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Virtual Assistant Gameplan

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Hi, and welcome to the 1st of June 2016 monthly blog post on AidanBooth.com!

I started my online business in 2005, and by 2006 I was doing ‘okay’. Earning enough to pay the bills and a little bit more as well.

2007 was the year when my business exploded… one of the main reasons my business grew so much in 2007 was because I started hiring Virtual Assistants (VA’s).

Back in 2007, I realized that time really WAS money, and I needed to find a way to get more done in less time.

I also liked the idea of being able be enjoying an exotic holiday somewhere while other people were growing my business for me… it’s not a dream, hiring a VA or simply outsourcing tasks makes this a reality!

Instead of slogging away getting about 20 hours of work done each week (while working a boring 9-5 day job), I started getting more than 20 hours of work done each DAY, and my income skyrocketed as a result.

Today I’m going to share my experiences working with Virtual Assistants. You’ll find out:

  • What kinds of jobs a VA can do
  • Things you need to do BEFORE hiring a VA
  • Where to find a good VA
  • How to hire a VA (without risk of being scammed!)
  • How much to pay a VA
  • Companies that specialize in offering VA services
  • How to track how much your VA is working
  • How to filter through VA proposals
  • How to manage your VA’s tasks
  • How to effectively communicate with your VA
  • How to grow a TEAM of VA’s

You can also download a 60-minute training session all about Virtual Assistants that Steve has put together, as well as the PDF version of this blog post, click the button below:

GiveawayDownloadImage

First Time Visiting This Website?

If it’s your first time visiting this website, WELCOME! Browse around, there’s over 4 years of content on here, some of my recent posts include:

Let’s now dive in to how to leverage a VA to explode your business…

What Kind Of Jobs Can A VA Do?

Pretty much ANYTHING you can imagine.

The talent at your disposal will blow your mind… here are a few examples of the kind of jobs you can outsource to a VA:

  • Market/Product Research
  • Market Analysis
  • Proof Reading
  • Email Promotions
  • Writing (sales letters, blog posts, eBooks, etc)
  • Accounting
  • Blog Posts
  • Travel Planning
  • Design
  • Contact Management
  • Website Building
  • Split Testing
  • Facebook Ad Campaigns
  • Customer Support
  • Link Building
  • Technical IT Support
  • Networking

There’s really no limit to what you can hire a VA to do.

Note to 100k Factory Ultra Edition members: If you’re participating in the 100k Factory Ultra Edition program, consider the power of hiring a VA to do all of your product research, product descriptions, website setup, and Facebook ad campaigns… you’d free up a HUGE amount of time even if you just got a VA working on ONE of these things!

Things you need to do BEFORE hiring a VA

Having first-hand knowledge and experience of the job you want to outsource to a VA will help you get the absolute best results.

First hand task knowledge or experience will allow you to:

  • Easily estimate how long a job should take to complete (so you can plan your budget and manage your own expectations)
  • Gauge the quality of the work that’s being done for you and the overall performance of your VA
  • Hire the best person for the job (because you’ll be able to ask intelligent questions to gauge the VA’s current understanding
  • Do a better job of training your VA

If you’re not experienced in what you’re outsourcing, the next best thing is to have a clear idea of what the end result should be… this is really the minimum requirement when hiring a VA. To know what finished looks like.

If you need to train your VA, the simple process we use for repetitive task training is:

  1. I do it (you master the task yourself)
  2. We do it (you and the VA work together to complete the task)
  3. You do it (the VA does the work without your help)

This works well, but is really designed for jobs that will be done over and over again. For ‘one-off’ tasks, you should look for a VA with prior experience, or the ability to quickly learn on the job.

Where to find a good VA (and how much to pay!)

When it comes to finding a VA, you’ve got a couple of options:

  1. Use a VA staffing company
  2. Hire one yourself

Here’s a list of a few of the best VA staffing companies who can provide you with a Virtual Assistant and help streamline the management of your VA:

Here’s an example of the typical plans that are offered by these types of VA staffing companies:

VAServiceCosts

Image taken from: http://www.yourdailytasks.com/virtual-assistant-hourly-basis.html

VA staffing companies are a great option if you want to speed things up and have help in finding and managing your assistant.

They’re also great if you want to be able to change your VA from time to time or quickly scale or downsize your outsourcing tasks.

