How to Hire a Virtual Assistant to Grow Your Online Business (with Chris C. Ducker)

  • April 14, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 41 Comments

If you’re building an online business, there’s no doubt you wish you had more time during the day. Every entrepreneur struggles with not having enough time in the day.

Productivity increases can only take you so far. Eventually if you want your business to grow, you’ll have to get outside help. The question is: consultants, contractors, employees or virtual assistants, which might be best for your business?

I’ve been skeptical about the value of hiring virtual assistants for quite a while, so while Chris C. Ducker was in town this week, I asked him all kinds of questions. Chris runs a virtual staffing firm with over 240 employees, and personally has a handful of virtual assistants who help him with all aspects of his Virtual Business Lifestyle site.

In this video, you’ll find out how much a full-time virtual assistant might cost (you’ll probably be surprised like I was), what types of work you can have a VA do, and how you can build traffic to your site using VAs.

If you’re interested in hiring a virtual assistant, check out Chris’s Virtual Staff Finder service. For a reasonable fee, using this service gives you access to the same refined hiring practices Chris has developed and used to build his staff of 243 virtual employees. His attrition rate (the percentage of employees who turn over each year) is an impressively low 6%. That speaks to the quality of people he’s able to hire using the Virtual Staff Finder methods.

Do you have experience with virtual employees or overseas virtual assistants? How useful have they been? What are the pros and cons? Please share in the comments, I’d love to hear your experience.

Also, if you have any questions about hiring virtual assistants, please feel free to ask Chris directly in the comments below. He’s happy to answer.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Alex April 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

I have been an avid follower of Chris’ for a while now and I am sure I speak for thousands of others when I say ‘When I think of a VA I think Chris C Ducker’

Consistently valuable information and genuinely engaging… hmmm, sounds familiar.

You two must have got along like a house on fire! ;)

Thanks for sharing Corbett

Corbett April 14, 2011 at 9:43 am

I haven’t heard that phrase before, but yes, I suppose we did get along like a house on fire ;) Chris is a really engaging and entertaining guy, on top of his business smarts and wealth of knowledge about the VA world.

Chris C. Ducker April 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Alex. Much appreciated.

Yep, myself and Corbett had plenty of great talks and lots of fun in SF!

Thanks again for the cool comment.

Chris

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog April 14, 2011 at 6:43 am

Do you have experience with virtual employees or overseas virtual assistants?

Yes – I have a staff of 6 (3 full time) that I used to crank out niche sites and market them. I use the rest for client contracts (SEO, marketing, etc) that solicit me for services

How useful have they been? Absolutely God sent

What are the pros and cons?

Pros: salary arbitrage (earning in USD and paying in local currency), task expertise, freedom and flexibility, time to acquire more clients (face time), time to work on what you enjoy most, expedited progress (1 + 1 is not 2, it is 11).

Cons: language barrier can be an issue, training can be an issue, attrition can be an issue and therefore destroyed momentum (these are issues that I don’t deal with anymore – we have choices as to who we hire). i now only hire only experienced individuals and pay them relatively well. of course i was only able to start doing this as my own income from web ventures started increasing.

Hope that helps C!

Corbett April 14, 2011 at 9:44 am

Oh cool, Sunil! Thanks for the extra details. It’s always good to get various perspectives. It sounds like you’re really happy with your VAs (after some initial kinks). Awesome.

Rob Cubbon April 14, 2011 at 8:06 am

Great interview, I’m thinking of hiring a VA from the Philippines at the moment. I’ve been following Chris for a while now. Top guy who’s very generous with his time.

Corbett April 14, 2011 at 9:45 am

Chris tells me he’s helped a number of bloggers (including several big names) hire VAs over the past few months. I’ll be curious to hear from him how they all work out.

Sarah Russell April 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

Corbett – Thanks for sharing this video!

Taking on an outsourced worker is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve worked with outsourcers on one-off projects, but not anything long term like this. I’m definitely getting to the point in my business where it’d be useful to have another person working along side me, but a couple of things keep holding me back –

1. Training and delegation. I’d want to work with someone that I could train in my own methods (as well as someone who brings his or her own experience to the table), and that takes time. I’m also afraid that I’d spend so much time planning out tasks and delegating them that it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

2. Up-front costs. I’m not so big yet that several hundred dollars isn’t a pretty big investment for me. It’s a scary thought to put that much money forward (especially if I used Chris’s Staff Finder) and not know for sure that it’ll pay off.

