For those of you that don’t know what a VA is, let’s start off this article with a brief explanation. A VA or Virtual Assistant is someone you hire to help with a myriad of different tasks. When most of us hear “VA” we assume outsourcing. But this is not always the case. A VA can be located anywhere in the world, even in your own hometown.
Depending on your needs, hiring a local VA really does have its benefits. We will talk a little more about this later in the article though!
Do You Need One?
This is probably the most common question I get. Do I need to hire a VA? Or When should I hire a VA?
My personal opinion, right away. Nobody ever built and scaled a successful business on their own. They were surrounded by an amazing team.
But, you still want to keep your budget in mind. VAs do not work for free and you don’t want to spend all your profit on a VA. So make sure you are taking this additional cost into account when you are building out your budget.
What Jobs Do I Have a VA Do?
Everything! A few things I have had VAs do include
- Product Sourcing
- Wholesale Account Openings
- Scouring through all my old purchases to find replens
There are so many ways a VA can help your business out! I always write down all the areas of my business that require work. Anything from doing the books, finding products, shipping and receiving, setting up new accounts, etc., and then I put my name by the ones I feel I will excel at. The ones that are left are good places to add in a VA.
If you aren't excited about doing the work or you don’t know how to do it you will likely procrastinate on it. This is going to have a negative impact on your business.
How to Find A Great VA
There are so many ways to find great VAs these days. I will list out a few of the sites I have used:
- Facebook Groups
All of these sites are excellent! Don’t count out finding someone local. You can use craigslist to find local help or even ask around to the people you know. There are a lot of people out there that would love to make a couple of extra bucks each month.
How Much Do You Pay A VA?
This is going to vary depending on the location and skill set needed. I always hear people talking about finding a VA and paying them $2.50 per hour. I have seen this as well but wouldn’t recommend it.
In my experience, a VA that knows what they are doing with Amazon FBA generally starts at around $6-$10 per hour and increases from there. You’re going to find that there really is no standard rate when it comes to VAs.
I have seen VAs that charge $40 per hour. When it comes to the hourly rate, in my experience, you get what you pay for.
The Hiring Process
Once you have found a site you like, it’s time to post a job description. Many people will just post a quick description like: “I need someone to find FBA products for my amazon business”. This is a recipe for disaster.
You want the job description to be very detailed. The more detailed it is, the better candidates you are going to get. It will also make it easy for you to filter out the ones that do not meet the clear requirements in your listing.
Example Job Posting 1
I run a small but growing Amazon FBA business. I am looking for a Virtual Assistant to help with the following:
- Setup Wholesale Accounts
- Work with wholesale suppliers to get product and shipping quotes
- Manage shipments to Prep Center
- Work with prep center to ensure all products are labeled
- Experience in Seller Central is preferred
Experience with Amazon FBA is preferred
Must have excellent written English skills
Must speak fluently as phone conversations are required
Example Job Posting 2
I run a small but growing Amazon FBA business. I am looking for a Virtual Assistant to source products for FBA for me.
The products must meet the following requirements:
- Min profit of $5
- Min of 250 sales per month
- Min ROI of 35%
I am ungated in the following:
Please submit an example product you have sourced that meets the following criteria listed above when you apply. Any applicants that do not meet this requirement will be removed from the application process.
These approaches get very specific on what you want and need. They also give you a lot to fall back on when going through the hiring process and vetting your applicants.
When you first post your listing you are going to get A LOT of responses. You can go through them one by one and read things which can take FOREVER. I prefer to quickly scan and make sure they are responding to my post and not just sending a generic response. If they responded to my posting with the specifics I needed I move them into the interview process.
At this point, I generally have about 20+ applicants. So to narrow that down faster, I send out an interview form for them to fill out.
I use google forms for this. It is free, easy to set up and I can track all the inputs in one place.
Here is a sample I used when I was hiring for a Wholesale VA:
Amazon FBA VA - Round 1
Amazon FBA VA - Round 2
You will notice I did 2 rounds of interviews. The first round ruled out 60% of the applicants. They didn’t fill it out or they didn’t finish it. The second round left me with 2 great applicants!
For round 3, I did video interviews. This lets you get to know them and allows them to get to know you. It also ensures you both have a great rapport!
Managing Your VA’s Day to Day
Now that you have hired an amazing VA, you need to manage their day-to-day. There are a lot of different ways of doing this. I am going to walk you through how I do it, but understand this method may not be for you. There are many ways to accomplish this task.
Basecamp - https://basecamp.com/
Basecamp is the original remote team management software. It came about in the early 2000s and has been an industry leader ever since. It’s also free if your team is small :)
Basecamp does a lot of amazing things! The reason I like it is that it puts everything I need all in one location. It is a virtual office.
With this section here, I can set up daily, weekly or recurring to-dos for my VA. I can set a timeframe for completion and be notified when it’s done.
This is where the discussions happen! It’s a great chat program that is built into the basecamp software.
Docs & Files
I linked this to my google drive and was able to easily add in documents and files my VA would need access to.
This allows me to see when someone is off, what they are working on, and the overall schedule for projects.