The downside of using a VA staffing portal like the ones mentioned above is that it costs more (obviously these companies charge you a fee to use them), and it means you can’t build a personal long-term relationship with one person.

If you want to hire a VA yourself, these websites are a great place to start:

If you’re going to take the ‘DIY’ route, then I recommend you read my Elance case study:

Elance Case Study – The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Elance is now Upwork.com, but my case study is still very relevant to hiring a VA, and it outlines many of the challenges you’ll face along the way.

If you’ve decided that you want to hire your own VA, I recommend you focus on hiring someone based in the Philippines.

In my experience, employees in the Philippines are highly educated and diligent workers. You can have a full time assistant for between $400 – $800 per month (that’ll get you 40 hours per week).

This is less than half the price you’ll pay to use a VA staffing team, but you’ll need to manage everything yourself (it’s not that difficult).

Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. If you go for the cheapest option, you won’t get as good results as if you pay a little more.

How to hire a VA (without risk of being scammed!)

If you’re using any of the VA staffing services mentioned above, you’ll be given some guarantees of what to expect, make sure you read these carefully, and if you’ve got any doubts simply ask them for clarification.

The VA staffing services often proactively check that you’re happy with the work being done, and if they know you’re a potential long-term client, they’ll go out of their way to ensure you’re well looked after.

If you’re taking the DIY route, then you’re 100% protected by Escrow.

Escrow is a payment service that protects the employee, and the employer (you). The basic Escrow process is as follows:

  1. You hire a worker
  2. You deposit 100% of the job cost into an Escrow account (it’s easy)
  3. When you’re happy that the job has been completed, you release the funds to the worker

This process protects both you and your VA.

The absolute KEY to any kind of outsourcing is to have well defined tasks. You need to clearly communicate what ‘finished’ looks like so that the VA knows your expectations on day 1.

Failure to clearly explain what you want done ends up being a complete nightmare… take the time to make your expectations crystal clear by defining exactly what you want done, when it needs to be done by, and any other important job specifications as well.

How to filter through VA proposals

If you’re hiring your own VA (as opposed to using a VA staffing service), then you’ll need to filter through applicants.

Here are a few important tips:

1. Check work history and reviews

As generous as you are, hiring a VA is a business decision and you shouldn’t be the person ‘testing out’ new talent. Only hire people who have a proven track record and a history of good feedback and reviews.

2. Ask questions and monitor responses

Asking the applicants questions will give you an idea of how responsive they are, and the experience they have. If an applicant takes a long time to reply, then chances are they’ll also be slow to reply when they’re working for you. Asking basic questions is also a great way to gauge the experience and knowledge of a worker.

3. Ask for examples of past jobs

If your VA applicant has experience, then they should have no trouble in giving you examples of work they’ve done in the past.

In addition to vetting your applicant before you give them a job, you can also start with small jobs and scale up.

You should never hire a VA on a full time basis without having any experience in working with them!

Want to hear Steve’s take on this? Then make sure you download the Video presentation and the PDF:

How to track how much your VA is working

If you’re hiring the VA yourself (not using a staffing service), then you have a couple of tracking options…

  1. Monitor nothing
  2. Carefully monitor exactly what your worker is doing

It might sound crazy to monitor nothing, but this approach works fine for task based work where you’re paying for an outcome.

For example, if you have a VA, and you’re paying them $50 to complete a product research project, then you simply pay them when the work is done.

Task based outsourcing is the BEST way to start when hiring a VA.

If on the other hand your VA is working on open-ended tasks or much bigger projects, then you might want to consider using a tracking platform such as www.HubStaff.com.

Hubstaff allows you to:

  • Track the time a VA is working
  • Send you screenshots of the VA’s monitor (so you can see what they’re doing)
  • Track websites visited by your VA
  • Communicate with your VA through the built-in message portal
  • Monitor your VA’s mouse movement patterns
  • And MUCH more (you can even track your VA using GPS if you want to!)

HubStaff also allows you to manage a team, and make mass payments to your team, so from a high-level management standpoint, it’s also a good option.

Trust is VITAL for a long-term productive relationship with your VA, so be reasonable and flexible. Obviously you don’t want to get ripped off, but some VA’s simply will not like sharing their every movement with you (which is understandable).

