Kerri Layton is a professional performer. For 11 years she has worked in the music industry as a jazz singer and as a performance artist.
As well as performing, Kerri runs two businesses; Kerri Kreates; a Creative Event Consultancy and Dixiebird Records, which currently houses a few of her musical creations as well as other inspiring, talented, “retro-centric and stylish bands”.
Kerri is a perfect example of the new breed of solopreneur. She lives and breathes her work and her art; maximising her skills, forever willing to learn and looking for growth opportunities.
Like many in her situation she has juggled every aspect of her businesses, filled every minute of every day trying to build them up. As with most small business owners, this position is ultimately untenable.
Do it. Document it. Delegate it.
In late 2017 Kerri came to the decision that she needed help to ensure growth. She works from a co-working space in London and her financial position meant she could not simply absorb the extra costs of recruiting someone and adding deskspace.
DO WHAT YOU DO BEST!
So, Kerri came to bizee.co looking for a part-time virtual assistant to help lighten her load and focus on what she does best. In this short case study Kerri answers some questions about her own business journey and how a VA is helping her to grow her business, tips on working with a VA as well how to increase yours and their productivity.
1. Tell us a little bit about your business - what do you do?
I am primarily a professional performer, jazz singer and performance artist, I run two companies which are in the Entertainment, Music and Events sector. 'Kerri Kreates' is my Creative Event Consultancy, where we create memorable, theatrical, socially meaningful events for organisations. They can be outside, inside, parades, launches, parties, corporate brand launches, you name it!
The other is in the music industry, we have just founded a record label; 'Dixiebird Records' which currently houses a few of my musical creations as well as other inspiring, talented, retro-centric and stylish bands that we've met along the way, such as Fred Snow's, 'Le Bistrotet'. The idea is that we will keep the old school vaudevillian style of live music alive by promoting and producing high-end packages for events, as well as publishing and releasing contemporary records using live instruments and vintage recording methods.
2. How long have you worked in this sector?
Since 2007! So, 11 years, which to be honest, I find hard to believe!
3. Do you have any direct employees?
No, we just use your VA system and contractors. We have a bank of over 300 amazing freelancers who we use on a per job basis. One job can hire a team of 12 but the biggest we did was a team of 226!!
4. What is the hardest aspect of running a small business or startup?
In the beginning, you're just doing everything, it's really hard. You are sales, marketing, PR, the talent, the secretary, the director, the stylist, the list goes on.
But after 10 years of running my own business, I have got much better at delegating and also, the shows sometimes have bigger budgets, so we can hire in specialists.
Cash flow can be really tough. You can get caught very often between a rock and a hard place, need to work to bring in clients but have no money in the bank, so if you get a job, you have no time so your business suffers. Managing that is very important and if you don't have any significant funding or savings, then you need to be resourceful with both your time and your wallet.
5. What made you look for a VA?
I am a massive fan of Tim Ferriss! After reading his book (The 4 Hour Week) I started to source a VA, to help me with the daily load, to have someone consistent in the business and also someone who was not in London, meant that I wouldn’t have to pay for any extra office space. I hired my VA during a change over period in both my companies, which was a great time to start. We took 4 months getting to know each other, and I took that as a probation period for myself as much as my VA - learning to delegate virtually, is another skill set.
6. What are the main areas your assistant is helping you with?
Maggie (my VA) has been amazing, she has been compiling multiple databases for me - something which I'm terrible at. She's made some great social media posts, started emailing and responding to clients for me, acting as my PA and has just completed all the contract training, so is now in charge of getting clients to sign off contracts for events and music shows.
7. How has this impacted your productivity?
For the first time in years, I now have guilt-free rehearsals, 'Prancing' I call it. I used to not be able to relax properly during these sessions. As important as they are and always were, it’s stressful to manage that time when you know you have bills to pay and clients to send contracts to!
Now it's amazing how much work we are getting done between us. I'm awful on data entry, my hands are utterly dyslexic, I'm not, but my hands are!! I don't know what happens when I put them on a keyboard, the letters come out all over the place, so the fact that Maggie can whizz up a database in 4 hours flat, whilst I'm having a very important 'prance' around my living room, is priceless. My shows have got better as a result and I've added about 30 new songs to my repertoire this year so far.
8. What are the key qualities you would look for in a VA?
Great communication skills, great spelling and a good ability to self-motivate.
9. Do you find it easy to delegate work?
I do now, but I didn't for a long time. I actually hired a cleaner specifically to help me improve in this area! Being able to delegate, explain tasks and also say when something isn't right is so important. It's different to hiring freelancers, I feel like with specialists, you just explain your needs and off they go! With performers, you give them creative direction and they go off and shine. It’s different with a constant assistant at the end of your laptop. At the beginning I had to train myself to get used to handing work over, that was hard at first, but I'm used to it now.
At the end of the day, two simple rules that have helped me are:
- don't give your VA rubbish jobs that you can do yourself in a matter of minutes, its important to learn who your VA is, what their strengths are and give them tasks where you empower them to do their best work. You don't want to be delegating the worst jobs all the time, even if you have to sometimes. Keep it worthy of hiring a VA whose skill set is different to your own.
- Following on from that, you can always take a job back if they are not succeeding or it is out of their skillset. Just have fun with it, that's Tim's advice again too.
10. How do you communicate with your VA?
We use Asana to track projects, WhatsApp to call and text and then email. My VA has her own personal email for my company now, so it’s great.
11. What methods have you used to increase your VAs productivity?
We are just syncing in a Google calendar so we can see when we are both in office, to be honest. Other than that, I'm impressed with my VA, she always delivers on time. If a project needs completing sooner, I just call her, and she is on it!
You can find out more about Kerri Layton’s businesses here:
- My original artist website: www.misskerrilayton.com
- Record Label: www.dixiebirdrecords.com
- Creative Event Consultancy: www.kerrikreates.com
And you can follow Kerri on Social Media here:
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