Time to kick back and relax! You've hired your product sourcing Virtual Assistant, just wait for those sweet sweet deals to arrive in your mailbox every day.

You know where I'm going with this already don't you? Well the fun has just got started. Hopefully you've got your management and training processes in place, but if you haven't, I've put together a series of short video guides below on how we manage our Virtual Assistants.

The methods we use have developed over and work very well. You don't have to follow the same ones, but I'm confident that if you do you will stand a very good chance of your VA succeeding.

Communication & Day To Day Management

For some reason when I speak it's quite quiet on this video, so you'll need to turn the volume up after the intro.

Here are the links to the tools I demonstrated in the above video

  • Meister Task   - really easy to use, nice workflow options, and free! Update - since recording the video I have discovered that Basecamp has upped it's minimum subscription to $99 per month. I'm not saying it isn't worth it, but I think you can achieve what you want to achieve for free or a lot cheaper. I will recommend another service below.
  • Basecamp - this is what we use, and feel we couldn't manage our VA's effectively without it. There is a cost of $29 per month. Update - since recording the video I have discovered that Basecamp has upped it's minimum subscription to $99 per month. I'm not saying it isn't worth it, but I think you can achieve what you want to achieve for free or a lot cheaper. I will recommend another service below.
  • Asana I have used Asana on occasion, and it has the chat and document storage facility within projects that you need to make the VA management work. The free version should be more than sufficient for your needs.

Work Allocation

I hope that you could see from the video that having an organised sourcing schedule helps your Virtual Assistant know exactly what they should be doing and when. I also hope it shows you that by using sourcing software your VA will be able to be incredibly productive in finding profitable products for you to sell.

Don't worry, you don't need BOTH Wizard and TA. We have one VA running one and another running the other, but that's just us. Either or would be very effective also.​

Time Tracking

So you can see that Time Tracking is a really useful way to keep your Virtual Assistants focused and give you the confidence that they are working to improve your business.

  • HubStaff  - the clear favourite for me, which will mean that you are not tied to a particular recruitment site. Very affordable and comprehensive.
  • OnlineJobs  - a nice, easy to use tool. Use it to start off with when you have just hired your VA as it's part of your $49 per month package, then move over to Hubstaff when you cancel the subscription before the second month charge kicks in.
  • Upwork  - good looking and effective (like myself), but means you have to have recruited your VA via Upwork

Contracts & Non Disclosure Agreements

I haven't made a video on contracts and NDAs for two reasons:

  • ​Looking at legal documents doesn't make for very exciting viewing
  • I have no legal qualifications so I'm not comfortable recommending anything in those areas

That said, we do have both a contract and a NDA with our Virtual Assistants, based on free templates from a legal website which we adapted the wording on.

​I don't expect to be able to enforce anything in either of these documents, but I like the VA's to feel as though they are part of a real business, and also that I take things seriously. 

If you haven't read the first two parts of the Virtual Assistant guides you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

How Are You Going To Train Your Virtual Assistant

Training is THE most important part of the whole product sourcing VA process. Get this wrong, and all the work you've done so far will have been in vain. Get this right, and you are set to accelerate the growth of your Amazon business. Luckily I've got the perfect, tried and tested product sourcing training system all ready to go. You can find our more about this by clicking below:

This isn't really a blog post, it's a full on How To Guide. So because off that I've added a table of contents so that you can go straight to whatever section you want. But I would recommend that you read through the whole article first.

If you read my previous post on why YOU shouldn’t hire a Virtual Assistant to do your Amazon FBA product sourcing (you can read it here) and still want to go ahead, then I like you and want to be your friend.

And what do friends do? Help each other. Don’t worry, they only thing I’m going to ask from you is to keep reading.

What I am going to do for you is walk you through the practical steps you need to do to actually hire your VA.The first things that we are going to cover include everything you need to think about, plan and decide before you even place your ad for your shiny new Virtual Assistant.

I know that’s not very sexy, I know you just want to get stuck in, but believe me - get these things wrong from the beginning and your VA dreams will fail, I promise you. I’ve come up with a catchy way of reinforcing this method - IYSEOBYHLTWAL. H. Which obviously stands for: If You Sort Everything Out Beforehand, You Have Less To Worry About Later. Honest.

Ok, that might need some work.The process isn’t particularly difficult, but it’s easy to make simple mistakes which means you have to keep repeating the recruitment process many times until you get the right person.You can trust me on that because it’s likely I’ve made most of those mistakes.The process below is the one that works for me. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect, or can’t be improved upon. That part is up to you.

I’ve hired quite a few VAs to source on Amazon or carry out other work for me - some of them are still with me, some I work with occasionally, and some I wouldn’t hire again, even if they offered to work for free.The information below is going to be assuming you are hiring from the Philippines.Let’s get into it.