How to manage & communicate with your VA

We’ve tried a wide range of management tools over the years, including:

  • Basecamp
  • Asana
  • HubStaff
  • EverNote
  • Skype
  • Slack
  • Email
  • And a range of others

If I could give you one big tip here, it’d be to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

It’s easy to overcomplicate things and go with the most advanced project management tool that exists, but that’s going to be overkill for 99% of the people reading this, especially when you’re starting out.

I recommend you get started with a combination of Email and Skype.

Send your detailed job descriptions through email, and use Skype for ‘on the fly’ questions that pop up.

NOTE: If you’re using a VA staffing service, you may be forced to communicate through their platform.

If you expand to working in a team, then consider using Slack.

If you’ve hired a full time employee and expect them to work with you for a long period of time, consider using HubStaff.

How to grow a TEAM of VA’s

To truly scale your business, you’ll probably eventually need a team of VA’s.

In our business, we’ve got several teams of full time employees that work on different parts of our business and in different companies we own.

Our ultimate goal is always to hire someone to manage the people we hire. This takes us out of the loop, and means we’re not bogged down managing people, so we can focus more the more strategic operations of our overall business (instead of micro-managing tasks).

Don’t rush in to hiring a team… hire them as you need them, and don’t be afraid to let people go when you need to either. We normally hire people as contractors, which gives us the ultimate flexibility to expand or shrink our team as we need to, it also means we’re not responsible for paying the employees (contractors) tax.

Create Your VA Action Plan

If you like the idea of being able to get 20 hours of work done per day while you’re lying on a beach somewhere, or you simply want to accelerate your online business growth, here’s how I recommend you get started:

1. Make a list of all the tasks you currently do in your business.

For example:

  • Product research
  • Image creation
  • Facebook audience research
  • Website setup
  • Accounting
  • Article/description writing
  • Planning

2. Identify the jobs that you hate, the jobs you’re not very good at, or the jobs that you think you could easily outsource.

For example:

  • Facebook audience research
  • Website setup
  • Article/description writing

3. Go to Freelancer.com or Upwork.com and post a job to hire someone to do one or all of your tasks you identified in step 2.

4. Monitor your workers performance. If you’re satisfied, re-hire them for something else. If you’re not satisfied, go back to step 3 and hire someone else.

5. If you have a huge amount of ongoing work, then consider hiring a VA. First though, go through steps 1-4 above so that you get familiar with the process.

Don’t be intimidated by this, it’s EASY, and it’ll help your business grow to the next level.

Don’t forget to download the video presentation and the PDF:

GiveawayDownloadImage

Do you have experience outsourcing?

If you’ve used a VA at some point, or have outsourced jobs in the past, I’d love to hear any tips or management tricks you’ve picked up.

If you’ve got a question about any of this, leave a comment below, and I’ll answer it.

Thanks for reading, visit again soon!

Aidan

Like what you’ve read?

If so, then click the “GET STARTED” button below. I’ll send you my SEVEN Passive Income Blueprints' and more great content (100% FREE, no strings attached).

40 Comments so far:

  1. Aidan says:

    Just to let everyone know, I’m travelling throughout most of June 1st. I will publish comments and reply to questions ASAP!

  2. Doug says:

    Hi Aidan, thanks for the VA tips. One question for you, when hiring a VA, do you do a phone interview with them? Or do you do it all using email?

    • Aidan says:

      Hi Doug, I’ve never done phone interviews, you can start with small “test jobs” to ensure you have someone good.

  3. Claire says:

    Brilliant as always Aidan, hiring a VA is something I’ve been putting off for a long time, I think it’s time I finally do it!

  4. Erica says:

    I hired a VA for the first time a few months ago to help me with making images for my websites and for Facebook ads, and it’s been amazing. I still can’t believe it when I get the images from my worker… they’re so professional, and I only pay about $3/hour for her time!! I’m addicted to outsourcing, so I find this very useful. Thanks, and safe travels wherever you are going Aidan! :)

    • Aidan says:

      Hi Erica, that’s awesome to hear you’ve started outsourcing!!! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Mike says:

      Just looking to hiring a VA myself Erica so are you directly employing yours fulltime or only part time when you have a project through someone like the companies listed above?

    • Prady says:

      Nice Erica…May I know from where have you got this $3/hr VA?

      • Lisa Chapman says:

        Lots of $3/hr freelancers on http://www.upwork.com! And you can sort your search results by hourly pay rate. I find that on upwork, I get the best skills at a bit higher rate – $4-4.50 range seem to be a little better for my requirements.