I have used basecamp for years and I love it. It makes managing a VA or even a team of VAs super simple! Plus it’s free!
Communication with your VA can be challenging, depending on where they are located in the world. I have worked with VAs in the Philippines, Ukraine, India, and The US. All of them have their own challenges when working together.
Depending on the time zone difference, it can be really hard to talk through complex issues. I always like having a stand-up on Mondays, and this can be very difficult if your VA is on the other side of the world.
I use a few different tools to make communication easier for everyone.
I’m sure everyone has heard of zoom so we won’t dive too deep into this one. For those of you that don’t know, zoom is a great piece of software that allows you to hold video meetings with anyone in the world.
You can sync it to most calendars to make scheduling easier and even record the meeting for later review.
This is very similar to zoom but it’s built by Google and already available to you if you have a Gmail account. I have used this one and zoom and for me, they are very similar. So really a personal preference.
If you haven’t used Loom I highly recommend you go check it out! Loom is not for video conferencing, but it’s for video messaging. Loom allows you to create small video clips that you can send to someone. You can record your screen and then just send a link to your VA. This is especially useful when dealing with time zone differences.
Goal setting and tracking
Goal setting and tracking is a VITAL process in building a solid business. There are a lot of different videos and sites that talk specifically about setting goals.
I like creating a simple spreadsheet for my VA that includes quarterly goals and monthly goals. It gives them a target and allows me to see how they are actually performing.
I would highly recommend you use some form of a goal-setting procedure with your VA to help them stay on track and to provide you with visibility into their day-to-day as well as how well they are performing.
If you are like me and you love having software that makes everything easier, check out Monday.com. This is project management and goal management software.
Quarterly reviews are very simple if you have the goal-setting piece in place. You can just pull up the goal-setting sheet, review what goals they hit and what goals they missed during the quarter, and then move forward from there.
Quarterly reviews also provide accountability to your VA. If you just give them goals to hit with no follow-up, they are not going to be motivated to hit them. But letting them know that there are quarterly reviews based on the goals that were created and if they fall below a certain number then they may be removed from the team, is a lot more motivating and will ensure they are doing their best work for you.
SOPs are the lifeblood of my team’s day-to-day life. SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedure. This is a document that you create that outlines a certain procedure.
The purpose of this is so you don’t have to keep repeating yourself on how you want things done. It also makes training new VAs so much easier! And the third thing it helps with is finding gaps in processes so you can make them more efficient.
For example, if you notice it is taking a long time for your VA to publish a blog post for you, you can talk to them and walk through the SOP for this. You will find where the holdup is, update the SOP and now you have just made the procedure more efficient.
Here is an example of an SOP I use for communication and meetings:
The last thing I have in place is daily accountability. At the end of each day, I want to know what my VA has accomplished and what they missed. For this, I again use Google forms. I keep the link to it in Basecamp for easy access.
Here is the sample Google form I have my VAs fill out at the end of their day:
With Google forms, it keeps all the data in the backend for the admin to easily see and sort through. You can also have it exported to a google sheet.
I generally only use this form for the first few weeks. Once my VA and I have built trust, I no longer need the form.
To me, it’s important to know what my team is doing but for them to also know what I’m doing. So every Monday morning, for 15 - 20 minutes we have a virtual standup. We go over our goals for the week and address any blockers we may have. This gives me a very clear picture of what’s being worked on, what I need to help out with, and what I can expect at the end of the week.
I have worked in tech for almost 20 years and using bonuses as motivation to increase performance and happiness is a common and great approach!
I use this with my VAs as well. You can do it a few different ways, I will explain the way that I have found works best for me.
I attach bonuses to my VA’s quarterly goals and quarterly review. For my VAs, the max bonus is equal to 1 month’s pay. I grade it on a scale based on how they did with their quarterly goals and how many they completed. For example, if they have 4 quarterly goals and they only achieve 3 of them, they are eligible for 75% of the overall bonus. I also take into account the goals themselves and how they performed on them. If they completed it but it required a lot of input or oversight on my part, this would reduce their overall bonus.
Some goals that are created can be much bigger than others too. When we are setting up goals, we will also weigh them using a percentage. If a specific goal they have is going to take 2 months to achieve and require a lot of work, I may apply a 40% overall bonus opportunity to this goal. If another goal is smaller and can be done within a week, this one may get a 15% bonus opportunity. I tend to increase the bonus potential on the goals that are most important and require more work.
This is just one way of doing it.
Another approach I have seen is a fixed bonus if they meet all criteria and performance. It’s more of a pass-fail approach and can be just as effective as the approach I described above.
We all love extra money and we are willing to work harder for it. To keep your VA engaged and driving your business forward, I would highly recommend building in some form of bonus opportunity for them.
There are so many different ways to manage a VA. This is the way I prefer. If anyone reading this came up in the tech world, you will recognize a lot of these processes! I have been in tech for 20 years and used many of these processes at billion-dollar companies and small startups alike.
“Meetings should be like salt - a spice sprinkled carefully to enhance a dish, not poured recklessly over every forkful. Too much salt destroys a dish. Too many meetings destroy morale and motivation.”
~ Jason Fried | Founder of Basecamp