Before You Place Your Ad - Checklist

First I prepare a checklist of what it is I’m looking for, and try and make it as specific as possible. This makes it so much easier to write the advert, but also helps you ensure that you have covered as many of the things you will need to have in place later in the process.

1. What do I want to recruit someone to do?  Describe in one sentence what you want, e.g. I am looking for a Virtual Assistant to identify profitable products to sell on Amazon FBA using online arbitrage.

2. What do I want the VA to do specifically? E.g. they’ll be manually going through online stores and using Keepa and Camelcamelcamel to help identify profitable products, based on the criteria I will provide them

3. Full or part time? The temptation is to go in with full time from day 1, but it maybe more sensible to start at say 20 hours per week and scale up. Also, one of my main problems has been with VA’s who insist that they can work full time (40 hours per week) and it turns out that they can’t, or they can but only by working all night. I understand they want to earn as much as possible but as a long term option it doesn’t really work for either party.

4. Expectations - in a previous post (click here to read) I made the point that your expectations of what results your new Virtual Assistant will be able to produce should be carefully thought through. Having a realistic idea of how many results you think they should be able to produce - bearing in mind the training you are providing them, the tools you are making available to them etc. - is important to think about before you recruit.

4. Relevant experience or not? When I first started recruiting Virtual Assistants I would always go for someone who was as experienced as possible. This can be beneficial as it means that your training in theory can be condensed to the specifics that you want to cover, and that the management of the VA would not need to be as hands on because they know what they are doing. I’m going to use the phrase “in theory” again here, as you never really know what level of experience they have, how productive they have been previously etc. I have had mixed success going for experience, and as a result only go for candidates who have no direct experience of online arbitrage.

5. What particular skills are required? If you were going to list the qualities you would want for the perfect product sourcing Virtual Assistant, what would they be? Some of the qualities I look for include (but are not limited to):• Good Level of reading and writing English• Able to follow processes• Able to follow structured plans• Computer Literate

Now of course every applicant is going to say that they have these skills, but listing them in advance enables you to prepare your advert and also make your interview questions more targeted.

6. What training are you providing them? This is THE biggest cause of either success or failure of a product sourcing Virtual Assistant. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that by not having a detailed, structured training program you are pretty much guaranteed to be wasting your time and money. I will be going into Training in a separate blog post, but I will just say for now that we have spent weeks preparing and testing the training we have created for our new VA’s, until we’ve got it down to a well oiled process that makes it almost impossible for the VA to fail. If they do, it’s because we haven’t got the recruitment right, not because we haven’t trained them properly.

7. Based on your training, how in depth do you want their knowledge to be? This links in to the point above, but also means you need to think about if you want them to be a sourcing guru who can read a Keepa graph upside down and back to front whilst looking the wrong way through a telescope. Riding a unicycle. On fire. Or if you want them to be able to follow a structured process that is relatively simple to pick up and which will allow them to be able to provide good results within a day or two of starting work. Think about it - you’ve got amazing sourcing software like Tactical Arbitrage (free 10 day trial if you enter coupon code greenlava at checkout right here ) or FBA Wizard (which you can check out here).Why then would you need your VA to understand the intricacies of product sourcing if you have genius level software to do it for you. Up to you of course, but I like to keep things as simple as possible. Use the tools you have at your disposal would be my recommendation.

8. How are you going to pay them? By this I mean by the hour or based on results. I have only ever gone with by the hour, as I feel that if someone has done the work, they shouldn’t be penalised if there just doesn’t happen to be any profitable products at the store you’ve asked them to source at. But I know that some people advocate only paying on the number of results their VA has found for them. I think that these people are a little bit evil. Not evil in a big way, just a bit. Most VA’s prefer to get paid in USD via Paypal, but again it helps to have this detail ready for when you recruit.

9. How much are you going to pay them? We pay our product sourcing VA’s $2.00 an hour for a weeks trial, during which time they receive their training and demonstrate if they look like they’re going to make the grade. If they are successful after this first week we increase to $2.50 per hour. We will then increase their salary at points in the future by set increments. 

10. How are you going to manage them? After Training, I would say that how you manage your Virtual Assistant becomes the number one priority. This ranges from coaching and motivating to time tracking and monitoring your VA. I’m going to do a whole post on Management, and show you some free tools that you can use that makes the whole process a lot easier and more effective.


How To Write Your Job Ad

I personally don’t think that this is as complicated as some people make out. Actually, thinking about it, I don’t remember anyone saying that it was complicated. Perhaps I imagined it.It’s fairly simple, but it’s taken me a few attempts to get it to the point where I am happy with it.If you have completed the 10 points earlier in the post you will be a lot closer to being able to do this quite quickly.

