You need a damn good VA. You need a person who is more organized than you, learns quickly, follows instructions to a tee, and cares about your business as much as you do. This post will show you how to find and train that person – a process that I have refined over 4 years and nearly 100 outsourced employees.
In my business, this VA or “site manager”, handles every aspect of the development of my sites. She does keyword research, launches domains, and sends out the content of 5 new sites each day to writers/writing services, while also organizing all the existing sites in her portfolio. This could include linkbuilding, doing rank checks, adding adsense and adding additional content to sites that are ranking. The only thing she does not do is actually buy the domain.
Where to start your search for the damn good VA
I hired my first people on bestjobs.ph almost 4 years ago. I followed Jon Jonas‘ advice, which at the time was a great resource. I’m not saying it isn’t anymore – but my outsourcing staff outgrew Jon’s in about 6 month’s time so I cancelled my subscription.
A couple years ago bestjobs.ph closed their doors to international employers. I’m not sure if that’s still the case as I have only hired based on referrals since then. At the time you could still search the resumes but you couldn’t contact them unless you had an address in the Philippines. If you already have an employee in the Philippines they likely won’t mind using their address. And if you don’t, you still have their full name and with Google and Facebook it’s not that hard to figure out how to contact them…
Note: I’d appreciate someone who knows, or looks into this to comment on the current status of bestjobs.ph, whether they are open to international employers contacting their members or not, and their cost. I’ll update this post and give that person credit if they do.
With Bestjobs closing it’s doors, Jon Jonas saw the opportunity and created his own outsourcing jobs site, onlinejobs.ph. I used this a couple years ago and it was decent. Whatever you use to find an employee, the key is to get one gem of a person, and use referrals to expand from there. Some tips on filtering your search:
Hire in Manila or the surrounding burbs. It will be more expensive, but you won’t have nearly as many infrastructure problems, you’ll get much better English, and better schooling (which, unlike the US, actually seems to make a difference). Davao is also not bad and cheaper – but you will have more infrastructure problems.
Pay well. Don’t be an asshole, pay well and you will be rewarded with loyalty (and not have someone working 3 jobs on you). Offer vacation pay, paid holidays, and a 13th month bonus. This will show people that you’re serious. I offer my Site Managers 20k pesos/mo, but start with a trial task and then a trial month before that. This is all explained to them up-front. I know people who pay 6k/mo and expect their employees only to be able to do menial labor, and to do it at 1/10 the speed of a normal human. Hmmm… maybe they’d work faster and smarter if you paid them enough to live on and not forced them to work 3 jobs?
Ask them to Work Nights. This one is a topic of hot debate, but I prefer my Site Managers to work at the same time I do. It’s just so much easier for training over Skype, and it means they can come to you with questions immediately. Note that my writers work whatever hours they want, and get paid much less.
Filter #1 – Their resume and a sample of their writing. Thie sample article that you request from them should read as though it were written by a North American. It should be well researched, creative, with good use of rhythm. If it isn’t say goodbye and move on.
Filter #2 – Use a time-sensitive, decent-sized trial task. I start with a collection of 9 articles to be completed within 3 days. For 3 of these articles I ask the writer to go to a website on a given search term that might link to an example site, find the email address or form of the website in question, and ask the webmaster for a link on the website (don’t actually send the email). I ask them to be creative and attentive. Half the time people will not get it done in time, this calls for immediate disqualification. I pay them 1000PHP immediately upon completion of the trial task.
Demand Perfect fluency. TheVA has to write perfectly, no mistakes. The articles have to be creative and well-researched, no bullshit. The emails should be well written, should have researched the target site well and mentioned the content in them. They should also describe the example linkee site well in the email. If they’re smart they will have emailed sites that are content sites (and not stores), and maybe they even did a whois to find the webmaster’s email address. Be astounded by their ability, or at a minimum pleasantly surprised here, don’t be happy with passable content. You want a gem, always keep this in mind.
Filter #3 – Have a phone interview. Once they’ve passed the trial task and you’re pleased and you’ve paid them, schedule a phone interview. The VA should be comfortable on the phone. If they avoid it, that is grounds for immediate disqualification. It does not matter if they have an accent, they won’t be customer service reps – what matters is that they are comfortable, you can understand eachother, and ideally they speak colloquially.
