With #1 Outsourcing Expert – Chris Ducker
In today’s episode you will find out how you can successfully become more productive and achieve more in less time by outsourcing. Does outsourcing really work? Well; I was able to switch from running a digital magazine as a full-time job, to running a digital magazine, this podcast, the Digital Publishing Business Podcast, and several other projects that I still can’t tell you about — all at the same time, while working less.
The secret? Understand how outsourcing works. The pros and cons. Understand how to utilize it correctly and most importantly – find GOOD VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS! Which is exactly why it seemed appropriate to summon Chris Ducker for today’s episode.
Chris is one of the coolest entrepreneurs out there (and he’s British!). He stumbled upon the opportunity of creating Virtual Staff Finder (a clever match-making company that bridges the gap between entrepreneurs and VA’s) by chance, but took the bull by the horn and made it an amazing brand. For most professionals today, when they think ‘outsourcing to the Philippines’ — they think ‘Chris Ducker’.
21 Questions You MUST Ask Your VA
This episode is not only about the inspirational success story; it’s also very practical. We will discuss the 21 questions you NEED to ask a VA when you interview them for a job. We will talk about the different types of VA’s, the different salaries, the pitfalls, misconceptions and common mistakes. By the end of this episode, you’ll be ready to hire your first VA (or second, or third… :-))
In this episode you’ll discover:
- Chris Ducker’s success story – how he went from working for the worst micro-managing boss ever, to starting a call centre business in the Philippines
- How The 4 Hour Work Week movement (Tim Ferriss’s bestseller book) created an amazing gap in the market, and how Chris solved this burning need
- Entrepreneurial lessons from Chris – how to handle failure, manage time and invest it well
- What makes Filippino VA’s superior to others
- How can a VA help you RIGHT NOW!
- The actual costs of hiring a Filippino VA
- How to easily find a great VA
- The 21 questions you must ask when you interview a new VA
- The kind of tasks can they VA’s can help you with
- How to avoid the common pitfalls of outsourcing
Items mentioned in this episode include:
- Virtual Staff Finder [affiliate link] – VST is the service that Pat Flynn (Smart Passive Income), Ryan Lee, Ralph Quintero (The Great Business Project), Corbett Barr, Srinivas Rao and many other including me used to find their VA. They saved me so much time, pain, effort and frustration and actually made the process fun.
- The Definitive Guide To Outsourcing To The Philippines – free download from Chris’s website – Outsource To The Philippines
- Chris Ducker dot com – Chris’s new and totally awesome website, jam-packed with business wisdom for business owners and entrepreneurs.
- The New Business Podcast – Chris’s podcast
- Chris on Facebook
- Chris on Twitter
- The Great Business Project Podcast Episode 007 : Outsourcing For Entrepreneurs (AKA “The two shiny balls episode”)
I Need Your Help!
Thank you all for checking out this episode of the Inspiring Innovation podcast!
If you haven’t already, I would love if you could be awesome and take a minute to leave a quick rating and review of the podcast on iTunes by clicking on the link below! It’s the most amazing way to help the show grow and reach more people!
Thank you again for your ongoing support.
Stay awesome 🙂
[spoiler title=”Episode 003″]
Hi! This is Meron Bareket and you are listening to Episode 3 of the Inspiring Innovation Podcast.
You are listening to the Inspiring Innovation Podcast where real life stories of world-leading entrepreneurs will show you how to turn you own ideas into reality and become a successful entrepreneur. And now, here’s your host, Meron Bareket.
Hello, and welcome everybody to Episode 3 of the Inspiring Innovation Podcast. I’m your host, Meron Bareket. How’s everyone doing today? My week has been pretty much crazy. Between running a digital magazine, two podcasts now, and several other projects, I’m taking care of the house, you know, and attending to Julie, who unfortunately picked up some bad food poisoning from a restaurant we went to the other day. It’s easy to lose track and become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tasks that must get done. I’m sure you feel the same for your own business and life. It’s just crazy.