This is the first ad I posted on onlinejobs.ph (the way you input your job ad details is slightly different on Upwork but the result is the same):

Job Title: Product Research to Identify Products to Sell on Amazon (UK and US)

Job Description: Thank you for your interest in our product internet research position. The job consists of searching major retail websites in the UK and US and comparing them to prices on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.Criteria will be provided of how to identify products to report back to me, and a list of retail websites will also be provided for you to source from.

Initially I will ask you to do 10 hours work as a trial, then I will be looking for you to work a minimum 20 hours per week. Over time this may increase.

Applicants must have experience in sourcing products to sell on Amazon, and understand how to show net profit, ROI (return on investment), calculate FBA fees etc.

What do you think? It’s fairly bad but not terrible. It is specific in some areas, but not others.It mentions experience at the end, whereas it should be at the beginning.It doesn’t mention how they will be trained.

It doesn’t mention how they will be managed.

I keep changing my mind on whether I share my latest sourcing VA ad with you. I’m trying to be as helpful as possible. You know that don’t you? I mean there are about 1800 words above this, and you must find at least a few of them useful. So how much free usefulness is too much?

It’s a tricky one. Ok, I’ll do it.

No, I don’t want to.

Oh bloody hell, I will. There is a chance that depending on when you are reading this there is just a blank space under this sentence because I’ve been back and deleted it.

It’s not that it’s perfect, and I bet quite a few of you think it’s not very good. To those of you that do: Screw You.

Anyway, it works for me, and underneath I’ll explain why.

Job Title: Full Time Virtual Assistant to run software and track results

Job Description: We are a Spanish based company looking for talented VA's to work from the comfort of their own home and help grow our business.The role will require you to follow documented processes to use specific software, reviewing data and logging results.

Full paid training will be given and access to the required software will be provided.

This role is Full Time and so you must be able to commit to this before applying. You will need to be able to download and install time tracking software.Skills Required

• Good Level of reading and writing English

• Able to follow processes

• Able to follow structured plans

• Computer Literate

Other Requirements:

• A Computer

• Reliable Internet connection

• Chrome web browser

After successfully completing training, there will be a 1 week trial. Progress and performance will be regularly reviewed.

When applying for the job, please provide the following information:

Confirm you are able to work full time

Provide details of any work experience you have

Provide details of what your key skills are

Are you currently working for, or plan to work for, any other company while you would be working for us? If so, how do you plan to fit your work for us around your other responsibilities?

Key Points To Note

  1. Nowhere in the advert title or description does it mention Amazon, online arbitrage or product sourcing. This is intentional because I want someone with no experience of that. My training is that good, and tightly structured that I don’t want someone who comes into the role with any preconceptions, bad habits etc. I find being able to train and mould someone gets you much better results long term.
  2. So most people will tell you to be as specific as to your requirements as possible. That’s difficult to do if you are intentionally leaving out the main aspects of the job.
  3. However following “ documented processes to use specific software, reviewing data and logging results” is pretty much exactly what they will be doing. So is this not specific enough? Remember, you will have opportunity further into the process to say exactly what they will be doing if you really want to.
  4. The other important section for me is the “This role is Full Time and so you must be able to commit to this before applying. You will need to be able to download and install time tracking software.” Whilst putting this detail into the advert won’t guarantee The skills required, the information requested from them - what else do you need? I do get why this flies in the face of other “hiring a VA” guides I’ve read, but tell me - if it works (and it does), why get more complicated than this.
  5. One of the biggest issues I’ve faced when hiring a VA is that almost all will agree to work whatever hours you want, but when it actually comes to it they struggle to do so. This is generally because they have other employment or are studying. So that is why I ask them if they have other jobs, and if so how they plan to manage them both.

Two points I will reiterate over and over again - the recruitment process is pretty much the easy part of hiring a product sourcing Virtual Assistant. The management and training are the more difficult aspects. I know both my management process and training courses are shit hot, and that’s where my main efforts are concentrated.

But you can save so much time, effort and money by getting the recruitment right.

I’m going to leave the advert side of things there, and move onto where you will be placing your ad, and how to place your ad. So let’s take a look. No, after you.


Which Websites To Recruit From

There are many companies who can provide fully trained VAs for you. I haven’t used these services so I’m not in a position to comment on them. The reason I haven’t used them is because the salary tends to be a lot higher than if you do it independently and I also like to be responsible for the training of my Virtual Assistant, so that I know exactly what they can and can’t do, and helps me manage my expectations of them.

The two channels I have used several times are ones you may well be familiar with. Upwork.com and Onlinejobs.ph. I’ll give a overview of both of them, go through their pros and cons, and let you know which I currently prefer and why.

