A number of years ago, I was watching Layer cake(British film directed by Matthew Vaughn) and the Scene where Michael Gambon is talking about the art of good business really struck a chord with me.
In the scene he says “The art of being a good businessman is to be a good middleman” now my youthful understanding of this meant I took it to mean if you want to be good at business you should not be doing the work.
I have since come to realise, that line is open to so many different interpretations and true though it may be, it is guided by your experiences in life and business…
So why is that important?
Simple, it is important because in trying to be a good a middleman, I stumbled across the business practice of Outsourcing, and once I discovered what was possible with outsourcing, it became a puzzle I made it my personal mission to solve.
What followed after initially stumbling across outsourcing was the trial and error of doing things how people on Youtube suggested, I even purchased a number of information products that promised to deliver “The Secret” that would allow me to leverage outsourcing and build a business of my dream however, I kept running into the same problems over and over again.
Potential Hires being contractors therefore slow to deliver work with no time or room for amendments
Flaky people that start out strong and then fade into some obscure place on the internet never to be seen or heard from again
Communication issues brought on by a gap in experience from BOTH myself and the freelancer
Inflated wage expectations without the skills to command those wages
Language and culture barriers…
To name just a few.
To get over these issues and do it consistently, I had to come up with a way to eliminate as much of those issues as possible and that is how this process was created.
This as yet unnamed process has taken my success rate finding virtual team members from around 40% to approx 95% and the magic is that MOST of the work is front loaded, so you do it once and other than spending 5 minutes checking how it’s going and then conducting interviews.
So without further ado…
Following is how to find GREAT virtual team members so you can replace yourself in your business.
To make navigating this easier here is a breakdown of what is covered in the article:
- What’s in it for You?
- Why hire a Virtual team member
- Getting Started finding your Virtual Team member
- Hiring someone to Assist Or Replace You
- A Marketers Approach to Hiring
- Behind the Scenes
- The Bigger Picture of this Process
- Why I Hire Virtual Team members in the Philippines
- Working Hours
- Your Primary Responsibility as the business owner
When it comes to hiring someone to work in your business, you tend to find everybody has their own way of doing it, but the majority of people tend to focus on what I’ve coined here as “the old way”. What is the old way? The old way is you wake up one morning, you realize you’ve got more clients than you can serve yourself. You don’t want to turn clients away because you need the money, so you say to yourself, “I need to bring on a virtual assistant.” You decide you need to bring on a Superstar VA. Maybe you sit down for a half a day mapping out what that person’s going to be helping you out within the business.
Once you get that done, you get yourself onto one of the popular websites. Upwork, People Per Hour, Fiverr, whatever site it is that you find people out there. There’s so many of them. You put up your job posting, and then this is where the proverbial shit hits the fan. I’m saying the shit hits the fan because what happens whenever you do this is you immediately find yourself getting frustrated. You’re frustrated because you have clients to serve. If you don’t serve clients, you’re not going to make any money. If you’re not making any money, you can’t justify hiring a virtual assistant, but you who have just put up a post asking for a virtual assistant, what that leads to is hundreds of people replying to your post, so now you have to take time away from your business because you know you have to bring help on board.
What’s in it for you?
We’re trying to keep you away from this frustration of having hundreds of potentials to look through, spending time away from your business because you have to bring help on board. If you don’t bring help on board, you’re going to lose the business. If you lose the business, you’re going to lose money. And, even after screening, you can’t be sure of who you’ve hired because there are so many different people out there and different companies out there teaching people how to write the perfect CV.
The idea of it is you can actually start getting the ball rolling to remove yourself from your business, so the business is running I would say maybe 80/20 without you. 80 is mostly with you, 20 is the management time that you would put in to check stuff and make sure everything’s okay because you can’t just hand your business off to someone to run while you go lie on a beach somewhere. You’re going to come back to no business.
“People get coached on writing the perfect CV, and people get coached on interviews so much that companies are now finding that when they hire people based on the CV and based on interviews, it’s almost a disparity because the person that ends up working for you is not the person that showed up to the interview or is not the person that was portrayed on the CV that you looked at.”