To be honest, the last time I felt the same kind of stress in terms of working was when I came back from the Digital Publishing Conference of Ryan Deiss, that was taking place in Los Angeles in October, 2012. I came back to my home in Denmark and I had three weeks to get one or two — I don’t remember one or two editions of the magazine ready to go and shipped, plus move back to Israel.
So, it was a hectic time. I probably worked then, twice as many hours than I worked over this last week. How is that even possible? How can it be I worked twice as much then, only managing moving of the house and one digital magazine? Now, I am working half time doing the digital magazine, this podcast, my digital publishing podcast and other few projects. It doesn’t make any sense.
Well, I bet you know the answer: Virtual Assistance or VA, for short. That’s what we are talking about today, specifically how virtual assistants can help you; how much it will cost you to hire them; where can you find them; what questions do you need to ask when you them; what kind of tasks can they take care of; and let’s be honest, the common pitfalls that many entrepreneurs stumble upon when they try this process of outsourcing.
In order to achieve this mighty goal, I have a special guest and a good friend joining me today. So, it’s a pleasure to have Chris Ducker on the show. Chris is the number 1 world expert in outsourcing to the Philippines and he’s a human knowledge base. Seriously, it’s freaky: A human knowledge base for working with VA’s. Born in the UK which makes him a fellow Brit, he found himself moving to the Philippines and starting a call center company.
But you know what they say. Business can take you to funny places. Today, Chris lives in the Philippines from where he runs Virtual Staff Finder, among other businesses and ventures. Now, Virtual Staff Finder is a fascinating company and great entrepreneurial idea. It’s a match-making service basically. It entrepreneurs and companies find high quality VA’s while VSF, Virtual Staff Finder takes care of all the process of background checking and databases and finding kind of this — whoa all the disgusting stuff.
I’m going to talk with Chris about VSF definitely. Besides VA’s we got here Chris’ story today, how he got started, what gave him this idea to create this kind of business and what are his tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
After the interview, I will walk you through 21 of the most important questions you must ask a VA when you interview them. Many of these questions I’ve learned through my mistakes and others I’ve learned from picking up tips from people like Chris or friends that already have a VA working for them or even more than one, but you need to ask these questions.
So, hang around after the interview and I will give you all 21 of them. But before the questions, let’s get Chris on the line and hear his inspiring entrepreneurial story. By the way, if you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe to the podcasts via iTunes and I really would appreciate it if you could leave us a rating and a review. It just takes a minute but it makes a world of difference for the podcast and for me.
Now, here’s Chris.
MB: Hi, Chris. It’s great to have you here.
CD: It’s a pleasure to be here.
MB: So you live in the Philippines. How does a British guy get to the Philippines to begin with? What are you doing there?
CD: Well, I came here 12 years ago; I was initially working with one of the big international banks over here — training their telemarketing staff. About 10 years ago, I got involved with the outsourcing industry for the first time. I was doing a lot of training, a lot of consulting. I was helping other companies, set up small call centers here in the Philippines and get going.
Around 2005, I was onshore doing a consulting gig for a company based out of Miami. The boss was a real micromanager. It woke me up. I’ve been this self-employed consultant for so long that I didn’t realize I was an entrepreneur already in a way.
I was literally 35,000 feet in the air coming back from Miami to the Philippines when I decided I was going to quit. I landed in Hong Kong for my connecting flight to Cebu, which is where I live. I wrote my resignation email, two paragraphs long, and sent it to him.
MB: Chris, You don’t need two paragraphs just to say, ‘F*ck off’
CD: Yea, right. Two words would have done the job, right? Well, that’s what I did, to be frank with you. I didn’t pull any punches. I told the guy exactly what I thought about his managing style, but I also thanked him for being the second mentor that I’d had in my life. I learned so much from him about how NOT to manage people and about how NOT to run a business.
MB: I totally agree. When I left my job on March 2012, I said to myself “I was here for two years and now I know exactly what I do NOW want to be doing, ever again.”
