The demand to hire a virtual assistant has been steadily rising over the last decades. When a business is still fledgling, recruiting a VA to juggle administrative and entrepreneurial errands is a smart move. Yet hiring the right VA for your business is no easy feat. As a founder and entrepreneur, Trent Dyrsmit (with over ten years of expertise) is fully aware of this. With his team of VAs, he has led business after business to success, including a seven-figure eCommerce company that has been named to America’s Most Successful Private Companies list for two years in a row!
In this episode, Trent shares his exact process for hiring a virtual assistant. He discusses what a virtual assistant is, the type of tasks, and where to find a virtual assistant. Trent then uncovers his hiring secrets developed over the last decade of working with VAs. Finally, he highlights the importance of having standard operating procedures in making this process easier.
Tune in to this episode to learn more about hiring a virtual assistant the Trent Dyrsmid way!
Click here to read transcript
[01:31] First, let’s talk about costs.
- I typically hire my VAs from the Philippines, although my personal assistant does come from Mexico. In the Philippines, we’re generally paying somewhere in the neighborhood of about $4 an hour. My executive assistant in Mexico, who is college-educated, speaks perfect English, and actually even lived in the US for a while works for about $6 per hour. Obviously much, much, much less expensive than trying to hire your typical North American worker.
Plus, you don’t have to provide them with health care benefits, and so forth. As well, if they don’t turn out, they’re really really easy to let go. You can simply terminate them because you’re on an hour-to-hour basis, and you’re not going to be looking at getting sued for wrongful dismissal, or any of the other things that can be the nasty byproduct of trying to terminate a US worker.
[02:21] The main benefit is this.
- When you put VAs on your team, you can stop doing all of those $10 an hour jobs — I like to call them $10 an hour jobs. Just the routine, mundane stuff that you really shouldn’t be doing in the first place so that you can free up your valuable time to do all of the things in your business that you really should be doing.
[02:47] Let’s talk a little bit about the tasks that I recommend that you give to a VA, and tasks that I give to a VA.
- First of all, if I was to describe these tasks in a basket, I would say they’re basically a collection of tasks that do not require the experience, or rather the judgment that comes from years and years of experience. Those types of tasks are the types of tasks that you should be doing because you’re the one that has years and years of experience and all of the judgment that comes with it. But there is a wide plethora or vast array of other tasks that I’m pretty sure you’re doing in your business that you could really stop doing if you were to delegate them to a VA.
Let me give you just a couple off the top of my head. Oftentimes, I’ll say to my VA, “Hey, give me a list of people that match this, and this, and this, and this criteria”. She will go off and find, build me a list, maybe they’re potential podcast guests, maybe they’re contacts at a given organization, maybe they’re joint venture partners. Just that first level of research that I kind of find mind-numbingly boring, and I don’t want to do, pass it off to a VA.
If you’re using Fiverr, which we make extensive use of, you can have your VA ordering all of your Fiverr Gigs for you so that you don’t have to do it yourself. If you run one of my businesses — is at an Amazon business — and we’re continually looking for new products to resell on Amazon. There’s an extensive amount of product research. There’s finding the companies that make these products. There’s finding the executives at those companies that would be the right decision-maker. Finding all the contact information for those executives. I don’t do any of that stuff. I’ve never done any of that stuff. We all send that over to our VA team to work on.
Now a couple of other things that I do — creating blog posts. Now, they don’t write them for me but everything else around once the draft of the post is written — like putting it in WordPress and attaching the featured image, and choosing the right category, and making sure it’s formatted correctly, and so forth. We have them do all of that same thing for my podcast. They play a huge role in helping me manage my social media. As well, one of my inboxes, my biggest one that gets the most email is actually fully managed by my executive assistant in Mexico. She works for approximately $6 an hour, somewhere in that neighborhood. I’m actually not the one sending her the payroll, my wife handles that. I don’t know exactly what it is anymore, but I know it’s right in that range. That saves me an immense amount of time by not having to do that.
[05:22] Now, let’s talk a little bit about where to find them.