Interesting stuff, though!

Corbett April 14, 2011 at 10:10 am

I’ve had the same concerns. With any employee, if you go with an inexperienced (but less expensive) resource, it’s a long-term investment. You absolutely have to train and teach and work on developing processes for the person to follow. On the other hand, if you go with an experienced person with his or her own vision, you’ll have far less education and training to do. Obviously a person like that costs much more to hire.

There are pros and cons either way. With offshore virtual assistants, it sounds like you can get someone with more experience who will be more self directed at a much lower cost, but I doubt you’ll find someone with a strong vision and no need for training/delegation.

marianney | A Life Set Free April 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Another thing to keep in mind before going through with hiring a VA is that you need to have your own ducks in a row (so to speak) first. You need to know exactly what they’ll be working on and have the training thought out before hand. You want to make sure that you’re getting the bang for your buck and making each hour you pay them to be as productive as possible.

I know that it would be extremely invaluable for us to have a VA for one of our start-ups right now, but we’re in no position to get them going just yet. But knowing the average cost now is helpful and may just get us to hire one sooner.

Chris C. Ducker April 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Hi Marianney

Glad to help on the salary situation!

You bring up some great points in this comment, too. Thanks.

If you need any help at all on anything VA related, just drop me an email, okay.

Thanks for dropping by.

Chris

Dev Singh April 15, 2011 at 3:11 am

A great video that inspires me (again) to hire a VA. I’ve outsourced plenty, and I love it, but something that’s always held me back from hiring a VA is trouble organising enough work to give them. I don’t want to get caught in the galmour appeal of it, and hire one just for the sake of feeling cool because I have one.

I also think it’s worth mentioning that the monthly prices Chris mentioned in this video for specialist outsourced services are often not necessarily recurring costs, especially if you can manage what you need carefully. It did inspire me to consider hiring a VA for simply coordinating outsourcing!

Chris C. Ducker April 21, 2011 at 6:05 am

Hi Dev

You make a clear point here, buddy. These monies do not have to be recurring. But, I always speak (well, most of the time) in the contect of hiring and having a full-time VA working for you, not just one-off project workers.

Glad the inspiration was there, though!

Thanks,
Chris

Hilary - US Virtual Assistant April 15, 2011 at 6:32 am

I don’t want to get into the debate of US vs. Overseas assistance, but there are a couple of benefits of using a US-based virtual assistant that I would like to point out:

- Many US-based virtual assistants have a marketing mindset. We’re go getters and always thinking and suggesting ideas to help grow your business.
- We can take a task and run with it. While communicating your needs to an overseas VA can be tricky and sometimes they need a little more hand-holding, a good US virtual assistant will be solution-focused and get done what you need them to, with minimum back and forth on the details.
- It can be easier to have a US-based virtual assistant return phone calls for you, schedule your appointments, etc. You don’t have to worry about any potential language barrier, or about the time difference.

In my opinion, much of the cost difference between using a US-based virtual assistant and an overseas assistant can be made up in the amount of micro-managing involved. Granted, there are some businesses that can’t afford a US-based virtual assistant, and there’s also those tasks that don’t require a refined skill set or much management to begin with (such as data entry).

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s important to think about the types of tasks you will be outsourcing when you determine whether a US-based or overseas virtual assistant will be the best match for your needs.

Chris C. Ducker April 21, 2011 at 6:03 am

Hi Hilary

Ah, yes – the time honored debate of US vs. Overseas VAs. I have a post one my blog which is well over 140 comments now – it was written months and months ago, and I still get new comments weekly on it!

I would agree with you on the marketing mindset – hands down. I have also worked with, and even know a few US based VAs.

However, what we’re talking about here, more than anything else, are those online tasks which as very mundane, boring and repetitive. These are jobs that even US based VAs would eventually get bored doing. However, VAs in less developed countries, such as the Philippines want to keep their solid work and income, and therefor will endure a little boredom from time to time!

