Building your own website is great – you learn skills, build your confidence, and end up with a beautiful result at the end of the day.
But it can also be time consuming and challenge and if you’re not in a place in your life where you have the time or mental energy to take it on, you might want to consider hiring a virtual assistant.
“What is a virtual assistant?”
A virtual assistant is someone just like a personal assistant, except instead of sitting outside your office taking your calls and screening your visitors, they’re in another country doing all the tasks you don’t have the time or energy to do.
You hire them online, you communicate online, they work online, and you pay them online.
It’s simple as that.
“Should I use a Virtual Assistant (VA) or should I do the work myself?”
I get asked this all the time by people who’re interested in setting up their own websites
The honest answer is: I can’t tell you.
But there is a quick calculation you can do to work out if this is the right path for you.
If you went out and got a menial, average, no-real-qualifications-necessary, kind of job, how much could you make an hour?
Great. Is that more or less than you’d pay a VA to set up your websites for you?
If it’s more, then by going out and getting a job whilst you pay a VA to set up your sites you’re actually making money.
Think about it like this:
The average VA from the Philippines costs between $3-$5/hour.
Setting up a website will take about 10 hours and so if you pay someone else to do it, you’re looking at $33.30.
You could set it up yourself and save that $33.30, but… You’re not actually saving yourself anything. If you set up your own sites when you could be working in a job that pays you $15/hour, you’re actually costing yourself $116.70.
If you’d gone out and got a menial job, worked for that same 10 hours @ $15/hour, and got your VA to set up the site, you could have earned $150 (10 x $15) whilst only paying out $33.30.
That means that getting a job and paying someone to do your work would have left you $116.70 in front.
What sounds better to you? $0 or $116.70?
Not a hard choice, is it?
Now, obviously, this whole equation is based off a whole lot of assumptions:
1. You can get another job
2. You can get a job that pays significantly higher wages than what you would pay a VA
3. That a VA can set up the site as fast as you can
4. That you don’t have to train or manage the VA
5. That you actually have money to pay a VA with
If you’re not in a position to hire a VA to set up your website, that’s fine. You’re just going to have to put in some extra work to get things rolling.
But if you can, then I HIGHLY recommend you do.
“So how do I find a good VA?”
That’s a very good question.
As I write this post, there are 410,000 Virtual Assistants listed on oDesk.
So who are you going to choose? And more importantly, how are you going to find the right one? After all, not all VA’s are created equal.
There are some VA’s who are organised, focussed, punctual, and independent thinkers. Then, there are the dependent, lazy, undisciplined, VA’s who rush through jobs without checking details.
If you’re going to create an incredible webstie, you need to sort the wheat from the chaff.
If you don’t, you’re going to spend more time fixing mistakes and managing ineptitude than throwing fistfuls of cash at your playboy bunny pool cleaner.
After posting hundreds of jobs and wasting thousands of dollars on the wrong kind of VA’s, here are the lessons I’ve learned to get top quality help from the other side of the world.
NOTE 1: I’ve broken this down in the two major stages of getting great VA’s: Writing the hob posting and finding great employees.
NOTE 2: I exclusively use oDesk for all my outsourcing needs. oDesk has a fantastic tracking system that takes screen shots of your VA’s monitor at random intervals in a 15 minute period whilst they’re working and it also logs how much activity has been going on in that period.
It just means that everything is above board and you don’t have to worry about getting swindled.
Part 1: Writing Your Job Posting
The first step in getting great contractors is writing a great job posting. So lets start there.
1. Get specific about what you’re looking for
If you put a vague and nondescript job posting up, you’re going to get hundreds of unsuitable applicants. You need to be specific and you need to be clear.
Don’t say ‘I’m looking for someone to build a website…’, specifically state what kind of website you want built (WordPress, HTML, Flash, etc…).
If you don’t know the specifics, ask someone who does. If you don’t know anyone who can translate your mindless ramblings into coherent english, hire someone on oDesk and pay them for 1 hour of Skype consultation to tell you what you need.
2. Specify skills, not reasons
All the contractor needs to know is about the skills necessary to complete the job and some vague details about how much time they will need to commit. You don’t need to tell them all the intimate details about your vision and why you’re looking for the contractor, just what they need to know.
If you include too much detail, you’re just going to confuse and overload them and waste a whole bunch of their precious time.
If you expect them to value your time, value theirs.