Why hire a Virtual Assistant?
You get frustrated with all that stuff. Before you know it, you've lost a couple of weeks. As I said, you start thinking I need to hire someone to help me hire someone, or you end up with someone who is not what they described on the resume. Worst case is you end up with liability because you're carrying dead weight and you're doing the workload of two people because you thought you were hiring a superstar who's turned out to be a dud. This cycle is going to go on and on and on unless you change your approach and you change the way you do things. This is where we get into what Tega did, and how I went about doing this after going through the old way.
Getting started in finding your Virtual Assistant
It fundamentally starts you figuring out who you want to hire. The reason why you need to figure out who you want to hire is in my opinion, the skills are all trainable.
You can train up someone to be proficient in the skills you need unless you are looking for someone who is a specialist. A Really good graphic designer or a better than average media buyer.
Excluding those skills the rest are trainable. Where most people go wrong in my opinion is they want to hire a Superstar now, and pay them very little for the skills they have spent years cultivating and getting really good at. They lack the patience to work with someone to get them to the point where they grow into a superstar.
You will have to figure out WHO you want in your business.
Do you want a jack of all trades, like someone like me who can do a lot of stuff to an intermediate to an advanced level?
Do you want someone who's a specialist or someone who's just focused, as I said earlier on, maybe it's driving Pay per Click, or maybe it's a copywriter, maybe it's a graphic designer?
Do you want someone who's going to be a manager? Do you want someone who's going to be a technician, so this is where your web devs would fall in, your programmers and your coders, this is where they'll fall in.
The list goes on and on and on. You have to figure out who is right for you wherever you are in your business, and at the level that you're going to be bringing them in. The level will be clear in a couple of paragraphs.
The ‘what’ comes after you have made a decision on the WHO. The what is kind of two-fold, part 1 is WHAT will this prospective team member be doing for you in your business.
Part 2 is WHAT training are you going to provide to get them proficient at the tasks they have to carry out for you.
In a bird's eye view, the what could also be the label you attach to the new team member, so Graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, Facebook ad guys and media buyers...the list could go on forever.
Figuring out who will allow you to figure out what, and when you figure out who it allows you to figure out what training that person needs and how to get them up to speed, especially if business is growing and you find yourself snowed under with tasks and jobs to be done.
SO a couple of paragraphs above I mentioned that the level you are hiring for will become clearer, Let me explain.
When you first embark on your journey to hire a virtual team member, You are either going to be bringing someone on board to replace you in your business, or you're going to be bringing someone on board to assist you in your business, because of this, The hiring process will differ greatly based on the goal that you want, whether that's replace or assist.
There are different pathways that both those options can take you down.
Hiring someone to assist vs. Hiring to replace you
When you bring someone on to assist you, you're going to cut out a lot of the pitfalls that you would actually go through if you brought someone to replace you straight away, the reason I say that is when you bring someone on to assist you, you're going to learn who that person is.
You're going to learn what that person’s like and not like. You're going to learn what that person is motivated by or what that person is not motivated by.
So, whenever it comes to putting that offer of replacing you on the table, if you've had someone who has been assisting you a little while, you not only know if they're going to be up to the task, but you know if that is something that they want to do because they've been with you for a little while.
In my opinion, It makes no sense you hiring someone to replace you if that person doesn't want to be in the driving seat. Which is why the focus of this process is going to be on bringing in someone to assist in the meantime, but with the ultimate goal of having them replace when the time is right.
The Marketers Approach to Hiring
When you interact with a marketer, they are trying to sell you something. A good marketer will sell you what you need, disguised as what you want. The crux of what 'The Funnel Process' does is selling the Job role to prospects.
We do not assume that we know what our prospects want, but we know they need a Job.
We get the ball rolling at the first contact that our prospect will have with us, and that is the Job post. If you treat your job post like a sales page for the job role, you will increase the likelihood of converting job seekers to applicants.
