Hiring a Virtual Assistant

In my last blog post, I highlighted the tops ways to leverage your time using tools like virtual assistants, phone answering companies, or technology. Since the topic of leverage can be quiet involved, I wanted to give you a little more insight into the inner-workings of hiring and managing a virtual assistant.

Unfortunately, I speak to way to many investors who have had terrible luck hiring Virtual Assistants to complete a few tasks or jobs for their company. When I ask about the hiring and training process they went through to see what might have gone wrong, I’m typically met with a look of confusion and a response of “what do you mean how did I hire and find them? You know I found them on (fill in your terrible VA platform here). I didn’t really train them it was just (insert task here)“.

imagesIf you want to get a fantastic VA working for you and without you, then you have to take the time to find the right virtual assistant and more importantly train them for their job! We currently have two VA’s that do a variety of weekly tasks for us, including but not limited to; property research/tape scrubbing, calculating CMV and ARV, sending emails to sellers, fishing the internet and MLS for leads, editing excel spreadsheets for mail campaigns, and marketing when we get a deal under contract. Having awesome virtual assistants didn’t “magically” happen. We spent months creating, revising, and perfecting our VA training program (that you an see by clicking here) and are excited to share some helpful tips and tools for hiring and training a virtual assistant!

Where to Find Your Virtual Assistant:

There are a number of platforms that allow you to hire a VA without the overhead of legal issues and payroll. My platform preference is ODesk because of their size, management capabilities and pay system but there are a number of other platforms that offer similar benefits and qualified virtual assistants. Elance.com (same owner as Odesk and VERY comparable in what it offers), VirtualAssitants.comFreelancer.comStaff.comGuru.com. With ODesk, I can manage my virtual assistant using a time log that requires them to take snapshots of their work randomly as they are clocked in. This ensures I am able to track their work simply by logging into Odesk. There are also millions of qualified virtual assistants from across the globe at various price levels and skills experience, which means I can sift through potential assistants and chose the best candidate for my team.

Language:

This is an important piece if you are searching for a VA in a different country than your own. If you’re interested in branching out of the US or Canada, you will want to find a VA who is fluent, meaning they can both read and write without grammatical errors and are able to easily interpret data and articulate their ideas to you.

Region:

That is completely a personal preference. Keep in mind when hiring the time difference, I love areas that are on the opposite schedule. My work gets done when I sleep! What more could I ask for?

Price:

You can get really qualified and experienced VA in the $4 – $6 price range. That may seem shockingly low to you, but remember their cost of living and currency value may differ dramatically to what you are used to. Research the average cost of living in the region your potential VA lives in, and make sure you are paying them satisfactorily for their time and effort. Yes, you might be able to pay $3 an hour, but with a simply dollar increase to $4 an hour you’ve increased their income significantly, and in result they will do a higher quality job, faster, AND want to stay with you because they’re making more than they could anywhere else.

Skills:

Once again this is by preference. You want a VA who is a problem solver, takes initiative, attentive, and manages time well. If you provide ample training you can hire a great VA with no prior experience and still see them succeed. If you prefer a VA with past experience in your area, look around until you find one that fits there are PLENTY skilled workers out there. Here are some pointers that may help you candidate.

  • Look at their feedback from past jobs
  • Look at their example portfolios
  • If desired, ask them to complete a small “test” related to the job as pre-qualifier to the interview process.

Hiring:

Before the interview I like to assess their initiative and problem solving skills by giving a small task to complete prior to the interview or to bring to the interview. A common one, is to tell them to go to your website and describe what your company does or is. Review their resume and task submissions. Once you’ve narrowed down your top 5 candidates, schedule a phone interview via Skype or google chat. The interview process will allow you to assess their fluency in the language and to get to know them better. You may come across a VA that is SUPER qualified, but you just don’t click with. Hire a VA that you “connect with”. They will be working closely with you so being able to build a relationship with them is important.During the interview ask them questions like…

  • “Why are you interested in my position and why do you think you are qualified?
  • “When is a time in a past job you had to solve a problem that was not initially explained to you?”
  • What is your availability to work with our company (time schedule)
  • What are you current resources (computers, internet, phone – if applicable)

Training your Virtual Assistant & Giving Feedback

This is one of the most important parts of hiring a Virtual Assistant. You may have found an awesome VA but you haven’t given them to the proper instruction to complete your tasks correctly or efficiently. Hands down the best way to train your personal assistant is by using videos with an audio recording linked to the video. This allows them to actually see how to properly complete the task you want them to do! It also allows you to use the same videos for any additional virtual assistants you may hire now or in the future.

I like to provide additional documents of frequently asked questions, website links, step by step guide, or requirements/rules for certain tasks as reference pages for my VA’s. This helps them complete their job without 1 million emails to you! Give them as many resources in one location (such as a website), so they can reference them as much as they need during their initial training.

Remember, that it’s going to take time for them to figure everything out and typically takes a few “trial and errors” before they are 100% independent at your tasks. As with any new job, they need time to learn the routines and tasks, practice them, and get feedback.

Checking their work is key in the first few weeks. I like to provide my VA’s with 2 – 3 “test runs” (for example tapes I have previously scrubbed) to compare their results to mine. I also ask what questions came up when they were going through the process and create videos to help clear up any confusion.