CD: It’s that light bulb moment where you just say to yourself “Screw this! I’m going to do my own thing. I’m going to take on a new role.” The good thing about someone like yourself, you’re still young enough to — let’s face it — screw it all up and still pick yourself up and dust yourself off and get going again.
I think that’s the true entrepreneurial spirit. You’re going to screw up. As long as you learn from your mistakes, that’s what is most important. For me, money comes and goes, but the time, once you spend time or invest time it’s gone forever.
Time is our #1 commodity as entrepreneurs. If you waste your time you’re an absolute idiot. Invest your time well. That’s the biggest investment that you can make. You have to treat it with the utmost respect.
MB: You are now running ‘Virtual Staff Finder’, what’s that? How did it start?
CD: ‘Virtual Staff Finder’ is a matchmaking service.
For some reason we [‘Live To Sell’, Chris’s company] were placing really well in the Google rankings for certain terms around the beginning of 2008 and into 2009. We started getting all this traffic and inquiries for VA’s. At that time I was sending all these people to oDesk, Elance, or that sort of places. Through pure inquisitiveness, I had my VA put together a count of all the emails that we had gotten on that subject in the last 12 months. It turned out to be over 600 inquiries.
We had done no marketing, no promoting, nothing at all. It just came naturally. So the entrepreneur in me clicked on, and I said to myself “Well, hang on: What if we didn’t have to send people to another company or another service? What if we could do this ourselves?”
I didn’t want to have to employ hundreds or more employees as VA’s. Then I asked, “What if we could do that and make money at the same time?” So, we sat down and decided that we were going to start ’Virtual Staff Finder’ to bridge the gap between service-based VA’s, companies like AskSunday, and the virtual assistances that are working from home.
Combine the two and that’s the ‘Virtual Staff Finder’ service. It’s now two and a half years old and we have helped over a 1,000 VA’s find work.
MB: Two and a half years and the gap hasn’t become smaller, it’s actually grown bigger. It’s becoming harder and harder to find good VA’s on places like oDesk and Elance. It’s not that they’re not there, but so many others are also there.
CD: It’s a very crowded space now. Those job sites have become a real headache to deal with because many of the VA’s are kind of sneaky. They will put like five resumes with different names and different profiles just to hedge their bets a little bit on getting more work. I don’t like that stuff, it drives me absolutely crazy.
With ‘Virtual Staff Finder’ we do what we say we’re going to do. That’s entrepreneurs, internet marketers, and right down to traditional brick and mortar business owners; get their VA’s from us. We help everyone across the board.
MB: What does the process look like?
CD: It’s very simple. You sign up. There’s a one-time fee. Once that comes through, we send you a welcome email, some instructions and our job description document, which you have to fill in based off of your requirements.
MB: Is that one-time fee per customer, or per VA?
CD: It’s for every VA. It’s for every role that you want to fill, but we give a very heavily discounted rate for returning clients.
CD: Once you get the job description document back to us, we have a very clear understanding of what you want. We go in to our internal database, as well as to our external solutions, and sources locally here in the Philippines. We interview candidates looking for three high-quality people to present to you. You then interview those three people and pick the one that you like the most. It’s simple as that.
MB: Wow, that’s a big difference to recruiting through job posting websites. For instance, when I was trying to get a VA from oDesk, I had like 200 candidates!
CD: It’s overwhelming. That’s not what you need as a busy entrepreneur.
MB: It just created another task for me to take care of. Having to filter through all these resumes.
CD: That is what I always say. We do a great job at ’Virtual Staff Finder’, delivering on our promise of finding high-quality VA’s. You are not paying us for the VA that we find you, you are paying for the time that WE spend instead of you after you sign up. We allow you to leverage your time as a business owner; we all know how important time is.
To find you those three candidates, we will interview in excess of 20 to 25 people. We will do a lot of leg work to get rid of the weak players. We do IQ testing, personality testing, and local background checks on them. There’s no way you could do that from outside of the country, but residing here — we can.
MB: I have a transcriber from the Philippines. I love the guy. We just bonded. He’s a great guy and I just know that when I have a task for him — it gets done and I don’t have to worry about it.