I am not about to write and tell you what you need to have as a sales page because I am no expert on sales pages but weaving direct response copy principles through the job post will be easier than you assume.
The Job post I use is very benefit heavy, with calls to action, qualifying statements and more calls to action. You will not be the only person looking for someone to hire, so making your job post intriguing will allow you to stand out in a sea of job post and opportunities (depending on the Jobsite you are using).
When writing your job post it is easy for you to figure out how to make your job post stand out, you do that by looking at what everyone else is doing and then do the complete opposite. The images below illustrate what I’m talking about.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for a Job, which of the following job posts are you likely to click on? #1 or #2?
Did you say #1?
Did you say #2?
I would hope you said #2. If we are going to play the comparison game, there are a number reason why #2 stands out. Chief amongst them is the face that the Headline which is the ONLY that people will see when they scroll the list of jobs available on the Job site which I use, is benefit heavy.
It clearly states what I am looking for, and what I am offering(benefits) compared to #1, which seems a lil bit lazy when held up against the headline that I use.
That is just one example of using direct response principles within your job post.
Forgive me I got a little carried away talking about the job post and I haven’t really shown you the process even though I have mentioned it a few times. Let me do that now and show you what the process looks like and then we will dive into the individual elements of the process and tie them together.
The Process Breakdown
The Breakdown you see above is the process flow for my process of Hiring a virtual team member. You will notice I talk about online jobs, that is because that is the site I choose to use. This process is website/platform agnostic.
So breaking down the process…
The Job Post
I have talked briefly about writing the job post, there is nothing else to add, save for reminding you to use direct response principle the whole way through to keep prospective applicants engaged and intrigued to read through the job post and take the action you want them to take after going through the job post.
Setup Phase 1&2 Test
The tests (Phase 1 and phase 2) are designed to filter out tyre kickers so that when you are assessing things, you are looking through applications that are serious and likely to stay with you for the long term.
The test for phase 1 I use to test for basic understanding of computers and personal skills. I also use this chance to see how good the internet connection of the applicant is and finally I have the applicant draft an email response to a fictitious customer service issue, to see how they handle that with no prior briefing from me.
The test for phase 2 I use to test their research skills and further test how they would reply to a customer query/complaint.
My tests are primarily designed to have my WHO identify themselves to me. If I decide that my who needs to hold paying attention to detail as a quality that they are proud off, but they don't read the job post fully and follow the instructions I put at the end of the job post, then that applicant is not going to be a good long term candidate for me to hire, and If I were to hire them the quality of the work would never be up to par and I would constantly have to go back and look over their work, which will have a time cost for you.
Setting up the Canned Responses.
So the way this works is every time, after reading the job post, the call to action is an invitation for people to message you with their CV and a specific subject line.
If you do a good job infusing the job post with direct response inspired style copy, you are likely to get inundated with emails and CV’s from prospective team members. The most email I have had running this process is over 300.
AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT…
Especially when you consider that there has to be some weeding out that needs to happen. After email deluge hell, Someone told me to use canned responses to filter out the suitable for the not suitable applicants and thus the canned response situation was birthed.
So when someone reads the job post and sends an email, it goes to the email address i specify in the job post. If they have not followed instructions they hit a virtual dead end. If they followed instructions(specific subject line) they then get an automatic follow up email that sends them to the phase 1 test and the same for the phase 2 test.
Post the Job Post
This is self-explanatory, depending on the job site you choose to use to find your virtual team member. My personal preference is Online jobs. I will explain a little further down the blog post.
Once you post the job, the machine that you put together should now carry the bulk of the load, and what will be left for you to do is assess the applicants, send rejection/unsuccessful application emails, interview prospects and hire someone.
Create Interview Booking link
Tying in to the automation of the more menial tasks in the process, one of the things I do is rather than playing email tennis with a prospective new team member, I simply create a booking link(using a service like Calendly or schedule once) and give it to the candidates that get past Phase 2 of the testing.