- Now, I’ve already kind of given this away a little bit by saying most of our VAs are hired in the Philippines. We have also had success in Mexico. Why would you use say Mexico versus the Philippines? In my case is very, very simple. I like my executive assistant to be on the same timezone as I am. While many folks in the Philippines are willing to work North American times, I feel bad about asking people to work in the middle of the night. I don’t want to impose that on them. That’s why for my executive assistant role, I went to Mexico. For pretty much everybody else, I went over to the Philippines.
Oftentimes we’d like — for example, we have — I don’t call them VAs, but we do have a lot of developers as well from India. As a matter of fact, my video editor is also, Rohan, I don’t even know. I can’t think off the top of my head what country Rohan lives in. But it’s not Mexico. I’m pretty sure it’s not the Philippines. I wouldn’t call him a virtual assistant, but he is a hugely valuable member of our team. And he’s substantially less expensive for editing the video that you’re watching. It’s substantially less expensive than hiring someone in the United States to do that.
[06:37] What are the websites where you can find this type of talent?
- Well, for virtual assistants, we most commonly use Upwork and OnlineJobs.ph. I’m going to give you an example of one of our job listings on OnlineJobs.ph. Alright, here is an overview — not an overview, one of our exact postings:
Looking for part to full-time VA. All training provided — and this is on OnlineJobs.ph — we’ve got the job overview or growing company, so this job will evolve over time. But for now, we’re looking for someone to help us run software that generates a spreadsheet of results, etc, etc, etc. I’m not going to read through the entire description. I will put a link to this post in the description below the video if you would really like to see it.
But here’s the important thing. Make sure that when you are posting your job, put something unique in the job description that you want them to put into their application. The reason that that is so important is it will help you to very quickly filter out people who don’t do a good job of reading instructions. You put like a code word like “blueberry” or whatever code word you would like and makes sure that you say kind of in the last line of the job description. Use the word “blueberry” in the first sentence of your application or in the subject line, or wherever. That will very quickly help you to filter through large numbers of applicants, and get to the people who actually read the entire post and follow your instructions because having folks that read the entire post and follow your instructions is a very, very important thing.
[08:22] Now, what I want to do is I’m actually going to bring my wife on camera here, and I’m going to do a very quick little interview with her because she’s the one that hires all of the VAs for our team, and you will hear it directly from her all of the best practices for hiring and for screening. Tell us. You’ve hired most of our VAs if not all of them. How do you go about the job posting and applicant screening process?
- Good question. I have hired many of our VAs, and now I have one of our VAs who hires our VAs. Once we’ve kind of gone through that first round of applicants, we have them do a test task. Essentially, what we’re doing is we make sure that we find people that are reading our job postings, and we’re finding people that are going to be a good use of our time to do these test tasks. Then, we make sure we know who will do a good job at it.
Actually, I didn’t explain one last thing. For the tests themselves, we typically pick something that’s going to take them an hour or two to do. We tell them we’re going to pay them by the hour for this time. It’s typically like a lower rate. We tell them it could take up to eight hours to do. We find out who can be doing something pretty efficiently because they’re expecting to take quite a bit longer time. We’ll find out — are they patting their hours, how efficient are they, and we also can kind of find some really interesting things from that. That’s kind of a summary of the whole hiring process.
[09:47] Alright, so hopefully you found that clip with my wife, Liz, very helpful. Now, I want to talk a little bit about why a lot of people struggle — struggle struggle struggle — when they hire VAs. And there’s a couple of really common mistakes that they are making.
- Number one is they’re not putting a little “blueberry” codeword, or some type of code word in their job posting. They end up with this huge list of people that they have to filter through, and that’s obviously very time-consuming to do. Now, the second thing that they do is they do what are called “traditional interviews” instead of what we’ve referred to as a “project-based interview.”
If you’re hiring someone to do a certain procedure, rather than talk to them and see, get a feel like you would do with a normal US employee because you want to know their career aspirations, and you want to know a lot about their past and so forth. While that is absolutely important, with respect to hiring a VA, I’m much more interested in knowing, “Can they do this thing that I want them to do?” A project-based interview is very simple. You just take, say five of your applicants, and you pay them to do the thing. Whatever one of those five that does the thing the fastest with the least amount of errors and the fewest questions — well, guess what? That’s the person that we’re going to hire because they just demonstrated to us that they’re going to be really good at doing the thing that we want them to do.
