Outsourcing and Teams: The ADVENGERS PT. 2: Outsourcing /w Virtual Assistants
The easiest and most common way internet marketers can expand their team is by hiring a virtual assistant. You know how American companies hire cheap overseas labor to cut costs? We can do the same thing. A full-time programmer might cost you $50k in the states, but you can get one with the same quality from Eastern Europe for 1/3 of the cost (theoretically).
I first read about this concept in Tim Ferris’s Four Hour Work Week a few years ago and fell in love with the concept. Globalization isn’t just for large companies anymore.
Benefits of Virtual Assistants
- Money – This is probably the biggest reason people hire virtual assistants. A full-time designer could cost you around $6k a year in the Philippines compared to $35k a year in America. You also don’t have to pay for their computers, rent office space, 401k, health benefits, etc.
- Ease – It can be a huge pain to let go or fire workers in America. Also there’s always the risk of being sued for almost anything. If my worker’s underperforming, it’s as easy as terminating their contract.
- Freedom – This is the biggest point for me since I’ve been living in Asia for the past two years. I like being able to work wherever I want, and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I had to worry about a staff in America. If I’m working on a beach somewhere, they don’t know.
- Privacy – Affiliate marketing is very low barrier to entry industry, especially if someone can see some of the inner workings of your campaigns. I had issues early on with employees either running campaigns on the side, or quitting so they can try it out themselves. I haven’t had any issues now that I use virtual assistants. They don’t know my name (I’m John Smith). As far as they know, they’re working for a large advertising agency in America. As an affiliate I’m already competing against other affiliates, some traffic sources, advertiser, the internal teams of some affiliate networks…I don’t want to worry about competing against my own employees.
The Downsides of Virtual Assistants
- Learning curve. A lot of people are uncomfortable with trusting work to someone they’ve never met before. Also you have to go through a lot of dirt to find the diamonds.
- Time zone difference. It can suck if you really need some work done ASAP, but your workers are sleeping across the world. For situations like these I always like to have some workers in the USA on call. Sometimes I’ll have a programming or website error and I can’t wait 10 hours for my main guy to wake up.
- Communication’s more difficult. Most of this is due to some language / cultural barriers, and things are just easier to explain face to face. That’s why when I’m interviewing I like to do a Skype call to see how good their English is, and how well we’re able to communicate.
- Sending jobs overseas. I know a lot of people care about this…I don’t.
When I’m interviewing potential workers, I’m looking at their feedback, portfolio, and their price. I’m not looking to train someone or to be their first client, I want someone that’s a veteran and knows how to manage their time and talk to people.
a quick search on oDesk
I approach the hiring process a lot like my marketing campaigns; I split-test. Anyone can fake a portfolio and be a good interviewer. What matters is their work.
The only way to know how good their work is, is to actually have them do some for you.
If I want to hire someone to do graphics, I’d invite at least 5 workers to do some work for me.
What am I looking for?
- The quality of the work. Is the work good? Did they do what I specify?
- How fast was the turnaround? If I need some banners done, I’m not waiting 3 days to get them.
- Ease of communication. I need someone that can speak English well, and understands instructions clearly.
- Self-workers – I don’t like micromanaging. I want workers who can think for themselves and don’t need me to babysit them.
Countries and Their Specialities
Here’s my experience with different countries and what they kind of specialize in.
- Programming: Eastern Europe, America
- Graphics: Phillipines, America
- Personal Assistants: Phillipines
- Copywriting / Article Writing: American College Students
- SEO: I don’t do SEO
- Translation: It’s much easier to use OneHourTranslation.com than to hire someone for every language
I’ve heard good things about workers in Latin America, but I don’t have much experience with them.
India’s probably the first country that people think about when it comes to VA’s, but I don’t find the workers very loyal. Hustling’s in their DNA and they’re always seeking a better job opportunity. If I spend time hiring someone and training them, I want them here for the long run.
Where to Find Workers
There are quite a few places to hire from and I’m just going to recommend oDesk only. It has a large workforce, built-in software to watch your workers screens, and they all have a lot of feedback.
If you’re just looking for a quickproject then Fiverr’s decent.
An alternative to hire an individual contractor is you can work with companies instead. If your worker’s sick or their cow died or something, they’ll provide you with a temporary worker. Also there’s a manager or a boss to keep workers from slacking off.
How Much to Pay?
You can’t spend $3k on a car and expect GT-R performance. Higher quality workers will cost more. The benefit of course is they’re still much cheaper than the west due to cost of living in their home countries.
Even though it’s tempting to hire a cheap programmer for $3/hr, he might cost you more in terms of time from having to hire someone else to fix his bad code.
I like to pay more than what others do. I find the quality of the work is better, communication’s better, and they’re also more loyal. If you luck out and get a great, young designer for $3/hr, their rate’s going to go up anyways.
If your’re spending thousands of dollars a month on buying media, it’s worth investing in quality workers.
Also if someone’s a long term worker for me then I’ll hook them up. My graphic designer’s been with me a while and I bought her an iMac. The quality of her work’s better, no more computer crashes from her old computer, and she’s appreciative. If a worker’s doing a particularly good job then I’ll throw a cash bonus.
- Skype – Daily chats, share screen, send files
- oDesk Work Diary – Lets me see screenshots of their screen. I only check it out for new workers. Gotta make sure they’re not playing League of Legends on my dime.
- Asana – Group project manager from one of the co-founders of Facebook.
- Dropbox – Shared folders for easy file transfers
- Whatsapp – If I can’t be reached via email or Skype, they can text me through WhatsApp
- AwesomeScreenshot – Chrome Extension for easy screenshots.
- TeamViewer – RemoteAccess
Tips For Your First Worker
If you’ve never outsourced before then start with Fiverr.
- Focus on your communication. If they mess up, you need to look back and ask how could you have made it easier for them to understand.
- Be patient. You’re training them and it’s going to take some time before they’re up to speed.
- Start slow. Hire them part-time, on an hourly basis. If you’re new you probably won’t have enough work to warrant a full-time worker.
- Make sure you praise them if they do a great job. No one likes to hear only feedback when they fuck up.
Also if you’re 100% brand new and don’t know how to do graphics or basic programming, then learn.
I can design landing pages, banners, and do basic programming on my own. I don’t NEED these workers, but they make my life much easier.
Ari Gold makes all his new workers start off in the mail room. You don’t want to have an emergency and have to depend on someone else. Not only that but once you have a rough idea of how long everything takes.
Hope this helps. It took me a lot of time, money, and frustration to learn everything I just shared, so sharing the article’s much appreciated.
– Dr Ngo