Now depending on the final number of candidates I am inviting for the interview, I usually free up 2 days and those 2 days are the ONLY days free on the calendar for candidates to book a time for their interview.
This is beneficial because, as I previously mentioned, It saves both myself and the candidate from email tennis of “When are you available for an interview?”. In addition, it allows me to set the times and that can be a filtering mechanism that further vets the candidates and their suitability for the role they are applying for.
Once I get to the interview stage, I make sure to turn off the Job post on Onlinejobs so that no one new goes through the process again, in the event that I don’t find someone during the interviews, I can always turn it back on.
Once you have your link set, you want to send it to candidates who were consistent in their answers through phases 1 & 2.
I like to conduct my interview via Skype text chat, this is different from what everyone else says because they conduct their interviews via video call. There is absolutely nothing wrong with carrying out the interview via video.
I like to use text chat because as I explain in the paragraphs to follow, I use onlinejobs.ph, which is a website based in the Philippines, When I started looking into outsourcing, I found that the people I was interviewing were a little closed off during video calls, and due to that closed offness (is this even a word) they did not put their best foot forward.
If you also take into account the fact that they will be working virtually and the right candidate would be a self-starter, I would not need to have frequent chats with them so long as everything goes to plan, so I tried using just the text chat and it worked well and had continued to work after all these years, so I have not changed it.
When it comes to the interview itself, there are a few KEY questions that you want to ask, these questions go towards further validating that you have the right WHO and you and the person you are interviewing will likely work well together.
Those questions are:
- Do you currently work?
- Tell me about your last job
- What do you want to learn/do in this job?
- Do you have your own computer and Internet access? If you have access, how fast is your connection?
- If the internet goes out what are your other options?
- Have you worked for foreign employers before?
- Will you work from home or from an Internet café?
- Where are you in the Philippines?
- How much money are you looking to make?
- Do you have a Paypal account?
- What are your Long term plans?
- When would you be available to start work?
- Do you have any questions for me?
This is not an exhaustive list of questions, but they should serve as a starting point to get you thinking along the right lines when coming up with your own questions.
Assessing Your Candidate
Once the interviews are conducted, you will need to assess all the candidates to decide who you want to be your new team member.
This should be relatively straightforward because you have your WHO and it is a case of seeing of all the people you interviewed who is closest to the who you decided you wanted to bring onboard at the start of this process.
When you have decided it is good karma to send updates to those who didn't make the cut letting them know that you chose to go with someone else.
Your New Team Member
Congratulations on Hiring your new team member and welcome to a world(your new world) made less stressful thanks to Delegation and outsourcing.
To help you bring your new team member onboard in as frictionless a manner as possible, read this Complete Employee Onboarding guide from the good people at Sweet Process. Proper onboarding will go a long way to helping you build rapport and trust with your new team member.
That is the process, in a nutshell, that framework has allowed me to help business owners create room for growth in their business and to have the freedom to work ON their business and not IN their business.
Before you go and implement, I just have a couple of things I want you to consider:
- You want timely responses. The reason you want timely responses for going through this step here is so that not only are you proving that that person is a self-starter, you're also proving that they know what they're talking about. They're also proving that they can stand on their own two feet, and they're also proving that they actually want the job.
“They are proving that they want it because they're following what you said, they're responding timely and they're being respectful of your time as you've been respectful of theirs.”
- Then, the final thing is urgency. The urgency comes into play more on the back end because if you have this process set up for people to go through, but there are no deadlines or time limit you tend to find that people will be responding to you whenever you're already conducting interviews. By the time someone got to this level, those two levels have already been done so I don't want anybody whose late to be going through this while I'm interviewing people because that's going to knock me behind. That way you can then set things up on the back end with the emails and everything that go out. As the days tick along, each part of this works itself out, and as it works itself out, it knocks itself out.
Why I Hire Virtual team members in the Philippines
The job post site I use is OnlineJobs, I have mentioned it several times now. Online jobs is like any other job posting site, however, the only people that should be on it are the people that reside in the Philippines. There a few other people that sneak onto the site, and you can usually tell by the name people have if they are Filipino or not.
