If you're reading this then you probably already know what a Virtual Assistant (VA) is but just to make sure everyone is on the same page here's a quick definition…in my own words.
A VA is a person who you hire to remotely help you do some sort of task within your business. Sounds simple right?! Well it can be but isn't always. Lets answer some common questions about VA's before we dig in too deep.
What are Common Amazon VA Tasks?
- Product Sourcing/Research
- Data Entry
- Administrative Tasks
- Financial Records
Typically these are the main tasks you will want/need to outsource to a VA. Out of these, the most common task I see Amazon sellers hiring out is product sourcing. Product sourcing can include encompass several methods like manual sourcing, reverse searching, using software like Tactical Arbitrage, wholesale/distributor, private label, and so on. Since I have the most experience in hiring product sourcers, I'll focus this article on hiring a VA for product sourcing.
Here's a great into video discussing common tasks and questions about VA's (not related specifically to Amazon)
What is the average VA Salary?
According to a poll that I created earlier this year the average VA salary is about $3.86 USD per hour. Typically I see VA's getting hired around $2-$5 per hour to start. This can vary greatly depending on VA location, experience, hours needed, etc… It's not uncommon to find a VA asking for up to $20/hr. I believe that anyone asking that on their profile is either the best at what they do, or they're starting really high because they don't want to be negotiated down to $2/hr.
Now Let's dig into the 5 steps you need to hire your first employee!
1- Determine When you should hire a VA
There is no perfect answer for this but I believe you should hire help before you think you're ready to do it. I see a lot of sellers get in their own way and refuse to hand over tasks because “I'm the best and no one can replace me”. To be blunt, you're not and don't let your ego get in the way of your business growth! So to determine a ballpark time to start considering outsourcing here's a few criteria you should meet:
- You have more money than time
- The task you wish outsource is not a money making task
- You CAN do the task but don't WANT to do it
If you have the financial ability to hire someone that saves you time (AKA FREEDOM) then you should be ready to make a hire. If you're like me then you started an Amazon business to give your future self more time to do the things you love doing. I know would rather be watching The Office for the 23rd time, playing with your dog or your kids, traveling, or even sleeping than doing a task you can hire someone else to do.
Outsource non-money making tasks as soon as you possibly can. Do you make money handling the Amazon reports for lost inventory? I know I don't because I would miss too many opportunities. So I outsource that!
If there's a task you can do (like product sourcing) but don't want to do it anymore, likely because of how much time it takes, then outsource it! You're good enough to find the products to flip so you should be able to teach someone else to do that for you.
2- Gather your ‘perfect VA' wish list
Now you've decided it's time. Lets build your VA wish list. Take your time with this and consider what you find most valuable. Some things to consider are:
- Do you want to train someone with or without experience?
- What task is most important you outsource?
- How much can I afford to spend per month?
How you answer the above questions will ultimately help you build your job listing and save time during step 4. My perfect VA wishlist would look something like this.
- Has experience but not so much that they can't be re-taught a few things
- Can utilize software and manual sourcing methods
- Can take criticism in stride and show improvement quickly
- Costs between $2-4 per hour
Finding someone with experience will save you some time in training but if they have so much experience that they don't need trained you will probably run into some problems down the road. I've seen this happen and you don't want to waste 3 months trying to retrain an old dog new tricks. On the flip side if they DO know everything they're probably going to break the budget and not be in the running for your first hire.
3- Create and post your job
Since you know what your ideal candidate is going to bring to the table it's time to create your job posting. Where you post the job at doesn't matter as much as many people think. Some of the common sites to post jobs like this are
Open up a google doc and start listing out the requirements you need your VA to be able to fulfill. Be thorough with this but not too thorough! If you're looking strictly for a sourcing VA then write how you expect them to find the product leads (manually, using software, etc.…) and what tools they will have access to. Many of the applicants won't have their own login for the various extensions you use to source and save time. Some important things to add to your job post are
- Expectations for honesty and integrity
- Hours per day/week/month needed
- Product Lead requirements
- Tools they will have access to
- Ask them to send you past work examples with their application
- Provide a few examples of work similar to what you're looking for
- Provide a few leads that are good and bad and ask them to analyze
This is really all you need to include in your initial posting. Step 4 is where you will begin to give the applicants more information about the work.
Pro tip It's always a great idea to put some kind of simple question near the top of your job listing. Make it clear that they must answer that question to be considered for the job. The question should be something simple like "what is the color of your country's flag?" This gives you a quick idea whether or not the applicant actually read your job post. If they can't read simple instructions then you don't want to waste your time.
We've created a sample template for you to use as a starting point for your job post creation. Use the link HERE to grab it!
4- Test and cut (again and again)
Your job is posted and potential employee's are starting to apply! Now the hard part begins.
It's likely you will get several applicants, perhaps even dozens. Don't get worried it will be pretty easy to narrow this part down because about one out of every four will actually have experience and have read your full job post. The rest you can immediately deny and move on from. When I hired my first (which actually became 2 firsts) I had about 8 applicants that had the experience I was looking for and sent the required documentation to move to my next phase.
I know it's going to be hard but be patient here because the test and cut phase can take a month or more depending how many qualified applicants you get! Here's the basic process
- Hire for trial period
- Give feedback during trial
- Release anyone not adjusting
- Give more feedback
- Evaluate the remaining applicants
- Repeat steps 2-5
- You're left with the best of all applicants!
Let's break it down now. From the applicants who you think may be a good fit you're going to want to offer them a ‘trial run'. I suggest at this trial to be at least 2-3 days but a full week is ideal. Offer to pay them $XX for the trial period and send them more details about your sourcing requirements. YES this means you should hire all the applicants you think may be worthy for a trial (let's say 1 week for this example). If they agree then you tell them when to start and send them the login information for the tools you are giving them access too. I opened multiple Tactical Arbitrage accounts to get this done.
When you start to get leads from the trial applicants you'll quickly be able to eliminate one or more of them because of various reasons. Maybe they will require more training than you expected, maybe they don't submit any work at all, maybe they're just really persistent and message you 20 times while you're sleeping! So now you're down a few pretty quickly. Take a look at the work the rest of them send you and give them quality feedback. Hopefully they take it and improve over the next few days. If not- cut them.
*Don't be afraid to let someone go who clearly isn't going to make it. It's better to do it right away
Repeat the above process until you're left with the best applicant(s). When I did this I had 2 applicants who were so good I couldn't cut one. So I hired them both and they're both still with me to this day.
5- Make the hire
You've now likely got a really good applicant who you've begun building trust and a working relationship with. Once you make the long term hiring decision I still advise you to give them a “90 day probation period" or something similar so you can continue to assess their skills and provide them feedback. Negotiate a fair price for the 90 day period and assess their skills at the end. This is where you'll want to offer them a good salary for the long run because you just spent 4-6 months on this person and you don't want to be so cheap that they go looking for work elsewhere!
Perhaps from this process you didn't find a good VA. That's ok because you learned A LOT about hiring and how to do it better next time. Start again on a different freelance platform and see what you can come up with.
Post Hire Notes
The crew that I've built at OA Hunt is more than assistants, their my team. I know all their spouses and children's names and birthdays, what they enjoy to do in their freetime, I've even been invited to one of their weddings! I say this to remind you that these VA's aren't just computers. They're real people and once you find the VA you've been looking for its important to treat them like that. We've all worked for a horrible boss at some point in our lives and we've got a chance here to be the boss we wanted to have. Incentivize their employment by allowing paid holidays, birthday and annual bonuses, sick days, etc… You'd be surprised how far the little things can get you!