Now, if we’re hiring for a role where there’s going to be more than one thing, or the role is going to evolve. Yes, obviously, we are going to put some time into learning more about that individual’s desire and aptitude to go have a variety of other things in their job description. But sometimes, you’re hiring for someone to do just a thing over and over and over and over again because you don’t necessarily have to have one VA that does everything. You can to take a specialist approach. For example, we have, I guess we’ll call it a management layer of VA. So we have one of our VAs, her name is Dez. She’s been with us for a really long time. Over time, she’s demonstrated she’s really, really good at a lot of stuff. Dez has sort of risen to the top. Then, there’s other VAs that now report to Dez. As a matter of fact, I think — and maybe we covered in the video with my wife because I haven’t actually shot that video as the time that I’m recording this video — Dez may have done some of the hirings for us. By employing multiple VAs — because you don’t need to employ them all full time. Some of them are quite happy to work part-time. These are some of the things that you need to figure out when you’re doing the interview. But by employing multiple VAs, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to let the cream rise to the top. Then, you can have interactions directly with one VA. Then, that VA, just like a regular report or subordinate, would then be managing other VAs that report into them. That can make your life a whole lot easier.
The final thing is — well, not the final thing. The next thing why people struggle is they don’t have clearly defined processes. In just a couple of minutes, I’m going to show you some examples of some super clearly defined processes, and what those look like. At the end of this video, if you stay, I’m going to show you where you can get a whole bunch of templates that we’ve developed and we make freely available. It’s super important to give them step-by-step instructions — lots of pictures, lots of big red arrows — literally like I call it the “Mom Test”. If you gave it to your mom — no offense to the moms out there — but if mom couldn’t do it without asking a whole bunch of questions, then your process documentation is not really very good, and your VA is going to have a whole bunch of questions as well. If you’re working with a VA in a different time zone that going back and forth with questions, especially if they’re not working on the same timezone as you — like if they’re sleeping when you’re awake, and vice versa, those questions that go back and forth can really, really slow the process down. That can get very, very frustrating very quickly. You want to make sure that you have super well-defined documentation so that you avoid that real slowdown that comes from that back and forth communication.
Finally, the reason, the last reason why I see a lot of people failing is they have very unrealistic expectations. They’re trying to hire a VA maybe that has experience in doing a specific thing. Then, they’re just kind of like “Okay, do the thing” but they don’t give them the standard operating procedure — the very clear set of instructions. That method really — I think there’s landmines all over the place. I don’t know that’s really the best way to do it. The way that we do it is that we always give our VAs a very clearly defined standard operating procedure. We don’t really care if they have experience in it or not because our procedures are so well defined that they pass them on test. Therefore that person is able to successfully navigate their way from start to finish in that procedure without having to ask us a whole bunch of questions along the way.
[14:41] All right to review.
- What is a VA? Tasks that I give a VA. Where to find your VAs? Some of my best hiring secrets. Why most people struggle? The importance of standard operating procedures, and some final tips.
Alright, so as I promised you earlier in the video, down below, there is a link to the Flowster SOP Template Marketplace. In that Marketplace, there are, as you can see — let me just click over to it — literally hundreds and hundreds of different SOP templates that you can add to your Flowster account. Depending upon what level of Flowster you’re using, they can be fully customized. As you might imagine, starting with a premade template, it’s a whole lot easier than starting from scratch. I would encourage that you leverage that marketplace. So yeah, I guess that’s about it for today.
Thank you very much, Take care. Bye-bye.
Thanks very much for listening to the Bright Ideas Podcast. Check us out on the web at brightideas.co. All right. Show’s over. I’m tired.
Trent Dyrsmid’s Bright Ideas
- Save Money and Time with a Virtual Assistant
- Delegate Administrative Tasks Smartly
- Knowing Where and How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
- Create a Unique Job Listing Description
- Be Smart with the Applicant Screening Process
- Bypass Common Mistakes When Hiring General and Specialized Virtual Assistants
Save Money and Time with a Virtual Assistant
Trent shares that hiring a virtual assistant is the most precious resource for increasing productivity in business. You don’t need their physical presence, yet they are the single greatest addition to his secret business weapons at an affordable cost.
