Hiring Your First Virtual Assistant & Getting The Most Out Of Them

I'd love to be in a position to hire a Virtual Assistant one day, I thought. Not yet though, but someday.

This is the kind of thing I used to think when learning that other people I knew, ones more successful than me, had hired VA's or other team members to help them.

What I didn't realize at the time, was that I WAS already in the position to hire a VA, and that I probably should have hired one much sooner than I eventually did.

You might well be in the same situation too. That's what we're going to discover in this post.

Even if you're not yet there, I know you're going to hire a VA later than you should. Today I'm going to tell you everything I've learned about hiring. At the time of writing, HPD has over 100 team members, and my own niche site portfolio has several assistants as well.

​Interested in joining a community of niche site builders?

We're kicking off the launch of our private forum with a live Amazon affiliate case study. Participate and follow along as Dom rebuilds his niche site portfolio with a goal of reaching $10,000. Recently selling his 2 biggest earners, Dom's ready for a new challenge and wants to share the whole process from start to finish, watch the video and join now!

Long story short, I know a thing or two about hiring, and by the time you're done reading you will have fresh perspective about your own needs as well.

What You'll Learn Today

  • The lesser-known benefits of hiring a VA.
  • How to know when the time has come to hire.
  • What tasks to give to a VA.
  • Why trying to hire a "super VA" is a bad idea.
  • How much to pay.
  • Where to find a VA.
  • How to manage your VA.
  • Whether to train someone or let them go.
  • Why you can never hire soon enough.

The Benefits Of A VA

There are of course some very obvious benefits from hiring help. You can delegate things like checking email, uploading articles to WordPress, doing keyword research, or whatever else you hate doing. This allows you to focus on the more important (or less teachable) aspects of affiliate marketing. It also helps you create focus and momentum.

This is especially important if you're running multiple sites. It can get tricky juggling all the small tasks involved and you ultimately forget to do things that you'd do if you had one site to focus on.

Having a VA who can do the smaller things for you can help you keep multiple sites on track.

So what about the less obvious benefits of a VA?

Here are a few that I've discovered:

Back when I was doing everything solo, I really thought about hiring backwards. I would hire either "When I had too much to do myself" or when "I had the budget to hire somebody".

What I never thought about was the fact that hiring someone BEFORE either of those stages would actually get me there faster. It sounds a bit counter-intuitive I guess, but it's actually the way you scale.

Hiring somebody is basically just a case of buying more hours. If you need 10,000 hours before your site will make you decent money, but you can only give 10 hours a week to your site, doesn't it make sense to hire 1 or more people to add their hours to the total?

Sure, you'll be spending more money, but you'll get there faster. In many cases I've found that if you do it right, while your expenses will go up, your income will go up 2 or 3 x faster.

When I made my first hire with HPD, we were doing about 4-5 websites a week. I was worried that I'd hire someone and never increase our output. Why not just keep doing all the websites myself?

Instead, by hiring someone to do those 4-5, I was able to focus on other things, and increase our sales to 10-20 per week. Sure, I made less per sale, but ultimately I made a lot more.

Could I have got to 10 sites per week without hiring someone first? Definitely not. I just didn't have the time or focus.

The same should be true for your affiliate sites. Let's assume you just own 1 site.

Right now, you're writing (or at least outsourcing) all the content. You're tracking the rankings. You're uploading content. You're doing keyword research. You're tweaking posts for conversions or higher search positions. You're building or outsourcing links.

There's a whole bunch of things you're doing.

Doesn't it make sense to hire someone to help you do some of those things? Even if your site isn't earning yet, by having an extra set of hands to keep up with everything, you're going to get your site earning that much faster, and you'll have much more free time to work on the more important things, or educate yourself more, or even start a second site.

So the lesson here is, you have to spend money to make money, and increasing expenses can often expedite increasing income.

When To Hire

I'm not saying the first thing you should do is go out and hire a VA though. Doing this too soon could lead to wasted money. While you shouldn't expect to see tangible ROI immediately, you shouldn't just hire someone and expect your business to "just grow" either.

You need to be at the right point in your own growth before you hire someone.

What I mean by this is, you need to at least be competent at the tasks you're going to outsource before you hire for them. I've seen all too many people outsource something they don't understand, and then they wonder why they screwed up their site or wasted their money.

So start by hiring someone to do the tasks you're already good at and can outsource to somebody else.

This could mean uploading articles to WordPress and formatting them. It could mean sharing your posts on social media. It could mean assigning article titles to a writer. It could simply mean writing them in the first place (writers are the role most people start out hiring for. It's a great place to start, but because this article is about VA's, I'd rather focus on other tasks).