Filter #4 – Start with a Trial Month. At this point, out of 20-30 potential candidates that sent in their initial resumes, you will be left with 3-5 people. Hire them all for a trial month. For this month, you can pay something like 13.5k PHP. Have them do keyword research, launching of sites, and writing articles including link building through your expired domains. Send them all out the same manuals, and spend the same amount of time with each person, giving them each 15 sites a week to go through. At the end of the trial month, hire the best person. If it’s a tie you could hire both and just transition one into a full-time writer if you don’t have the work for both of them. If you really don’t want to let one go, send a colleague an email and let them know you have a gem that you don’t want to fire. If you don’t have a colleague, send me an email and I will hire them or post their resume here for readers :)
You absolutely need a VA that can handle every aspect of your business. This combined with some part-time writers, is ALL you need to pump out 100 sites per month. At the moment my micro niche business has a total of 6 full-time employees – 2 Site Managers setting up sites, 1 SEO finding and setting up expired domains, and 2 full-time writers that write articles for link building. The rest are PT writers I pay per article, they publish about the same amount as my 2 full-time writers. I spend about 2 hours a day on this business, and am able to pump out up to 300 sites a month.
Following these steps, you CAN find this VA in 1 month’s time, and have that person trained to do everything you are doing within another month. This will save you a lot of time… time that you can now use on scaling your business, or finding expired domains. So go out and do it!
23 thoughts on “How to Find a Damn Good VA and How I Hire Workers in the Philippines”
I couldn’t find any there, they are not consistent, yes they are interested in your job offer, yes they are motivated to work for you but it doesn’t last long, only few weeks and then starts “I was ill” “I bla bla bla”
Yup, you have to mine through that. As with anything, be persistent.
Your suggestions come at a perfect time for me. I am about to hire my first VA to handle the edition part of a number of financial articles. Then I expect the VA handles both research & writing for each article.
I plan to hire my VA using virtualstaffinder.com , which is highly recommended.
Do you recommend hiring the VA and pay per article or pay per number of hours ? I think the VA will feel better if he does get a fixed payment.
Definitely pay per article. Do this to start until you’ve setup a relationship.
I just hired a VA last month and I have to agree with the fluency part you brought up. I used oDesk to hire writers before and was constantly editing their written work, but having someone who is not only fluent but creative (and writes better than me!) saves me SO MUCH time with the content portion of everything.
Paying what they deserve is also a really good point. A VA could be working another job if you don’t pay well and you could never know it!
Once again very valuable info on your overall process. Much appreciated!
Question, could you do a video on what exactly you train the VA’s? Such as setting up sites, SEO finding and setting up expired domains, and writers that write articles for link building… This would really help seeing an actual visual process on how this is done.
Chris, most of that is on this site, or will be soon. The difference is just that they use the tools that I also showcase.
CM Burns says:
More great advice. I live in the Philippines and have 2 full time employees. Even living here I have found it difficult to keep good people on staff. But when you find a gem they are priceless.
I live in Angeles City which is fast becoming a mecca for Internet marketers, we have quite a little community here, so there are quite a few potential employees here as well. This is also one of the biggest call center hubs outside of Manila, so you will find many fluent Filipinos here as well.
I have found a couple potential employees on http://www.sulit.com.ph
If you are on the fence about hiring a VA – just do it! It really helped my business… well, at least until Penguin hit!
Lloyd Hester says:
Great site. Thanks http://www.sulit.com.ph never heard of it before. Thank you
We tried to get a VA originally by posting an add on Craigslist and were low on how much we were going to pay. That was a mistake because we found a bunch of people that had to have been working multiple jobs. You can tell. So we decided to use a service in the Philippines (virtualstafffinder). We were trying to find someone that would work for $300 a month and that was a mistake. We ended up finding someone good and paying more, but the process would have been much easier had we realized all the benefits of paying a little more. We are super happy with the girl we have working for us now.
My big issue now is that I want her to manage all the sites, and all aspects except buying the domains. But how do you give someone all that access and keep them from possibly hijacking the sites? Do you buy the domains and then through namecheap or whatever and then move the domains to your hosting company? Then you give the VA your username and password to say Bluehost and all your other hosts and all of your Google account or accounts? I trust our VA but I don’t want to do something that could put the sites at risk.
In my case my CMS has a launcher and it is way beyond their understanding to manipulate. They never have to go into namecheap or anything as that’s done for them.
