Replace Yourself: How To Find Great Virtual Team Members - Tega Diegbe

Replace Yourself: How To Find Great Virtual Team Members

Occasionally, you watch a film, hear a song, or in my case, read a book that changes how you see things. In my case, one book led me to the other and what I got from these 2 books became a part of my OS when I think about business, success, and how to find great virtual team members.

Those 2 books were the 4 Hour work week and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Yes, I am aware there was some controversy around both of those books, but it doesn’t change the impact they have had on my thinking since reading them.

One of the ideas from Rich Dad, Poor Dad that stuck with me is the idea of the cashflow quadrant.

 

Cashflow Quadrant

It laid out in my mind a framework to shoot for, if you were building a business to secure financial freedom. Looking at the image above, I could see and prescribe why someone was stuck depending on what they are/were trying to build and then come up with a suggestion for something they can do to move past being stuck.  

In this article, I want to tell you how to make the move from being “self-employed” to being a “business owner”. The premise is simple: hire people to work with you in your business, so that things can continue to function even in your absence. The implementation is anything but simple.  

What I want to do with this article is to offer guidance on “How to find reliable people, and how to hire them, without pulling your hair out or getting bogged down with admin.”  

So without further ado, let’s get to it. 

THE “OLD WAY” OF HIRING

You FINALLY make the decision to invest in a virtual team member to help you grow and scale your business. 

You get so pumped up and quickly create a simple job post and post it in one of those popular job sites like Upwork or Fiverr. 

Then the issues begin, before you have a chance to say “I’m Hiring”, you have 150 responses of people interested in the job with 136 of not qualified and haven’t read the job post, you know this because if they had, they’d know they were not qualified to apply for the Job. 

You can’t get through the emails fast enough, and more keep coming in. At this point you start thinking “I’ll probably have to hire someone JUST to go through all these emails” between looking through emails and making sure that your business continues to run, most people would simply stop the process and go back to doing things the way they know how to do. 

The process of hiring team members can and does get overwhelming and it eats up a lot of time, and that is just the hiring process. You are yet to consider training this new hire, getting them integrated into the business, and accounting for the learning curve in all of that. 

Then there are the consequences of hiring the wrong person, worst case scenario is that you end up with a liability because you are carrying dead weight and you are doing the workload of two people because you thought you were hiring a superstar who turned out to be a dud.  

Best case scenario, you end up firing the person after 7 days, which leaves you again stuck doing the work of 2 people. 

The Old Way of Hiring

This cycle is going to go on and on and on unless you change your approach and adjust the way you are going about the task at hand. 

The approach you should adopt is one that puts a system or process in place, that from the outset filters and separates the good candidates from the unqualified candidates. This means that if you CHOOSE, to look through the responses, you are looking through the people who ideally you could hire with little to no stress. 

The process I will be walking you through today came about because, the scenario I described above was one I went through when I was trying to hire reliable virtual team members. 

I have experienced sitting down and filtering through unqualified applicant after unqualified applicant. I have endured the Job post email avalanche; I have also ended having to do the work of 2 people because I hired the wrong person. 

After a bunch of trial-and-error along with money invested, I was able to devise a process/system that not only delivered great candidates, it also removed unqualified candidates AND eliminated problems like the email avalanche.  

The process was borne from my own struggles and has significantly helped me when I accidentally started my own podcast management agency and other ventures.  I am sure it can be useful for you too.

HOW CAN THIS PROCESS HELP YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS? 

Through this process, you will be able to avoid the frustrations of having hundreds of potentials to look through. 

 You do not want the entire hiring process to take so much of your time away from the business that you should have been focusing on in the first place. 

 Without having a system in place, all your effort could be wasted, and you might end up facing a bunch of other problems you did not have in the first place such as:  

  • Hiring the wrong type of team member because they are slow to deliver work leaving 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 aka Ghosting 
  • Communication issues brought on by a gap in experience from BOTH yourself and the hire 
  • Inflated wage expectations without the skills to command those wages 
  • Language and culture barriers 

I will show you how you can avoid all these problems by taking on a more methodological approach to hiring. 

