How to Hire a Virtual Assistant in 15 minutes for 1 Dollar Per Hour – Blind Experiment Method
Below is a detailed step by step guide on how to hire a virtual assistant using what I like to call my Blind Experiment Method. There is no interview, I hire 2, fire 1 and the whole process only takes about 15 minutes of my time to get a talented VA for $1/hr – see the video below for an over the shoulder look at me doing exactly that.
2016 UPDATE – Although this is the exact strategy I still use the expected amount you will be needing to pay is at least $3/hr and ODesk is now UpWork.
As I have mentioned on this site several times before my available time to work on my online business is limited! I have a demanding day job, a wonderful wife and very active little 7 month old I love to spend time with. So unlike a lot of other people who talk about outsourcing that are working online full time my ability to outsource is mission critical to any success I have online.
Since I started online helping a tech startup company build their website in 2007 I have worked A LOT on ODesk…
Most of the information available online about outsourcing just doesn’t jive with what I find to be reality. People talk about long hiring cycles, expensive VA vetting services and difficulty finding a quality VA.
So this article is my unique take on hiring a virtual assistant and is the first part in a multi-part epic series on how I manage to run my online business using outsourcing.
3 Myths About Hiring a VA I Have Found Not to be False
- The interview is the most important part of the hiring process – I keep reading about how important it is to interview a VA before working with them…but why? An interview is difficult to coordinate (especially if you only have 0.5-2hrs per day to work on your business). Here is my reasoning why I never interview…
- Cost of the interview = 1.5hrs of my time (10 minutes for 3 emails to set up a time – 20 minute interview times that by 3 applicants)
- Cost of not interviewing = under $10 & 0.5hrs(assume 1/2 of the VAs I hire does not adequately perform and you end their contract after 10 hrs cost 0.5x$20 = $10 – often less and the work they do still has some value)
- So the question becomes simple what is more important $10(likely much less) or 1 hr of my time?
- Talented VA’s who can do everything are easy to find – Some people talk about VA’s as being a quick fix to all business problems. Some VA’s can be a huge help to multiple areas of your business but I have never met one that can do it all. Most VA’s can execute a few jobs well but others very poorly. Thinking that you will be able to find one VA who can do everything is a big mistake a lot of people looking to get started with VA’s make. I like to have a mix of VA’s on my team so that combining their specific strengths I can cover most activities needed for my site. They all can do the basics to run my business but some have special skills (photoshop, excel etc) and I leverage those talents on specific projects.
- You can find VA’s from the Philippines that write perfect English – I have found this one to also be false. After many attempts I have been unable to find and hire a VA who is able to produce English as a first language quality articles. After hearing from other people that they were able to I did a large hiring and testing job where I hired 15 VA’s who were all going to write for me and tested each of them with initial assignments. Although some of the articles were decent none were of what I would consider high quality. I have tested probably 20 non-native English speaking writers at this point and have yet to find a writer who produces high enough quality articles. I don’t mean to pick on the Philippines they are the often recommended country for writers but this extends to all non-English writers.
Step by Step Guide – How to Hire a Virtual Assistant on Odesk in 15 minutes of Work for $1/hr
Of course you know I love sharing detailed tutorials and not just theory…so here it is… something that people have been asking for…exactly how I go about hiring virtual assistants.
Step 1 – Sign up at ODesk
The sign up process at ODesk is straightforward. You simply sign up and attach a credit card to your account.
Step 2 – Post a Job on ODesk
Post a job on ODesk. For me I used a very simple job posting in the administrative general category.
Some people like to use hidden keywords to qualify applicants or say no form cover letters. To me it only makes sense people would use form cover letters when the success rate of job posting has to be around 1/50 so who would spend time creating a unique cover letter. I wouldn’t so I don’t punish people who don’t. The bottom line is I don’t want to hire the VA with the best application I want the best VA at their job so the more applicants for me to select from the better! The ability with ODesk to see who is serious and who is not is easy with their previous work history so I don’t use the cover letter to judge how serious an applicant they are.[wpsharely id=”923″]
VA Job Description Template – View Here
Step 3 – Wait 1-24 hrs no longer!
In only 15 minutes 19 applicants had applied! Within 2 hrs 52 applicants had applied. I like to keep the momentum going of someone who just applied and hire them as soon after they applied as possible. This momentum when managing VA’s will get discussed more in future posts but it is a key part of managing remote workers.
When I have hired someone who applied to the job longer than 24hrs ago I notice a decline in the responsiveness. My focus in this phase is to keep the momentum moving and the cycle time from application to hired short.
Step 4 – Sort through the List of Applicants
Here are the 4 measures I use to find the best possible VA.
