What if you could take the day off and still have a productive day? I’m going to show you how, in 10 steps you can take the day off, hire someone to do that work and start to outsource the parts of your job you shouldn’t be doing.
If you can’t take holidays, days off and or even work on other projects, that means you need someone else.
It’s terrifying I know. The idea of handing over control and getting someone else on board your business. But it is the only way to scale.
The good part? It starts with taking a day off.
Trust me, no one is going to die. No fires are going to start. There aren’t going to be any emergencies. Everything will be fine.
Follow these 10 steps and you’ll wonder why you ever need to do any of your work again.
1. Take the day off. What SHOULD have been done? That’s your first process.
As an exercise, take a day off from work. Just go and do something else that isn’t delivering projects, replying to emails or doing usual work stuff.
One day isn’t going to make or break the business. What we’re doing is seeing what activities need completing on that day.
At the end of the day, go over what SHOULD have been done. Those items are the processes that you should write up.
Writing blog content, emailing customers, social posts, replying to customers. All the items that needed to get done today, are what you should focus on writing up the process for.
Everything can be systemised. There are other people that can take work from you. If literally no one else can do it, it’s not scalable. If you can’t teach other people to do it, it’s not scalable.
What would have had the biggest impact on your day if YOU didn’t have to do it? Interviewing guests for a podcast? Writing to sponsors or suppliers?
If you think you can’t afford to pay other people, that’s where we need to look at scalable products first. Products that allow you to scale and reach more people. We need to deliver more results to more people, with less effort.
We’re going to go over the steps needed to hire VA staff and outsource more of your work.
2. Brickwork India is a high-quality service for VA’s but it comes at a price
We use brickworkindia.com for our VA services.
They’re based in India but are one of the more premium virtual assistant services out there. However, I’ve found it’s worth paying every penny.
They do have a cheaper $5 per hour service, but as we’ve explored already, it’s better to leave that level to pure process tasks such as data entry.
Some of the VA team at Brickwork have Masters Degrees, they’re polite, fast workers and I rarely have to correct their work.
They have a research team, SEO team, and have some very affordable packages. On average, I’m paying $15 per hour for my VA. While this might seem expensive, it’s as we talked about earlier.
If you have to correct someone’s work all the time, how much is that really costing you?
3. Other options
Other options for VA and outsourced work.
Fiverr is on the lower end of the scale when it comes to cost. Blog posts might be advertised at $20, but you get what you pay for.
Having said that, it’s a perfect place to test your outsourcing process. For data entry and copying text over, we’ve used Fiverr to start with. Hiring a cheap VA to see if they can do the job and how much instruction we have to give.
Upwork can provide workers for almost any task. Development, VA, design, content etc. Like any marketplace, you get what you pay for. But we’ve found Upwork’s system easy to use and we’ve found some great long term partners through it.
Freelancer.com is another marketplace for freelance work. We’ve used them to find designers. Good customer service, one off hires and a nice system for managing projects.
Studio Envato is Envato’s freelancer marketplace, which is the company behind Themeforest. We often use Studio Envato for WordPress and theme specific work. However, we’ve found the marketplace flooded with copy profiles recently.
99Designs is an interesting change to the process, as you submit a brief and whittle down the winners each round. Offering feedback and design changes as you go through. They have various price levels and have some pretty good designers.
However, be careful to notice that the submissions are public. So we found we had a lot of copies and similar designs. We also found people to plagiarize other logos unless you paid on the higher end of the spectrum.
I’ve never used OnlineJobs.ph but I’ve heard great things about them. Similar to other marketplaces, however they specialise in Pilipino VA’s and workers.
You might have heard of Google. It’s a search engine. You can search for anything on the internet. It’s going to be huge.
But use Google to find VA services in your local area. You’ll be surprised at how affordable and efficient local VA teams can be.
4. Interview with a basic task
When hiring people for outsourcing work. If you’re planning on having a permanent member to your team, don’t hand the job over to one person straight away.
It might sound like a hassle, but you have to interview and interview a few people. It will save you hours in the long run.
First, it’s worth mentioning that we pay for all our interview candidates. The task should take 2 hours at most and will cost you’re a few bucks. You’re only interviewing 2 – 3 candidates so it shouldn’t cost a lot. They don’t even have to know they’re being interviewed.
