The economy has recovered. For those of us in the AEC marketing field, that means more proposals, presentations, events, etc. However, the hiring budgets may have not caught up just yet. You haven’t been able to put the case together enough to hire another full time person. Or maybe, you don’t need another full time marketing coordinator, but just some extra help. I have been in that situation previous times before and want to share some of the resources I turn to for some extra help.
Virtual Assistants for AEC Marketing
Virtual assistants are just that. They don’t work in your office. You have to find them online. They work remotely to help you with tasks. They can work virtually anywhere in the world which is sometimes an advantage in terms of costs (lower rates) and time (can work while you are sleeping). There are very good VAs in the US too.
You can pay them either by the project or by the hour and you can give them specific tasks or have ongoing reoccurring tasks. These tasks or projects are not as expensive as you might think. Sometimes they can cost as little as $25. Even if you have to pay out of pocket, it may be worth it to hire someone to do something so you can work on another task simultaneously or be home in time for dinner with your family!
I have used VA assistance in the past to help me lay out e-books, take my written blog posts and format to the WordPress site, and research different types of policies or social media guidelines for my firm.
I have also need to VAs to help me with event logistics such as calling around places to find availability negotiating rates for certain catering or other event related logistics. Basically anything you need completed over the computer or phone, you could probably find a VA that can do it for you. Most of them run anywhereb$8-$20 an hour.
Tasks you can outsource to a VA:
- Online Research – Need to find agency CIPs or agency work programs or get a list of the 100 closest _______ (fill in the blank with any firm, agency, etc.)? Any type of research you would do online can be outsourced to a VA.
- Basic Website Updates – Are you responsible to uploading news and blog posts to your firm’s website? You can definitely outsource this to a VA. Just have them upload and format. Then you can review and publish so you can QC before it hits the web.
- Email Marketing – Similar to the website updates, a VA create and schedule your email newsletters, edit follow-up emails and autoresponders, etc.
- Reports – Do you have several reports that you already have set up but just need to update data each month? Send them to the VA to format.
- Data Entry – If you CRM system is accessible from the web, give your VA access to enter all of the business cards collected from the last conference or update the holiday card list.
You can approach hiring a VA in a couple different ways. You can go to a website like upwork.com and find somebody for a project or task basis. Note – UpWork is the new site that was created with elance and odesk merged.
I would even challenge you to try one out using your own money. If you’re afraid that your firm won’t pay for something like that, consider what your time is worth. Can you save two hours of your time by giving it to someone else? You can then spend those two hours on a proposal instead on some other mundane task such as formatting a spreadsheet or gathering data. If you can go home at 6pm instead of 8pm would you pay $30 for that?
Subscription Based VAs
The other way that you can approach virtual assistant services are service websites such as fancyhands.com or taskrabbit.com. With these services, you can pay by the number of tasks or a monthly fee that includes a maximum number of tasks.
You get somebody different for each task as opposed to the VA which you can work with regularly. I used Fancy Hands when I moved a couple years ago. They helped me research and set up appointments with new doctors, dentists, and a new housecleaner. They helped me figure out how to get new mail keys because it was new construction home. It was great that they even sent a card with gift card on my behalf to my cousins who got married. I just authorized the payment.
My only opinion about working with these online services as opposed to a virtual assistant is getting a new assistant for every task. At one point I was working with three different people which became cumbersome.
I haven’t personally tried TaskRabbit but their website says they will even do household chores and run errands for you. You might get that honey-do list finally completed!
Another more mainstream option is using freelancers. There are marketing and graphic freelancers across the country that are experienced in AEC proposals. I have had excellent experience working with several freelancers in the Central Florida and Atlanta areas.
In one situation, I was down to one marketing coordinator and needed help with a few proposals. I hired a freelancer to help with those proposals. Another situation was when we had a marketing coordinator out on maternity leave. We found a freelancer to help us for those three months.
Similar to virtual assistants, freelancers often work at home or work at another location not in your office. However, most of them are not opposed to signing a confidentiality agreement or agreeing to be exclusive to your firm for particular pursuits. This becomes a concern especially to our principals when you say you’re bringing in a freelancer.
The downside for these is there finding good ones that you can trust in their availability when you need them. Often times by the time you realize you need help, you’re in a crunch and the freelancer may not be available. Most of them that I work with don’t really take last minute assignments.
They also generally are more expensive than a VA or task-service, but do come with AEC marketing experience and typically based in the U.S. I’ve typically paid anywhere from $50-$75 an hour for a freelancer whether it’s a marketing coordinator or designer.
Stay close to this website, as we are working on creating our own AEC marketing freelance directory. If you would be interested in this, please sign up here.
Another resource are interns. Every marketing department needs to be utilizing marketing and/or graphic design interns. Not only does it provide you extra support in the summer months, but it is exposing the next generation of marketers to our industry.
Every firm has a different intern policy. Some just take interns during the summer. Others can employ them throughout the year. Some firms pay their intern and some firms don’t. However, most students can get college credit.
You should check with your HR department about your intern policy. However, it is definitely worth the effort to get a good intern. Even if he/she works only one day a week for a few hours, you can still benefit by having them enter or update resumes or project sheets or the other tasks you never have the time to get to.
Have you utilized any of these resources? Share your experiences (good or bad) in the comments below.