When I was a starting entrepreneur, one of my friends who has a successful six-figure Amazon business told me that “hiring an overseas virtual assistant is one of the keys if you want to succeed in this career.” As a novice in the field, I did not know what his words meant, mostly due to my limited budget, my lack of experience, and my fears of hiring someone that does not have my best interests in mind. Fast forward six years, and I can assure you that Virtual Assistants (VAs) are crucial, especially if you are committed to growing your eCommerce site. Requires Internal linking. Although I made several mistakes in hiring and selecting the proper individuals for my business in the past, I found some surefire to hire the perfect employee for your business. Thus, in this article, I would provide you with a definitive guide on hiring your Virtual Assistants, similar to what I do to successfully run my VA agency. Stay tuned for some bonus tips and tricks that you can use to achieve success.
Before you start looking at the process of hiring a Virtual Assistant for your business, you must ask yourself first if you are already in need of a Virtual Assistant. If you are still not sure yourself, kindly read this to determine whether your business is already in dire need of a VA.
Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring an Overseas Virtual Assistant
1. Determine the parts of your Business that you need to Outsource
Running an eCommerce store requires a lot of responsibilities, which vary from one platform to another. Before, the trend is to use one platform (i.e., Amazon FBA) and improve your business to ensure your success. However, due to changes in Amazon’s policy, the competitiveness of the landscape, and the number of opportunities only waiting to be found, most sellers today utilize two or more platforms to sell their products, such as Amazon, eBay, and Shopify, among others. Thus, whether you are already growing your business in a single platform or expanding it in multiple marketplaces, the need to outline your day-to-day tasks is necessary before looking for virtual assistant services.
In the outlining process, the first thing you should do is create a Standard Operating Procedures (or SOP). Check out this guide to learn how to create an SOP diagram for your business. Take your time to make this diagram and reflect deeply on which tasks are only routinary and necessary for your business success. For example, here at Amazon One Step, we help our clients determine every task they do every day, including the connections (or relationship) between each task, such as e-mail marketing and answering customer queries. From there, we create their SOP and ask them a series of questions that would determine which of these tasks they should outsource and which should they do themselves.
After creating the workflow or the SOP diagram, you should cross out anything you think you could do yourself. Avoid the trap of thinking that it is best if you do all of the tasks yourself and focus solely on certain factors such as (1) the ‘repeatability’ of the task, (2) its importance in the whole process, (3) your skills, (4) your interests, and (5) the cost-benefit of outsourcing each of them. Take note that you can add more to this checklist, but it is best to score each of the tasks based on each of these criteria to determine which of them you should outsource.
Finally, after ranking each of the daily tasks you are doing, list the last seven (7) from the list. Although you can use more, seven is usually optimal to balance between your workload reduction and work quality. Finally, repeat this for your other eCommerce platforms to get an exhaustive list of what you need can outsource.
2. Create the Virtual Assistant Job Description
After finding the six (6) tasks that you can outsource, the next step is creating the virtual assistant services list or job description. The job description is an essential piece in the outsourcing process because it serves as a reference for the applicants and a bargaining tool, a guide, and a contract between you and your employee. If you are looking for a template on how to write your job description, kindly check this link.
In my experience, I learned from this step that you should enumerate all the tasks that your prospective VA as early as the hiring process. If you are using multiple platforms, and expect your VA to manage them, indicate them in the job description. Please don’t make the mistake of deviating or adding to it unless you have the express agreement between you and your virtual assistant . This is because any breach in your obligation could taint the relationship between you and your employee, which is necessary for your growth as a business.
In my years of experience providing the best VAs for small, medium, and large-scale companies, I realized that trust between you and your employee as early as creating the job description. My personal experience in creating my own eCommerce company has shown that providing an accurate and representative virtual assistant services list could improve the VAs productivity rating. Accordingly, ever since we started our own VA company four years ago, we are proud to report that we get more than 89.95% satisfaction rating from all of our clients, suggesting that this step should be your key to growing business with your employees.
3. Finding your Candidates Online
The next step in finding the perfect virtual assistant is searching the internet for your business’s best candidate. Although you have many options where to find your employee (i.e., a family member, colleague, or friend), the experience would show that the best options for your are either (1) hire from freelancer sites or (2) outsource from VA companies. Each of these has its advantages and benefits.