CD: Right. That’s one of the traits of the people in the Philippines, loyalty. They are very, very, loyal, trustworthy, and hardworking people, as long as you treat them well. If you don’t, then they’re not going to be interested in doing that job for you.
MB: Still, no matter where your VA comes from, you should always treat them well. Learn to know them, and don’t be a dick.
CD: Right. I think many people have that preconceived notion with outsourcing that it’s like popping a pill, and it will work perfectly right out of the box. It doesn’t work that way. You have to understand that there are cultural differences. You have to appreciate the time difference in play, technology and that type of stuff.
You need to pay a virtual assistant properly, what you truly feel they’re worth. You need to look after them, and you should pay them on time. The quickest, easiest way to lose a superstar, all-star VA here in the Philippines is to screw around with their salary.
MB: That tells me that they are now aware of their value. They know what they’re worth.
CD: Absolutely and that’s why when I hear people online, these [so called] internet marketing gurus, say you can get a Filipino VA for $2 an hour, I want to shout, “No, you can’t, nobody works for $2 a freaking hour.” Would you want to do that? I wouldn’t even get out of bed for $2 an hour, let alone do any work! Trust me, my Filipino brothers and sisters are exactly the same.
MB: Well, books like ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ that sell outsourcing like it’s unicorns and rainbows are somewhat to blame for that.
CD: That’s a great term to use, unicorns and rainbows. You’re absolutely right. They are in la-la land. It doesn’t happen. There are guys like you, Ralph, Pat and hundreds and thousands of other savvy entrepreneurs that do realize the power of outsourcing and what it can do for their business. Once you embrace it, do it in the right way, and you treat it with respect, the sky’s the limit with what you can do with a virtual team setup.
MB: That was the perfect pitch to lead us to what can be done with outsourcing. What kinds of stuff should people expect and look for in a VA? Can one VA do it all?
CD: No. That’s the ‘Super VA’ myth, as I call it. It’s like anything else. If you have a leaking pipe in your house, you’re going to hire a plumber to come and fix it. You’re not going to hire a carpenter that can maybe, possibly, potentially mend your leaking pipe. You want it done right.
If you need a website built, you hire a web developer, not an SEO specialist that does a little bit of web design. Do you know what I mean? There’s a difference there. People will try to mix and match skill sets, it’s not possible. You’re stupid if you try to do it. It doesn’t work that way in the real world, why should it work like that in the virtual world.
Ultimately there are the handful of positions:
1. The general VA, who will do things like manage your calendar, your travel itinerary, do your online research, transcription, your social media, drafting your blog posts WordPress, and stuff like that.
The web developer VA. That’s not a web designer. A web developer will do all your landing pages in your websites and stuff like that.
The graphic designer who can do web design, handle logos, prints, flyers, posters, and all that stuff.
The content writer, who does exactly what that sounds like. They create content for you.
The SEO VA, someone to help see that you rank well.
There are also people like video editors, audio editors, mobile app developers, and things like that. Those are usually done on a contract or project base.
MB: Many people believe that they shouldn’t outsource their content writing because the level of English of VA’s is often not good enough.
CD: You bring up a good point. Let’s clarify it. There is some content that you should be outsourcing and some content that you should not. The type of content that you should be outsourcing is stuff like niche website stuff (that’s keyword heavy), or writing for article submission sites — all that sort of stuff. You’re mad if you write these pieces because that’s what I call ‘busy work’. There’s no point in doing that.
You should not outsource stuff that’s going to be on your website. It’s how you want to be branded. It’s like me, being known as the VA guy, asking you or anyone else to write an article on the top 10 tips to working with virtual assistants. I would be an idiot. Why wouldn’t I do that myself? That’s my voice. I’m recognized for that.
When it comes to content, there are certain things that you can’t outsource, and things that you should certainly outsource.
MB: If someone wants a project-based VA, you’re not the address for that. Where can they find someone?