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We understand that not everyone is willing to put forth the effort that is required to really get a smoothly running system with a virtual assistant. That’s why we are so happy to share our virtual assistant training program at www.tapetechs.com. We realize sometimes it’s easier to just plug and go and that’s why we allow investors to use our “plug and go” VA training system OR they can submit their REO or Note Tapes to have our highly trained virtual assistants “scrub” (complete due diligence on). We sacrificed the time and months it takes to create a system as effective as this one. We’ve done the hard work for you and are happy to share our success with you. Maximize your potential, free up your time, and give yourself the freedom to focus on what’s important to you.

Training a virtual assistant is no easy task and requires a lot of time, planning, and organization. If your willing to put forth the time and effort to create a system for your virtual assistant you won’t regret it! I can honestly say I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with and am able to do more of the things I enjoy and want to do! 

The Art of Leveraging

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Oh boy, I love hiring someone else to do a job I don’t want to do. Putting out signs? NO WAY! Stuffing, addressing, and stamping envelopes, Yah Right! I’m a big fan of leveraging my time to others and you should be too! As business owners it’s easy to get caught up working IN your business instead of ON it. I know I was spending most of my “working time” doing tasks that someone else could have easily done with training or support until I started hiring out those tasks and was able to work ON my business instead of IN it. This post is going to shed light on how you can create more time and allow yourself to be free to make more money doing activities that will truly benefit your business.

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I LOVE LOVE LOVE Virtual Assistants. They are amazing time savers and eager to work for you. Virtual assistants can be hired locally (in your state or country), or abroad. Rates, experience, qualifications, time difference, and language fluency are some factors you should take into consideration when hiring a VA but nonetheless there are extremely qualified virtual assistants looking for jobs and will do pretty much any task you designate to them. I use my VA for property research, follow up, deriving lists, and other small tasks. I’ve seen others use a VA for social media marketing, blogging, SEO, property research, CRM management, web design, and so much more. The opportunities are endless and the best part about it is you can hire a great VA in the price range of $4 – $7 per hour. I hired two VA’s last year and now have them trained in all of my systems for data scrubbing and property research for my non-performing note tapes (this saves me about 8-10 hours per tape and allows me to work on getting more inventory and making more offers!) I’ve also automated my lead capture with a CRM system from Only For Investors, which has been amazing. My VA is completely trained in how to enter, edit, and update properties and even works on my follow up with each lead! If you’re scared about hiring a VA because you’ve heard “horror” stories, or maybe you’ve even tried but failed, don’t give up. There’s a science to hiring and training a good VA and luckily we’ve got it done pat. There will be additional blog posts on how to hire a VA and what to look for, but if you just can’t wait visit our website www.TapeTechs.com to see about our VA training system for note or REO investors.

Letter Writers

670px-WriteAdressClearly-Step-2I hired my first letter writer in July of last year and boy has this been a time saver. The letter writer picks up the pre-printed letters and stamps from OfficeDepot or Staples (which ever is closest to you) and stuffs, addresses, and stamps my letters typically in 24 – 42 hours from pick up. I pay her .25 cents per letter and am able to free up time to work on my business instead of in it.   Oh did I mention, the envelopes and return address labels are sent directly to their house – for free from Office Depot.com, which is AWESOME! If trust is an issue for you and your worried they won’t be done correctly, or maybe a stamp or envelope will go missing, check their work by adding your address with a fake name in the letters to check. Although, I’ve worked with two different people now and had no issues with stealing items!

Signs

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Alright, I’ll say it. I HATE putting out signs. I hate it so much, that if I’m responsible for doing it…I don’t do it. I hate the traffic, parking, buckling, unbuckling, honking, and time of it all. I hired my first sign placer recently and was happy with the results. I met with them (or you can have them pick up the signs after you “interview” them) and gave them a map of where to put the signs. I used the app simple crew to monitor their progress (they checked in each sign with a picture and geotagged their location) in the app. They sent me a message when they were done and paypal took it from there! You can pay $1 – $2 per sign depending your area, but if it’s any less than that it’s not worth the gas the spend putting them out, so make your pay worthwhile.  When you first meet with someone for this job, talk about the best way and places to put signs – give a few examples and no-examples. If you notice they placed them in a bad spot or not facing the right way, etc, tell them that will be deducted from their pay.

List Research 

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I love to use public records to gather my lists for properties and I like my lists to be as fresh as possible. Although there are wonderful online resources like list source.com, I prefer to go to the courthouse myself and get the freshest data possible. I’m a school teacher by day, so getting to the courthouse before it closes at 4 was challenging if I wasn’t on break, so I realized this needed to be hired out.  While I have not personally hired this job out myself, I am working on the training and hiring process using my colleague and fellow associates method from Only For Investors. She mastered this and had two people in different counties in Florida, successfully getting them probate and eviction lists twice a month! Talk about awesome, right!?

Answering Service Happy call center employees with headset

Answering services can be a huge time saver and are always by the phone 24-7. I use this for all of my preliminary calls and it get’s entered directly into my CRM system were my VA takes it from there (does property research then sends it to me to make an offer). There a lot of services out there and my suggestion is PatLive. They are very professional and offer their services at a reasonable price.

The suggestions for leveraging your time that I mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a ton of ways for you to maximize your time by outsourcing it to others. The key here. is taking the time upfront to create clear plans of what you want, how you want it done, and training programs/examples for some of the tasks. It can be a daunting process getting it started but once it’s in place you’ll never look back (or have to do it again)! If you like this idea and want to learn more, visit our website to see how you can use our training program for your VA!