month – i.e. 5 hours, 10 hours etc.
I have seen rates from $5 hour for offshore VAs up to $50/hr and much higher.
My recommendation would be to see if you can hire the VA for a single project or a set amount of hours on a one-time basis. If the value is there for the money you’re paying, then move forward with them.
What software is usually used by Virtual Assistants to work with clients?
Many VAs utilize different software for accountability, time management, and communication. These could include Trello and Evernote. Some just utilize Google Docs. As long as they are used effectively, there isn’t one that is better than another.
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In what case should a nutritionist NOT hire a virtual assistant?
There is a saying that you need to spend money to make money, and while I agree with that, you can definitely spend way too much money before making any at all.
I would say to prioritize what your needs are.
What is your time like? Can you take the time to learn the systems effectively enough to start and then delegate when things get busier?
Your time is valuable, and it should be spent doing the important things you excel at. If doing things that aren’t making you money are taking you away from the things that do make you money, then you need a virtual assistant.
If you’re unsure whether or not you’re ready to hire a virtual assistant, talk to others in your field – those starting out or a little further along in their business, but especially others who are where you want to be. Ask them when they hired help, and if they would have hired earlier or waited until later in their business.
Thanks for your time and your answers Patricia. Where can people find you if they have questions or would like to learn more about your virtual assistant services?
Thanks, Sean! You can find out more on my dedicated website page. Feel free to send me a message there!
Sean is the co-founder of the Hub, a dedicated Personal Trainer and an Entrepreneur at heart. Passionate about all thing nutrition and fitness, he takes care of the HNH website, the community, and most of the laundry around the house. In his spare time, Sean loves building websites and writing about all things fitness, business, and marketing.