Hey there, Common Sense Marketers, and welcome back to the final installment of my Outsourcing Case Study. So far, we’ve covered what outsourcing is, how to find a virtual assistant and how to delegate work to him or her. Today, we’re going to wrap up the process of outsourcing with a few final tips and tricks, including how to reward good workers, how to fire bad ones and what a fully automated business model could look like when you work with virtual assistants.
Let’s get started!
First of all, now that you’re an experienced outsourcer, let’s consider what your next steps should be. After all, starting out by hiring a single VA for a few hours a week through Odesk is a great way to get your feet wet, but where do you go next? How do you take your outsourcing strategy to the next level?
Obviously, the first way to increase your involvement with outsourcing is to increase the number of hours your virtual assistant is working for you. If 5-10 hours a week is useful for your business, 30-40 could be even better. However, it’s also important to be sure you’re getting a good ROI for the increased hours. Don’t have a VA just to have one – be sure that the work he or she is doing contributes to the growth of your business and your bottom line in some meaningful way.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you want to continue with the Odesk platform. There’s no doubt that it offers a lot of helpful tools and resources, but it does also come with fees – regular charges that are added on top of your worker’s hourly rate. Because it’s built in to the hourly rate, you might not notice it, but rest assured – you are being charged to use the service.
To eliminate these fees, you might want to move to a situation where you’re hiring and managing your VA directly. As discussed in the last edition of this case study, Chris Ducker’s Virtual Staff Finder is one good way to do that. You will pay some fees up front, but once the initial expenses are paid, you’ll likely find that this represents a big savings in the long run. Here’s why…
The basic level of service for the Virtual Staff Finder has a $350 price tag. That might sound steep to you, but it’s the only fee you’ll pay to get started with your VA. After that, you pay the agreed upon monthly rate with your worker and nothing else.
Now, consider that every provider you hire on Odesk has an hourly rate that’s inflated to account for Odesk’s fees. Say you hire a VA at $5.00/hr – he or she might only receive $4.50/hr, with the rest going into Odesk’s coffers. This might not sound like much until you consider that, down the road, you might have several VAs working full-time for you. For example, if you have four full-time workers at this rate, you’ll pay $320/month in fees to Odesk. The Virtual Staff Finder fee is starting to make a lot more sense now, isn’t it!
Of course, you can eliminate these fees entirely by hiring a worker on your own. You could connect with candidates directly through forums, or post your own job description with local classified ad websites (like the Philippines Craigslist pages). There will be a little more work involved in verifying that a candidate is legit, and you probably shouldn’t go this route until you’re more experienced with outsourcing, but you’ll definitely save money when it comes to fees.
Once you’ve found a good VA (using whichever of the strategies above that makes the most sense for you), your next concern should be retention.
Despite the number of virtual assistants working online these days, you might be surprised to find out that a) not all of them are good, and that b) the ones that are really good are in high demand. This is why you aren’t going to hear many successful internet marketers sharing names or details about their VAs – the last thing they want is for someone to poach their best employees!
And really, if you’ve found a good worker and have put any amount of effort into training him or her, you have an idea of how much trouble it would be to replace your VA. So what can you do to ensure that your VA doesn’t go running off to another marketer who might be offering more money? Consider using any or all of the following perks:
* Monetary bonuses. If your VA does an exceptionally good job or exceeds a performance metric you set, an extra financial bonus can be a great way to recognize his or her hard work. This could be an extra $10-50 dollars each week or an annual bonus (like the regular “13th Month” bonus in the Philippines) that will help encourage good workers to stick with your team.
* Additional training opportunities. Helping your VAs learn and develop new skills demonstrates that you’re invested in them, and they’ll be more likely to stay with you if they’re being challenged with fun new projects and growing their skill sets.
* Greater levels of responsibility. People want to grow in their jobs, and they want to feel competent and trusted. As you develop your relationships with your VAs, offering them a higher level of responsibility can help them feel more engaged and fulfilled by their jobs.
* Traditional employment perks. To reward a really good VA, consider traditional employment perks, like offering paid vacation time, sick days or expense reimbursements. These certainly aren’t requirements, and I can’t advise you on how to set them up from a legal or contractual standpoint, but offering these types of incentives could help you stand out as an employer in a crowded marketplace.
The opposite problem to have is the need to fire or discipline a VA. Ideally, you’ll hire your first virtual assistant and the two of you will get along great. You’ll provide him or her with interesting work assignments and training opportunities, and your VA will reciprocate with work that’s finished on time and meets or exceeds your expectations.
