Guest Post By Ellen Finkelstein
Hiring a VA can be wonderful, but it’s not for every situation. For short-term projects, Fiverr or Upwork might be better – although I had a VA from Upwork (it was Odesk then) who worked for me for over a year.
But when you want someone permanent, whether full time or part time, a VA is the best option. And if you can’t afford U.S. rates ($20 and up, with averages of about $30-40), you can go abroad where the pay rates are much lower. For example, you can hire a VA from the Philippines for about $3.50.
The rates will depend on how much the VA already knows. Do you want someone who already knows OptimizePress, WordPress, InfusionSoft, or whatever software you’re using?
Or are you willing to train? If the latter, you can get someone for much less, but you’ll obviously spend more time training.
If you already have procedures written out – and you should – the training will be MUCH easier.
Where I went to find my VA
I’ve had a VA in the Philippines for a long time but when my VA got pregnant and had to take a leave of absence, I thought about hiring one in the Caribbean. For me the big advantage was the similar time zone. I thought that we could get on the phone regularly and she could do quick projects right away, if necessary.
By contrast, my VA in the Philippines did ongoing tasks like social media posts and special projects,
but not day-to-day tasks that came up. I have a VA in the United States for that and I love the fact that we can turn on a dime and work together closely.
I went to Caribbean.craigslist.org and put in an ad. Craigslist is free except in a few large cities. Here is my ad.
I'm looking for a part-time (20 hours/week) virtual assistant to help me with website updates (in WordPress) and social media marketing. Some experience helpful, but will train on specific tasks. Excellent English required because you'll be writing. Need a fast, reliable Internet connection. Hours are fairly flexible. $5/hour. Please attach a resume when you reply.
I received about 9 answers, one from a medical student! (I said I didn’t think that would work out.)
Some had associate degrees, others had a BA or BS. None had specific relevant experience, which is OK with me because we have extensive procedures and my U.S. VA can also help train.
How do you find the right person? You should think about how most companies hire employees:
They ask for a resume
They research the resume, speaking to references and former employers
They call some people in for an interview and may test them
It’s good to ask for references and to speak to them, but in my experience, you don’t get much out of this. Applicants choose their references carefully and so you won’t get a very balanced picture. Similarly, contacting former employers abroad is difficult and the language can be a barrier.
So I’ve come up with my own 4-step procedure:
I ask for a resume. In the resume, I look for good English skills, related or transferrable experience, and education.
If the resume looks good, I give them a test.
It takes a little over 1 hour and I don’t pay them for this time. (Think of a typing test that corporations once gave applicants.) This test was shared publicly online a few years ago and I’ve edited it several times.
For that reason, I’ll give you the Word .docx file, so you can edit it, too. (But I give applicants a PDF.)The test involves creating a WordPress.com blog and adding several blog posts that answer questions or complete tasks. This has worked out very well for me. Everyone who does well on the test has the ability I need.
If the test goes well, I do a video interview – so much easier in the Caribbean than in the Philippines!
If that goes well – and usually I’m down to 1 or 2 people by this time – I give them a 2-3 hour project for which I pay them.If that goes well, I hire them!
Note that not everyone is willing to take the test or even give me a resume!
If they aren’t interested, I’m not either.
My onboarding procedure
This is less structured, since I don’t hire VAs that often, but here are a few steps:
I ask them to create a LastPass account and then I invite them into my shared folder. In this way, they can access sites with passwords, but I can hide the passwords from them. I think you need the $14/year version for this – well worth it!
I ask them to create a Slack account and then I invite them into my Slack account. We use Slack for messaging back and forth – SO much better than email. Some people use Asana or Trello for this, but I found them too complicated for my needs. We message back and forth constantly in Slack and it works very well. Each person has his/her own channel plus you can create channels for projects, which helps keep related content together.
They need a PayPal account connected to their bank so I can pay them.
How I train my VAs
It’s a long process. Any mature business has lots of procedures and we’re no exception. We write procedures as we do anything new. We edit each other’s procedures.
Are they ever complete and up to date? Of course not, but we really work hard to get to that goal.
I just start step-by-step.
I give my VA a task and tell her where the procedure is. She asks questions and if necessary we update the procedure. We repeat that until she is trained. (No one is ever fully trained, in my opinion; we’re always trying out new techniques and software.)
We don’t have our own complete procedures for how to do everything with outside software when that software has its own instructions, but we do have some. For one VA, I thought it would be best to show her OptimizePress with a video tutorial. I had the idea that my subscribers would enjoy seeing this, so I did it as a free webinar.
Of course, at the end I said that if they’re interested in OptimizePress they could check it out and I gave them my affiliate link, but that was the extent of the selling. I got 20-30 people to register for this. This technique creates some engagement and good will among your followers and you get the training done at the same time.
Feel free to edit it and use it for your own hiring process.
How about you?
Does this help make the process of hiring a VA easier for you? Leave a comment and please share this post with others because they’ll find it useful, too!