Not only do you want to keep the process quick and effective, but you want to make sure you find the right person that fits with your idea of the role they are going to play in your business. 

At this point, you are probably thinking, “Wait, I want my life to be easier! I want my recruit to do ALL the work so I can just chill!” 

I am not saying that you can’t eventually “chill” while someone does the work for you, but I am saying that in the first stages, you need to be there to guide this person. 

Let me elaborate…  

IS YOUR NEW HIRE ASSISTING OR REPLACING YOU? 

Surely, If I am hiring someone, they are going to be replacing me. I.e The are going to be doing the things I don’t want to do in the business? 

Well Yes AND No. 

When you are hiring someone, the last thing you want to do is abdicate your responsibility, by that I mean giving them what to do and making them responsible for doing it. You want to delegate the tasks but retain the responsibility and hold them accountable making sure that work is done to a high standard and delivered on time. 

You want the transition, from having that person assist you to eventually replacing you, to be done gradually. The idea is to start the ball rolling to remove yourself from your business, so the business is running I would say 80/20 without you.  

This means 80% is mostly with you and 20% is the management time that you would need to put in to check on the output of your team member. 

If you really think that you can instantly pass on 100% of the business to your recruit while you go lie on a beach somewhere, you are going to come back to no business. When you bring someone on to assist you, you learn about that person’s work ethics, skills, strengths, weaknesses, and what motivates and does not motivate him or her. 

So, when the time comes that this person is now experienced enough to replace you, you not only know if they are going to be up to the task, but you know if that is something that they want to do because they have been with you for a little while and you have gotten to know them. 

It makes no sense to hire someone to replace you if that person does not want to be in the driving seat. Therefore, the focus of this process is going to be on bringing in someone to assist in the meantime, but with the goal of having them replace you when the time is right. 

Before we delve into the framework, allow me to talk a bit about how I was able to find the right person for my team once I implemented the steps into my hiring process. 

MARK, THE SAVIOR 

My first success story using this framework is a dude called Mark.  

Mark is a very, very funny guy. He has a sense and attitude of fun. He does not take himself too seriously. He is a self-starter and a free thinker. 

But here is the catch. 

Mark had never done Digital Marketing before. Yet I chose to hire him anyway because I saw that he had initiative. 

He did not know what a squeeze page was when we started working together, but he put in the effort to familiarize himself with the role and responsibilities. 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 a godsend. 

In fact, our connection grew so strong that I even had the chance to virtually meet his family over Skype! You learn that once you find the right person for your team, your connections go beyond work. 

My framework not only allowed me to hire Mark, but I now have a whole bunch of talented team members not only backing me, but in some instances taking charge of certain projects and tasks. 

I have benefitted from this process, and I know that you will too. 

So, If you are ready to delegate tasks, gain some time freedom so you can work more ON the business than IN the business carry on reading. 

THE PROCESS 

The following is an overview on how to find GREAT virtual team members so you can (eventually) replace yourself in your business: 

The Hiring Process

It may seem detailed, but each of the steps are super simple. 

Let us get down to each of the steps in further detail below. 

PHASE 1: PLANNING 

Knowing WHO You Want 

The entire process fundamentally starts with you figuring out WHO you want to hire.  

What I mean by this is that you want to know what type of characteristics you want this person to have. Do not focus on the desired skills first. The skills for the most part 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 in something you can’t do, like a graphic designer for example. Excluding specialized or niche skills, the rest are trainable.   

Do you want a jack of all trades who can do a lot of stuff to an intermediate or advanced level? 

Do you want someone who is a specialist? 

Do you want someone who is going to be a manager and have a team of their own?  

The list goes on and on and on.  

You must figure out WHO is right for you wherever you are in your business because how you will implement the entire framework will depend on this. Once you know the profile of WHO you want in the business, you need to know the WHAT.  

Defining their WHAT in Your Business  

The WHAT comes after you have decided on the WHO.  