Of course, in real life – as you might guess – things rarely work out so well. Chances are you’ll encounter at least one issue with your VA, whether it’s your mistake or your VA’s. Some of the most common situations you’ll encounter are VAs that don’t have the skills they advertised and VAs that aren’t as timely as you need. And oftentimes, your own mistakes – like not following up quickly or providing enough instruction – can lead to your relationship falling apart.
So what do you do if you realize things aren’t working out so well with your chosen VA?
First of all, if the quality of your VA’s work has been good, try to salvage the relationship. Fess up to any mistakes you’ve made and try to provide constructive feedback that will bring the VA’s work in line with your expectations. Remember, if you’ve invested any amount of time in training your worker, severing the relationship will put you back at square one. So if you believe the relationship can be repaired, provide as much information on your desired outcome as possible and see if you can make things work.
Sometimes, they won’t work out – that’s just a reality that you’ll have to deal with as an employer. However, the last thing you want to be in this situation is unprofessional. Resist the urge to simply break off contact and terminate the relationship, as well as the impulse to voice your frustrations in an unprofessional way.
Instead, provide a professional notice of termination, as well as examples to illustrate your decision and any constructive feedback you feel is appropriate. No one wants to feel like they’ve been fired for no reason, so be as clear as possible with your letter. Consider the following template:
While I appreciate the work you have done for me in the past, I am writing to inform you that, effective immediately, I am terminating our contract together. The last three assignments I have given (dated [xx/xx/xxxx], [xx/xx/xxxx] and [xx/xx/xxxx]) were all received after the requested delivery dates, which has caused delays in the projects on my end. Because my customers rely on me for on-time delivery, I’m afraid I can’t afford these delays.
I wish you all the best of luck with your future endeavors.
Feel free to modify this notice to suit your needs or draft something entirely new, depending on your circumstances. Just remember to keep it professional and provide specific instances that illustrate the reasons you’re terminating the contract.
Again, hopefully you’ll never have to fire an outsourced worker, but chances are it’s something you’ll run into at one point or another.
Now for the really fun part of this article… We’ve been talking a lot about the technical details of hiring outsourced workers for the past few weeks, and I want to be sure that all those specifics haven’t dampened your enthusiasm for outsourcing.
So now, I want to take a second to give you an idea of what a fully-outsourced business model can look at. Keep in mind that this is just one example – really, the sky’s the limit when you take on additional workers and expand your business team!
“Watching TV one night, you have an idea for a new website in a new niche. You don’t know anything about the niche, but you have a hunch that there’s going to be a demand for products and services in the area.
Instead of jumping on your computer and firing up your keyword research software, you shoot a quick message to your market research VA. While you’re sleeping that night, he runs the numbers, confirms that there is an opportunity in the niche and includes a list of the keywords with the most potential. The next morning, you quickly glance at the data, choose a keyword to pursue and pass it on to your web development VA.
As you sit down to breakfast, your web development VA leaps into action. He registers a domain based on the keyword and sets up a hosting account on your reseller service. Within a few hours, he’s got WordPress installed and a great theme picked out (or built from scratch if he’s particularly talented). He’s also passed along word of the new website to your article writing VA, whom he’s able to contact through the team area of Odesk.
Your article writing VA begins generating content for your new website, which she emails back to your web development VA, who starts uploading the articles to drip on to your site. In just a few days – and with very minimal effort on your part – you have a new website up and running from what was once just a thought in your head.
But that’s not the end of the process… You take a look at the website and make a few notes to give to your web development VA. Maybe you want a slightly different navigation structure, or maybe you’d like to place your affiliate promotions differently. Once your web development VA makes the changes to your satisfaction, the project gets handed off to your backlinking VA, who is in charge of building links and driving traffic to your new website.
Occasionally, you check in with your team and request changes, based on your Google Analytics data or your conversion rates. But overall, the site grows largely without your involvement. It’s about as passive as you can get when it comes to online income!”
Now, obviously, this example is somewhat simplified, as there clearly some details that have been left out. It’s also important to note that you don’t necessarily need to have this exact type of team to build websites this way. It’s entirely possible that you’ll find a VA who can manage both research and web development, or some other combination of tasks. You might also want to take on some of the tasks yourself to reduce costs and retain some creative control.
However, I hope this example at least opens your eyes to the possibilities that outsourced workers provide when it comes to internet business.
As always, if you have any questions about outsourcing – or any advice of your own – please share it in the comments section below. I’m happy to share my experiences on this subject, because I’m positive it’s something that’ll help you grow your own affiliate marketing business.