Upwork.com

I love Upwork.com. It’s basically a site that connects freelancers with people who need one off jobs, long term projects and anything in between. I’ve used Upwork for the development of Chrome extensions (Buy Box Checker or AZ 90 Day anyone?), software, design work, and of course online arbitrage Virtual Assistants.

Let me take you by the hand, and walk you through the streets of Upwork.

When you go to post a job you get the two options below. Depending on what you have decided you want full time/part time etc. will determine which route you go down.

Whichever option you choose you will then need to select the category and subcategory of the job. To be honest, there are a few things you could pick, and get good results as far as applicants are concerned. I tend to go for the more obvious option:

You then get to put in the job title and description of the role. This has been covered above in the What Should My Ad Say? Section, so I’m going to move on to the next part.

We’ll assume for now you’re hiring one VA (let’s not get carried away now!). We then have the optional section of being able to add in required skills. Whilst it is optional, I would recommend taking the skills you identified earlier and getting as many of them as possible into here. Think of it like a dating site - the more specific you can be with your requirements, the more likely you are to get a hot date out of it. Start typing the skill you want and Upwork will give you a selection to choose from.

You may need to play around with this part to get Upwork to recognise the specific skill. You can see from this example the first one I have gone for is data entry.

You will then choose Ongoing Project, Pay By The Hour and Entry Level. As you can see by the Pay By The Hour option you get to benefit from Upwork’s time tracking, payment and work monitoring systems (I’ll go into these more in the Managing Your Virtual Assistant blog post). The reason you will select Entry Level here, avoiding the temptation to go for Intermediate or Expert, is because you need to be realistic about what level of experience you can expect based on the amount you are looking to pay.

Based on your previous selection of Virtual Assistant in the job category, the Entry Level will default to less than $7.

The next section allows you to define a bit more the type of contract that you are offering.

If this is your first time hiring a VA, I think it is a sensible approach to go for 1-3 months. However I haven’t noticed any difference in the type of applicants when I have selected 3 to 6 months. The time commitment is self explanatory.

We then skip to the section below. The Screening Questions are vital to help you select the right candidate.

Basic examples of screening questions could include:

Can you please confirm you are able to work full time (40 hours per week)?

Can you provide details of any work experience you have?

Can you provide details of what your key skills are?

But obviously you want to make these as specific as possible based on the skills and experience you have already identified that you require. When we get to screening the applicants, we can quickly remove those who either haven’t answered the questions, or have provided unsatisfactory responses.

Similarly, requiring a Cover Letter will allow you to make better selection choices at the screening phase.

Once you have posted the job, you will then get taken to a screen that shows you people who Upwork think maybe suitable candidates.

Here you can see their normal hourly rate, how much they have earned in the time they have been registered on Upwork (the more they have earned is a good indicator of reliability and experience), Job Success is based on feedback by previous employers and you can click on the candidate to find out more about them, see specific feedback etc. If you like the look of them you can invite them to apply for your job, or save them for later to have another look at.

This is a really useful feature of Upwork, because it allows you to invite potential VA’s who you think would be a good fit. Think swiping Right or Left on Tindr!

You will now receive notifications from Upwork letting you know when you have applicants.

Other Key Features of Upwork

  1. Communication - when communicating with your VA you have to use the message system on the Upwork site. This has its benefits in that you have everything in one place. But it also means that you are tied to Upwork for the duration of your hire. I have more effective ways of managing my VAs so prefer not to have this forced on me.
  2. Time tracking - when you agree to hire your Virtual Assistant you have the option of enabling Upwork’s time tracker Work Diary which records their key strokes and takes pictures of their screen six times an hour. USE IT!
  3. Automatic payment - based on the hours logged in the Work Diary Upwork will automatically deduct the money due to your VA from your chosen payment source and pay them for you.
  4. Upwork offer an escrow service if you have a project rather than an ongoing hire. Not really useful for a VA but good to know.

Here are the benefits and downsides that I have found using Upwork:

Pros of Upwork

  • Well structured, easy to use website
  • Huge amount of freelancers to choose from (not just VA’s)
  • Ability to see previous earnings, feedback etc. to give you a good idea of your candidate’s ability and experience
  • Payment is made automatically from your billing source to your VA (minus Upwork’s cut)
  • When you hire your VA you have the opportunity to use Upwork’s inbuilt time tracker which logs the hours your VA works and takes screenshots of what they are doing at random intervals
  • Your virtual assistant in theory could be anywhere in the world, not just the Philippines. Having a wider geographical spread can help if you want a truly 24 hour operation

Cons of Upwork

  • Minimum hourly rate you can pay your VA is $3.33. That means when you do a trial, or want to increase your Virtual Assistant’s salary, your costs are going to go up quite a lot compared to onlinejobs.ph
  • The way that Upwork makes it’s money is by taking a % of the freelancer’s (i.e. the VA’s) earnings. So for the first $500 you pay your VA, Upwork takes 20% from the VA. After that this charge drops to 10%. So you need to be aware that when you are paying your VA they won’t receive the full amount
  • Client (that’s you) is charged 2.75% of any payment you make to the VA (there maybe other charges by Paypal or whoever you use to make the payment)
  • Everything has to go through Upwork. Whilst this may not be a problem for you (after all, it is free on the client side), I have my own ways of managing and communicating with my Virtual Assistants and I don’t like the inflexibility of not being able to use them. Can be a deal breaker.

