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When to Hire Your First VA
Hiring Virtual Assistants – or VA’s – was a game-changer for my business.
My only regret today is that I didn’t do that sooner. Much sooner!
Many web publishers hesitate when it comes to finding and hiring a VA. And sometimes for excellent reasons.
I can see how someone might hire a VA too soon. Finding the right time along your journey isn’t always easy.
In this post, I will go over the pros and cons of hiring a VA and focus on knowing when it’s time to take that step.
As always, the following is based on my own experience and insights. Your mileage may vary.
What can a VA do for your business?
A virtual assistant can take over many repetitive tasks that you don’t have the time (or inclination) to do yourself.
As you expand your business, you’ll come across tasks that will challenge you at first and then turn into a not-so-exciting routine.
Your VA can take those tasks off your hands. Once you teach and train them, they can take over and free you to deal with new challenges.
VA’s can do much more than “grunt work”
When I mention the words “repetitive” and “grind,” I’m not trying to say that a VA should be limited to those tasks. Far from it.
Many virtual assistants are knowledgeable, efficient, and proactive.
I often consult with our VA’s to get their opinion on various matters. I also allocate large projects to our top VA’s, and they run them from A to Z, reporting to me at pre-scheduled intervals.
The term “Virtual Assistant” is, in fact, very broad. Depending on your assistant’s skills and mutual expectations, they could take on a pivotal role in your business.
Offshore vs. hiring in your country
Let’s address that question of location head-on.
Most web publishers seem to hire their VA’s in the Phillippines. The country has a large workforce of English speakers eager to work offshore.
The alternative is to hire a virtual assistant in your country. I can’t say much about other countries, but hiring an American assistant would probably be much different from hiring offshore if you live in the US.
I do have employees in the US these days. They are a valuable part of my business, but hiring them is more expensive and comes with various compliance liabilities. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say, it’s far more complicated.
So, unless you have a very good reason to hire locally, hiring an offshore VA makes more business sense.
In fact, for most web publishers, the term “VA” is synonymous with an offshore – often Filipino – member of their team. For the rest of this post, assume we’re talking about an offshore VA hired from the Philippines.
The Pros of hiring a VA
If you’re at the point where you’re considering hiring your first virtual assistant, weighing the pros and cons might help you reach a decision.
Let’s start by looking at the pros. They’re easy to figure out.
1. Increasing publishing capacity
Put simply: Two people are more than one. You’re getting more work hours into your business. That can double your production capacity if you are doing this full-time. Possibly more than double if you’re not available full-time.
2. Allowing You To Focus on other aspects of your business
Simply put, hiring a VA can free up your valuable time. You can use that time to learn new skills, explore new avenues for your sites, or possibly even create more sites.
The options are endless. Where you choose to take your business to is up to you. Having a VA will allow you to do more than churn out more content.
3. Avoiding burnout
For most entrepreneurs, repetitive tasks can become a real problem. Many people can’t handle the grind to the point that they burn out and quit.
By delegating that type of work to someone who’s better equipped to deal with it, you can mitigate the risk of burnout – at least to some extent.
The Cons of hiring a VA
Everything has its drawbacks, so let’s take a look at those.
The most apparent problem with hiring a VA is that it will cost you money. I’ll discuss the costs in more detail in a bit, so just listing it here for now.
2. Time to hire and train
Finding a suitable VA takes time. Training them and learning to work with them can also take time. And since time is money, this is an additional cost.
3. A cyber-security vulnerability
You would probably give your VA access to your WordPress installations. Possibly to Clickup, spreadsheets, or any other systems that you use.
Even a highly trustworthy VA can have their computer hacked. Every additional person in your organization poses a potential vulnerability.
How much does it cost to hire a VA?
For most people starting out, the main drawback to hiring a virtual assistant is the cost. Let’s break down the cost of your first assistant.
VA’s typically get paid based on an hourly wage, with you committing to a set number of weekly hours. This is a free market, so the hourly pay ends up being what the VA is happy to work for, and you’re happy to pay.