Interview candidates with a basic task. Something you’ve written up and which doesn’t require a huge investment. Try to choose a task that can go wrong too, but that wouldn’t be the end of the world if you had to ignore or correct them.
Ask them to carry out the task and report back to you when they’re done. Ask them how long it took them, if they were comfortable with the task and if they have any questions.
You’re ABSOLUTELY interviewing people. It’s imperative that you hire once and hire right. If this is a long-term arrangement, you’ll want to run an interview as few times as possible.
Ask them what they’re working hours are, how they communicate and then check this with their interview task.
A few years back, I was interviewing for a VA position in my team. It boiled down to someone in the UK and someone in India.
India was a lot cheaper, but I was concerned that her English might not be so good. The UK candidate had all the right checks and talked about daily updates and shorter timescales.
With the task, (uploading YouTube videos, adding metadata and creating social content to promote it), the Indian candidate not only followed my instructions perfectly, but emailed me after the first upload to check she had done it properly.
She also emailed me when the task was complete. Gave an estimated completion time and offered some feedback on the process.
UK VA was nowhere to be seen until that Friday when she sent an email saying it had been completed. But nothing else. No updates throughout the week. Very little communication.
We went with our Indian VA and haven’t looked back.
5. Don’t accept the first candidate, ask to see a few
If you’re using an VA agency, ask for a few candidates and read over their profiles. Ask to interview them all with a simple task.
Some VA’s in other countries won’t want to talk on Skype. They also might be unsure of their English skills (most of the time they’re fluent) and if they want to call you Mr. or Mrs. Surname, don’t tell them to call you by your first name, they’re more comfortable calling you by your surname.
6. Ask them how they’ll do it
Asking someone to repeat back a task and ask them how they’ll complete a task is very insightful.
It sounds like a dumb question, but it shows you their level of experience and if they’ve done similar tasks before.
Even if you’ve got a written up process, ask them to repeat back the task and ask for steps on what they’ll do.
If they’re competent, they’ll give an overview of your steps. They’ll also include when they’ll contact you and if there is anything that isn’t covered by your process.
They should also mention whether they’ll contact you if they need help. The problem is that most people don’t ask for help straight away. Encourage them to check in every day for the first task. Give an update on where they are and if they’re struggling with anything.
7. Ask for a list of tools they can use
Asking about the tools they can and will use is important to understand 2 things. a) if they’re bullshitting you and b) how experienced they are.
We’ve all embellished our resumes a little. But I’ve lost count of how many people have told me they’re proficient with HTML and PHP or graphic design software.
Only for me to give them a simple task at which they utterly fail. It’s important to me that I know what their capabilities are. In a weird way, I’d rather have someone admit to me that they have no idea how to use Photoshop but they’re keen and willing to learn.
On the other hand, I find the more experienced VA and external staff are, the more specific they are about the tools they use.
My Operations Manager and Project Manager both have very similar skillsets and toolsets. Asana, Trello, Quip, Workflowy, Zapier, Process.st, Kissflow etc.
At no point do they mention Photoshop, Sublime Text, WordPress or something which isn’t pertinent to their requirements.
They might be the greatest PSD wizard in the world. But that’s not what I’m hiring them for.
Lots of VA’s will tell you they’re good with Excel, Word, Outlook, WordPress and the other standard packages. But if you’re looking for a specific person to fill a specific role, it’s better to see some tools that they’re going use.
On the other hand, make a list of the tools you use and you’d expect them to get comfortable with. Our Social Media Coordinator hadn’t ever used Google Docs or Postcron before. However, she was very willing to learn.
Combined with my written process on uploading, editing and scheduling social content, she got to grips with it very fast.
8. Check their English and ask them to repeat back their understanding of a task
When you work with non-native English speakers, it can be tough to make sure they understand the task.
The simplest way to lower this risk, is to ask them to repeat back, in their own words the task.
It might sound laborious, even patronising to both you and them. But it’s imperative to see if you can leave them with the task.
Over time, you’ll ask for this less and less. My VA has been working with so well, for so long, that she can even interpret what I mean with certain instructions.
For example. Let’s say you’re asking a VA to upload 2 Google Docs to WordPress for blog posts. You’d like them to keep the formatting of the headers and run a spell check through Grammerly.