OnlineJobs.ph

OnlineJobs is specifically geared towards matching up Filipino workers with employers. I like a service that does one thing and does it well, and although there are some caveats which I will come to in the Pros and Cons, OnlineJobs fits that criteria.

Let’s have a walk through of how it works.

Once you create your free account, you are ready to place your first job advertisement.

As you can see, it is fairly self explanatory. I have highlighted three sections.

  1. If I am recruiting for a full time employee I put the monthly salary ($2.50 x 40 hours x 52 weeks / 12 months). I also mention in the advert and in the Wage/Salary section that the first week trial is paid at $2.00 per hour. If I was recruiting a part time VA I would put the hourly wage
  2. Obviously ensure that the Type of Employment matches the salary details
  3. The Require ID Proof section is interesting. This is how OnlineJobs explain what this means:

I always set mine at the highest option, which is 70, and still get more applicants than I can shake a stick at. Not that I would shake a stick at a Virtual Assistant - that’s a management no no.

I like the next section, and find it is quicker and easier to use than identifying required skills in Upwork.

Basically you click on each blue box and select the skills that you would like your applicants to have. I would recommend that you take a note of all of the skills that you tick, so that you can question the candidates if required at selection stage.

You then post your job for approval. This can take up to 48 hours to approve HOWEVER, you can get them instantly approved and also gain some additional benefits if you sign up to the PRO version.

This costs $49 per month, but I am able to carry out all of my recruiting well within a month, so then I cancel my subscription.

So in theory it’s costing you $49 to recruit. Being able to read worker reviews is a huge plus For me it is well worth it, and I’ve never used the Free option, but some people don’t like an upfront cost. Note: for the purposes of research for this article, I set up a new free account and posted a job. It got approved in about 24 hours, which was good, but with the free account I couldn't find a way to actually review the applicants. Which makes it pretty pointless. So from what I can see, you would have to pay the $49 to recruit using OnlineJobs.

And that’s it! You will start receiving emails letting you know about your applicants.

Other Key Features of OnlineJobs

  1. Communication - there is a messaging system for you to liaise with your applicants in OnlineJobs. It is sufficient to get through the recruitment stage at which point you would be better moving to a different communication channel. I will go through this in my How To Manage Your Virtual Assistant blog post.
  2. Time tracking - when you agree to hire your Virtual Assistant you have the option of enabling OnlineJob’s time tracker TimeProof which records the time that they have worked and takes pictures of their screen at random intervals. USE IT!
  3. Automatic payment - based on the hours logged in TimeProof OnlineJobs will automatically deduct the money due to your VA from your chosen payment source and pay them for you through it’s EasyPay solution. Please note that this is currently only available to employers in the US and Canada, and is currently in beta, so I don’t have any experience of using this facility.

Here are the benefits and downsides that I have found using OnlineJobs: 

Pros of OnlineJobs

  • Posting a job is incredibly quick and easy
  • OnlineJobs only has Virtual Assistants in the Philippines, therefore it is much more targeted
  • Ability to see previous feedback etc. if you use the Pro option to give you a good idea of your candidate’s ability and experience
  • Payment is made automatically from your billing source to your VA (if you are US or Canada based)
  • When you hire your VA you have the opportunity to use the TimeProof inbuilt time tracker which logs the hours your VA works and takes screenshots of what they are doing at random intervals
  • No minimum wage, so you can be cost effective whilst paying a fair wage
  • Freedom to manage and communicate with your VA’s in whatever way you want - not tied to a proprietary system
  • Once the VA is hired, they are with you, not Upwork
  • Everything you pay wage wise goes directly to the VA with no deductions.

Cons of OnlineJobs

  • You really have no choice but to go for the Pro option - so the "Free" option isn't really viable
  • $49 month fee for the Pro option. You can cancel after you have completed your recruitment however
  • If you’re not US or Canada based you have to remember to pay your Virtual Assistant each week

Which Recruitment Channel To Use

I’m trying to think of a metaphor to compare Onlinejobs.ph to Upwork. Let’s try a few.