If you don’t have a system in place, in the end you just have to trust them. My programmers could run away with lots of domains, but they’d have no idea what to do with them and they are loyal as I’ve always treated them well. Trust your intuition, 95% of people are decent, honest human beings. You should be able to tell the other 5% by the time they’ve gone through a trial month.
Hayden, you mention employing 2 full-time writers that write articles for link building, but you’ve also mentioned getting decent results from Textbroker or iWriter (We’ve used both with great results.)
So my question is, why would you bother employing full-time writers as part of your permanent staff, if you could just hire Site Managers and SEO guys, and just use the writing services for all your article needs?
That way, we could avoid all the article-email and writing skills vetting/auditioning, and need only interview for the Site Manager/SEO skills
As mentioned in the post, they do the posting, image finding, etc. all for the same price as Iwriter, and I can trust that their quality is always strong.
I use Odesk and have a lot of trouble recently. I never used to necessetate the need to lodge disputes, but recently ive had disputes firing off for both workers in Bangladesh and the Philippines.
THESE ARE RECENT ODESK CASES ..
I cant work out why after a week prior you pay someone a bonus, increase their wages, backdate the pay they still have a go for 7.5 hours work clocked in and your other system (which they didnt know about ) clocks in 54 minutes. Others have been reading facebook, answering quizzes, writing emails for other jobs and doing Odesk tests! Yes, the biggest trick is working on 3 jobs at once and also the worst one i saw was an email to another job saying he was doing a free trial and it was all when i was paying him!
Your pay rates are in ball park. Most people forget contract companies such as Odesk deduct 10% – P20K is a good package. Sure, theres a deminishing line of returns and more is not necessarily best but theres airconditioning costs.. I wouldnt want to be working in a hotbox and most of the places here are, rent (4-6k), electricity (which can be 1/3 monthly rent cost for someone working from home and add say 3.5k for a wall mounted ac unit going all the time), 1000 to 1400p for internet bill and and 9/10 the person will have 1 or 2 kids to feed. My friends all work in call centres and theres a saying in week 4 of the pay cycle its called “Suicide week” thats when everyone has run out of money and they are hanging out for their pay. There was an American here who would work local staff for a month and not pay them tthen get another round and threaten the last guys with death threats. I mean the unemployment rates just been reported to dropped from 34% to 26% under the new president and 50% of 18-24 year olds in some areas are unemployed so this guy is a really nasty piece of turd.
That said. Im in the Philippines, I’ve lived here 4 years. I know people quite well locally. I know the market and the talent for call centre workers who work US times for call centres or from home. If anyone wants any help Im happy Hayden if you want to pass on my email which will be embedded with this post. I also have a responsibility though so I wouldnt just recommend anyone and you will have a contact point locally and make sure some of the crap outlined above doesnt happen.
The unemployment numbers you mention here are much higher than the numbers I see. Those numbers can be manipulated and so I don’t typically trust them and they vary by industry and city.
Hey RB, please send me an email (if you haven’t already)
The figures i read have been tracked backk to the marcos days. My figures are 3 days old. I subscribe to at least 5 newspapers a day here. I read most of them. Im actually here on the ground and travel in most provincial areas so stats dont really matter. Why would you tell someone you worked when the government take 40% tax, 10% VAT? 2.5% local tax, church to give 5% to and many family members with hands out .. whats left? nothing. I dont know what your relying on but thats by social weather stations who have been publishing since 1985. Thats my source wheres yours?
PS Michael .. couldnt edit ..what i posted but I agree with you. Especially in this country manipulation is everything .. and yes it does vary from industry and city.
.. not being able to edit is a bit of a pain with this blog. I didnt add. Craigslist is crap here. Sulit and OLX.com.ph is not so good. Theres still a few quality issues. http://mynimo.com.ph/ is what most people use here in Cebu. I’ve got no experience with it, just the fact that everyone I know uses it for finding work. Im not so keen on agencies like virtualstafffinder.
Great advise my friend thanks for this. No doubt that will start following your advice together with all the progress Iam seeing on my sites thank to you. Iam still new at this (3 yrs) but I feel Iam on the right path now when learning and reading from you.
Andre Garde says:
What’s your contact info? I’d like to chat with you, thanks.
I am new to this business and have decided that, if I’m to make any progress, I’d need to hire a VA but the risk of giving so much power and trust to someone who basically hijack the business is holding me back.
Scott Davis says:
Get a VA for sure!