As for the micro-managing side of things… This is a kettle of fish I’d rather leave alone, as I have had great and terrible results from both camps on this issue.

Botton line – find someone that you enjoy working with, and that takes care of what you need taken care of in a timely fashion and with quality in mind, and it doesnt matter where they are based, or how much you pay them. Personal opinions and preferences will always be the most important thing.

Thanks for the comment.

Chris

Tim April 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Great interview, Q/A answered all my questions.

I’ve hired a few people for some one off jobs and my results have been mixed. I agree that developing a longer term relationship is key when hiring, but I also find that I would be hard pressed to give this person 40 hours of work a week, 52 weeks a year. The $350 seems marginal if your looking for a long term employee.

Chris C. Ducker April 21, 2011 at 5:58 am

Glad we covered all the bases for you, Tim.

The $350 is just a starting point, obviously – keep that in mind.

If you have any more specific questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter – @chriscducker

Cheers,
Chris

Gab Lennon April 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Great conversation! I’m working with two freelancers from the Philippines and I’m keeping both for larger projects. Having them is extremely valuable for my startup,web-based business.

Chris C. Ducker April 21, 2011 at 5:55 am

Hi Gab

This is where VAs (from anywhere in the world!) can really help smaller companies thrive – when they are web based.

The sheer mentality of a web business owner allows them to take on board ideas of working with people, via the internet, much easier to someone with a more traditional, or brick and mortar background.

Glad to hear your Filipino VAs are working out well for you.

Chris

Funniest Gifs April 17, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Thanks helps a lot!

Ben April 19, 2011 at 10:12 am

The skepticism certainly was mutual, but eventually it is an inevitability.

Chris C. Ducker April 21, 2011 at 5:57 am

Hi Ben

Being skeptical is something I see, literally, on a daily basis. But, like yourself, once someone has accepted the fact that they will, eventually, have to start outsourcing in some way, shape or form, things usually run a lot smoother!

Keep an open mind and work hard towards building something awesome. And dont forget to use a VA to help you get there! :-)

Chris

Aaron April 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm

If I were to hire a VA to drive traffic to my blog for SEO etc. How can they help me? Is SEO the only thing? I don’t really know what I need.

Chris C. Ducker April 21, 2011 at 12:11 am

Hi Aaron

SEO is a very, very broad topic, as you probably already know. But, VAs can help you in a number of ways, in regards to brining more traffic your way.

Everything from building links, to managing your social media accounts, producing content for article submissions, PR’s and other branding exercises, such as video work, audio transcriptions, etc., etc.

The list is actually quite endless. Not to mention that when they (the VAs) are doing all this time consuming stuff, you can be creating more epic content, which will also help your site/blog grow, too!

Feel free to email me via my site for more specific questions.

Cheers,
Chris

Timo Kiander April 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

Chris and Corbett,

Great interview!

I’m about to hire my first VA through Chris’s Virtual Staff Finder soon, but there is actually one question I wanted to ask from Chris.

Is it beneficial to know about the culture of Philippines (at least a bit) before your hiring your first VA from there?

I guess there are differences when it comes to culture between Philippines and my country (Finland) and how people work in both countries.

The reason I’m asking, because occasionally you hear stories of companies, which start outsourcing to other countries, but then they run into cultural conflicts, because they didn’t do their homework before going there.

Chris C. Ducker April 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Hi Timo

Great, great question! Thanks for asking it – its just made this post, and these comment threads a lot more valuable!

Yes, there are differences in the culture, obviously. However, from my 10 years of living in the Philippines and working with thousands of Filipinos, the general rule of thumb has been to just be a nice guy!

As long as you are nice to them, give them opportunities to learn (Filipinos love to read and study!) and get better at what they do (I’ve even paid for some of my staff to do online grammar courses, for example) and have a genuine attitude towards wanting them to stay and work with you for a long time, they will be great, loyal and trustworthy employees.

Filipinos are quite shy and conservative. They are also very religious – 98% of the country in Catholic, so you have to adhere to local religious holidays as best as possible.

But, most importantly you will find that as long as you treat Filipino workers with respect, pay them what they are worth and generally support what they do for you, you’ll have a great relationship with them, and they will LOVE working for you.

