If you are one of the growing number of freelance or “solopreneur” graphic designers you know how much time and effort are involved in running a creative business. Every day you are responsible for completing a variety of tasks related to business development, networking, design, project management, and accounting. Perhaps you find yourself mired in reading emails, returning phone calls, or putting out fires instead of focusing on creative work and meeting with potential clients. If so, one solution is to consider outsourcing work to either a project manager or virtual assistant to free up a few hours each day. To help you determine the solution, I have outlined below the differences between the positions and the types of tasks each is best suited to handle.
The role of the project manager is to focus on the day-to-day tasks of running a project to ensure it stays on schedule and within budget. One of the main responsibilities of a PM is to facilitate communications among your design staff, consultants, and clients.
This person should be able to communicate with your clients in a professional manner, have the ability to build a project schedule, adhere to deadlines, be organized, have a dedicated work ethic, and be self-motivated. S/he should also have a good understanding of the creative process, having been a designer previously or involved in the marketing/communications profession.
Project Communications – returns phone calls, responds to e-mails/texts, and obtains the information and answers needed to complete each project successfully. This person becomes your client’s contact during the project production phase so you can focus on business and creative development.
Project Database Management – daily reviews and updates your project database so it reflects your project’s most current status to keep your staff and clients informed.
Scheduling, Budgeting, and Resource Management – can develop project scopes-of-work and create project schedules and budgets as well as review your staff workloads and/or identify the need for an outside contractor to meet proposed schedules.
Production Tasks – completes production-related activities such as checking revised client proofs, reviewing printer proofs, or performing website testing and feedback.
Quality Control – reviews your projects during production to facilitate clear communication of details between your clients and design staff to ensure production efficiency and reduce unnecessary rounds of revisions.
Risk Assessment – identifies, analyzes, and plans ahead for issues that may hinder your project’s being completed on time and within budget or meeting your client’s expectations so production goes as smoothly as possible.
The role of the virtual assistant is to focus on administrative tasks that are similar to those of an executive assistant or secretary and are crucial to the running of your business in general. S/he may have minimal involvement, if any, with actual projects and clients.
A virtual assistant should have good skills in typing, data base entry, and customer service. S/he should be attentive to details and have proficiency in Microsoft Office® products such as Outlook, Word, and Excel.
Bookkeeping – keeps tabs on office expenses and follows up on overdue invoices or unpaid bills.
Database Entries – keeps databases current with potential client business card information and updating information for current contacts.
Data Presentations – summarizes raw data and information into a format that can be easily shared in preparation for a meeting.
Managing Email – filters emails to determine those that need your attention and answers those for you that do not.
Social Tasks – handles tasks such as thank you notes and holiday cards.
Scheduling – manages your daily calendar and schedules appointments with clients.
Business Development – prioritizes potential business contacts and opportunities.
These are examples of some of the primary tasks of each position. To determine which professional would be better for your firm, start by considering the tasks you want to outsource and are comfortable delegating. Then imagine how your day will be when you can focus on the work you want to be doing instead of administrative work.
If you are interested in project management services, take advantage of my free 30 minute phone session to ask me questions about how to better manage one of your projects or projects in general.
*Excerpted from 10 Things to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant by Alina Dizik, Entrepreneur.com (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225318)