CD: Go to one of the job posting sites where you can post your job, get the 200 applications, and waste your time doing all that stuff. Another option is to tweet out a question with appropriate hashtag. Like “Does anyone know a good online #video #editor? #va” You’ll get so many people that you’ve never even heard of; because they’re also searching for that keyword. I’ve gotten some great, great stuff that I found through a simple little Twitter search like that.
MB: You’re a heavy hashtag user.
CD: I love my hashtags, man. You’ve got to use hashtags because that’s the only way to be found for your content on Twitter. If you’re not using hashtags properly you are losing a lot of traffic.
MB: Let’s talk about your new website that’s somewhat different from your previous podcasts and websites. You’re now showing people how to build a successful business.
CD: My [old] blog and podcast had kind of a ‘Four Hour Work Week’ feeling — lifestyle design, virtual stuff. That was what I was into at time. As I evolved I started to get asked to speak on subjects other than outsourcing, like converting website traffic, or developing online content, or putting together a video or podcast, or blogging.
I realized that talking about these aspects of new business and media gets my juices flowing big time. I went through a reincarnation when I launched my new blog under my own domain name. The blog and the combined bootcamp took off, and the first day I launched I had over 200 people opt into that bootcamp. It was unbelievable.
MB: The bootcamp is a seven-day series. You get an email every day with an easy to digest 10-15 minutes video on a pillar that you need to take care of in your business. I think it’s one of the only online courses around that has no fluff — just 12 minutes per day of “WHY should you do it” and “HOW to do it”. Kinda like “These are your tools. This is why you need them. These is how you use them. Go and do it.”
CD: Yes, that’s it! I’m so happy. It put a massive smile on my face when you mentioned that, ‘why you need to do it’ because you’re right. Every lesson starts off with a concept, like ‘why should you be podcasting?’ ‘Why should you be using social media in the right way?’ ‘Why should you be using online video to market your business’. Why do you need to do it?
It’s not for experts. If you’re already at intermediate level, don’t bother signing up. You’ll be wasting your time. It’s very much a kind of a kickstart. It gets you very knowledgeable in a very short time on all these different things.
MB: I think that even a person that’s on a high level should go through it. Even if only for the first few minutes of each day. For the ‘why‘. People should make sure they know why are they doing these things. If someone is spending two hours a day in social media for the wrong reasons it’s just a waste.
MB: Speaking of social media, I loved your talk on ‘social media one night stands’!
CD: So many people have pulled me up on that since I said it. It’s crazy.
MB: It’s a very good term. I often feel violated after reading Facebook posts of some of these companies.
CD: Right, violated! It just came to me. How many times have I asked a question on Twitter and been totally spammed. I remember one time I wrote, “I’m looking for a new web host. Can anybody suggest a new ISP company?” Man, that day, within 24-hours, I must have been literally raped by 35 hosting companies. It was just insane. A handful of them didn’t send one tweet, they sent a bunch back. “Do you want a special offer?” “Here’s coupon code!”, papapapapapa! I’m like “tell me why!!!”
MB: Hey, no one asked what you were trying to host?
CD: They should have asked: Why are you looking for a new host? Are you having problems with your current one? What are the problems? Maybe we can do better. How much are you paying? Maybe we can help with the price; all these questions.
Don’t have the one night stand. Don’t go for the jugular straightaway. Court them. Ask questions. Be nice. Suggest researches. Go on some dates with each other. Then you can get your leg over.
MB: That also seems to be your attitude with content as well. Give it away for free, plant the seed, then you can get them back later for something bigger.
CD: It’s not like every blog post I write or every video that I create, I think to myself, six months from now I’m going to make money off of this video. That’s not why I do it.
MB: No, but six months from now, someone will still find it if it’s good.
CD: Oh Yes. That’s the one thing I try to do with every piece of content, regardless of whether it’s a podcast, video, written post, an e-book or something else. I always try to create something that is as evergreen as physically possible. For instance with my new bootcamp, I have all those original editable files stored on backup drives so I can always change, add or remove something.
MB: Right, keep it up to date.
