Most Internet Business gurus recommend hiring virtual assistants when your online business gets busy enough that you need help to manage it. However, my experience with virtual assistants was terrible.
First of all, I must acknowledge that my opinion is the minority in this space. Many Internet entrepreneurs have found tremendous success in working with VAs. It can definitely be done correctly.
My experience, however, was not successful at all. I paid several hundred dollars to Chris Ducker’s Virtual Staff Finder service to find a VA. Everything looked great. The website had lots of information on how the process worked and tips for working with someone in another country.
Most of the VAs placed through the Virtual Staff Finder service come from the Philippines. Filipinos speak excellent English, often have good education, and are very pleased with a wage of $500-$900 per month.
After I paid several hundred dollars to Virtual Staff Finder, I waited the time period before receiving three resumes of qualified applicants who I was able to interview via Skype and then choose who to hire.
There is a huge time difference for those working in the United States and VAs in the Philippines, but I found that if I did a Skype session at the end of my work day, I could catch my VA at about 7AM their time as they started their day.
On the day of the interviews with the three candidates chosen by Chris Ducker’s service, I was prepared with basic questions for them. Two of the interviewees didn’t show up for the Skype interview despite the fact that I had confirmed the time twice.
The last interviewee admitted that he has a drinking problem (he brought it up 3 times), that he was planning on working a second job while working full-time for me, and I heard him Googling the answers to one of the questions during the Skype interview. He was also evasive about several questions where I felt that he wasn’t being honest with me. Also, he said that in his 4 previous jobs as a VA, he never lasted longer than 3 months. It was an absolute disaster, and SUCH a waste of time for me when I was already too busy to do things on my own.
I contacted Virtual Staff Finder and they found a second crop of candidates for the job. However, these candidates didn’t fit the job requirements nearly as well as the first group. As part of the interview process, I asked the candidates to transcribe one of my podcast episodes to check their English skills, and all did well on the test. After interviewing this group, I made my choice and hired my first VA.
The VA I chose was extremely friendly and kind, honest, and willing to learn. I was happy with her work for the first week, and then problems began.
Although the VA had done well on the written transcription test we gave, we did not receive any information on how long it took her to do the transcription. As it turned out, it took her 3 to 4 full working days to transcribe one 45-minute podcast!
Although her English was good on Skype and she could spell and write correctly, she was extremely slow. 4 full working days to put out one podcast was ridiculous!
I found over the next month or two of working with this VA that I spent a tremendous amount of time preparing trainings for her. I even created an entire website with wiki tutorials on each task, made screen captures of each process in the business, etc. There was no lack of training.
After giving the relationship enough time to try and work out the kinks, I eventually gave up and let my VA go. She was hard-working and friendly, but simply couldn’t work at a reasonable pace despite my every effort in providing top-notch training.
In the end, I hired a part-time local employee to work with me. At $10 per hour working 20 hours per week, this was not much more expensive than a VA. With the same training resources as we had given the VA, this part-time worker mastered all of the tasks for the job in less than a week and accomplished 5 or 6 times more work each day. It takes this person about 1 hour to prepare a post of the podcast.
In short, a VA can be a good tool for businesses that have many tedious tasks and which work at a slow pace; however, if you really look at the issue, I think most Internet businesses could work more efficiently and quickly with a part-time employee working locally.