On the one hand, hiring a VA from freelance sites gives you access to a diverse pool of individuals that could provide your needs. Some of these freelance sites include Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr, among others. In my experience, I learned that posting your job on freelancer sites would give you about 20 to 100 job proposals from different individuals. Each of them would have different rates based on their experience to find cheap services based on your virtual assistant requirements. However, this method also has risks such as finding low-quality VAs, security concerns, and difficulty monitoring your employee’s productivity. This is not yet saying the need for you to spend much time sifting through each of them to find the best fit for your business’ ideals. Nevertheless, if you think that this option is the best for you, then the only thing you have to do is choose your freelancer site platform, post your job requirement, and wait for a few days to sift through your candidates.
On the other hand, outsourcing your business to a VA agency could give you a more convenient way to hire a Virtual Assistant. This is because VA agencies have a stable workforce experienced and trained in various tasks in different eCommerce marketplaces. In one article written by Tkachenko about the pros and cons of hiring an agency compared to an individual, she outlined several reasons why hiring agencies are much better such as; legal protection, lower “overall” costs, easier payments, scoping and scaling, coordinated team manager, and in-depth work/development.
This is the reason why I set up Amazon One Step is to ensure that the clients who are looking for VAs for their eCommerce sites are provided with convenience, reliability, and security for their business and data. VA agencies like us have team leads that monitor the VA’s productivity to ensure the client quality work performance. In addition to this, we use a variety of tools (i.e., Time Doctor, Jungle Scout, and Last Pass) to ensure that our clients are always a step ahead of their competitors. However, since VA agencies like us focus on providing quality and affordable virtual assistant services rather than cheap ones, this option might be more costly for you.
4. Implementing a Virtual Assistant Skills Test
The next step after finding candidates online is giving them a quick test about their skills. Although some believe that a Virtual Assistant Skills Test could be after the final review, experience has told me that it is best to give them the test as early as you find applicants for your business. This way, you can save time, money, and resources since you can quickly sift through the candidates and interview only those who have passed through your test results.
Accordingly, there are plenty of ways on how you can create a test for your candidates.
First, if you are hiring through freelance platforms like Upwork and Freelancer, you can have them take the tests provided on those sites. This would make it easier for you since you do not need to create another set of tests for them. However, you should also note that there’s a risk associated with these since tests are usually diverse and general, thereby making it possibly ‘unfit’ for your own business.
Second, you can also create a free test using Google Forms. This option is free, and you can tweak it based on what you are trying to look for in a client. In case you have much time to spare, I suggest that you create your own skills test and have your candidates take them before the interview.
Finally, you also have the option of hiring eCommerce virtual assistants from agencies. For example, in our agency, we require our applications to take not just one but two to three tests before they are trained to help our clients. We make sure that we only accept the best candidates and focus our resources on training them. You can even have a copy of our online tests by subscribing to our newsletter.
5. Reviewing Applications
After having your applicants take your VA skills test, the next step is to review their applications and set an interview date with them. This is essential, especially if you are looking for applicants yourself since this would establish your applicant’s skills and determine how they fit with your business culture.
Thus, the first thing you have to do is to sift through their VA experience in eCommerce. Usually, VAs with experience have higher pay rates, but if you plan to create a successful business, you should prioritize their applications first. From them, develop a set of criteria about what you want your hires to have and create a table similar to what I made in Step 1 of this process. Create a score sheet wherein you put the characteristics you want from a VA such as experience, pay grade, Virtual Assistant Skills test score, product fit, English proficiency, and other skills you want from them. Then add a “weight” on the skills you want your hires to have most similar to the form below.
Finally, try to find the top five (5) with the highest score and schedule an interview with them.
6. Sifting through your Final List
After finding the best candidates for your business, the next step is sifting through your final list. By this time, you should have been able to find the top five candidates and have set aside one day to schedule an interview with them. Having this list of final candidates is essential since it will allow you to save much time and learn how to structure and tailor your interview based on the list of characteristics you have done in the previous section.
There are several pieces of advice that I want to give you with regards to your interview. On the one hand, allocate a space in your Candidate Hiring Sheet for your “remarks” for each interviewed applicant. During that interview, you would find that the one who got the highest score (based on your hiring sheet) is not necessarily the perfect fit for your business. Thus, having a remarks section would allow you to see which of them is the best fit for your business.