CD: That’s why I love e-books so much. You can take out a page, or add another six pages. Then you update it on the server. That is so powerful in today’s fast moving economy.
MB: Seems like you’re going to be ready when Google+ takes over the world.
CD: (Laughing) We’ll see about that. I don’t know whether that’s going to happen.
MB: That is the point with Google+. It is for SEO, more than anything. Google is reducing the weight they give to links and link building when ranking websites, and instead are looking more and more into social signals. Facebook and Twitter gave them the finger, so they only have Google+. If you are not +1ing your own content, you are mad!
CD: Yes, I completely agree. It’s quite weird when you write a Facebook post or status update you hit ‘send,’ and you say yourself, “Can I like this? Is it right for me to like my own stuff? I’m not sure…” YES, I love my stuff! I’m liking it! I’m always the first person to like my posts on Facebook, because I love what I put out. I always +1 my own content too.
MB: If people want to get more of you, where should they go besides ChrisDucker.com? I know people can also find you on Twitter, where you’re very active. Any other sources you’d like to share?
CD: You’ve got VirtualStaffFinder where you can get a free virtual assistant salary guide, which is updated all the time. If people are really interested in outsourcing, particularly to the Philippines and working with Filipino VA’s, they can go to OutsourceToThePhilippines.com where they can download a 150-page book that I wrote called ‘Definitive Guide to Outsourcing to the Philippines’, which is free as well.
MB: Cool! Chris this was a great pleasure. Let’s talk soon.
CD: All my pleasure. Thank you very much.
So, what do you think? If you liked the interview with Chris Ducker, please head to the show notes and let me know and you can leave a comment there but also pick all the references and resources that we mentioned during the interview. The place to do that is www.meronbareket.com/episode3. Yep, we’re Episode 3 already. That’s the show notes.
Before I give you the 21 questions that I promised, I just want to share, real quick, my experience with Virtual Staff Finder. After I interviewed Chris and we actually met at the New Media Expo in Las Vegas, in January, I actually went through the process and got a full time VA via Chris’ company. It’s not from them.
It was just the best decision I made so far in 2013. I sent them a very, very detailed list of the tasks I want my VA to take care of. It was everything from – I’ll just put in the show notes. I made a mind map of all the tasks I want to outsource and I just didn’t have a millimeter left on the page, not a single inch left to add more tasks.
I think it filled three or four pages in Word when I wrote it normally and sent it over to VSF. They sent me back three candidates; all of them had the background needed to do the job. What I liked about it is that, (A) they all had very different personalities. Out of three different personas, there’s a good chance one of them will click and that’s exactly what happened.
They also went through the CVs and gave me a summary, a real quick summary of their personal impression, the results the VA’s have gotten from their English tests, et cetera and the summary of the CV of itself and how it applies to my business.
It was just an amazing time-saver and these have helped me set up their interviews. So, all the Skype time conversion stuff they did it for me. They gave me a template for hiring the VA. They took care of notifying the people that the two candidates that I didn’t hire, which was great because I hate that stuff. I always hated letting people down. What can I say? You know what, that’s a good subject for a future episode: How to deal with letting people down, but for now, let’s focus.
So, yeah, it’s been an amazing time-saver for me. I’ve looked for VA’s previously on oDesk and I’d done when I was in corporate and I worked with VA’s on-demand. Having a full time VA is nothing like a VA on-demand. Each one has its benefits, but it’s not the same. Finding a good, trustworthy, full-time VA is just a major pain and I was so happy VSF made it go away.
If you’re interested in VSF, we’ll actually have a link to them, an affiliate link to them in the show notes. You don’t have to follow through. You can use oDesk or Elance to get started, whatever suits for you, but do consider the amazing benefits that a VA can have for your business.
So, whether you go with VSF or with oDesk or Elance, whatever, you’re going to need to ask some questions in the interview. When I had to do that for the first time, I had no clue where to start. I just sat down and listened to every episode of Chris’ podcasts and some other podcasts and I talked to friends of mine that have one, two – some of them have eight VA’s. I made a list of questions. Eleven of them I stole shamelessly from Chris Ducker and the other ten are based on my bad experience, good experience and good friends.