Or at least it should be that – I would never haggle over the payment – I want my VA’s happy.
Browsing the OnlineJobs.ph website (my favorite place to hire VA’s), you can see what potential applicants are looking to be paid. Many state $2-$4 as their hourly rate.
Based on that, we offer $3 an hour. All of our VA’s have been with us for more than two years now, and we promoted a few of them to high-responsibility positions – with appropriate raises to their pay. However, if you’re starting and hiring for the first time, offering $3 an hour should still get you a decent number of applicants.
Most VA’s are looking for full-time positions of 40 hours a week. Some are good with 20 hours a week. Depending on that number, you can expect to pay a base salary of $120 for a full-time virtual assistant.
You could just pay the weekly wages, or you could offer your VA’s a few extras.
I prefer to pay beyond the base salary. That’s because I want our VA’s to stay motivated for the long run. It’s a small investment that pays off.
These extras include –
1. Payment fees
If you’re using Paypal, someone will have to pay a 5% fee for the transaction. We use Payoneer and are looking into Wise. Both offer much lower transaction fees and faster payment.
We pay the transaction fees on our end. It’s easy to do with Payoneer, where you just choose to pay the fees.
2. 13th salary
Employees in the Phillippines are typically paid an additional salary around the holidays – a 13th salary. We pay that to all of our Filippino team members.
3. Health Benefits
We offer to pay for our VA’s supplemental health insurance. They get $50 a month towards that (and show receipts for making the payments).
4. Other possible benefits
Additional benefits can include paid holidays and paid-time-off.
Paying for work-related costs is also a possible job perk.
You can also offer bonuses or incentives.
In short, the sky is the limit – it’s all up to you and your VA to decide.
Overall costs for hiring a VA
Considering all of the above, I would put the cost to hiring your first full-time VA at $120 a week for the first weeks, but more like $140-$160 a week in the long run.
How to tell when you need to hire a VA
Overall, I think the pros of hiring a VA outweigh the cons. If you’re serious about your online business, you should consider the VA option. The only question should be “when.”
The two questions to answer at this point would be –
- Do I have enough work to assign to a VA?
- Can I afford hiring a VA?
Let’s look into each of these questions in more depth.
Assessing the amount of Potential work for a VA
Here’s how I would go about making this assessment.
Create a list of all of your web publishing tasks.
For each task, write down the following –
- How many hours a week does this take you.
- Is the number of hours expected to grow if you publish more content.
- How much do you love – or hate – this particular task.
- How difficult would it be for you to train another person to perform this task.
A list of tasks is a good thing to have on hand.
If you’re using any task management tool correctly, you should have a good record of what it is that’s keeping you busy throughout the week. I use Clickup (and blogged about it here), so it’s easy to review my tasks. But any type of list will do.
If you’re not using any task management tool, then you’ll have to try and write down your tasks from memory. Give it a few days and add to the list as you encounter more tasks.
Once you finish writing down your list, you should be able to evaluate how many hours per week you would need from a potential VA. Don’t assume the work would take them longer. In my experience, with many tasks, our VA’s can do them better and faster than I can.
In short, carefully assess how much help you actually need. You may find out it’s very little. Or that it’s a LOT.
A good number of weekly hours to start with is 20. If you can delegate 20 hours worth of your work to a VA – you’ve hit a minimum that could justify hiring one as a part-time employee.
Budgeting for a VA
The second question is that of affording to pay a VA.
If your sites generate enough revenue to cover the cost of a VA, then the question becomes more straightforward. It’s a matter of re-investing profit vs. living off it now.
What’s more, if you’re already making more than $500 a month from your sites, then you have a better sense of the timeline for growing future revenue. You can invest in a VA with more confidence.
However, if you’re still not making enough money from your site, this becomes a question of investing (more) out of pocket.
And if you’re very early in your journey, you may not know yet for sure if you’ll be able to make a profit. It’s more complicated, and in the end, it’s a personal choice.
My piece of unsolicited advice to someone new in the industry would be to wait until you’re making at least a few hundred dollars per month and can see a clear trajectory getting you to that point soon.
