Hiring a Virtual Assistant

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image21173544Hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) is an excellent way to remove yourself from nonessential details so you can focus your time and energy on the tasks that are key to growing your business.  In the past year, I’ve used several VAs for a number of web related items such as developing websites, SEO, Google Adwords, and SEM.  For the most part, I’ve had great experiences with VA’s with only some very minor setbacks.  I tend to hire most people from the Philippines due to their worth ethic, fluency in English and cost.  The only drawback is getting used to the time change, as it’s about a 13 hour difference.

As I mentioned, one of my goals for the New Year is to hire a virtual assistant to handle my seller calls in addition to many administrative tasks that take me a long time to do but either don’t add much value or are easy to train someone else.  I knew that if I really wanted to expand my business this year, I would need some help.  I’ve talked to a number of other real estate investors around the country to find out how to go about hiring and managing a full time VA, and I wanted to outline that in this post.

First off, I’ve found that the most popular and reliable websites to hire a VA are:

  • www.Elance.com (free, the website takes a commission when you hire someone)
  • www.oDesk.com (free, the website takes a commission when you hire someone)
  • www.Onlinejobs.ph (monthly fee, no commission when you hire someone)

 

Next, depending on whether you have a preference on the VA’s location, you can spend anywhere from about $3/hr and up.  Obviously if you’re hiring someone in the US, you should expect to pay much more.  However, because my business is in the growth stage, I’m putting a much larger preference on my dollars than anything else.  Also, I’ve found Filipino VA’s to be very professional, fluent in English and capable of handling most every task that I’ve sought help with.

Since the main responsibility of the position will be talking with sellers, it’s imperative that this person speaks perfect English.  I want my sellers to feel like they are speaking with someone locally.  And because I know I’m not going to be able to fill their week with seller calls, I had to come up with a list of other tasks that they could help me with throughout the week.  I’ve added some extra work on my plate at the moment, going through the interview and hiring process, and creating a procedures manual but I know that hiring a VA will greatly benefit my company and save me a lot of time in the long run.  By creating a procedures manual, I’ll be able to standardize every process so that every time someone performs the task it will produce the same output.  Also, I want to ensure that the VA understands why and how I do each task and as they learn, they will become more valuable to my business and be able to take on more tasks.

Based on my experience with using these VA sites, I’ve outlined some tips and steps to take before posting a job.

Preliminary steps before posting a job on the websites mentioned above:

  1. Search for freelancers with keywords and the advanced search criteria.  You can then save people who have the skills you are seeking so you can invite them to apply to your job once you create one.
  2. Search for job postings with keywords like “real estate investor”, “real estate telemarketing”, etc. to get an idea of what other people are writing in their job postings, and to find freelancers who applied to that posting.

 

Tips on posting a job:

  • I always post the job on both Elance and oDesk so I can attract a larger pool of candidates and because it’s free to post jobs on these websites.  I just posted my first telemarketing job ad on Onlinejobs.ph because it has a huge pool of Filipino workers and I’m happy to pay a fee up front if that means finding the right candidate.
  • To make sure your candidates are detail oriented, add a statement like “When you apply for this position, use the word [pick a word] in your cover letter.”  I have easily ruled out >60% of the candidates when I use this.
  • I’ve had better results when I post at the beginning of the week rather than the end of the week.
  • Ask the candidate to include a voice recording when they apply if you want to ensure they speak English well.
  • Be detailed with your job posting so the VA knows what to expect.  I’ve found that many candidates don’t read the full posting and just apply, hence the reason why I add a statement like the one in the 2nd bullet point.
  • Invite all the freelancers that you saved.

 

Here is the job that I posted.  Feel free to use this as a template.

____________________________________________________________________

I’m a real estate investor in the US and am seeking an experienced real estate investor VA.  First and foremost, this candidate should have call center/telemarketing experience.  I need to make sure that the person I hire is detail oriented so please read this posting completely and use the word that I include in quotations (“”) in your proposal.

The main responsibilities for this candidate will include:

* Answer/Return/Follow up with calls from potential sellers who respond to my direct mail and internet marketing campaigns (I will provide a script)
* Enter callers’ information into Zoho CRM

The candidate should be able to speak clearly, professionally, and know how to make the callers feel comfortable on the other end, while at the same time obtaining the necessary information from them and identifying if they are motivated sellers.

