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[METHOD] Working with a Virtual Assistant : Tips and Tricks

Discussion in 'BlackHat Lounge' started by usdachoice, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. usdachoice

    usdachoice Regular Member

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    Working with a Virtual Assistant

    The following is intended to be a guide to use for working with and managing a virtual assistant. To start if you expect your virtual assistant to take over ranking your sites without extremely detailed instructions you may be in for some major disappointment. They may be aware of some techniques but don't expect them to be an expert. Let's face it if they were really skilled would they be working for you for $75 per week? That being said if you are a patient teacher you can train them to be very effective.

    To start you need to decide what part of the world works best for you. Consider time differences, language barriers, and expected pay when looking for the right virtual assistant. I am in the US so I wanted an English speaker, the time difference was not an issue considering I'm always online, and they pay had to be within my budget. The areas of the country I looked at were India, South Africa, and the Philippine Islands. I ended up going with PI b/c I really like their culture and they are typically hard workers. The downside is they have constant connectivity issues and you have to monitor their productivity closely. I have also worked with many great people from India but the price is a little more than expect from PI. To date I have have not had the opportunity to work with someone from South Africa other than great developers, I can not comment here.

    Price range for general link building or repetitive tasks range from $75 per week up to $150 and beyond. I generally try to negotiate terms on the lower side and offer bonuses for milestone accomplishments. The proverbial dangling carrot always help keep people motivated. I also changed my long term VA from a set weekly rate to hourly due to repeated lapses in productivity. This was all identified using tracking software.

    For tracking software I use time doctor after trying a few others that did not work out. The first one I tried was called Monkey ??something and caused issues with my VA's pc. The second one I used was called rescue time and it did not take screenshots. The reports were cryptic and did not give enough details for me to determine if the VA was doing productive work or just clicking stuff. TIme doctor met all of my needs and was affordable. There are win, mac, and linux versions available so I have never had any issues with computer installations. It takes screenshots every 9min (probably configurable) and allows me to quickly review daily productivity. The cost is $9 per user with one free account. Each VA "clocks in" when they start their day and logs off when their day is completed. I get timesheet reports and also the screenshots making weekly payroll a breeze.

    So now we have an employee and are tracking their productivity so how to manage their workload. I am a PM by profession so I generally use basecamp for VA's. I find traditional PM software a little overkill and gantt charts can just confuse matters for the VA. Always try to "KISS" (keep it stupid simple) and nurture a learning environment, meaning I encourage them asking lots of questions. Try to have a daily task email or quick IM chat at the start of every shift. For redundant tasks I use repeating events in google calendar with lots of links back to instructional videos or documents.

    Saving time = saving money so here are a few things I use to help make everyone's life easier.


    • For instructional videos I use Jing (free) the majority of the time. Training videos should be short a sweet so Jing works perfect for this. Advantages of keeping videos short is b/c methods change and you don't want a 2 hour video. Make 24 min videos and if you update a method you only need to change one or two videos in the series. Another advantage is by breaking things into digestible pieces the videos can be more effective. If I need a longer video or I want to add effects I use Camtasia or premier.
    • A lastpass account where I am the sole owner of the email the account is registered to. All VA's have an account they use and are required to group and save all passwords to the account. If another VA needs access to an account then I have them share to PW to the other VA's lastpass account. If I loose the VA I retain the lastpass account and all information contained. I require them to use complex passwords of everything they create to prevent mass account compromise.
    • Save everything to dropbox or box.net. Personally I use dropbox more than box but that is just my preference. You can get more space by getting people to join. Start with your VA's and clients. I make each sign up when we begin working together so I can make a folder for each. Currently I have over 20 gigs of free space so that is sufficient for my needs. I also have it installed on my VPS' for easy file transfers to all pc's.
    • Google docs and google sites - I use docs to create instructional training material (why just use the long emails once when I can make a doc out of it and link to it later.) This also lets me know the last time the docs were updated and also creates version that can be used for later reference. I keep lots of spreadsheets for linking reports and project updates. I also use the drawing feature in gdocs for very crude visual aids. I use google sites to create a work portal for all VA's. This contains embedded spreadsheets, doc repository for commonly used files, embedded SEO link building calendars for each employee and general seo tasks. You can make the site private and only share with employees and remove access when needed. Some say don't give G all the deets on what you are up to but I don't buy into that where email and docs are concerned.