- How many hours has the person worked on ODesk (~30% weighting) – The more hours the better, what often can occur is someone will sign up on ODesk, apply to a job but then never follow through on the assignment. Someone that is making a living on ODesk will be certain to deliver results for you and protect their positive feedback.
- ODesk Feedback (~30% weighting) – Reviews are not good enough to sort out the top 50% but they can be reliable on cutting out the bottom 25-50% of applicants. If someone is below a 4 rating I would stay away. However, someone that has a 4.91 is not necessarily better than someone with a 4.78…reviews just are not to be trusted that much in my opinion.
- Matching Skill Set (~20% weighting) – In my case I am looking for someone who has done similar work including WordPress, research and some SEO work. If they have another bonus skill I can’t efficiently teach I consider that as well such as graphic design or the ability to code.
- English Skills (~20% weighting) – I want to find someone who does not have any broken English in their application. Whether it is selecting a category for a post or crafting a tweet their English skills need to be decent enough to put together a non-broken sentence.
Step 5 – Hire the 2 Best VA’s for the Blind Experiment
Based on the criteria above hire the 1-3 best potential VA’s with no interview. Simply select the 2 best and hire them.
Here is where the blind experiment method comes into play. Without an interview I just go ahead and hire someone then in the next steps there is the “experiment” to prove who is the best VA.
Step 6 – Assign Short Term Research Assignment
Once the VA’s have been hired it is time to send them their first assignment. It is important to follow up with the instructions right after you have hired them. The assignment I am looking to assign is something that is simple and will prove to me if they have what it takes.
Example of the 2 assignments I am going to assign…
- Research Assignment #1 – Find 30 scholarships for College students in the US who are from China. Create a Google spreadsheet and share it with JonHaver11. I would like you to include the name of the scholarship, the URL of the scholarship and a copied short description of the scholarship. Please confirm you have received these instructions by emailing me at jonhaver11 immediately after being hired and send a very brief email daily with your progress (# found) and any questions you have. I would like this research completed within 2-3 days.
- Research Assignment #2 – Find 30 scholarships for College students in the US who are from Canada. Create a Google spreadsheet and share it with JonHaver11. I would like you to include the name of the scholarship, the URL of the scholarship and a copied short description of the scholarship. Please confirm you have received these instructions by emailing me at jonhaver11 immediately after being hired and send a very brief email daily with your progress (# found) and any questions you have. I would like this research completed within 2-3 days.
That is it! I like to provide more detail on all future assignments but this clear enough but not too detailed job will show me what kind of person they are.
Step 7 – Review Work Completed by the VA’s
The review of their work starts with their communication, I like to see the confirmation come shortly after being hired saying they understand the job. If I get a ton of emails asking simple questions like “how do I create a Google Document” or anything they could easily learn with Google then I know they will be a burden on my time and not free it up. If they are crisp with their daily communication and deliver great results in an organized fashion within the timeline then I know what kind of worker they are. This test assignment has been a huge help to me.
In this phase I am looking for..
- Speed of communication
- Quality of communication
- Quality of questions they ask
- Quality of final piece of work (did they “get it”)
Step 8 – Fire Lowest Performing VA
In the past I have spent time trying to train up low performers to make them high performers. However, I am now very convinced my time is far better off training up my best performers and churning through VA’s until I find some stand outs who can be top performers.
WARNING – You will get many emails after you end the contract of the VA asking to be re-hired and providing many passionate pleas why you should hire them. It does hurt to say no to some people. If I think I gave them a fair opportunity I can’t get too worked up about ending their contract but it still sucks. So if you plan on following my no interview hire 2 fire 1 strategy be aware there is pain associated with it.
Find out in the next post who won…
Step 9 – Manage and Train Your VA
This step will be covered in the next blog post in my multi part series on how I hire, train and manage my team to allow me to build my business while I am at my day job.
Up Next in This Epic Outsourcing Series
- How to manage VA’s (and find out who won)
What Others are Saying About the Blind Experiment Method…
“Surprisingly, after I spoke to Jon from Authority Website Income, it took me only 30 minutes to find the most effective VA I have ever hired before through ODesk.” See the full post here – The Financial Blogger
Who Do You Think Will Win – Abul vs Ahsan?
Enter your guess in the comments below and check in for the next part in this series to see the work each produced and why I chose the eventual winner.
Affiliate Sign Up Bonus: If you sign up using my affiliate link I will provide the username of some proven VA’s
- Sign up at ODesk using THIS LINK
- Forward me the confirmation email that you have signed up to jonhaver11 (at) gmail (dot) com
- I will reply with a link to a few VA’s I have worked with that are good