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Are you curious about virtual staff? Ask your questions here.

Discussion in 'Get productive' started by Adam Stanecki, May 1, 2012.

  1. Adam Stanecki

    Adam Stanecki Active Member

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    Hi all,

    I'm back.
    Yes, its been a while.

    I've been head down, bottom up launching my new venture, VA Scout. It's a virtual staffing service based on ethical practices and ongoing care for both employer and employee.

    The point of this thread is that I'd like to hear your questions about virtual staff, outsourcing etc. I'd honestly like to share my experiences and advice with you.

    So, post your questions about virtual staffing and I'll answer them to the best of my ability.

    Cheers, Adam.
  2. Gordan

    Gordan Member

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    Can you explain how exactly does virtual staffing work? What are the communication channels? And what sort of prices do the virtual staff cost?
  3. FS Concierge

    FS Concierge Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Adam,

    Nice to see you back on deck :)

    Hope VA Scout is a huge success.

    Jayne
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  4. Adam Stanecki

    Adam Stanecki Active Member

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    G'day Gordon,

    I hope the below answers your questions.

    It's just like a standard employer/employee arrangement except that your staff work in a different location to you. Technically, it is a subcontractor role. However, I treat my staff as employees of the business not as contractors.

    Effectively any task that you can complete online can be completed by virtual staff.

    I have not used virtual staffing for anything other than internet based tasks however one could argue that any tasks not requiring physical proximity to a specific location could be accomplished virtually.

    I generally use my virtual staff for admin, marketing and research tasks.

    I use Gmail and Skype almost exclusively.

    Other tools I find useful are Google Docs, Basecamp and Dropbox.

    From US$2/hr upward for admin. Specialists cost more.
    My suggestion is to always pay what they are worth to you.
    Part-time and ful-time roles are preferred by virtual staff. Project work holds no security for them.


    Please let me know if you have further questions.

    Regards, Adam.
  5. Adam Stanecki

    Adam Stanecki Active Member

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    Jayne,

    Thank you very much for the kind words.

    -Adam.
  6. Gavin_S

    Gavin_S Member

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    I've been using virtual staff for a little while now, there's no doubt that the right people (and the right management tools) can make a huge difference.
    I think the key is to treat them like a normal staff member (because that's exactly what they are), really spend the time to find the right person, take the time to train them, use the right tools (productivity tools and time management software), and pay them appropriately.
    Virtual staff have made a huge difference to my business, I would recommend it to anyone.
  7. Adam Stanecki

    Adam Stanecki Active Member

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    Spot on, AR.
    Thank you for your input.
  8. PocketDocket

    PocketDocket Active Member

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    I have recently hired my first VA via odesk - they have a basic ranking system which shows the total number of hours they have logged, feedback from prior projects, and also ratings for some test that they take such as English speaking, English comprehension, email etiquette, call centre etiquette etc... I trialed a few out and selected the best result.

    Trust is a major factor, I think slowly increasing their access and responsibility is key, just like with any employee.

    Jeremy
  9. EmpressAdmin

    EmpressAdmin New Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Adam - what a great post to start up! So many people have questions about VAs and how it all works.

    Terence - I'm not sure how Adam or other VA businesses operate, but I ensure my clients sign an Agreement before work is started. The Agreement is more for confidentiality reasons so my clients know that I value their trust and that any information they provide me with is used for the purpose it is intended and not abused.

    Cheers
    Tammy
  10. Gridare

    Gridare New Member

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    If you'll permit me to enter my experiences with overseas staff ..

    We have been using staff overseas for a while now. It is fairly similar to the staff in your office. There does need to be a level of trust, which is also the same if you have staff in your office.

    In relation to a 'ranking system', this would depend on how you hire them. If you go through a third party, then they can vet them for you. You can even ask for a Police check in certain countries.

    In terms of what you can have them do .. there are the obvious simple tasks such as making calls, updating profiles on social sites, etc. You can also have them as 'employees' in the sense that they start and finish at the normal business hours, provide them with an email address, web based CRMs, online storage and an IP phone solution.

    Although I'm not in the VA game, I'd also be happy to speak with anyone who wants further insight.

    Robert
    www.gridare.com
    1800 10 21 10

    DISCLAIMER: We run an IP telephone business and supply internet based telephone services to Australian companies with staff located overseas. We also supply phone solutions to Australian based businesses.
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  11. Adam Stanecki

    Adam Stanecki Active Member

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    Terence,

    Great questions.

    In my experience it's all about trust. Before you go off sharing your credit card details - for example - you have to build a trusting relationship. This would be true no matter where your assistant is located. The same is true for internet security.

    The way I have always worked is to provide small tasks first to get an understanding of the individual that is working with me. I will then supply access to accounts (quite often full admin privileges). I have NEVER had a security breach. On the one occasion that I had to fire a VA, I simply reset all of my passwords. This cost an hour of my time but not loss in data or other content. (The VA concerned was not hired through a screened process, I learned a good lesson there.)

    With Facebook you add a user to Pages and Groups as an Admin so you can always have the same level of access yourself. If your VA posts inappropriate content, you can delete it. It's a learning curve for them and for you and it may take a little time.

    At VA Scout, we have a simple employment contract. I am no expert in international law so I cannot vouch for its strength. Effectively, we see it as an agreement of employment terms. To be honest, every VA we have placed has been honest and hard working and has not breached any trust. We know because we constantly follow up with both sides.

    We screen all candidates and then match them to the employer's needs. We do not have a system like eBay. It's all one-to-one interviews via Skype. It's as face-to-face as it gets online. We are confident that the candidates are of the highest quality.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.
    Please excuse my late reply, I was in Bali and offline for the last week.