    So that is enough for now hopefully this will save people some time. I have always believed there are no bad employees just bad managers so take full responsibility for the people I hire. I do try to make it a habit of hiring the right person from the start but some people even fool me. If you someone is not working out and you have given them everything they needed to succeed move on. You are not doing anyone a favor by just keeping them around. On the other side if they are working out do everything you can to keep them. Money is a temporary motivation so don't expect it to always work. Keep your employees learning and always try to challenge them. I have had the opportunity to have some extremely talented people work for me and realized praise and challenge go further than occasionally throwing more money at someone.

    I'm going to make this a blog post on my site but I wanted to share it here first. Let me know if you have anything to add or if you think I could change anything. Opinions are always interesting to hear even if they are wrong. lol
     
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    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
  2. AR!ZONA

    AR!ZONA Regular Member

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    I would add a tldr; at the end!

    JK, but seriously, try formatting it a bit better with lists and enumeration.
     
  3. HostStage

    HostStage Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member UnGagged Attendee

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    Thank you for the tips provided. I had a few troubles to keep them motivated and check their productivity in the past but the tools and methods shared should be of a great help.

    It will be a great blog post (evernoted here!) Don't hesitate to add further details.
     
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  4. desi_indian

    desi_indian Registered Member

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    i will ask for virtual assistant to read it and tell me breif
    good troll
     
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    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
  5. usdachoice

    usdachoice Regular Member

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    Thanks for the +rep I will try to add a little more.

    If you are considering a VA make sure you have at least a month worth of tasks for the VA to fill for you. If you have to make up stuff for them to do you probably don't need full time help. If this is the case you should consider other options.

    1. The obvious just hire someone from odesk or freelancer to do the big tasks you have. This prevents you from going through the effort of training a VA. This also helps you get someone with a higher skill set and you only have to pay for the tasks you hire them for. This is also how I found my first first good VA after a little trial and error with others.
    2. Could your tasks be accomplished by using a series of Fiverr gigs. $75 to $100 per week is 15 to 20 Fiverr gigs potentially from different providers. This could save time and also money if used properly. Although my experience with Fiverr has been a mixed bag. Another alternative is SEOclerks although I have never used.
    3. Could your tasks be performed using microworkers or mechanical Turk? This is another option depending on the type of tasks you require.

    If you are on the fence with hiring someone full time I would explore the above mentioned options first. Use them and see what your needs are. Once you are exceeding the costs of a full time VA on the above I would then consider hiring a VA.

    Hope that helps.

     
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  6. G-S-T

    G-S-T Executive VIP Jr. VIP

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    Thanks for the tips, I will certainly get a copy of time doctor. I need a VA for a month or so to do some of the tasks I just cant be arsed to do. Can you suggest somebody you have worked with in the past?

    I dont really want to have to interview 10 people, i would rather a trusted member vouch for a person and I give them a job. Any suggestions?
     
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  7. usdachoice

    usdachoice Regular Member

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    Thanks G-S-T for the kind words and the +rep. PM sent

     
  8. thedorf

    thedorf Senior Member

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    I find myself wishing I could hire a VA to train VA's to do what I want. Making videos, docs and all that sounds way too time intensive to me.

    I'm sure there are times when this is warranted, for instance you want to scale up, but I see no "quickly" in this.

    Still, thanks for the share OP. I appreciate your recommendation for time doctor and I also appreciate the time you put into writing up this post.

    Good share.
     
  9. Ramus313

    Ramus313 Power Member

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    Thanks for the tips man, I bookmarked it, and will take a look at it again once i hire my VA.

    +rep given!
     
  10. John.

    John. Power Member

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    EXCELLENT thread, some great tips here... thanks!
     
  11. marishal

    marishal Registered Member

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    First of all, thanks for the informative and detailed post.

    I'm a LastPass myself and had some trouble understanding the tactic below:

    I get that you have 1 LP account, but how is it linked with each VA's account? How can you retain the VA's LP account if it's different from yours?

    Can you please elaborate a little more?

    Thanks
     
  12. tnhomestead

    tnhomestead Regular Member

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  13. marishal

    marishal Registered Member

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    ok that makes sense. I was not aware of the enterprise edition.