Things like ‘Must know how to upload and setup WordPress’ is great. Things like ‘Look, I’m thinking about starting a website about flowers because when I was in the third grade, this really cute boy gave…’
Sorry, but no-one cares. Just stick to the skills required. You can fill them in on the details later.
Most of my job postings include a section that goes something like this:
You tasks will include:
- Task 1
- Task 2
- Task 3
It’s pretty basic stuff but it needed to be said.
3. Clearly state what you want in your application
If you’re not clear about what you want to see in the contractors application, you’l never get it. Be very clear about the kind of application you want the contractor to submit and you’ll get (some) applications that are set out the way you want it.
If you’re not, you won’t.
All my job postings have a section that reads like:
In your application, please address the following criteria in order:
1. Criteria 1
2. Criteria 2
3. Criteria 3
4. You get the picture
Once again, it’s pretty standard stuff but something you need to keep in mind.
4. Easter Eggs
Not, not the chocolate ones. Surprises an instructions hidden within your job description.
Always include specific instructions within your job posting.
This ensures two things:
1. The applicants have actually read through the posting and have written a thorough applications
2. The applicants can follow instructions
These don’t have to be complex instructions. All they need to be is simple and straight forward instructions to weed out the automated responses from the actual responses.
The two instructions I always include are:
1. Please include the word ‘BONUS’ at the top of your application
2. Please attach a screen shot of your internet connection speed (Thanks for that tip Mogzy)
If an application turns up without the word ‘BOUNS’ at the top of it (which you can see without even opening the application) and without an attached screen shot, you automatically know that that contractor isn’t for you.
Part 2: Finding Great Employees
Now that you’ve written an eloquent and effective job posting, it’s time to find people to fill it.
1. Make your job postings private
Always make your job postings private when you first put them up. Always.
If you leave them public, you’re just going to end up wasting hours of your life sifting through with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of spammy applications, trying to find the one or two applications from qualified people who’ve actually taken the time to read your job posting.
2. Narrow down your choices
Making your job posting private means that the only people who will see it are the ones that you invite. That means you need to start inviting people.
But with 410,000 possible VA’s, where do you start?
The easiest way is to use the adjustable search criteria on the right hand side of the contractor page.
I always use the same settings when looking for VA’s:
a. Must have 4.5-5 star rating
b. Hourly rate must be between $0 – $5 ($3 an hour is a decent wage in the Philippines)
c. Must be have 100+ hours (if there’s enough available VA’s, I will set this to ‘Must have over 1,000+ hours)
d. Must be in the top 10% in relevant tests (English spelling and grammar for article writers, WordPress for Designers, etc…)
e. Must be from east Asia (oDesk classifies the Philippines as being in east Asia)
This should narrow your selection choices down from 410,000 to around 100.
3. Jack of all trades, master of none
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to through them.
The first step is scanning through the contractor profiles and finding people with suitable skills. You can do this by looking at the key words on their profile. When you find someone with suitable skills, right click on their profile and open it up.
When you’re scanning through, make sure you only select people with a limited amount of skills on their profile. If someone has WordPress design, Translation, Accounting, SEO, and VOIP listed as their skills, there’s a good chance they won’t be great at any of them.
4. Work History
Once you’ve gone through your list and opened up any candidates with suitable skills, it’s time to dig deeper.
Just because someone has a skill listed on their profile and has worked 100+ hours with a 5 star rating, it doesn’t mean they’re actually any good at what that particular skill.
Go through each profile and look at the previously completed jobs on the contractors profile. If you’re looking for a WordPress designer, the contractor has WordPress in their profile, but has only worked 1 job as a designer with every other job being data entry, there’s a good chance that they’re not good a great designer.
5. Find VA’s with lots of contracts from the same employer
A 5 star rating doesn’t mean the contractor was some kind of rockstar and blew the employers head off with their performance. It means that the contractor did a decent job and met all the objectives they were supposed to.
The way you tell is a contractor is really good is if they’ve been rehired by the same employer over and over again.
This is really easy to check in oDesk. All you need to do is look through the completed jobs listed on the contractors profiles and see who they were working for.
If they’re continually working for the same person, then it means that that employer believes that the contractors skills are good enough to rehire.
That’s a +1 in my books.
If you follow all these tips, you should be able to narrow down the amount of available candidates and find high quality VA’s without too much drama.