        • Aidan says:

          I can’t speak for Erica, but my guess is that she has hired people in places like the Philippines, where there are very low salaries, but where people speak English as a first language. Upwork, Freelancer, etc are all great place to find these types of employees! :)

        • Aidan says:

          Thanks for sharing your experiences Lisa!!

  5. Loan Nguyen says:

    That is such a great post and thank you for providing us the good VA list. These will will be useful for me.

  6. Justine says:

    This is a great post Aidan. I have recruited VAs for both online and offline work over the past years and learnt some extremely valuable lessons from doing that. I think the point you make on “knowing the task well yourself” first is (often) one of the most important things when recruiting a VA for the job (or you’ve got some research to do). It not only allows you to recruit a suitable person because you know what skills/experience/attitude you’ll need, but you’ll be able to train them well and manage your own expectations around the time required to do the task.

    I was also fortunate enough to jump on some VA tracking software a year or two ago, which requires a VA to login and logout each time they start their working day and you can review their entire days work in about 5 minutes at the end of each day. This is obviously particularly good when doing the DIY recruitment as you now have your own checking process, but it’s important to remember that:

    a) The software serves as a security check for both you and the contractor – it validates both that they have been focused on the job at hand, but also that they have proof of the hours they have worked too;
    b) It really is more of a deterrent of bad behavior/habits than anything else. If you know you’re work is being tracked you’re of course more likely to stay on task than get distracted by youtube, facebook and the like! Speaking with others at the time of purchase who were using this software, they even saw a 40-50% increase in productivity (they say) on work from VAs who were their most diligent and best performers – which was a massive surprise to them; and
    c) It’s obviously just useful when you’re starting out until you have a person in place to manage your team as you grow.

    And lets face it, it’s sometimes human nature if you’re not in the right frame of mind or distracted by life stuff to sometimes get yourself distracted when online. But when you know the boss is sitting behind you, it brings a whole new focus to your work!

    It’s important to remember however, that you’re not chasing perfection from VAs or a justification for every second of every day, but a genuine commitment to do their very best.

    I do agree that VAs from the Philippines are the most diligent. They are also genuinely grateful to have a job, extremely polite, want you to be pleased with the work they’ve produced and will often go above and beyond what is required.

    I have often been asked why I would recruit a contractor online versus someone offline in the workforce here is Australia and my answer is simple – because people from the Philippines not only want to work, but more importantly, they are extremely grateful to have a job, no matter what that job is. And I’ve always recruited on attitude first. I learn many years ago that you can always teach the skills, but the right attitude towards working comes from perspective – and that takes the right life experience.

    • Aidan says:

      Hi Justine, thanks for sharing (IN DEPTH!) about your experiences with hiring VA’s, it’s hugely beneficial for everyone reading to have a second opinion about this stuff!!

  7. Mikki says:

    That is an excellent posting Aidan, thanks. I have a way to go, but will certainly revisit this when the time comes.

  8. Tim Schrider says:

    I opted into your pop-up and this exact same website was emailed back to me with no additional content.

    You need to get on who ever runs your server and websites and have them fix the issue…

    Just an FYI – I was looking forward to the content

  9. Hi Aidan: I’m one of your 100k Factory Ultra members. Loving the program, still waiting for my first sales, but I’m REALLY CLOSE. Your Support is Awesome!! Can’t wait to get to the point of adding a VA, you provide a great balance between keeping us in the loop big picture and providing the grueling nitty gritty sometimes needed to pull the trigger on the first sale. Thank you!

  10. Mark says:

    Thanks for the info Aidan, wished I’d read that 3 years ago …. I hired a full time VA in the Philippines for $400/mo but ended up micromanaging my VA for 2 hours daily, that was a time killer …. The approach of splitting your project in little task which you then outsource makes much more sense …. – Thanks Aidan

  11. Lisa Chapman says:

    To add to the excellent article, perhaps the MOST important tip for getting to SUCCESS with your VA is to : Make sure they speak your language fluently. You can easily test this by interviewing them by live call free on skype. Skype -to-skype calls are free anywhere in the world. Don’t make a skype-to-mobile, or anything alse. Just skype-to-skype. If you can’t do skype, then scour their profile for clues – did they take any language tests? do they have any typos or grammatical errors? If so, this is the BEST you will get, and their spoken skills may well be worse. Also, exchange emails in which you ask them questions that require explanations. Their answers will give you an idea of their communication skill. Unless your task is something like simple data entry that requires little language skill, it may be best to move on to the next candidate. Good luck!