The WHAT has the following elements: 

  • WHAT this prospective team member will be doing for you in your business. 
  • WHAT are the trainings you need to provide to get them proficient at the tasks they must carry out for you? 

In a bird’s eye view, after finding the WHO, the WHAT helps you figure out what training that person needs and how to get them up to speed. This is especially relevant if business is growing and you find yourself snowed under with tasks and jobs to be done. 

By finding your WHO, you will be able to decide how much training this person needs and what their capabilities are. 

You can then tailor your job post to attract the right WHO to your business.

Creating the Job Post  

Think of the job post as an advertisement and you are the marketer. 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.  

So, from a recruitment perspective, your job post sells the job role to the prospects. 

We honestly do not know what exactly your prospects want, but you can bet your bottom dollar they need a job. 

Remember that the job post is the first contact our prospect will have with you, so you need to make a good first impression to increase the likelihood of converting job seekers to applicants. 

By weaving direct response copy principles, you will be able to have an attractive “sales page” aka your job post. And just like any effective sales page, your job post must be benefit heavy, have qualifying statements, and calls to actions. 

You are not 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. 

So how DO you make your job post standout? It is not as difficult as it seems… 

You simply need to look at what everyone else is doing and do the complete opposite!  

Let me show you an example: 

Putting yourself in the shoes of someone looking for a job, which of the following job posts are you more likely to click on? #1 or #2? 

#1 

Job Post 1

#2

Job Post 2

Did you say #1? 

OR 

Did you say #2? 

I would hope you said #2! 

If we are going to play the comparison game, there are several reasons why #2 stands out.  

Remember that the job posting title is like your headline. The headline is what will catch and hold people’s attention, and a good headline will get them interested wanting to know more about the job, which leads to a click. 

The second example shows how I craft my job titles which are specific and benefit heavy. You do not want to sound lazy and that you are not putting much of an effort by crafting your job post titles like the first one. 

That is just one example of using direct response principles within your job post. 

You then need to create some tests as the next step before posting the job post. 

Creating Phase 1 & 2 Tests 

The reason we need to give tests to these applicants is to filter out any tire-kickers and only attract those that are serious and likely to stay with you for the long term. 

These two tests have different purposes. 

Phase 1 is used 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. 

Finally, I have the applicant draft an email response to a fictitious customer service issue so I can see how they handle it with no prior briefing from me. 

The test for phase 2 allows me to check their research skills and how they handle other tasks which will be similar to what they will be doing as part of their job. 

My tests are primarily designed to have my ideal WHO separate themselves from the pack.  

Let us say I have decided that my WHO needs to be someone who pays attention to detail, and an applicant claims to have this quality, but they do not actually follow the instructions as directed in the job post, then I know that applicant does not fit the bill. 

And once you have these tests in place, you then need to figure out a way to further filter the applicants efficiently through automation. 

Setting Up the Canned Responses

The way this works is at the end of the job post is a call to action in the form of an invitation for people to email you their CV with a specific subject line. If you do an excellent job at making the job post attractive, you are likely to get inundated with emails and CV’s from prospective team members.  

The most emails I have had running this process is over 300. 

Not only do you have to go through these emails one by one, but you also need to do further weeding out after that. 

Setting up Canned Responses

AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT… 

After email deluge hell, someone told me to use canned responses to filter out the suitable from the not suitable applicants, and thus the canned response situation was birthed. 

So, I setup a process that when someone reads the job post and sends an email, it goes to the email address I specify in the job post, and they will receive the next round of tests. If they have not followed instructions, they hit a virtual dead end.  

Automating this process will save you loads of time and headaches. 

And now that you have all the things you need to start posting, it is time to get the word out and find your new team member. 

Which Platform Works Best for Me

The job post site I use is Onlinejobs.ph. 

Throughout this article, you may notice that I will mention this platform several times and that my examples will be based on my experiences there. The reason I use Onlinejobs.ph is because this is a job site especially for freelancers that live in the Philippines. 

onlinejobs.ph

Throughout the trial and error period, whenever I was trying to figure out this process and find someone, I hired people from all over India, former Eastern European, and even America. 