To give an idea, the best place to hire your VAs from is the Philippines. The general pay for a virtual assistant in this area is around $4 an hour. Trent’s executive assistant in Mexico, college-educated, speaks perfect English, and has lived in the US, works for $6 per hour. What do these numbers look like?
Below is a guide of what the cost benefits look like when hiring VAs outside the US:
- It’s much less expensive than hiring a North American local talent.
- There’s no need to provide healthcare benefits since they are independent contractors.
- It’s easy to let them go if they don’t turn out because they work on an hour-to-hour basis. Thus, you won’t have to worry about getting sued for wrongful dismissal or any other byproduct of termination.
- You can stop doing all the $10 an hour jobs. These $10 an hour jobs are repetitive daily tasks that you shouldn’t be doing as a business owner.
The bottom line: You’ll save on costs and free up your valuable time to focus on all the tasks you really should be doing.
Delegate Administrative Tasks Smartly
The tasks you should give to VAs are a collection of tasks that do not require experience.
Of course, specific and high-value tasks require judgment from years of experience. Those are the types of jobs you should be doing as a business owner. There are a vast array of small tasks you could simply delegate to a virtual assistant outside those.
Trent provides some examples of specific tasks you can delegate to your virtual assistant:
- Doing first-level research and building a list of people that matches specific criteria
- Administrative tasks, data entry, and simple problem solving
- Small project management
- Ordering all your Fiverr gigs for you
- Doing product research, finding manufacturers, scheduling meetings with clients, booking appointments, and fielding phone calls with company executives for your Amazon business
- Content creation, digital marketing, graphic design, video editing, and web content management in platforms like WordPress
- Managing business social media accounts, calendar management, lead generation
- Answering and managing emails
Knowing Where and How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
Now that you know the primary benefits of working with a virtual assistant, the next step is knowing where to find one. From his experience, Trent has found success with top virtual assistants from the Philippines and Mexico.
Preference can come to play on where to hire a virtual assistant. For instance, Trent likes his executive assistant to be in the same timezone as him.
Here are some websites where you can find outstanding virtual assistant talents:
Create a Unique Job Listing Description
Posting the right job description is key to efficiently finding the right virtual assistant. In the episode, Trent shares an example of a job listing they posted on OnlineJobs.Ph.
Key tip: Put something unique in the job post that you want applicants to put into their application. It can be a simple code they’ll put in their application. “The reason that that is so important is it will help you to very quickly filter out people who don’t do a good job of reading instructions.”
Be Smart with the Applicant Screening Process
Trent’s wife is responsible for hiring all the virtual assistants for their team. In the episode, she gives a video interview that shares an overview of their virtual assistant applicant screening process.
After the interview process of the first round of applicants, have them do a test task. The test task will filter out who will do a great job among a selection of candidates. It is a way to ensure you find people who will be a good use of your time.
What the test task should look like:
- It should be something that will take around an hour or two to do.
- Tell the applicants that you will pay them by the hour for the task.
- The secret of the process: “We tell them it could take up to eight hours to do.”
Here, you establish and exceed expectations that the task will take a longer time to accomplish. In this way, you can find out who does something efficiently in comparison.
Also, you can find out if there is a case of hiding work hours, excellent communication skills, quality work, and work ethic.
Bypass Common Mistakes When Hiring General and Specialized Virtual Assistants
It’s no secret that many people struggle in hiring virtual assistants. Here are some of the common mistakes business owners make when hiring their virtual assistant:
- Not putting some type of code word in the job posting. The result: a massive list of applicants to filter through.
- Doing a traditional interview instead of a project-based interview. When onboarding a virtual assistant, it’s better to be direct and determine whether they can do the task at hand.
A project based-interview is simple. Take five applicants, and pay them to accomplish a task. Then, hire the person who does it the fastest with the least errors and questions asked.
Of course, there are also cases where you will need to hire specialized virtual assistants. Here, you’ll have to put some time into learning more about the individual’s desire and aptitude.
Note that you can employ multiple virtual assistants at a time. Similar to hiring a general virtual assistant or a specialized virtual assistant, they can opt to work as a part-time or full-time employee. These virtual assistant-based opportunities are especially great for small business owners.