Over the years that I have been doing this, I have found that I get on better with Filipinos. Not to say that I am an obtuse dummy who is socially stunted but rather I find the culture fit to be better.
Throughout the exploratory period, whenever I was trying to get used to this process and actually find someone, I hired people from all over, India, former Eastern European block. I had a couple of Americans.
What I found out is that I tend to work better with the Filipinos. No discrimination against anybody or anything, just I tend to work better with them. My personality type, for some reason, seems to gel with them. They seem to respond very well to my style.
That is not to say the process outlined above doesn’t work, it does because I have had people use Upwork, freelancer and other sites with some minor tweaks all report back saying the process worked for them. The process is platform/job site agnostic.
My first success story using this framework is a VA called Mark. Mark, is a very, very funny guy. He has a sense and attitude of fun. He doesn't take himself too seriously. His personality comes out in our communications and the work that he does.
This is going to sound super weird, but after I gave him the job and after we'd been working together for a little while, we had a Sunday where he introduced me to his family, to his girlfriend and his kid and his girlfriend's family. We had a little Skype chat just to say hi, just to chat. There's that connection bit. The self-starter bit, Mark has been a godsend. He's been a godsend, which is a blessing and a curse because, for me, it means I'm not practising how to communicate effectively because I say, “Oh, can you do this?", and he asks a couple of questions, which I clarify but I don't think I clarify well enough, but he then goes away and finds answers to questions that he didn't ask me.
He runs into problems and he solves them himself, and he comes back to me and says, “All right. This is what you asked me to do. I think this is how you wanted me to do it. This is the issue I ran into. This is what I did to fix that issue. Let me know which one you want me to go with, and we can go forward from there.” That's him being a self-starter and a free thinker. I should also add Mark had never done digital marketing before.
He did not know what a squeeze page was when we started working together. So, for someone to take that responsibility on themselves to go and learn all that stuff just to not only make his life easier but make my life easier, is just like I say ... I gel with the Filipinos, so that's why. Whenever I say online jobs, I like it because of that personal experience, my personal experience anyway, they are the dudes and dudettes who I gel with.
If you click the link below, you will find a list of sites where you can hire virtual team members
Compiled list of sites where you can hire people.
In the US, the time schedules are opposite. Traditionally, I set up overnight work. Whenever I go through the process, and whenever I go through the interview, I tend to find out when candidates can work and when they can't work.
As a minimum stipulation, I like them to be around whenever I'm around, so they have the freedom to work whenever they want, but they have to be around for three hours whenever I am going to be operating optimally (UK Time). Afternoon time, morning time.
I just stipulate that they are around for a minimum of three hours during a time would be regular business hours for me so if they have any questions or run into any difficulties, I can them navigate it. If they are not sure of something, I can show it to them and they can update me on how their day went.
Having a great onboarding, this is more like the admin side of things. When are they getting paid? How are they getting paid? Do they need special consideration for bank accounts? What information do you need from them to hold? All that admin stuff you can think of, for what you would need to have an employee.
You will also need to develop infant care level of patience, if you haven't managed people before, you need to figure your way around the maze. You losing your rag at someone because they haven't done what you've asked is not a good way to manage people, in my opinion.
As the business owner, the buck stops with you.
What I've found with the Filipinos is they are very, very quiet people. It took me six months to actually get Mark to be more of himself and to be free and just talk with me like he was talking with a friend.
It took six months to actually achieve that, so this is where you and your WHO comes in because if you know your who, and your who is someone that you want to work with, all this other stuff from my experience sorts itself out.
It sorts itself out because you then know the WHO you have with you is someone that gets you and they know that they can communicate with you, and you're not going to lose the rag unnecessarily.
Now, there are going to be times where maybe there's a deadline coming up and they didn't ask a question they should have asked.
You can lose your rag there or you can't, but there has to be an understanding between you and your team member and that understanding is...
