Hey guys! Welcome to Part Two of the Ultimate Guide to Outsourcing. If you haven’t yet read Part One, go back and read it now. Then come back here because in this post I’m going to show you exactly how to go about hiring your first virtual assistant, including how to interview them, train them, and communicate with them. Let’s dive in!
Where Do I Find A Virtual Assistant?
There are a number of sites dedicated to helping entrepreneurs find virtual help for their businesses. Each of them is a little different and tends to cater towards a certain “type” of VA, which I’ll detail below.
OnlineJobs.ph is essentially the Filipino Craigslist for virtual assistants. I have used this service once before and although my VA didn’t work out in the long run, I would definitely use the service again.
Pros: The service is affordable starting at $69/month. There is no need to continue paying after you’ve recruited someone, and it’s easy to view potential candidate’s experience, education, and even driver’s licenses.
Cons: It is up to you to find the right person for you, and you may have to go through a couple of virtual assistants until you find the right one.
Virtual Staff Finder
Created by Chris Ducker, the Virtual Staff Finder is a complete hiring service for Philippine based virtual assistants. Ducker is extremely knowledgeable of the ins and outs of hiring from the Philippines, and has pretty much based his entire business around helping business owners do the same.
I haven’t used this service as of yet, but plan to in the next year or so as I come up with more full time work for a virtual assistant and the time to train them!
Virtual Staff Finder is a matchmaking company. You give them your information and tell them what you need, and they find a list of three candidates for you. Typically the assistants on VSF are much more reliable than other sites. They have been vetted thoroughly by the company, and all of them are fluent in English.
Most of the VA’s on Virtual Staff Finder are looking for full time 40 hour per week positions. That may be a plus to you if you have a lot of tasks you can outsource consistently in your business! The other con is that the service is rather expensive at $495. In the long run, however, I feel that this is a reasonable price for the service if you are busy enough to support a full time virtual assistant.
Upwork is a freelancing website where freelancers can apply for jobs posted by people looking for help on specific, one-time projects. I have used Upwork many, many times and feel it is great for short projects and single tasks.
Upwork is free for the person hiring, so it’s a great place to get your feet wet. There are also a ton of freelancers to choose from. You post a job, and you’ll find that many people apply to work for you within minutes. The company also helps manage some degree of employer satisfaction by holding payment until the job has been completed and is approved by you.
Typically this is not the place to find someone who sticks with you in an employee type role. You may have to spend an hour or two wading through the responses you get, as there will likely be many.
Freelancer profiles can sometimes be sparse, so I recommend looking for someone with good reviews who falls into the mid to high cost category. This service is really tailored towards one-and-done services, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your needs.
Good ‘ole Craigslist. This may seem surprising that I am listing it here, but I have used Craigslist to find a virtual assistant in the past and I actually found someone who was quite good! The girl I hired was local to my area, a student, and needed simple part time work to do when she wasn’t studying. I worked with her for about a year before she moved on for grad school.
Putting up a job listing is free for many places in the US, and $25-$35 for some of the major cities that get a lot of spam postings. You can also post in the ‘gigs’ section, which might be more appropriate depending on your hiring situation.
It’s pretty easy to weed out sub par resumes, and you can stay anonymous so you won’t have to give out your email address. It’s also a very informal arrangement, so your mileage may vary.
It’s Craigslist. One of the most well known sites for scammers, spammers, and flakes galore! Be diligent about weeding out the bad apples, and don’t give out your personal info until you are ready to meet someone in person or email each other. I recommend paying through Paypal or Stripe if you find someone you want to work with.
Virtual Assistant Rates: How Much Should I Pay My VA?
Virtual assistant rates depend heavily on the country the virtual assistant resides in as well as their education, experience, and skill set. Specialized virtual assistants (ie. web developers, programmers, marketing experts, etc) tend to be pricier than a general virtual assistant who handles email and editing.