    Sincerely, Adam.
  12. Adam Stanecki

    Adam Stanecki Active Member

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    Robert,

    Thank you for your input.
    It's great to hear that virtual staffing is working for you.

    -Adam
  13. King

    King Well-Known Member

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    The book 4HR Workweek goes into some detail about outsourcing. In particular, while Adam may help find people, there is very important issues in how YOU communicate, give instruction etc. This is a steep learning curve for many people....as international workers may need very specific instruction.

    It certainly is a growth industry that in its own way (as it has been around for 6 or so years) is also quite mature.
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  14. Adam Stanecki

    Adam Stanecki Active Member

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    King, thank you for your input.

    The 4HWW book has some good advice about comms with virtual staff.


    Part of the reason I started this thread was to get an idea of what questions are being asked about virtual staff. I am in the process of creating a free video series to help answer these questions and more. Communications will be a big part of the series.

    Cheers, Adam.
  15. Brett N/Nerds Computer

    Brett N/Nerds Computer Member

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    Hi Adam,

    I have always wanted to know about the tax implications of employing a Virtual Assistant.

    In particular, what happens if you employ a VA that is not registered for GST. In Australia I think that would create an obligation to withhold 48.5% of their payment. This would mean that if you don't withhold the payment then you are creating a liability to the tax office.

    Am I miss understanding the law or is this correct. If correct what should you do about it because most Virtual Assistant would not accept you withholding such a large chunk of their payment and it seems their prices would no longer be competitive. Of course that depends on the service you are getting and the price you are paying.

    Cheers,

    Brett
  16. Adam Stanecki

    Adam Stanecki Active Member

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    G'day Brett,

    Thank you for your question.

    When hiring a VA, you would do so as a contractor. They invoice you for work completed and you pay them. They are not employees of yours and so you are not obliged to withhold tax. Withholding tax is for employees not contractors or subcontractors. It is up to the contractor to pay their own tax.

    GST considerations are also on the side of the contractor. This would only come into play if your VA was located in Australia. It is up to the contractor to register for GST when they met the requirements (minimum income). The only consideration for the employer is that there is no GST to claim back if the contractor is not located in Australia and registered.

    Your VA has tax implications in their own country. It may be a good idea for you to understand those implications too.

    I have confirmed these details with my accountant however I have not discussed this with a solicitor versed in tax law. Please confirm with your legal advisor to be certain.

    Regards, Adam.
  17. bridiej

    bridiej Well-Known Member

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    I'm not currently registered for GST and so I can't charge it, therefore my invoices are just for the services, with no GST added. I've never heard of anyone withholding money... I think as Adam has stated, that may be an employee thing whereas VAs are contractors.
  18. SavvySME

    SavvySME Active Member

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    I've had experience with lots of outsourced contractors serving many roles.

    Hiring a virtual assistant

    There are so many of these around and some can come as low as $1-$2 an hour. It's very important that you get someone trustworthy like all posters mentioned above because ideally you'd want them to do some of the more tedious financial things for you eventually.

    Things to look out for when hiring a VA:

    * I usually use a reputable outsourcing platform such as oDesk because if anything happens, you are partly protected (not always but adds an extra layer. Alternatively there are many managed offices where you hire through and agency who have internal managers and policies too keep your work protected.

    * Check their feedback. If you are hiring yourself look at the feedback they have been given and how many hours they have worked. I usually filter off anything below 4/5 and low scores on skills tests.

    * Make sure they have a decent level of english. Most people would like their VA's to be communicating to some extent to their customers or posting on their social sites from time to time, if not daily. Make sure your VA speaks good english. I usually interview mine on skype prior to hiring them to see what their natural conversational level of english is like. You'll find most VA's operate through skype.

    * Put them through a test. If you want to filter through the "crap" you can set a simple task on your project request. Maybe something like "do research on this topic and send me a 200 word summary". You can make the class as close to what you need them to do as possible. If it's a little more time consuming, shortlist a couple and pay them for the hour of their time. You'll be paying an extra few dollars per trial but you can save a lot of heart ache and expenses later on.

    Some interesting tasks I've head people use their VA's for:

    * Keeping track of your receipts (simply snap a picture of your receipt using your phone and send it to your VA to process). This will require a high level of trust between you and your VA.

    * Organising their social events.

    VA's shouldn't be limited to just your business, you should leverage them to make your life better by getting to do things that you don't enjoy doing.

    And one last tip that I'd like to leave you with is that hiring VA's can be time consuming, make sure you start well in advance of when you need them. You can actually hire recruiters to do it for you as well, there are many local and outsourced options. You can pay them a finders fee and also a small commission for every month the VA stays on -> to make sure that they focus on the quality of the hire vs. just finding one to get the hire bonus. Last of all, if you have a good VA, you have to make sure they are treated well. Giving them a $50 bonus from month to month will ensure their loyalty, saving you time having to rehire and retrain.

    I actually have a lot more tips as I've hired copywriters, social media managers, programmers, seo managers and designers through outsourcing but I'm thinking this post is too long. If you want more information please feel free to contact me through SavvySME (website is in my signature)

    Thanks for reading,
    Wendy Huang
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  19. bridiej

    bridiej Well-Known Member

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    I find it interesting that whenever virtual assistants are discussed it's always assumed that you need to send your work overseas. In fact, there is a large VA presence right here in Australia, including many members of the Flying Solo community.
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  20. AgentMail

    AgentMail Well-Known Member

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    But Bridie, which one of them can I have for $1 per hour ;)
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