Hope that helps, buddy – and the Virtual Staff Finder team look forward to helping you find your VA when the time is right!

Cheers,
C

Derek Murphy April 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

I’ve used VA’s for things like book formatting or email campaigns – where they research email addresses for me and then send them out. It saved me loads of time. What I’d like to do is increase backlinks through blog comments, or promote my products on amazon etc – but I’m too nervous because I’d have no control over the comments and don’t want to get a bad rep for that. Any advice on how to use VA’s to get more site or product exposure?

Chris C. Ducker April 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Hi Derek

Good question, buddy. And NOT a rare one, either! :-)

Bottom line – lets have a reality check! Entrepreneurs are very strange people. We absolutely LOVE doing everything, and we find it very, very hard to ‘let go’.

You’re right, it will be tough to control blog comments, and similar activities, but this is where mutual trust comes into play. You have to trust them to do the job well, and the VAs have to trust that you’ll be a cool boos, pay them on time and have long-term in mind, as they are ALL after a permanent job at the end of the day.

Building backlinks, etc., is a simple, yet highly repetitive task and certainly NOT something that a business owner should be doing. I have used VAs on and off for this type of activity to fantastic results, and most experienced SEO VAs will actually come to the table with their own list of resources, etc., to use for this, too (based on my experience).

My ultimate suggestion on this, Derek, is that you start small. Take baby steps and just focus on building up that trust (for both of you!). After a while, start drip-feeding those slightly more ‘important’ link building tasks (particularly the blog commenting), and over time I am confident to say you’ll know doubt start to feel a little easier about things.

Hope that helps, and if you have any further questions, please dont hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter or through my blog.

Thanks for the question!

C

shane April 23, 2011 at 6:08 am

Nowadays employing certified virtual assistant is a smart business decision.They help you gain more time to focus on core tasks that create value to your business.It helps you eliminate the risks and costs of employing and firing employees, especially if you have temporary projects.A VA can handle all the time consuming tasks so that you can actually enjoy and look into your business needs. You’ll be surprised at how much your business will actually grow,and save valuable time and money.

Gabbrielle February 3, 2012 at 6:36 am

If I could just add one small tip on hiring a VA. Creating a test with 3-5 questions is a great way to evaluate your applicants. It should be similar to the type of job they would do. This way, it would test not only their written English but also their problem solving skills. One other thing to consider is their attitude. You want someone who is consistent, driven.

Racho Alberto Jr L. March 5, 2012 at 9:53 pm

I definitely agree with chris when you a hire a Virtual assistant be sure they can work with multi tasking, because working as virtual assistant can really help to your business how the expand your business with minimal cost.

team mak May 8, 2012 at 5:43 am

I definitely agree with Racho and Chris, when you hire a VA be sure all the capabilities that you are looking are already with him, and by that we can assured that we will received a high quality back end.

Corbett April 14, 2011 at 10:10 am

I’ll try to get Chris to add his perspective here as well Sarah. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Russell April 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

That’d be great – thanks much!!!

Rob Cubbon April 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Yeah, me too, and from the big names, too. Another thing he’s right about it that it’s better to have a VA full time and it’s a false economy to outsource lots of little jobs to different people temporarily. I’ve heard lots of people say that and I’m sure it’s right.

Chris C. Ducker April 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Hi Rob

Glad we could help, and thanks for dropping by and commenting positively, too.

Much appreciated, my man.

Keep working hard and keep us up to date on your progress!

Best,
Chris

Chris C. Ducker April 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Hi Sarah

Training is part of the hiring process. Even the more experienced VA’s will need some ‘tweaking’, when it comes to the way you like things done, etc.

Ultimately, you’ll get out of any relationship, especially business ones, exactly what you put into them.

Let me add, however, Filipino VA’s are very much from the ‘employee’ mindset, and not traditionally entrepreneurial in the way they think. Which is good and bad, obviously.

If you have any more specific questions please don’t hesitate to get back to me on things personally, via my blog… I’d be happy to help out in any way.

Good luck!

Chris

Rob Cubbon April 15, 2011 at 3:52 am

Will do :)

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog June 22, 2011 at 6:10 am

totally Corbett – there are growing pains. but after the initial stages once you have found a few good ones, life is truly beautiful

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