Key Differences between VA’s and Regular Employees

Key Differences between VA’s and Regular EmployeesWhen deciding to hire a VA rather than a traditional employee, it is easy to overlook the fact that this is a radically different hire. The biggest difference is not simply that the VA works outside of your regular office, but rather that is simply one component of the drastically different working relationship that exists between you and your VA. In this blog, we will take a look at some of the key factors to keep in mind when hiring and managing virtual employees. Continue reading

Where To Find A Great VA

where-to-find-a-great-vaIf you have ever hired a Virtual Assistant you would probably agree that finding a good VA can be a daunting task. And if you haven’t, I assure you there is nothing easy about it! There are a ton of websites, companies and agencies that all promise to connect you with the best Virtual Assistants available.

Truth be told, a fantastic Virtual Assistant means different things to different people. They could all offer high quality VAs (not every one does) but their skills, availability or rates might not be what you need. It is important to understand the differences between the wide range of VA sources. You wouldn’t shop for new shoes in a grocery store, right? This is exactly the same with hiring Virtual Assistants. The best source completely depends on what you are looking for.

Let’s take a look at the 7 best places to find a Virtual Assistant:

  • Freelancing marketplaces
  • General purpose job boards
  • Temp agencies
  • VA Agencies
  • VA Recommendation services
  • Blogosphere
  • WOM

Now, let’s take a close look to see what we can expect from each of them:

Continue reading

How to Find Great Developers on Freelancing Sites Like oDesk, Elance or Guru

How-To-Find-Great-Developers-on-Freelancing-SitesFinding good developers has never been easier! Hundreds of thousands of first class developers are waiting to bid on your project.  Submit your idea to our marketplace and have dozens of qualified developers bidding on your project in just a few hours.   Some of the brightest minds from all over the world have come under one roof to offer their services for rates as low as $8 an hour!…    NOT!

While the above commercial sounds great, the old adage is still correct – if something sounds too good to be true it most likely is.  No world-class developer is going to work for $8 an hour.

Great Developers are Hard to Find

The good old days of $5 Ph.Ds. are long gone and never coming back. As a matter of fact someone once said, “What makes them good old days is a great imagination and a bad memory.”

Yes, the world is not yet completely flat and there is a significant difference in standards of living and that can greatly affect the rates offered by developers. Take a look for example at the comparison here. Today the difference between the average web developer in India and the USA is staggering. So it is conceivable that you can find some solid developers that are charging their average local market rates through market places like Elance or Freelancer (see, here for a comprehensive list of freelancing marketplaces).   It is also conceivable that in order to compete better that developer will reduce his or her rates. But let’s examine the chances… Continue reading

Should You Hire a Virtual Assistant Through a VA Company, a Marketplace or Go Direct?

Taking on the task of hiring a Virtual Assistant can be incredibly daunting! Literally millions of people of all levels of skills and walks of life are ready to offer their help. Ratings and reference systems help filter out the supply of workforce in some way, but still, far too many to chose from.  And who can guarantee that VA you’ve chosen had not played  the system somehow or won’t outsourced their job to someone else?  You have no clue – they are virtual!

virtual-agentsFor this reason, you might choose to hire a Virtual Assistant through an existing VA service. This can be attractive because, ideally, they have already pre-screened their VAs and will provide them with the infrastructure they need to get the job done, such as a PC, internet connection, etc.  But there are also some pitfalls to going this route that you need to be aware of.

Before hiring a Virtual Assistant through a VA company, you should consider the a few important factors:

Continue reading

5 Traps of So Called Cost Effective SEO

5-traps-of-cost-effective-seoIf being found on the web is essential for you or your business, you are probably no stranger to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO, an extremely complex and comprehensive set of activities, has become a major component of marketing strategies for most companies today, and a source of revenue for countless (offshore) SEO providers.

For most businesses SEO is not their core activity and that makes SEO a good prospect for outsourcing. Also many aspects of SEO are somewhat mechanical and labor intensive, so it’s no surprise that many companies elect to outsource SEO. With a large number of SEO providers out there the cost of it is alluringly low.

However, cheap outsourced SEO is not the brightest idea you can try; chances are you will “get what you paid for”, and often even less. Paying just a few hundreds of dollars per month for someone to handle your SEO efforts is likely to be a complete waste of money. As the common saying tells, if something sounds too good to be true, then it most probably is. Here are 5 potential traps to think about whenever you are assaulted with promises of boosting your Google rank overnight: Continue reading

Let a VA Plan Your Next Vacation

travel

For years I have been outsourcing technology tasks to offshore companies all over the world.   But it was only recently that I truly embraced the idea of out-tasking and started using Virtual Assistants. And now I am finding myself getting increasingly attached to using VAs to “outsource my life”.  I plan to write more about it and look at various aspects of using virtual assistants for mundane, laborious, and annoying tasks that may clatter your day and take your mind off important aspects of your personal and professional life.

Few things in life are better than going on a truly great vacation. You can spend time with those you love, in a beautiful and exciting place, as you and your family take a break from the many demands placed on us in our every day lives.   Of course we are talking about perfect vacation, not the one which ends up costing you too much, or the one which turns out so exhausting due to mishaps and issues that you need another vacation afterwards.  The key to avoiding that is good planning and it’s amazing how much time and efforts it takes to plan a vacation.

There are many different travel sites that promise to book you the best hotel for the best price, but how can you be sure if it really is the best deal available? And then you need to check out TripAdvisor, find the right tickets, and arrange for a taxi… And what if you want to drive around Europe for a couple weeks and stop in 10+ cities?  Where are all those locally owned travel agencies with beautiful brochures and smiling advisors!?  Oh, yeah – just another casualty of the Internet age.