Over the years that I have been doing this, I have found that I get on better with Filipinos because the culture fit to me seems to be better than most. My personality type, for some reason, seems to gel with them. They also seem to respond very well to my style. 

Mark is also a Filipino. 

Now I am not saying that the process below will not work on other job sites. I have had people use Upwork, Freelancer and other sites with some minor tweaks and report back saying the process worked for them.  

The process is platform/job site agnostic. 

Posting the Job Post 

This is self-explanatory and will depend on the job site you decide to use to find your virtual team member. And once you post the job, the machine that you have put together should now carry the bulk of the load. 

What will be left for you to do is to screen the applicants, send rejection/unsuccessful application emails, interview prospects and hire someone. 

PHASE 2: SCREENING

Creating the Interview Booking link 

In continuation to the automation of the more menial tasks in the process, I create a booking link for the candidates who pass Phase 2 of the testing, and make it to the interview stage, this circumvents the need to play email tennis with a prospective new team member, as you both try to figure out what days you are both free. 

Personally, I use a scheduling tool to generate this link. There are a bunch of tools like this on the internet and they are relatively easy to use and setup. 

Here is how I setup my Calendly: 

  1. Go to Calendly.com and create your account 
  2. Once you have successfully logged in, click +New Event Type on the homepage 
  3. Choose the One-on-One Event option 
  4. Fill in all the event details. For the duration, I usually set it at 60 minutes.  
  5. Be sure to set the Date Range so that you can indicate the days when you are free 
  6. After completing all the details, you will be provided with a Calendly link that you can send to the applicants 
  7. Any dates that have already been chosen will be blocked off to avoid any double bookings 

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 you have your link set, you want to send it to candidates who you are inviting for an interview. 

Before going ahead with the interviews, I make sure to turn off the job post on Onlinejobs.ph so that no one new goes through the process again. If the interviews are unsuccessful and I don’t find someone during the interviews, I can always turn it back on. 

Interviewing the Candidates 

Contrary to the usual video call interviews, I prefer to do mine over Skype chat. 

Interviewing candidates

Now do take note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with carrying out the interview via video. If you think this will be of better fit in your hiring process, feel free to conduct video interviews instead. 

I personally prefer chat interviews because I found that in my experience with OnlineJobs.ph, the people I was interviewing were a little closed off during video calls, most Filipinos tend to be a little shy during your first few encounters with them. And because of their shyness, it is difficult for them to put their best foot forward. 

If you also consider the fact that they will be working virtually and the right candidate would be a self-starter, I will not need to have frequent communication with them so long as everything works out. 

The chat interviews have worked well for me all these years, so I stuck to it. 

When it comes to the interview structure itself, there are a few KEY questions that you want to ask. These questions go towards further confirming that you have the right WHO and assessing whether the two of you will work well together. 

Here are the questions: 

  1. Do you currently work?
  2. Tell me about your last job 
  3. What do you want to learn/do in this job? 
  4. Do you have your own computer and Internet access? If you have access, how fast is your connection? 
  5. If the internet goes out what are your other options? 
  6. Have you worked for foreign employers before? 
  7. Will you work from home or from an Internet café? 
  8. Where are you in the Philippines? 
  9. How much money are you looking to make? 
  10. Do you have a Paypal account? 
  11. What are your Long-term plans? 
  12. When would you be available to start work? 
  13. 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 creating your own questions. 

And once you have conducted all the test and interviews, it is time to assess who of the candidates make the cut. 

Assessing Your Candidate

This step should be straightforward because you have your WHO, and it is a case of seeing which ones fit the bill. 

Also, it is only proper decorum to send updates to those who did not make the cut and let them know that you chose to go with someone else. You want to make sure every applicant is updated. 