It could mean anything that you find yourself spending too much time on, but don't need it to exclusively be you doing it. You can pretty much outsource your entire business unless it relies on you or your persona.

So I think the best time to hire is really, as soon as you feel comfortable enough with some tasks that you can teach somebody else to do them.

When I start a new site, the first thing I usually do is find a writer to work on the content. Once I have a writer, I like to either hire a VA as a project manager for the site, or use one of my existing ones for the project. This depends mostly on if they have time for a new site or not.

Either way, I'm comfortable having someone else worry about the writer getting things done, worry about the content being added, and worry about all of the day to day things, and I don't mind paying them to do it. It means my site will start off with a few months well into the negative financially, but it also means they will eventually get into the positive. If I tried doing it all myself, I'd just end up with a bunch of sites half finished.

What Should You Expect A VA To Do?

Now this is a great question. It would be fantastic if you could find this all-powerful VA who was great at everything, but in reality you're not going to. If someone is great at all the things you ask of them, then they are an affiliate marketer already running their own sites, and not interested in yours.

There might be some rare occasions you can find someone looking to do VA work for you to supplement their own earnings, but I'd rather not hire someone who has the ability to rip off my entire business model anyway. Not unless I trusted them.

Now, you CAN find some VA's with project manager skills who are capable of doing many different tasks. They might be familiar with WordPress, they might be reasonably good at on-page SEO or keyword research, they might be able to do a bit of everything.

But why hire someone who is "so-so" at everything, when you can just hire multiple people who are great at one thing?

Think about it. If you have a budget of $500 per month to do 10 tasks, you can hire 4 people to do 2.5 tasks each for $125 each and still spend the same as if you hired 1 person to do all 10 tasks.

I know the maths might not be perfect in the example above, (how can someone do half a task?) but it's an example. It's meant to make you realize that you don't have to find this awesome powerful one person, when you can just hire two or three specialists for the same total.

Now, in terms of what you hire for first, I can't really tell you that. As I said above, hire for whatever you feel ready to outsource first.

Remember as well, you're not obliged to hire someone permanently. You could hire on a trial or a one-off job and see how it goes. This is a learning curve for you just like it will be for them.

How Much Should You Pay?

The ultimate question, without a concrete answer. 

The easiest answer is “Whatever the market-rate is,” but in reality it’s hard to find the market-rate. Even somewhere like Upwork.com could have a huge variety in rates.

So, to make things easier for you, I’ll just mention some rates I’ve seen people pay that I think could be good starting points for you. If you can pay someone less, or you want to pay someone more, that’s absolutely fine.

Different people are worth different rates too. Your $15/hour project manager might be three times as good as someone else’s $10/hour PM, so the key is finding someone who is worth whatever you pay them.

Here are some ranges you might be expected to pay:

Role

Price Range

Notes

Writer

$10-20 per 1,000 words

The less you pay, the more editing required

Editor

$5-10 per 1,000 words

Editors aren't always necessary

Project Manager

$10-20 per hour

You can find cheaper, but I find $10 is fair

WordPress VA

$5-30 per hour

Depends on tasks required. Can also pay fixed price.

Outreach VA

$10-20 per hour

A popular role to hire for

How To Hire A VA

I’ve had success hiring people the following ways:

  • Posting a job on Upwork.com
  • Posting a job on Onlinejobs.ph
  • Posting a job on my site
  • Responding to people contacting me
  • Hiring from my audience
  • Hiring from my circle of influence.

For most of you, I would suggest posting on Upwork or OnlineJobs.ph (if you want a WordPress VA, Filipinos are good hires. They have decent enough English and don’t command high rates like westerners do.). You can also check out JobRack.eu (and read a guest post they did for us here).

If you do have people you know personally who would make a good hire, then that’s a great option too.

When hiring, it can be tricky knowing if you’re getting the right person or if you’re paying the right amount. If you post correctly, you’ll get a lot of applicants, and sorting through them can be tough. 

Here are my tips for how to actually post a job and pick somebody.