On the other hand, you should also use the interview to discuss the pay rates with your candidate. According to the company Time Doctor, “general virtual assistants for $6 per hour (300 pesos) or highly skilled VAs such as system Administrators for $14 per hour (700 pesos)”. In my years of experience hiring the best Overseas Virtual Assistants, I learned is that it is best to hire an affordable virtual assistant rather than a cheap one. VAs that charges around $8-$9 per hour are usually those who have experience or training regarding how to run and manage an eCommerce business. In line with your negotiating strategy, always remember that you should have the candidate make the first offer as much as possible. However, they have indicated that already in the last step, having them repeat it during the interview would show their confidence in their skills and give you some leverage to produce a counter-offer.
For an in-depth guide on how to conduct the interview, read this guide.
7. Create a Short Training Course
Training your Virtual Assistant is just as important as finding the perfect one for your business. Although many would say that this process is time-consuming, there are plenty of ways to reduce the time and resources needed to train your VA. In this section, I would like to show you some options on how to train your VA.
a.Enroll them in Educational VA Training Services
One of the options you can do to train your VA is enrolling them in online classes that teach VAs. You have plenty of course options such as “30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success” and “Work from Home as a Virtual Assistant”. Take note that most of these choices teach about the ‘fundamentals’ of virtual assistant service, and you might need to purchase multiple courses (usually per individual) just to teach your new hires all that he needs to know about your business.
b.Create a Series of virtual assistant training materials
Another way to train your new hires is by creating a series of virtual assistant training materials yourself. Although this option would require more time and up-front resources, it would also allow you to create a tailored-fit instructional material for your new hires, which you can only have them take whenever you hire them. This option is beneficial, considering that there is the risk that some VAs might quit working for you after a short period or that you might find them incapable of delivering during your agreed trial period.
If you want to delegate the whole process (I.e., refund processing) or series of processes to your new hires, you should consider some essential steps. First, try to create a “process map” of everything that you are doing. You can also document this by observing yourself during the day-to-day course of your business and documenting the decision processes that you make. The example below is just one example of how you can design it.
By creating a process map, you can make sure that your VA’s actions are systematic and similar to what you should have done in your business. You can reduce the chances for errors such as issuing a refund without a sufficient basis or sending discount vouchers to the wrong consumer segment.
Second, you have to create other instructional materials (specifically videos) to supplement your process map. I highly recommend that you use videos because they are easy to follow and reference for your employees. Use screen capturing software such as Bandicam, Camtasia, or Snagit, among others. Limit your videos to a maximum of a minute or two so that whenever your employees are finding it hard to determine what to do, they can quickly check your instructional materials.
One important note that I want to add to this option is to make sure that your training materials include your virtual assistant software. One example of this is CRM tools like FreshDesk or ZenDesk, which help online stores such as Shopify.
c. Hire from a VA Agency
Like I have said earlier, hiring from a VA Agency is one of the easiest ways to train your new hires. Agencies train their VAs in various eCommerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Shopify even before they are hired. This is to ensure the versatility and quality of service that they would provide to their clients. In our agency, for example, we make sure to give them the fundamental virtual assistant training courses in launching products in Amazon FBA as well as provide them some background in sales and customer experience. This is one of the reasons why AOS VAs are sought after in the eCommerce market. However, one of the downsides of this is the slightly higher cost than creating a training course yourself. Nonetheless, if you are willing to find affordable virtual assistants than cheap ones, this is one of the best ways to go. This also goes the same with hiring virtual assistants for any other tasks around. Thus, when I aim to delegate my administrative tasks to highly-skilled VA’s I go to other reputable sites like GoHireNow.com.
8.Establishing a Trial Period
Finally, the final step before hiring a virtual assistant is establishing and agreeing on a trial period. Trial periods allow you some buffer to determine whether your new hire can deliver and improve your sales. This is also more advantageous than ‘terminating them abruptly’ because the period would help create an atmosphere of trust between you, which is essential for growing your business. Based on my industry expertise, the best trial period is between 3 weeks to 1 month. This way, the period is not too long that your business would be direly affected and not too short that you can gain more insights about points of improvement for your new hire.
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