I had set a goal for February 2012 to hire a VA, so that was one of the tasks that I was focusing on at the beginning of the month. When Flippa posted their deal where you get $100 free credit at oDesk if you hire your first contractor on an hourly contract, I took that as a sign to get moving. I decided to start out with a small but tedious part of my operation: backlinking. So, the VA that I was going to hire was going to be an expert on that.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant on oDesk
The first thing I did was to create a training site for my VA-to-be. I pushed out a site quickly that illustrated in detail how I wanted everything to be done. Currently, I use Unique Article Wizard and Authority Link Network as my backlinking tools, so I also created video training specifically for my VA. This was done using ScreenFlow for Mac, which is really easy to use. Having never done this before, it took a couple of tries to get a video that I liked published.
The next step was to create a detailed job posting. This didn't take long at all. I simply outlined the following:
- Requirements of what I needed in terms of experience
- Set clear expectations of what my contractor was supposed to do on a daily basis.
- Listed communication requirements and how they were supposed to contact me, and how often.
How to Instantly Eliminate Half Of Your oDesk Applicants
A nice trick that I learned was to insert a special sentence in the text of my job posting that read something like this:
On the first line of your reply to this ad, please write [CODEWORD] and nothing else if you are interested.
On oDesk, my colleagues warned me that there are a lot of people with auto-responders that will apply to your job posting. Meaning to say, as soon as your job is posted you will get flooded with templated, generic responses to your ad. If you hide a sentence like the above in your ad, you can instantly weed out a large number of responses.
I was able to do just that, as I got close to 30 applicants within the first hour of posting. It's much easier to deal with a smaller list to begin with, so I was happy that this little trick worked.
The Waiting Game, And The Shortlist
I waited a couple of days until the number of applications finally trickled off into nothingness. Then, based on the responses, I selected 4 candidates that I was going to interview over Skype. Having never hired anyone directly in my life before, I simply chose based on experience, and how well-written their response to me was. There was one guy who stood out miles above the others, but I didn't want to get my hopes up so I stuck with the 4 best people at that point.
I sent out oDesk messages to each candidate for an interview on Skype. Next came the interview.
The Skype Interview Made It Easy To Select My VA
I'll cut to the chase quickly here - only ONE guy showed up for his interview. The rest of the candidates stood me up. The guy that I did interview was the one who I mentioned earlier. He had a great English vocabulary, and while he didn't have experience with the particular tools that I used, he was well-versed in other backlinking strategies so I decided to give him a shot and hired him.
One thing that you have to remember with all the contractors on oDesk, especially if they are overseas, is that they often have multiple jobs and contracts going on at the same time. They all want to keep the cashflow going, so as a result, they end up applying to a lot of jobs that they probably shouldn't. I think that this was the case here, and that's why the other candidates didn't follow through on the interview. No matter though, as there are plenty of candidates available on oDesk. If I didn't get the one I wanted through the first run, I could have always posted the job again and waited for new responses.
Initial Progress With A VA: Give Them A Small Task At First
My VA took really well to the training, and I was happy about that because he didn't have any questions afterwards and was eager to try out UAW and ALN. I was thankful that I wouldn't have to go back and re-record those videos to incorporate any changes or recommendations.
I set him on a task to do one set of a 3x3 backlinking campaign. This is essentially submitting 3 articles in UAW and 3 articles in ALN. Nothing too complicated, right?
My VA finished this task with ease, and almost as fast as I have done myself. At worst, I can submit 3 articles in UAW about 15 minutes. He was clocking in at about 20-25 minutes without never having used it before. I thought that this was pretty good, since I expected this number to improve as time went on. ALN is even faster to use, and it took him much less time to do 3 articles there.
Starting off with a small task at first is best because if they fail the task, then you need to look at a few things:
- Is your training inadequate?
- Did they not understand the directions?
- Is the tool too difficult to use?
- Did you communicate the requirements clearly?
Where I Am With My VA Now
My VA is a BEAST at backlinking at I am getting a ton of work done, so I'm very happy. Honestly, I was circling around the whole hiring-a-VA thing as it was a bit daunting to me at first, having never done it previously. Having been through the experience once, I can say that it's actually fairly straightforward. I've already had more work done in terms of article writing, and expect to hire some more contractors in the future with the intention of outsourcing more parts of my business.
What Is Your VA Doing For You?
I'm wondering what everyone else out there with a VA is doing to leverage their usefulness. Did you:
- Start them with small tasks and then move them onto bigger things?
- Are you having them do keyword research?
- Are you having them write articles?
- Do your VAs setup your WordPress sites for you?
- Do they post articles on your sites?
- Do they do onpage SEO and/or quality control for you?
I would love to hear your experiences with these things. I like things done in a certain way, and if you can identify with my personality and are able to successfully outsource the above tasks I would be interested in hearing how you did it. Let me know.