And speaking of trajectory.
A while ago, I talked about the importance of having a business strategy. Knowing when to hire your first VA should be easier if you have a solid strategy.
When working on your multiples and projecting future revenue and expenses, you can play with the numbers to see what happens if you increase the amount of content you publish. You can also make sure that what you spend on hiring a VA will be justified down the road.
The bottom line
I wish someone would have nudged me towards hiring my first VA sooner. Hopefully, this post might be that much-needed nudge for someone else.
In my experience, outsourcing and delegating are vital in growing a web publishing business.
The right time to do so is when you’re sure that you can generate more revenue from the additional workforce – and have the budget to fund the expense.
And remember, you don’t have to hire someone full-time right away. Starting slow and hiring someone for 20 hours a week can help you minimize the risk as you’re taking your first step.
As always, I look forward to hearing back from you!
If you already hired virtual assistants – do share when along your journey you did that and how that worked out for you.
If you’re still unsure if this is a good move for you – let me know why. I’m always curious to read what Yeys readers are thinking!
What were the first tasks you hired out to a VA to help free up your time to expand.
How do you train your VA’s? Through emails, videos or by other means?
(Great post as usual).
I didn’t cover training or even the actual hiring process. Both deserve separate posts which I hope I’ll get around to sometime this year (it’s on my content plan!).
Great question about those first tasks! It sure was a long while ago. I believe they were related to uploading content to my two new blogs at the time. Including images, creating pins, and even editing and proofreading my writing.
How do you forecast the growth of your sites? And how do you figure out if it makes sense to publish more articles on existing sites vs creating new sites?
Hi Abhijit! Good to see you here!
I wrote about this very topic here. It’s basically a projection/extrapolation of the costs and revenue. Using spreadsheets, you can easily see what happens when you invest more (or less). We also factor in the new vs. existing sites, by estimating the time-to-revenue. We have 2 months and the time to revenue on an established site. On a new site it’s 9 months.
When you said “I wrote about this very topic here.” where did you mean by “here”, as there is no link and I’m not sure how best to search for the information on your blog.
However, it would be really interesting to know how you use spreadsheets (any links to examples) to see how investing more or less makes a difference. Plus to see how you factor in new sites.
Even though you are a fully scaled blogger, these kinds of these insights into your mindset can really help.
Thanks for catching that! I just fixed the link – and here it is again: How I use Clickup to run my sites [Platform Review]
I don’t think our spreadsheets are special in any way that’s worth sharing. Since I don’t have my own training/courses, I don’t offer tools on Yeys. I just share my insights/experiences. I think such a spreadsheet could be a good tool for a course, though. Will suggest it to Jon Dykstra and maybe he’ll include it in the Fat Stacks course package.
I currently publish about 100 posts per month bringing in about $10k pm. Currently, I am planning all of the blog outlines myself since I have found that the writers I have been hiring just can’t do it properly in an SEO sense.
Have you had much success getting a VA to plan the outlines for you? If not, do you think you could train them to do it?
Yes, you can definitely train a VA to write outlines! We have a senior VA who does task descriptions and edits articles based on specific guidelines. She’s very good at what she does and we’re extremely happy with her work.
I also have VAs write my outlines. So good! I have templates and instructions and it works very well.
I also waited too long to hire a VA. My first full time (also Filipino) VA still works for me and she is so valuable to my business. One of the best investments I ever made for sure.
I was such a control freak that I did everything myself for years. So ridiculous with hindsight 😀
I can really relate to what you’re saying, Sharon!
How much of the business do you outsource? Are there areas you absolutely wouldn’t outsource? Do you even outsource high level tasks like keyword research? In this case, do you still pay the same amount?
I don’t consider delegating work to a VA as outsourcing. VA’s are part of our team, so their work is in-house rather than outsourced. The business isn’t just myself anymore. Outsourcing is when we buy a service from an external provider, and we try to keep that to things like accounting, legal, server admin etc.
At this point, I still do keyword research for most of our sites. We have one US employee on the payroll that we train to help with keyword research.