This is where hiring a VA can help you tremendously.  Your VA can plan your vacation and given the focus and hopefully experience they can do it fast and possibly better than you would…

Continue reading

Why Successful Businesses Outsource Content Creation

tax preparation serviceTwenty years ago I don’t think anyone could have really imagined everything that would be required today in order to have success in business. It is no longer just about providing great service or product and a solid sales team supported by traditional marketing. Any business today needs an online presence that goes far beyond a simple website.

You now need social media accounts, a blog, a broad range of SEO and SMO activities and artifacts, and so much more. Just learning it all can take up a tremendous amount of time, let alone, trying to actually find the time to put it all into practice. Blogging alone can easily keep a writer busy full time. And content that you need to produce is not just limited to blog posts.

Articles and various content elements used in SEO, website content, e-books, whitepapers, sales letters, auto-responders, …really just about anything your marketing team needs requires a lot of content. And not just a lot of content, but a lot of different types of content, that might require a diverse set of skills, tons of attention, and can cost you a lot of money…

That is where content outsourcing comes in: Continue reading

How to Stay on Top of a VAs Work Without Micromanaging

MicromanagerEveryone who uses VAs on somewhat consistent basis  has been burned at some point, and I am no different. In fact, a few years ago I had hired a VA to work on SEO. Initially her work was good but at some point it became spotty, and eventually, downright bad. As it turned out, she had “outsourced” her job to her 9-year-old son. Apparently she thought kindergarten was enough of an education to tackle the job. While this story might seem shocking, it is not unique, and after you have been burned once or twice, it can be easy to fall into a trap of micromanaging.

While staying closely on the top of your VA’s work might seem necessary, in the end of a day you just want to ensure that you are getting what you pay for, it is quickly become bad for both your working relationship and your overall bottom line.

Do you think you aren’t guilty of micromanaging?  Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you often find yourself frustrated because your VA didn’t do exactly what you told them?
  • Do you spend a lot of time making corrections and cleaning up your VAs deliverables?
  • Do you notice that nothing that your VA does is good enough?
  • Do you need to know exactly where your VA is and what they’re working on?
  • Do you need frequent and detailed updates?
  • Does it always take your VA longer to do the task then it should or would’ve been if you’d done it yourself.?
  • Do you spend a lot of time reconciling timesheets and deliverables?
  • Do you prefer to be cc’d on all emails?
  • Do you think that getting a VA was a bad idea?

If you answered “Yes” to 3 or more questions in this list, chances are you are micro-managing your VA. If you said “Yes” more than 5 times, then I need to tell you that you, my friend, are a micro-manager without a doubt and you will lose some really great employees if you don’t stop. Alas, while this is great advice, it is not easy for many of us to instantly stop micromanaging. So just take it easy and start letting go one piece at the time. Continue reading

Afraid of Using a VA? Here are Proven Tips To Minimize Your Risk

halo-cortana-1Even though using a Virtual Assistant is now considered to be common practice for many entrepreneurs and companies, delegating tasks that you’ve always done yourself can still feel scary. It is a frightening concept to give important tasks to someone you have likely never met in person. It might make you feel like you are losing control. The most common thought is probably an old cliché – If you want something done right, do it yourself. It’s old, but not good. In fact, for many of us “DIY” is pronounced as “die” :) Being a superhero (superworker) rarely pays. And I promise you, using a VA can actually be very rewarding.

There is always a risk when hiring a new employee of any kind, and there are steps you can take to minimize the risk you take on. Here are some tips to help you minimize your risk:

Start with the right hire. Remember it’s not about the best VA. It’s about the right one.

  • Take the time to do your prep work. Before you ever begin the hiring process with a new VA, you should know exactly what you want from them. This helps to minimize confusion, find the right person for the job, and maximize productivity for both of you in your working relationship.
  • A great way to know exactly what you want is to record what you do. You can use screen-capturing software such as TinyTake to record your actions and use it to explain the tasks to your VA.
  • If the scope of work your VA will be doing is likely to expand (which is often the case if the VA is good) you want to look for someone who can deal with more complex tasks that those you currently have on the plate. Don’t aim too high though, because your VA may be costing you too much or even worse be under-challenged and unmotivated to do their best work from the beginning.
  • When you are evaluating VAs for your new job, it is important not to focus on the rate.  Rate (however important) is secondary, because the quality of the VA and the work he or she will provide should be your main focus and motivation.
  • Get your paperwork in order. Before your VA begins doing any work for you, make sure you have an established contract with specific deliverables and requirements attached. This would include pay, hours per week, when payment should be given, the start date, specific tasks, quality expectations, and reporting frequency.

Once you believe you have found the right VA, it is important to spend the time needed to establish the best possible work environment for both of you. Continue reading

The Secrets of Getting the Best Price for Your Virtual Assistant

Virtual-AssistantWhere hiring a virtual assistant used to be out of the norm, it has now become much more mainstream. Every day, thousands of companies and individuals are hiring Virtual Assistants to complete a variety of projects for their business. And even more, these companies are finding that hiring a Virtual Assistant is beneficial to their business in many new ways, often far beyond of what was originally expected.

There are many questions that come to mind when you are first considering hiring a VA. One of the questions that you might ask is, “what kind of rate can I expect?” And unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer.

Can you hire a Virtual Assistant for $5 an hour? Absolutely! But will that person prove to be a beneficial member of your team? Maybe. Maybe not. The point to hiring a Virtual Assistant needs to be getting the biggest bang for your buck. You want to use your dollars wisely to hire the best assistant possible for the least amount of money. Continue reading