You’d also like them to find 2 suitable images from Unsplash, Pexlar, Picxel, or another stock image source. Set that image as a featured image with suitable alt tags and descriptions.
Finally, you’d like them to use SEO, social and search engines as categories for both posts, but one of them needs the laptop and software categories too.
You’d expect the task to be completed in under 2 hours and to check in with you when they’ve uploaded the first one. You’d like it completed by Thursday at 5pm and to contact you at Thursday at 9am by the latest if it will take longer.
Note: This is the level of detail most of your tasks will require. Combine them with a written process and video screenshot and you won’t go far wrong.
Ask them to repeat the task back to you, in their own words. This will show their interpretation skills, language skills and they’ll have to ask you what a certain section means if they don’t understand it.
It’s actually an important process to ask even native English speakers to do this. When people repeat back tasks to you, it cements in their mind what they’re going to do. They’ll start to visualise their task.
Finally, the reason we use slightly most costly services like Brickwork is because I have never had a problem with their English. Hell, some of it is better than mine.
9. Give detailed emails and instructions – take the time to write them
As I mentioned previously, the more detailed your emails and communications, the better the result.
Take the time to write the RIGHT amount. Don’t dump everything in the email. This is a time investment. Spend 20 minutes writing the perfect task email and prevent hours of chasing later.
Feel free to use the template below.
Quick hello and ask how they are.
Task and results
I need you to upload 5 videos to YouTube and create 5 new WordPress blog posts per video. This means we’ll be publishing 5 videos over 5 weeks and a new blog post each week.
Each video needs to be scheduled from 24th and in 7-day intervals, 31st being the next. The posts are to be scheduled for the day after each video goes live.
Here is where we’d usually include a screencast or process.st of what we want them to do. This might seem like a lot of work, but trust me when I say they more you invest upfront, the less work you need to do later on.
I’ve included a Process.st of the steps here. As well as a video here.
You’ll find the videos in the Google Drive folder. Each video is labelled 1 – 5. This spreadsheet here shows what each title, blog title, categories and tags are required per video.
This task should take no longer than 4 hours.
I need this task completed by Thursday 5 pm at the latest. Please confirm that this is fine. If you’re unable to do the task by that time, can you please let me know by Thursday 9am at the latest.
Can you repeat back to me the task, in your own words, just to make sure I’ve given you clear enough direction.
10. Give a time limit
Time limits are critical to managing VA and outsource staff.
I once asked a VA to carry out keyword research. Some high level, Google keyword planner stuff. It wouldn’t have taken longer than 2 hours.
When I checked in, after not hearing from him for a few days, he sent me a report that had taken him 8 HOURS to complete. He was researching depths that I didn’t need and spent a lot of time trying new techniques.
I’m lucky, that my current VA always completes things way faster than I expect anyway. However, the first time was entirely my fault for not giving a time limit.
Time limits mean 3 things. 1. Your VA will know they have a limit to how much they can invest in the work. They’ll know how important the task is. If it’s a 10-hour project including research, that gives them space. Smaller 1 and 2-hour tasks can be process orientated.
2. If a task is going to go over “time budget” they’ll have to contact you. It might be there were unforeseen problems and you failed to take other things into consideration.As a rule, something usually takes 4 times longer than you think. However, don’t give too much time allowance as some VA’s might take advantage. If they come back to you and tell you it’s too short a time, tell them to get done what they can and you’ll
As a rule, something usually takes 4 times longer than you think. However, don’t give too much time allowance as some VA’s might take advantage. If they come back to you and tell you it’s too short a time, tell them to get done what they can and you’ll asses their results when they contact you.
3. Time limits begin to tell you how skilful your hire is. Someone who knows what they’re doing will exceed your (reasonable) expectations on task completion. They’ll ideally, be better than you. But this comes at a price.
“Mike, I can’t possibly hire someone because I can’t afford to!” I know how you feel. Lots of businesses in your position have said the same thing.
Here’s what we’ve found though. But looking at ONE task that you can get someone else to do, you’ll free your time up. Which in infinitely more important than revenue.
Second to that. Increase your prices. Give yourself more breathing room and margin to hire people.
What do you think? Anything you want to try here? Have we missed a step? Let us know in the comments.