    • Aidan says:

      Hey Lisa, I totally agree on language.. thats the first barrier to entry in most cases (perhaps programming is one exception). Thanks for the additional tips :)

  12. Rick says:

    Yes, I also would like to know where Erica got her VA for $3 per hour

    • Aidan says:

      Hi Rick, I commented above on the thread from Erica. I’m sure she’s using Upwork and Freelancer (or similar) to find her workers :)

  13. Dan says:

    Hey Aiden, thank you for sharing with us this VA information.
    I do like Justine’s perspective and would like to have information about the VA tracking software. Looks to me an additional value.
    Also Like Lisa’s comment on interviewing over skype. Good Idea.

    So can you offer some software for VA tracking, or supply me with Justine’s contact info, so I can ask her directly.

    • Aidan says:

      Hi Dan, glad you like the info :) I’m not sure what software Justine uses, but HubStaff does pretty much everything she’s mentioning… maybe try that.

  14. Rita Griebel says:

    Hi, hoping you are still checking out the June newsletter. Was reading the July 1 and had to leave for awhile. The computer somehow took the email. It was not on spam either. Can you send me another email with the July issue?

    Thank you

  15. Kartik Pandya says:

    Thanks Aidan for considering our site in the list of VA companies. We are glad to be here on your list.

    We always try our best to get the task done in most effective and efficient way. We will keep doing our best.

    Thank you!
    Kartik Pandya
    Operations Manager | YourDailyTasks

  16. Edith L Dean says:

    I purchased a course at your recommendation from James Jones. I was part of the first 40. I cannot access his website. I have attempted to contact him numerous times using various methods n the last two days, and have been unsuccessful. Is that something you can assist with? I apologize for putting this on your blog, but don’t know how else to get in touch.

  17. JOHN YANCEY says:

    Hi Aidan,

    I haven’t been receiving any emails from you in a long while. I was interested in what you’ve been up to I say a program called Blackbird in a video you did on Facebook and I wanted to see what new programs you have to make money on Amazon with. Could you add me to your email and send me some information on the new programs you’ve been working on.

  18. Robin Taggart says:

    Hi Aidan,

    Thank you for this phenomenal resource! Very informative and useful.

    Despite being at an early stage of my online business, I have planned out and committed to a scaling path using VAs, because you, Steve and others put such emphasis on it. It is clearly a crucial skill set to develop.

    It’s a little intimidating however, thinking about managing people so ‘remotely’! In previous conventional management posts I worked hard to build a personal relationship with the person, and then managed expectations around that. Working with VAs clearly needs to be the other way around.

    Like everything else in building a new online business, I realise there is an evolutionary pathway to creating experience (and therefore confidence and competence). If we have no previous experience of using VAs and remote outsourcing, would you recommend STARTING with a VA company – to get experience of this way of working, while ensuring that other administrative tasks are taken care of – before moving on to find your own ‘personal’ VAs?

    Would this ease (simplify) the transition into this way of working, or should I set fears aside and dive right in!!??

    (Context: Initial VA focus for me would be on finding & opening accounts with distributors in 7FC, plus doing monthly accounting & reports for me)

    Best wishes,

    Robin :)

    • Aidan says:

      Hey Robin, great to hear from you :)

      Firstly, as a member of Online Marketing Classroom, you’re about to get access to our Outsource Mastery program, and I think that’ll answer ALL of your questions and give you all the training you need.

      I wouldn’t go with a VA firm.. hiring and managing a VA isn’t difficult, there’s not much to it. The two key ingredients are:

      A) Clear communication
      B) Managed expectations

      And those two things work together, you can’t really have one without the other. Dive in with a small ‘test’ project and see how you go, you don’t have much to lose, and can mitigate any financial risk by making it a small test project.

      • Robin Taggart says:

        Thanks for that advice, Aidan – looks like I’m going to have to just dive right in there!

        I’ve just received the email from Online Marketing Classroom about the Outsource Mastery programme, and I’m both delighted and excited about that! OMC is an amazing resource and in 2018 you have really stepped up the benefits of being in it, from FANTASTIC to FLIPPIN’ AWESOME! 😀 😀

        Really looking forward to pushing on and developing this exciting aspect of the business…

        Best wishes,

        Robin

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