There we go: Here’s Question 1: Why did you leave your last job or why are you looking to leave your current job? This will give you an insight to many things: (A) you could kind of gauge if they’re being honest, but also some leave because they weren’t interested in the previous job and you can learn what tasks they don’t like doing. If it’s the same tasks you need them to do, then don’t hire them. It won’t work. Or a number of issues could rise out of these questions.
Another question is, what do you know about my business or about me? This is a very interesting one because it will let you see how much initiative the VA has. Did he take the time to research about you online? It is a very good indicator to, are they going to be – are they going to have their own initiative and think outside of the box or are they going to do exactly what you say and not a step more, exactly what you ask and not a step more?
Ask them to just tell you about themselves, like what do they like doing one weekends? Do they have a family? How many kids? Just get to know them, build some rapport with them; otherwise, you won’t be able to get any honest answers down the track. Ask them what they are looking for in your role. They’ll tell you or at least all my three candidates told me. Well, they’ve actually said, “I’m just looking for a job as a VA so I can work as much as I need and do yoga for the rest of the day. I don’t really care about the job.” That was an incredibly honest answer and I must have made a bad answer but you won’t believe the kind of answers you can get.
Ask them, what are they truly trying to get out of working for you? Is it more experience, are they looking for a promotion? Is it just about the money? Just understand where they wish they’ll be going. Ask them what experience they have in relation to what you need. Now, if it’s a candidate from VSF, they actually will see the list of tasks that you gave to VSF, the job description, so they will be able to answer that. If not, just describe, what’s the job that you need and ask them what experience they have in relation to that. Let them think about it. Let them give you the examples of what part of their experience applies.
Near the end of the interview, that’s a good tip from Chris, ask them, do you think your skills set actually meets the requirements that I have from VA right now? Or another version is, do your skills genuinely match the role that I have an opening for? Ask them, and that’s a good question, what have you done in the last 12 months to improve upon your knowledge in your working field?
The VA that told me that she was attending webinars and reading blogs about SEO is the one, that one out of the three candidates, she won the job. Now, it wasn’t only this answer, but it was a major factor. (Go April).
How long would you expect to work for me if I were to go ahead and hire you today? Now, you’ll hear all sorts of answers. Some of them will say for life, yet it’s an important question to ask even if you judge the tone of their voice and not the actual answer. Try to understand; are they in this for the long run or just looking for something temporary before something better pops up?
Just a general comment as I mentioned, but I want to emphasize that. Do small talk. Learn about them. What music do they like? What do they watch in TV? What series do they like, stuff like that. Let them be human with you and not just like a robot interviewee if you want to get real emotion and real answers.
The last question from Chris is what will make you an asset to me and my company and let them think. You’ll be surprised of the answers you get.
Now, moving on to the ten questions that I learned the hard way: One, and it’s not really questions as much as it’s expectation management. So, I’ll reshape it. Decide what hours you want them to work if you care and tell them that. Make sure you see eye to eye on this subject and all of the next, following few subjects. How do you want them to be available during the hours? Do they need to be online on Skype? Do they need to be on Google Talk, Basecamp chat or there is no Basecamp chat, what’s called Campfire?
Just decide what are you expecting from them? What kind of internet connection do you have? That’s a crucial question if you’re working with someone that’ supposed to help with big files, like if you have audio or video files. It’s a crucial, crucial question. Do you have a quiet working area? Now, some of them won’t be honest about it, but if someone says, “No”, you need to figure out, does that bother you, you know? If they have children, ask them who keeps the kids occupied while they work? Are the kids at school? Are the kids in Kindergarten? Do they take care of the kids while they do the work?
I don’t believe in multi-tasking so you need to know these answers. What system do they use to accept payments? Now, that usually will be PayPal, but that’s one thing you need to know and the next thing about payments, which is quite important is, who’s going to cover the fees? So, PayPal has fees and if you cover them you need to take into account paying 4.6% more than what you – than the salary that you quote.