While VA rates in the west range from $15-$50 per hour or more, rates in the Middle East, India, and the Philippines are much lower. Generally speaking, Filipino virtual assistants tend to be one of the best types of overseas virtual assistants, simply because English is widely spoken in their country and many of them are well educated.
That being said, I have worked with plenty of people on Upwork who were from India, Pakistan, and others and received great work despite a slight language barrier.
Tips for Paying Your Virtual Assistant
Don’t automatically choose the cheapest candidate.
Much of the time you save money in the long run by hiring someone who fits well with your business, rather than the person who works for the lowest hourly rate.
Oftentimes virtual assistants on the lower end of the rate spectrum are just getting started, don’t have work experience, or are working as essentially a contractor for a handful of separate companies.
Taking the time to find the right person from the get go will save you time and money when you factor in the hours needed to train them and communicate with them.
Be Aware of the 13th Month
In the Philippines, it is standard for an employer to pay an employee an extra month’s worth of wages in December. This is both common practice and legally required of Filipino employers.
Many western based employers get away with not paying this as employees know that it is specific to their country. However, offering to pay the 13th month is a great way to build a positive relationship with your Filipino VA.
Consider Offering Some Employee Benefits
Whether your virtual assistant is located in the west or not, it is a good idea to offer one or two employee benefits in addition to salary. This is a great way to build good will and create a relationship where your assistant wants to stick with you.
A few paid holidays and paid personal days can go a long way in making your assistant feel like they matter to you personally. Another benefit I recommend paying is health insurance.
I know, every American reading this post just shuddered. But hear me out!
If you hire an American virtual assistant, you can always offer to pay a portion of their premiums. Choose an amount that is appropriate to what you pay them for their services, perhaps between $100 and $500 per month.
If you hire a Filipino virtual assistant, know that you can purchase health insurance for their entire family for $300-$400 per year. You guys, that’s only an additional $30 per month give or take a few bucks.
If at all possible, pay your virtual assistant’s health insurance costs and you’ll find yourself with an appreciative worker who is loyal to your company and wants to do the best they can to see you succeed.
Private health insurance is easy to buy in the Philippines. Chris Ducker recommends looking into Maxicare and Intellicare to start, and ask your virtual assistant to set up the policy and send it to you for payment.
How to Write A Job Description That Finds the Right Person
There are five elements to pretty much any job description that you should include to make sure that applicants know whether or not they would be a good fit.
1) What does your business do? What is your mission? Are you a solopreneur or do you have a team?
2) What tasks do you need help with? What specifically would your virtual assistant be asked to do?
3) What level of education are you looking for in a candidate? What skills do they need to possess? What amount of work experience should they have to offer?
4) What does the work commitment look like? How many hours per week will they be working for you? What is the start date? What kind of turnaround time do you expect?
5)What should they include in their application? Would you like to see a portfolio of their work, view their resume, and talk to references?
Doing all of the prep work needed to hire someone is definitely a pain. You’ll probably feel like you have more important things that need to be done at the time, and that’s okay. But keep in mind that hiring the right person now is an investment in the future of your business (and your sanity).
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
Mastering the Interview
Once you have received a number of applicants, it’s time to start narrowing them down. I recommend leaving your job open for a number of days to allow everyone who wants to apply to do so.
So your next step is to grab a big cup of coffee, sit down somewhere quiet, and start weeding all of the no-go’s out. Hopefully you can narrow down your list of potential candidates to 2-4 people.
All done? Awesome. Now here is where you have a few options.
If you’re just trying to pick someone on Upwork to do a specific task for you, you don’t need to do an interview. Just select the person you want to work with and give them the job.
If, however, you are searching for a true virtual assistant on one of the other platforms, contact them! Ask to set up a time to interview them.
I definitely recommend doing a Skype interview if at all possible. Yeah, I know this part is a little nerve wracking. That being said, you can learn a lot simply by talking to someone face to face. Video calls make it a lot easier to suss out how serious the applicant is, what their weaknesses are, and if their vibe matches yours.
So what exactly should you talk about in the interview?