Posting Your First Job

At the end of the day, posting a job and picking someone takes practice to get right. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Post at the right time of day for your timezone. If you want westerners, post in the morning western time, and so on.
  2. Make your job description as clear as possible. I usually describe the steps and details of the job in the actual post. This stops people applying who aren't the right fit. You want to get their expectations right.
  3. Ask a basic question like "What's your favorite colour?" and tell people to answer it when applying. Ignore the applications of those who don't answer.
  4. Hire 50% more people than you need, because some of them won't work out. If they all work out, you now have double the amount of great workers. Split the tasks between them.
  5. Give people 1-2 small tasks before you give them the main task. Use this as a test to see how they perform.
  6. Communication is the most important trait. You can train somebody how to do things differently or how to improve, but if they aren't communicating timely (I use 24 hours as a test) then they're not going to be a good hire.

Feel free to ask more questions in the comments below, I'm sure you have many.

Managing A VA

I think another strong reason why many people avoid hiring a virtual assistant is that they don't want to be a manager. Either they don't trust themselves to do a good job, don't want to have to discipline or fire someone, or some other reason.

I get you there, I hated the thought of being a manager.

In truth, if you explain people's roles clearly and hire the right assistant, managing will be easy. A good VA should be able to work independently enough, and will actively ask you for their next tasks. Your job should just be to explain the bigger picture and their role, and let them set to it. Weekly updates are of course a must, but don't think that you'll need to be chasing them wherever they go.

If a VA seems to not be working well without much micro-management, that is usually a sign you made a hiring mistake. Give them a reminder of what you expect and give them a chance to improve. If they don't, then move them on.

Can you manage a VA via email?

You can actually. Some people are comfortable jumping on Skype to chat to assistants, but I've never been one of them. I have had to get used to doing video conferences with my main leadership team, but I'll avoid a skype call with an assistant unless it's really necessary.

This might be to my detriment though. If you WANT to get on the phone/skype with someone, then it's definitely worth it. Just don't let your fear of having to do that stop you hiring someone. You can make it work however you want it to. Remember, good assistants are flexible.

When to train and when to fire?

You should always try to train a VA to improve before you let them go. You will have invested time hiring and training them in the first place, so there's no need to fire them immediately (in most cases). You can usually tell whether someone just needs some pointers or clarification, or whether they are just the wrong person for the job.

Some people will apply for jobs when they have no skill set or even desire to do the job. If you do make the mistake of hiring one of these people, it will show quite quickly, and you can move on from them quickly.

You will also find some people who don't show up for work on the first day, or who stop replying to emails. These ones are not usually worth training. Just get rid of them.

I guess you have to weigh up the time investment. What's easier, hiring a replacement, or spending hours re-training the current person? Usually it's worth at least trying to improve them.

Remember, this is a huge learning curve for you as well, so don't expect to hit the ground running with all your hires. Be patient, and learn how to communicate your own expectations better as well.

Final Thoughts - Why You Can Never Hire Soon Enough

As I've explained already, this is going to be a learning curve for you. This means that you won't get it right immediately. That said, you can definitely pick up some good hires right off the bat, so don't feel too discouraged.

The point I'd like to make is that since it will take you a while to get good at hiring and managing, you should really start before you need someone.

Equally, it will take them a little while to get up to speed and understanding what you want. They might need to shuffle their schedule around or get used to the hours you give them. They might simply need a bit of time to learn the job.

​Interested in joining a community of niche site builders?

We're kicking off the launch of our private forum with a live Amazon affiliate case study. Participate and follow along as Dom rebuilds his niche site portfolio with a goal of reaching $10,000. Recently selling his 2 biggest earners, Dom's ready for a new challenge and wants to share the whole process from start to finish, watch the video and join now!

All of this points to the simple fact: Hiring as early as possible will get things smooth faster.

If it doesn't work out or you can't afford it, you can always let someone go. It's not an ideal situation, but it's better than running out of money and having to let them go anyway.

I think I'll leave you with this final point I want to make.

Every time I hired someone, I was worried that I'd end up with my expenses too high and that would mean I made less money. In reality, every single time, all that happened was I had more free time, and made more money.

  • I would definitely recommend getting a VA as soon as possible if you find yourself with repetetive time-consuming tasks, however, you need to make sure you train them well and get a VA with good attention to detail.

    I’ve hired 3 VA’s for certain tasks, 2 who were terrible and I soon dropped them, and the third person is absolutely amazing and just gets on with everything I ask. I actually wrote a similar post on my blog the other day and echo the sentiments you expressed above!

  • Great post, Dom. My company grew very quickly once I learned to do exactly what you said: outsource and scale. We went from 1 part time VA to 30 full time VAs in about 18 months. We even developed a method for using “outsourcer hiring funnels” to semi-automate screening applicants; Outsource Kingpin. You’re advice to outsource SOONER than later is solid.

    • Great thanks for the info Bradley, might have to check that out.