So, let’s say, you decide on $500 salary, you need to add 4.6% to that every month for PayPal fees. Or they cover the PayPal fees, in which case I think, in the Philippines, PayPal will take 3.9% of what you pay. So, you pay $500, they’ll get $500 minus 3.9%. If you go to oDesk, take into account that I think oDesk has like a 10% fee or something like that. So, take that into account and make sure when you decide on the salary, to decide also who’s covering the fees.
How many paid holidays are you willing to give them? Now, that’s a major question because holidays are really complicated in the Philippines. So, how many days off are you going to give them? I think the rule in the Philippines like for a Filipino employer, it’s five days off plus the national holidays. In Israel, it’s ten days I think. Just decide, are you going to go by your own rules, your own country’s rules or the rules of the Philippines? Now, this is not legal advice, of course, but you need to figure that out in the contract and decide how many days off can they take?
Speaking of holidays, are they expected to work on Filipino national holidays? Now, let me explain this. In the Philippines, you have regular holidays, special non-working days, and local holidays. So, a regular holiday is a day where Filipino employees don’t work. They get paid for it. If they do work, they get 200% for that day instead of a 100% payment.
Now, they have ten days that are national holidays and that’s, you know, Christmas, and New Year’s and Easter and stuff like that. Next is a special non-working day, which in the Philippines means, that if you don’t work, you get 0%, so you’re not getting paid but if you do work, you get a 30% bonus. You need to figure out, are you willing to give that bonus or they not going to work and not get paid or not going to work and will get paid or are they just going to work on the special non-working days?
Now, this depends on, if they’re Muslim, Chinese, Christian, et cetera. They have a ton of special of holidays. So, you need to figure that out, sit down with them and walk through it. Yes, it takes time and yes, it’s annoying if you have to do it with every interviewee, but do you really want to do after the contract is signed? Do you really want them to come and say, “I deserve this on this day” and start fighting about it?” No, you want to do expectation management and you want to be very clear about what are they getting and what are they not getting?
The last type of holidays is local holidays. So, each city and each region in the Philippines has its own holidays. If your VA is from Davao, there’s Davao City Day or there’s Cebu City Day. There are all sorts of local holidays. Are you going to honor these days or not? It’s your call. No one is forcing you to do anything but you need to know that that’s the case and you need to remember to talk about it during the interview.
Right, so this concludes what I have to say on VA recruitment. There’s a lot more to be said on managing VA’s, delegating tasks, creating an effective employer-employee relationship with overseas personnel and more. This is not easy, not just like hiring local employees isn’t easy, especially, it’s not easy if it’s your first employee. Believe me I know. It takes time to master this process, but it’s also a lot a fun most of the time.
Let’s face it. It’s life-changing. The amount of stuff you will be able to do and achieve will grow exponentially, once you get some help and another member on your team. If you have any concerns about VA’s let’s start a discussion about it in the show notes. Just head over to www.meronbareket.com/episode3 and let’s talk about it. That’s also where you’ll find all the resources and references and everything from this episode and from all other episodes.
I’m now in the process of setting up an interview with Julie Sheranosher, an ex-Israeli Defense Forces Captain and the author of The Corporate Games, book series and we’re going to break down exactly how to delegate, how to manage, how to run a small team of even two people even if it’s virtually. So, look forward to that episode.
Next week, I have the honor to host the man that changed my own life through his podcast, Pat Flynn, from SmartPassiveIncome. You wouldn’t believe how excited and freaked out I was just writing him the approach email to get him on the show, and I’ll share that story on the next episode. Also a good tip by a good friend that helped me get over that excitement and that fear and just do it.
Stay tuned, subscribe, and leave us a review if you have a few minutes. I’ll appreciate it and just have an awesome week and I’ll see you next Thursday.
Thanks for listening to the Inspiring Innovation podcast with Meron Bareket, where real life stories of world leading entrepreneurs, show you how to turn your own ideas into reality and become a successful entrepreneur. Join us again next week for another inspiring entrepreneurial story.