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.
(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.
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.
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.