Day #6: Get Started Finding Your Virtual Assistant

Now that you should have your game plan all mapped out, it's time to take the plunge and find your virtual assistant.  To me, this is one of the most overwhelming and emotionally draining parts of the process.  Often, there are times when there are multiple great candidates and it's very hard to turn them down and choose only one.  If I could hire them all, I would.

Anyway, today we are going to look at some of the most popular ways to find and hire VAs, and I'll also show you the way I prefer to find low-cost and amazingly talented VAs.

Online markets like Elance and oDesk

When I first started hiring VAs two years ago, the first place I went to was Elance.  My cousin and I wanted to create the next big social network, which subsequently failed.  However, when talking to other people that tried to do the same thing, they mentioned spending $30K -$150k for almost the exact site that we have built for $3k split between 2 people.  That's when I really saw the power behind hiring overseas.

I still use Elance for the majority of complex web development projects (i.e. PHP projects from scratch) that I am hired to complete.  Here's the reasoning behind why:

  • Elance has a fantastic escrow service, and if my project milestone goals don't reconcile with the project release given to me by the providers, I politely tell them to fix it or they don't get paid.
  • Most big development companies work through Elance.  This ensures that when someone is sick, the project still gets done.
  • I readily admit that, personally, I can't do complex web development projects.  So if my VAs can't deliver, neither can I.  So by hiring large companies to develop my product I don't have to worry about not being able to give my client what they paid for.

All that being said, if you need assurance that you'll get a finished product I still highly recommend using a service like Elance.  However, just know that you'll be paying close to 4 times the price you would pay outside of the service.  The same is true with oDesk and others.

Here are some quick Elance (and oDesk) hiring tips:

  • Don't settle for less than 4.5 star ratings (with a good amount of jobs done).  What happens is that when crappy providers don't deliver, they beg nice Americans and other westerners to raise their rating and give various excuses.  Typically, westerners oblige and ruin it for the next person. (I've had this happen many times but refuse to raise ratings if they are not deserving of it.)
  • Don't go with the lowest price.  It's very tempting to want to save money, but go by the portfolio they show you, sometimes.
  • If you are hiring them to write for you, make your you interview them via email or IM. Many times they'll send you a portfolio of content, and when you actually dialogue with them their English is very poor or at least not up to the standards you need.
  • If it's for a website, have them create a mock up for you at a reduced price.  If the mock up is good then move forward.

My preferred place to hire VAs

Ever since I found the Philippines, I've never looked back.  Ealier this year I bought John Jonas' Replace Myself package (which I highly recommend if you are going to have your guys do any Marketing Online for you).  In one of his packages he gives a lifetime membership to Onlinejobs.ph.  Although Onlinejobs.ph is not free by itself (I think it's something like $30 a month, but you have to buy 3 months), it is by far the best place I've seen to hire talented staff from the Philippines.  What I like about it the most is that you deal directly with the VA via email, and you don't pay a service fee percentage.

Everyone on the site is looking for one thing only, online jobs (duh…), and they have a pool of talent comparable to Elance and oDesk, but you end up paying a quarter of the price.

Here are my tips for hiring from Onlinejobs.ph:

  • 90% of the time, just focus on someone fluent in English.  Almost everything else can be taught.
  • A lot of the time, they won't respond to emails.  I've had better luck in just posting a job.
  • Just like with Elance and Odesk, interview them via email for English and/or web development skills.
  • To save money on membership, find a good VA and then ask them to refer you to someone else that wants to work for you.  (I've had awesome success with this).

The best part of hiring outside a service that charges you a fee is that you and your VA develop a much stronger bond.  After a while you'll start to see your VA start to treat your business like their own.

Action Items: Find a VA

Now's the time to start finding your VA.  If you havent done the first few day's tasks yet, please review them or else you'll waste your time and money.  Decide on where you feel comfortable hiring based on the business goals that you've drafted up.  Elance and oDesk are a great place to get your feet wet and to see just how much talent there is out there.  When you've had a good run, I'd suggest moving to Onlinejobs.ph and beyond.

1 Comment

  • Peter

    June 7, 2012

    Thanks for the tips. I’m on the hunt now and it definitely is stressful. Once I get them I’m not even sure the best way to manage jobs with them. Do you trust them enough to use your own accounts on classifieds, article sites, etc?