Depending on the candidate’s capabilities, I will also have them assist me with the following:
* Set and confirm appointments with sellers
* Calendar management
* Enter contact information from business cards into Zoho CRM
* Follow-up with contacts I make at networking events
* Post on craigslist and other listing websites
* Research the local MLS website for properties that meet my criteria
* Research specific types of attorneys and real estate agents and email them to see if they want to work with us
* Email other real estate investors and wholesalers to see how we can work together
* Track marketing campaigns through Zoho CRM
* Assist in creating a procedures manual

Required Skills
* Fluent in written and oral English
* Real Estate Investor VA experience is a PLUS
* Call center / telemarketing experience (Negotiation experience is a huge PLUS)
* Knowledge of Gmail, Excel, Zoho CRM,
* Motivated individual, problem solver, positive attitude
* Able to work with little oversight once training is complete
* Fast learner

For applying to this position, you MUST have:
* Availability of 15-20 hours/week with capacity to increase to 40 hours/week
* Availability to work during normal business hours in Eastern Standard Time
* Fast and reliable internet connection
* A Skype ID to communicate

Please attach to your application a recording of your voice (2 minutes) introducing yourself and why do you think you should be hired for this position.
Compensation:

The compensation for this position will be an hourly-based pay. A bonus structure will also be put into place.
This position has a lot of growth potential and will be financially rewarding.

Please only respond if you have the experience and full capabilities to handle this position.  I need someone who is motivated and has a great attitude (“Happy”).

If you think you are nothing but the best for this position, please apply with confidence and mention your best rates. Preference will be given to the lowest bidders with excellent skills matching with our requirements.

____________________________________________________________________

If you use VA’s in your business, please share your experiences and any tips that you have when hiring or working with them.

 

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  • ray

    as usual, great post. as an fyi, oDesk and eLance are merging but time frames are not known. the other site you provided is a good resource. I’ve used odesk for some basic owner mailing address lookups for our direct marketing campaign and found it to be a good use of dollars. I hired this one person because she saw the document uploaded to the job posing and returned a few entries, demonstrating her ability to perform the task correctly.

    • Thanks Ray.

      That’s correct, I remember an email I got a while back notifying me that Elance and oDesk will merge. Assuming not much changes, I’m looking forward to the merger so I don’t have to post on 2 websites.

      That’s a good point about selecting a VA. If you provide enough information in your job posting some VAs will actually perform the task and send you a sample to show that they are capable of doing it.

  • Shaun Reilly

    Good info Justin.
    One of my goals this year is to better systematize some areas of the business to be able to get a VA to handle some of the mundane tasks.
    Then eventually use them for more important things as well.

    • That’s great Shaun. I just interviewed another VA tonight and it seems like there are lots of VAs with some great real estate experience.

  • Chris Willett

    Hey Justin, This is really good information! It was great talking with you and you know where I stand on this particular subject. What I wanted to tell you is, If you are need of a system fairly quickly? I will share my Va training system with you in its raw stage and maybe you could provide me with ideas and changes, maybe even solutions to some of the problems from a user stand point. Let me know what you think. You know how to reach me and I can go over the system with you with screen share. This could help me see what needs more attention in certain areas and cut out some time and work on your end! sounds like a win win to me.

    • Thanks Chris. I’m happy to take a look at the training system and provide my feedback. I actually just talked with a VA this morning and will hopefully have him start in the next week or two, so it will be good timing.

      • Chris Willett

        Ok let me know when you get them started, and we can do a screen share and go over our business processes and see if we can tailor what i have with what you need! Just plan out a time good for you and I will let you know my schedule!

  • Jess

    Hi, I listened to your podcast on biggerpockets, some great info.! I am very curious about the kind of tasks your VA is doing. Could you expound on that a little? I know they can take incoming calls, but can they do outgoing calls also?

    • Jess – My VA just started last week so I’m having them work through some of the video tutorials and written procedures that I’ve created. They are also doing some research for my marketing campaigns. Next week they will start calling sellers that I need to follow up with and will also be answering incoming calls. I’ll likely have them call people off craigslist and eventually start managing my marketing campaigns. Once I see how things are working out, I’ll post an update.