I’m glad you asked! Here is a quick summary of the things you should probably talk about in the interview.
What to Ask Potential Candidates in Your Interview
1) Do a quick recap about your business goals and what you need help with. Keep in mind that your candidate has probably applied for several jobs, so giving them a quick rundown of who you are once more is a good idea.
2) Recap the required skills and how those would apply to tasks you would need done on a daily basis. What specifically would they need to know how to do to work for you?
3) Ask them about their work experience and education. This is where you will really get a feel for where they are in their career and what they can offer your business.
4) Talk about the nitty gritty details of how the two of you would communicate and work together. Is there a time zone difference to be aware of? What hours would you like them to work? What is the typical turnaround time on various tasks?
5) Make sure that they have the equipment to do the job. Do they have the necessary software and a good computer to do the work? If you find someone you really like and want to work with, and who needs a specific program to do what you’re asking, buy it for them.
6) Give them a chance to ask questions. Some people will be more shy than others, but you should be able to gauge by their facial expressions whether or not they are confused by any part of the job assignment.
7) Ask them if they would be willing to do a paid trial task. This gives you the opportunity to work with all of your candidates and see who seems to fit best. This should just be a small task, no more than an hour’s worth of work, that will give you a sample of their work and communication. Pay them to do it, and then…
8) Let them know that you are going to review each interview and trial you have conducted, and that you will make your choice and let them know by X date.
Communicating With Your Virtual Assistant
Once you’ve hired your VA, the fun part begins! Here are a few of my favorite programs for communicating with teammates:
Skype- Great for face to face communication. I recommend weekly Skype meetings to talk about how the work is going, answer any questions they might have, and talk about future projects.
Email- Good for quick messages or follow up. Not the best for lengthy or instructional messages.
Text- Texting is best for stateside communication. If your virtual assistant is overseas, email will probably be a better option.
Camtasia- Camtasia is great for screen sharing, which is likely something you will need to do when you are training your VA. This way they will be able to see exactly how you do each task, and follow along.
You can even record your screen shares to save as training videos, which I highly recommend! Keeping your recorded trainings is a great way to save yourself time when your VA needs to rewatch them, or when you need to hire another person.
How to Manage Projects With Your Virtual Assistant
There are so, so many project management apps out there to help you work with a team online. I’ll list a few of the ones I prefer here-
Google Calendar- Great for helping everyone on your team be on the same page. Give each person their own color, so they can easily see what is due when and be able to communicate with other team members.
BaseCamp- If you are working with a team, or even just one assistant, BaseCamp is a bit of a lifesaver. It brings together ALL OF THE THINGS that your business is working on and needs to be communicated about.
When you log onto the platform, you and your teammates can see each of the different projects your company is working on, as well as find all of the pieces needed to make those happen.
DropBox- A great way to instantly share documents, photos, video, and more with your virtual assistant. It’s basically an online teleportation service for your business documents.
Google Docs and Google Drive- Works similarly to DropBox, and allows you to share editable documents between parties instantly.
Asana- Asana is great for ongoing team communication. Asana brings together tasks, projects, conversations, and dashboards to help your team move a project from beginning to end.
GoToMeeting- If you have multiple people working on a project, GoToMeeting is a great app to host virtual meetings in the form of video conferences.
LastPass- LastPass is there to protect your passwords while still allowing virtual staff to log in to various applications. While not 100% secure for the most hacker-saavy of people, LastPass will help keep your passwords secret from everyday logins.
Phew! Was that enough information for you to take in all at once??
Hiring the right virtual assistant is one of the best things you will ever do for your business, and yourself. This is one of those “start before you’re ready things.” Or more accurately, it’s one of those “start before you’re burnt out and exhausted” things.
So if you’re thinking about hiring some help to grow your business, just start small. Make a quick job post on Upwork and hire out a little task. Trust me, it gets addictive quickly. You’ll see what I mean. Pretty soon you’ll want to outsource everything!
Ok guys, that’s a wrap. Feel free to ask questions or chat about outsourcing in the comments below!