Like Virgin Atlantic to British Airways

Like the Rolling Stones to The Beatles

Like Banksy to Van Gogh

The point I’m trying to make is that Upwork is a more traditional, sophisticated solution to hiring a Virtual Assistant. Also more expensive, but you know that what you are getting is more likely to be good quality.

So looking back, the metaphors don’t work at all do they? Virgin Atlantic are very good quality, I’ve see the Stones live (recently, I’m not that old) and they are the tightest quality band you’ve ever seen, and art is always subjective anyway.

I haven’t used Upwork.com to recruit product sourcing Virtual Assistants for a long time.

The facts that I have complete flexibility over salary levels and that I can manage my VA’s through whatever system I want are not negotiable for me. When I hire a VA through Upwork they feel like I have an employee of Upwork. When I hire a VA through Onlinejobs.ph I end up with an employee of my own company.

By going with OnlineJobs I also save myself an estimated $1700 per annum per VA in salary costs compared to if I recruited through Upwork.

So for me, it is www.onlinejobs.ph everytime. But I hope that the above run downs and comparisons help you make the best choice for you, which after all is the most important thing.


Drawing Up A Candidate Shortlist

So we’re getting closer and closer to that exciting point where you actually be employing your Virtual Assistant. Just a couple of steps to go.

In my experience you will start getting applicants very quickly, sometimes within minutes, depending on the time of day you post your job ad.

I think the most recent job ad I placed on OnlineJobs got 95 applicants in around 24 hours. If I had placed the same advert on Upwork I probably would have got about a third of that.

But please don’t equate quantity with quality. It is likely that the percentage of good candidates in the smaller Upwork pool would be a lot higher than in the larger OnlineJobs pool. And you tend to get more verifiable experience from Upwork.

And if you think about it, 30 candidates should be more than enough to choose from!

With those kind of numbers as applicants, I will pause the advertisement, as I now have a sufficient amount, without being overwhelmed with hundreds to work through.

For both sites, I employ the same approach.

I quickly go through all of the applications and delete the ones who didn’t answer the questions I asked in the advert. I also reject those who seem to have misunderstood the requirements (e.g. you may well get applicants telling you that they can easily get your Amazon products ranked. That’s great, but it’s not what I’m looking for).

I will also reject those who don’t compose their reply in a structured manner.

I also reject those who have managed to read between the lines and tell me that they have experience in online arbitrage. Because as I’ve mentioned previously, I want someone without experience. Again, this could well be different for you.

I also immediately delete those who beg for the job so that they can afford to feed their children. It’s a horrible feeling, and it serves as a reminder to me of the type of lives that many of the Filipino’s looking for work have, which I try and take into account in the management part of the process. But it wouldn’t work for me having an employee who I am unable to let go if they can’t meet the required standards because I feel guilty about how it will affect their family.

This last point is not one I have seen addressed anywhere else, and I honestly can’t tell reading that back if it makes me sound like an unsympathetic monster or not (I’m not, honestly), but it is as well to be prepared for it, particularly with some of the applicants through Onlinejobs.

Once I’ve managed to get my shortlist down to a more manageable level I will go back through and save/bookmark (both Onlinejobs and Upwork allow you to do this) the candidates that are strongest based on their applications.

I then go back through again to narrow it down to three or four. I don’t delete the ones who don’t make the cut here, because I may well need to go back to them if my first choice or choices don’t work out.

The criteria for this final selection is: when I read the candidate's application, do they make me think something like “She sounds really good” or “I would really like to work with him”.

Now obviously this is not scientific. But connections and relationships aren’t, and I’m comfortable with that. I’m looking to form a long term connection with someone. You may have more specific requirements, and this is the time to apply them.


Interviewing The Candidates

So now we’ve got down to the wire, I will conduct brief interviews with each of the final candidate. I know some people do this via Skype, and I think that is a brilliant idea, particularly as it will encourage more face to face interaction in the future with the successful candidates.

Despite this it’s not a method I’ve used yet. I think it’s because I know not everyone will be comfortable with having a conversation in this way particularly as their first language is not English. And I don’t want to rule somebody who could be a really good VA out because of this.

But this is an area that is up to you, and you should use the method that you think will work best for you.

My interviews are pretty basic. I will reconfirm some of the requirements of the role, I will double check about their full time availability, I will ask them any questions that I have based on what they have said in their application, and I will take the opportunity to tell them more specifically about what they will be doing and how we would be working together.

I will ask them for feedback on what they now think of the role. Invariably they will say that they love the idea of it, but at least they have some clarity before they start on what they will actually be doing.

I do the interviews via messages within OnlineJobs or Upwork.


