Most of you probably know that my daughter, Rebekah, is my personal and professional assistant. I always feel like she gets a raw deal. Like because she’s my daughter, people think, “Oh, riiiight. Your ‘personal assistant’.”
But it’s legit. And so is she (that’s her desk, at left).
I pay her for the job because it’s a lot of work, and then sometimes, it’s NO work at all, which also means no money. Now that she’s graduating, Rebekah is expanding her clientele by offering up her services to other writers who need virtual assistants, so I thought tonight would be a good time to post an interview with her and profess my gratitude for all she does.
It’s Thursday Night Write, after all, and having an assistant makes it easier for me to focus on writing, because really, all the other stuff is a full time job in and of itself. When I really need to buckle down and focus, I can do it only because I can send an email to Rebekah with a list of things I done. She answers email, fields awkward questions (believe it or not, the most frequent ones I get are about my religious affiliation… O_o), runs contests (something she does for-hire as well and has done for a couple other writers), calculates entries, packs prizes, files all my receipts and contracts, gathers tax records, tweets from the @prophecypress account, scours the internet for just the right gift and/or just the right swag, designs all my ads, bookmarks, bookplates, magnets, and postcards and then orders them, and keeps me up to date on market trends, YA books I should read, etc., etc., etc.
Basically, I’d be lost without her.
So even though she’s my daughter, I can say with absolute confidence that if you’re a writer and you need a little help, even temporary help, Rebekah is the one for the job. As the daughter of an author, she understands the privacy imperative, understands how important is to be gracious in correspondence (because it’s your reputation on the line), understands how to handle sticky situations with grace. She can multi-task tons of jobs at once but she can also step in when things get hairy (like during a launch month or contest) and lend a hand and then step out when you don’t need her.
If you’re looking for a little help, just drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for a price list.
In the meantime, get to know her better here!
What kinds of things do you do as a virtual assistant?
Lots of things! I design promotional material (bookplates, bookmarks, postcards, magnets, etc.), answer emails, forward interview questions, tally contests and pick a winner (via random number generator), organize the office, keep an inventory list, keep a mailing and email address list, and keep track of log-in info for different websites.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about the job?
I love working with my mom. She is prompt and gives good deadlines. I like organizing things as well, which is very important for this job, along with time management. But I think my most favorite thing of all is being able to work at home in my pajamas at any time of the day or night. 😉
What are some of the biggest challenges?
I think the biggest challenge is juggling everything, keeping it all straight and organized. We have over 500 addresses, and when we do postcard promotion, I have to count on the addresses being up-to-date so I can hand-address them. Near launch time, there’s always a lot of giveaways, which means emails and going back and forth with the wonderful fans, plus packaging and shipping giveaway items.
Favorite snack while working?
Everything? But if I have to limit it, probably some sort of non-chocolate candy, like jelly beans (Flav-Reds <3). And tea. Tea is essential.
As a virtual assistant, you’re subject to private correspondence and sensitive information. How do you handle that?
As the daughter of someone in the public eye, I understand firsthand the critical nature of the information I have. It’s a scary thing to give someone access to your log-ins, emails, financials, etc. The main reason my mom hired me is because she was worried about giving that information to an outside party. Seeing her worry about stuff like that has made it easy to empathize with people in the public eye and the delicate balance they have to maintain to do their job while sometimes seeking outside help for day-to-day tasks.
How do you deal with rude or aggressive people?
I really try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I’m always nice, but if someone continually harasses my mom or is repeatedly rude, I find a firm but professional way to put an end to it. 😉
Do you have a standard response to handle emails when Michelle is under deadline and can’t respond? If so, what is it?
I do! It varies depending on the request, but in general, it goes a little something like this:
Thank you so much for your support! Unfortunately, Ms. Zink is under deadline and will not be able to respond to your request. I’m sorry for any inconvenience, but let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. <3
All the best,
What is one of the strangest requests/emails you’ve ever gotten?
We had a reader who desperately wanted to be pen pals with my mom, so I sent her a nice reply saying Michelle wasn’t able to oblige due to time and work. She sent me a reply informing me that she and I would be pen pals instead. She even told me to come up with questions to ask her and told me we would talk a lot that summer because she would be really bored.
Work-related pet peeve?
Not having an organized To Do list. I’m hyper-organized, but during times when there is a lot going on, I really need a straightforward list of what to do and when to have everything completed.
You’ll be going to college in the Fall. How do you expect that to impact your work as a virtual assistant?
I don’t. As a virtual assistant, I work mostly from my computer. Since I have juggled school (including college and AP classes) and work in the past, it will be no different with the onslaught of college work. I complete my work on time because that’s just the type of person I am!
What is the best and worst thing about working with your mom?
The best thing: I have the greatest relationship with my her. We get along great the majority of the time, and I love working with her.
The worst thing: Because of the familial tie, there are some situations where neither of us treat the other as employer/employee. Although we both try, there are times when I have to refrain from acting like her child and act like an employee. It’s hard to keep the balance between daughter and worker, mother and boss.
A secret about Michelle no one probably knows (come on, dish!);
Hmmm…. Her middle name is Lee. She doesn’t really like it, but I think it works for her.