A Few More Things to Consider 

Now before you go and implement everything I have laid out; I just have a couple of other things you should consider when screening: 

  • You want prompt responses. The reason for this is that not only do fast responses prove that someone is a self-starter, but it also proves that they know what they are talking about. It also shows that they are indeed eager to get the role. 
  • Instilling a sense of urgency. You need to set deadlines because you have this process set up for people to go through, and you want to make sure that those who pass can continue to the next phase together. You do not want anyone to be left behind by due to late submissions. That way you can then set things up on the back end with the emails and everything that goes out can be scheduled properly.

And after this long but rewarding process of screening through a whole bunch of applicants, you can now focus on that one person you have hired. 

PHASE 3: ONBOARDING 

Welcoming Your New Team Member 

Congratulations! If you have followed the process; you should have your new talented and reliable team member!  

Welcoming your new team member

You have now taken the first step to getting your delegation shoes on and start the process of working more ON your business, than IN your business. Hopefully this process has gone some way to showing you that recruiting is not as difficult as you thought, provided you approach it with a process. 

Now that you have your new team member, you have to get them onboarded as smoothly as possible, check out 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. Once you hired the right virtual team member, you want to make sure that you manage this person well. 

And that is the process, that 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. 

HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON MANAGING YOUR NEW TEAM MEMBER 

Here are a few key things that I have implemented with my team, and so far, we all have a harmonious relationship with each other, and I am aware of everything that happens in the business.  

Accountability 

At the end of every workday, I have my team member send me an EOD (end of day) email breaking down what they have worked on that day. 

The EOD email is quite simple, and I just ask them to briefly answer three questions: 

  1. What did you do today? 
  2. What problems did you run into today? 
  3. How can I make my processes better? 

Accountability daily report

Based on my experience with Filipinos like Mark, it was a little bit of a challenge to have them be honest with the last two questions.  

During the first six months, he would simply say “fine,” which I told him would not serve either of us. 

You need to reiterate to your team member that these questions are important in building better processes and procedures. These questions give them a sense of accountability in the business because it shows that you value their input. 

Consistent Communication 

Make sure that you are always in touch with your team member and are easy to reach, especially during the first few months when he/she is still learning the ropes. 

In terms of regular meetings, my team and I have a beginning and an end of week call.  

I have found that these calls allow me to get everything I am 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 share with me any ideas or issues. 

My team members and I also communicate via Slack for any other matters. 

Make sure to create a sense of openness with them so that they will not hesitate to bring up any matters with you. 

You Need to Be A Mentor, not a Boss  

Just like any unfamiliar environment, there is always an adjusting period. You need to dedicate time to train your new hire and give that person a clearer understanding of your business. 

They must know who your clients are, how you serve them, what you do, and what tools you are using before they can then fully step into the role. 

Where most people go wrong, and it is where I have gone wrong in the past is, I had the mentality of “Oh yeah, now have a VA. I can just give this task to that person and he or she is going to know what I need them to do.”  

That is abdication, and that is not good. Abdication is going to lead your business to ruin. 

Abdication

That is the last thing that you want to happen, after all the effort you have put into finding the right team member. 

Therefore, you need to slowly immerse them into the business through letting them assist you first, then helping them improve their skills so that they can eventually replace you and you can focus on more important matters. 

Delegation

You want to make sure that you are delegating and not abdicating. 

So, to recap… 

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 in 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 trying 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 eventually replace you. Clearly defining the WHO allows you to figure out how you and your hire can help each other grow the business. 

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 handle your business, not your new virtual team member. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF BEFORE GETTING STARTED 

The steps that I have outlined in this article allow you the room you need to start working more ON your business rather than being stuck IN the business. 

Once you can set all these systems in place, finding a great virtual team member is not going to be that much of a challenge anymore.  

You do not have to go through the entire process, running around like a headless chicken and hoping that you got it right this time, after sorting through hundreds of emails. But do not expect your problems to be fixed overnight. 

My experience using this process for myself and for others has shown me that nature abhors a vacuum. This means that if you are not disciplined when implementing this process, hiring someone will lead to some more stress for you. 

You really need to have everything planned and laid out before you hire someone. 

Rome was not built in a day so it would be unrealistic to expect you can build a business in a day or by hiring someone. It takes time, effort, and patience. 

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