Making A Selection

Before I have interviewed the final few, I will already have a pretty good idea about who I am most likely to recruit. What I find is the interview confirms that idea. If I am recruiting one VA, I will select two to do the one week trial. If I am recruiting two VAs I will select three or four to do the one week trial and so on. I accept this as a cost of the recruitment process.


Informing The Unsuccessful Candidates

For those applicants who I have interviewed but decided not to offer a trial to, I tend not to fully reject, but to keep them “warm”. This is because there is always a reasonable chance that whoever is doing the trial will not work out, and I don’t want to have to start the recruitment process over from scratch.

So instead I thank them for their time, inform them that I won’t be progressing their application further right now because I have had so many candidates apply, but that I like what they have said so far and that I may be in touch with them in a week or so.

I always ask them if that is ok with them, as I like them to feel as though they have some control over the process themselves.


Agreeing Initial Terms With Successful Candidate

Just the good news left now - to congratulate your new employee(s), confirm terms and welcome them to their one week trial with your company.


What's Next?

You will be coaching them through the training that you have slavishly prepared over the past few months and introducing them to the management process that you have set up.

What do you mean you haven’t done all of these things?

What do I keep telling you are the most important parts of having an Amazon FBA product sourcing Virtual Assistant? Management and Training.

So I guess you want to to tell you the best ways to do those things now aren’t you?

Ok, maybe.

If you smile at me that way that you know I like, I will.

Waiting.

Waiting.

That’s the one, thank you.

For the next instalment in this series, click on How To Manage Your VA, where I've made some videos where I show you exactly how you can communicate with and manage your product sourcing Virtual Assistants. Including some free and paid tools to help you along the way.


The emphasis in the headline is intentional and important.

Out of the millions (ahem) of people reading this blog post, I’m talking to you specifically.

Yes you. I’m going to tell you why I don’t think that YOU should hire a virtual assistant to do your Amazon FBA product sourcing.

If at the end of this blog post you still want to hire a VA, then we can talk.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to be talking about potential VA’s being from the Philippines, and that what we want them to do specifically is online arbitrage for products to sell on Amazon. The points below will still be relevant no matter where they are from, however.

Cheap Labour

(For US based readers, I have spelt labour in the correct, original English)

There is the perception created by advocates of hiring a VA that you can pay very little money and get a sourcing superstar.

That may have been true 5 or 6 years ago, when the average Filipino salary was around $160 per month. Even as recently as 2015 the average monthly wage was as low as $289.

But now I wouldn’t consider paying less than $433 per month, and that would be for someone with no experience of sourcing.

Now that’s still ridiculously cheap at only $2.50 an hour. Within a few months I will have raised that to $3.00 if the VA is performing as hoped.

I see people saying you can pay a VA $1.50 per hour. I mean come on. These are people, many have families to support. You’re not running a charity but you should be paying a fair wage. After all, they are helping you make money. There a hundreds of potential candidates for every VA vacancy, so that can force the successful applicant to agree to such a low wage. But have some respect for them – you want to them to be motivated,

Why should they work for far less than the average wage, just because some greedy Westerner wants something for nearly nothing?

So if you were thinking of hiring a VA and paying peanuts – YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.

You Want Someone Who Knows Better Than You How To Source

It’s the magic bullet isn’t it? The golden goose, the er, deep fried thingy… anyway, you know what I’m getting at. You’re struggling to source products to sell on Amazon at a profit, why not hire someone else to do it for you?

What does everyone who recommends that you should get a Virtual Assistant to do your online arbitrage for you say? “Wake up in the morning with an inbox full of perfectly profitable products that you just need to buy and ship into Amazon”.

Sidenote: I hadn’t planned on the alliteration of ‘perfectly profitable products’ there, it just happened. Sometimes I think my fingers have a mind of their own. That’s certainly what my wife says anyway.

Something I see a lot in Amazon FBA related Facebook groups are inexperienced sellers asking questions about hiring a VA because they think that by doing so they can shortcut their way to selling success. Unfortunately that just doesn’t work. Understanding product sourcing yourself, at least to a reasonable standard, puts you in a much stronger position to be able to work with a VA.

It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert, but at the end of the day you will still be making the buying decisions.

About 8 years ago I hired a Virtual Assistant from an Indian company called Brickwork (it was recommended in The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris).

I asked them to find companies in the UK who would dropship Sci-Fi products. 

It was a waste of time for them and me.

They didn’t know what dropshipping was (why would they?)

They didn’t really know what type of Sci-Fi products I wanted

Do you know why? Because I didn’t really know either. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing and just thought that by hiring an untrained Virtual Assistant without knowing what to do myself and without being able to provide instruction I would get some results.

So if you think that just by hiring a Virtual Assistant to do your online arbitrage for you you’ll get great results – YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.