The working arrangement is going to be a relationship for the long term rather than "Oh, this guy's just paying my wages." I found that if they see you as just paying their wages, team members lose interest really quickly, and once that happens, they're going straight back to Online Jobs where there are a ton. When I say a ton, I mean there are a ton of people looking for employees.
The image above is just the listing for VA's, just to give you an idea of how much opportunity there is on online jobs, so the last thing you want is for your new team member to feel like “you are just paying them a wage”. With so much opportunity out there, you have to buy in to the idea that you and your team member are working towards a long term goal.
The reason I said that, or maybe drew that on longer than necessary was if you find someone who you gel with and someone who gets you, and someone who gets your personality, it makes sense for you to invest the time, work with them and move them through that assistant role and place them firmly in that replacing you role, which if you remember I said at the start was always the ultimate goal.
At the end of every workday, I have my team member send me and EOD(end of day) email breaking down what they have worked on that day.
That daily email is very simple. I just say I want you to answer three questions.
Those three questions are:
- What did you do today?
- What problems did you run into today?
- How can I make my processes better?
(An example EOD report - Names blurred for privacy reasons)
This is where I had to overcome Mark’s shyness, remember, it took six months for me to get him to communicate the way I would like him to communicate in those emails because I had to keep stressing to him that just saying “fine” for the last two questions didn't serve either of us, and I explained why it didn't serve either of us.
More on Communication
We have a beginning and an end of week call. I've found whenever we have those calls, it allows me to get everything I'm thinking out my head, and it allows the team to see the direction that I want to move in that week. It also gives them a chance to apply some forward thinking and do tasks before I ask them to.
Your Primary Responsibility as the Business Owner
I just want to say whenever it comes to bringing someone onboard, especially if you're going to go down this route of bringing them in to assist, build up their knowledge and then put them in place to replace you, you want to be delegating and not abdicating. If you remember back at the start, I said depending on which pathway you wanted to follow. Right, because we're bringing them to assist, it has to be really delegation heavy. You can't expect to go onto any website, it doesn't matter where to then bring someone on board and then that person takes over your business. That doesn't happen. There has to be a training period. Even in the higher level positions, that person has to have an understanding of your business. They have to know roughly who you serve, how you serve them, what you do, what tools you are using before they can then fully step into the role.
Where the majority of people go wrong, and it's where I've gone wrong in the past is I had the mentality of "Oh yeah, I've got a VA. I can just give that to him and he or she is going to know what I need them to do." That is abdication, and that is not good.
Abdication, or abdicating your business is going to lead you to business ruin, and that is the last thing that anybody wants and it's certainly the last thing that I want for you, which is why this was focused more on bringing them in to assist, getting the skill level up and then putting them in place to replace you in the business.
When you are ready to take the step to bring in outside help to grow your business, it is important that you start with WHO. We start here because unless you want to bring in a specialist, bringing on the right kind of person is better than bringing on an “expert”.
Focusing on the who allows us to bring in someone who would buy into the culture you are attempting to build for your business and then learn the skills needed to fulfil their role.
When you know the WHO, you then need to decide if this person is coming on to assist you or replace you completely in the role you are hiring for. This is important because if you are not clear you may find that you are the biggest obstacle when it comes to delegating tasks to them.
You also want to automate the hiring process where it makes sense so that you do not find yourself in the position of needing to hire someone to help you hire someone.
Remember Delegation over Abdication, as the business owner YOU are responsible for your business, not your new virtual team member.
What I have shared here if you follow it, has the potential to give you the room you need to start working more ON your business rather than being stuck IN the business.
But don’t expect it to fix your problems overnight.
My experience using this process for myself and for others has shown me that, Nature abhors a vacuum, so if you are not disciplined using this process to hire someone before you are ready, will likely lead to some more added stress for you.
The above should not be a surprise because every new level you get to requires you deal with a higher level problem.
You should either have systems and processes in place before you hire someone, or work with your new hire to put systems and processes in place so you can get the most out of your new team member.
Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day so it would be unrealistic to expect you can build a business in a day or by hiring someone.