“By employing multiple VAs, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to let the cream rise to the top.” Meaning that you can have your best virtual assistant report to you, who would then be responsible for managing all the other VAs.
- Not having a clearly defined process. Remember: it’s critical to have open communication and give step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish the task. Trent calls this the “Mom Test”.
“If mom couldn’t do it without asking a whole bunch of questions, then your process documentation is not really very good. And your VA is going to have a whole bunch of questions as well.” These back and forth questions can slow down the process, especially when working with a virtual assistant in a different timezone.
- Having very unrealistic expectations. It often means hiring a virtual assistant with experience and relying solely on that without giving them a standard operating procedure (SOP).
In Trent’s team, experience is not something they look at when onboarding a virtual assistant. “The way that we do it is that we always give our VAs a very clearly defined standard operating procedure.” That way, they can simply follow the procedures from start to finish without asking many questions.
Flowster SOP Template Marketplace has hundreds of available pre-made SOP templates you can use. You can customize these accordingly depending on the level of Flowster account you’re using.
What Did We Learn from This Episode?
- We learned exactly what are the benefits of having a virtual assistant directly contribute to your business.
- Target hourly rate to save costs and delegate tasks to boost efficiency.
- Determine when you’re the only person who can take on a task and when outsourcing tasks is the best course of action
- Create a unique job description and conduct test tasks wisely.
- Having a clearly-defined SOP is more important than hiring a virtual assistant with experience.
- Use an SOP template to create clearly-defined step-by-step instructions for virtual assistant onboarding.
[1:09] — The Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
- VAs are the single greatest addition to Trent’s business arsenal.
- Significantly increases productivity at an affordable cost.
[1:37] — Costs of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
- Trent typically hires most virtual assistants from the Philippines, while his personal assistant is from Mexico.
- You can hire a Filipino virtual assistant for around $4 an hour. Trent’s executive assistant in Mexico gets paid about $6 an hour.
- Aside from being less expensive, it also saves costs from providing healthcare benefits.
- An hour-to-hour basis allows you to terminate them without hassle when they don’t perform.
[2:26] — The Role of a Virtual Assistant
- Allows you to focus on more critical tasks instead of $10 an hour jobs.
- You can hire a general VA for all the tasks you don’t want to do. Hiring a specialized VA can help you with specific tasks like project management and content creation.
- Accomplish a collection of tasks that do not require experience. Some examples of these tasks are:
- Making phone calls and contacting venture partners and clients
- Doing first-level research tasks and project management
- Order management
- Create content, graphic design, digital marketing, social media management, and email management
[5:28] — Where and How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
- Trent typically hires from the Philippines and Mexico. He hires VAs from Mexico to be in the same timezone as them.
- The best places to find virtual assistants are Upwork and OnlineJobs.ph.
- Make sure to put a unique code in the job description that you want applicants to put in their application. It will allow you to filter out qualified candidates more quickly.
[8:28] — The Applicant Screening Process
- Trent’s wife handles the hiring process of all their VAs.
- They have them complete a test task to filter out applicants who will do a good job.
- Test tasks are usually one to two-hour jobs. But instead, they tell them it could take up to eight hours and that they will get paid by the rate.
- The test task works as a trial run to find out who among the candidates does the job most efficiently.
[9:56] — Common Mistakes When Hiring a Virtual Assistant
- They don’t put a code word in their job posting.
- They do traditional interviews instead of straightforward project-based interviews.
- There’s no clearly-defined process and instruction documentation in place for the virtual assistant to follow.
- They set unrealistic expectations far from what they have to offer.
Tune in to the full episode to learn more about why people struggle when hiring VAs! Make sure to get your SOP template from Flowster SOP Template Marketplace.
Trent Dyrsmid is a serial entrepreneur, husband, and father. He is the founder of BrightIdeas.co, Flowster.app and a 7 figure eCommerce business. With almost 10 years of experience with digital marketing and eCommerce, Trent eagerly shares his knowledge with others. Profit Magazine named Trent’s first company as one of Canada’s PROFIT 100 fastest growing companies for two years in a row before he sold it in 2008. Business in Vancouver magazine named Trent a Top 40 Under 40 Entrepreneur. Trent’s current company ranked 254 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list and 622 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list of America’s of the Most Successful Private Companies.