Before I forget – this is the first in a series of VA related blog posts – sign up here so that you don’t miss the rest of the series:

You Want Someone Who Knows How To Source To The Same Standard As You

Ok, you’re an expert at online arbitrage. You can find 20 great products just by blinking at each page of the Toysrus clearance sale.

Does that mean your VA is going to be able to do that?

Answer is no. Everytime.

One of the mistakes I made when I first started hiring VAs, and I see people making, is they expect their Assistant to source like they do.

Think about how you learnt product sourcing – chances are you did a course, or you were self taught, maybe reading the odd blog post and watching Youtube videos. And along the way you bought things, maybe even sold some of them. Made mistakes, had successes and built up your experience.

But if you think about it, your VA isn’t following your path. They might be following some training you put together. Perhaps even following a course you’ve shared with them. But there is a factor in them building their experience that you didn’t have – you.

Your VA is having to deliver results to you pretty much from the get go. A certain quantity and quality. Could you have done that in your first few weeks of sourcing? After following a half arsed set of instructions in a different language?

Even an experienced product sourcing VA won’t source like you do. They will source in the way they have been taught, or developed their own way. And it’s going to be different to you.

So if you expectations are that you can hire a Virtual Assistant who can do online arbitrage to rocket your Amazon FBA sales upwards, YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.

 

 

You don’t know how to train them (or you think you do, but really, you don’t)

As I mentioned in the rant section above, how your VA works and performs is based on how they are trained and coached.

My mistake when I started out was to hire Virtual Assistants who had product sourcing experience, gave them a list of online stores to search, and a spreadsheet to fill in. Along with instructions not to go above a certain sales rank or below a specific ROI percentage.

I got results. Crap ones. I’d get about 10 products a day, and would be lucky if more than one was worth buying. What did I expect?

When I had an actual real, 9-5 job for an established company, I had a weeks induction, with training that spanned several weeks. Plus regular ongoing training. That’s when it was fair for my boss to have high expectations regarding my performance. If on my second day at work he had complained that I wasn’t doing a great job, how do you think that would have made me feel?

When you get trained at a job, you are shown how to follow a structured, established process (if the company you are working for are doing it right).

This is the approach that you should be taking with your new product sourcing VA. I’m going to have an upcoming post on “How To Train Your VA to Product Source”, and I’ll show you a method that works really well. But that has taken me a long time and a lot of mistakes before I got it right.

If you’re not prepared to put the planning into the training for your Virtual Assistant – YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.

You are not prepared to manage and work with your VA

I 100% recommend outsourcing as much as possible. I like to focus on the things that add real value to my businesses. Having elements that run “hands off” is fantastic. This works particularly well with a prep and shipping company (although I would still recommend regularly touching base).

But having a product sourcing Virtual Assistant shouldn’t be hands off. Cultivating a relationship, being there to help them if they need it, coaching them to improve in certain areas – all of these things will result in a more motivated and therefore productive employee.

I don’t know if you are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If not, the picture below is fairly self explanatory. The first things we need, that motivate us to do anything, are the basics to survive. Basically – I need to earn money to eat, to have somewhere to live, to support my family.

Once we have that in place, the requirements to make us happy are not necessarily financial. Yes, a lot of you are saying “Hell no, I want to be rich” (I’m assuming you’re American, if you’re British it will be more like “Er, actually I wouldn’t mind quite a lot of money if it’s all the same with you old chap”).

But what does that money facilitate? We go higher up the hierarchy of needs and it means that we can have a nicer house, we can have time to develop social connections etc.

For most people, money facilitates all of the other things we need to make us happy, until we get to the point of self-actualisation.

Now why would your Virtual Assistant be any different? They are initially motivated by earning enough money to survive, then maybe to buy something they have had their eye on for a while, or a gift for their partner or child. But once they have achieved that level consistently, what is that motivates them?

Sense of connection.

Confidence.

Sense of achievement.

You can help them achieve those things by managing and coaching them with care and attention, and understanding what is in it for them as much as what is in it for you.

So, if you’re not prepared to manage and work with your Amazon FBA online arbitrage Virtual Assistant – YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.

Summary

So I hope that you have realised that this blog post hasn’t really being about you not hiring a product sourcing Virtual Assistant. I actually think that you should (well maybe not YOU, but the rest of you definitely should).

What I wanted to highlight were what I see as the important factors you need to think about, plan and work on in order for it to work for you.

Because when it does, it really can transform your business.

Luckily, I have a series of blog posts coming up over the next couple of weeks that will show you how to do the whole process properly and effectively, and will cover:

How To Hire a VA
How To Manage a VAHow To Train a VA

 

And as always, I’d love to hear your feedback on this, so please leave comments below.