How To Outsource Data Entry

In this post, you will learn ALL about how to outsource data entry

Hands down, the most mind numbing and low $ value task within your business.

And those unfortunate enough to run a REAL WORLD, brick and mortar business have to employ a resource local to their business in order to complete these tasks.

However, that does not apply to us online business owners.

Our Data Entry work can be completed by pretty much anyone that is located anywhere in the world. You just need to find an experienced and reliable Team Member, that has the motivation to ensure the integrity of the data to be entered.

Here are a list of Data Entry tasks that either Virtual Valley, or one of Virtual Valleys clients has outsourced in the past 3 months:

  • WordPress Management
  • eCommerce Product Management
  • Mobile App Content Management
  • Email List Management
  • CRM Maintenance
  • PPC Ad Creation/Management
  • Infusionsoft Email Loading/Campaign Management

To put it simply…

If you find yourself (or one of the key players in your business) continuously copying and pasting information from one place to another for more that 5 minutes at a time…

You need to head over to The Efficient Outsourcing Formula, skip to Step 2 and start outsourcing these tasks.

As with every minute that you a completing these tasks, you are NOT adding value to your community. And as we know, this is the only route to building a sustainable online business.

Stop Wasting Your Time – The Efficient Outsourcing Formula

In this post, you will learn ALL about The Efficient Outsourcing Formula…

You know that feeling when you a make a big (ish) sale online?

Magical right?

Here is a screenshot of a recent one of mine:

A grand total of $1,097.00 (don’t ask about my pricing strategy ;)) for a Play Store App Promotion service, hardly a life changing event but significant none the less.

And can you guess what made it that much sweeter?

I personally put zero time into the marketing and delivery of this sale (directly).

But how? (I hear you cry!)

By effectively building a team of awesome virtual team members.

I like to call it Efficient Outsourcing.

And in fact, in the 18 months or so that I have owned this business a week rarely goes by when I invest more than 2 hours into it’s operation.

And yet it still churns out an average of $1k net profit per month (that is after I have paid the wage of the Virtual Team Member running the business).

What You Will Learn

  • The tasks that you should not be doing if you want to grow your business
  • The formula for outsourcing any task in your business effectively
  • A step by step guide to outsource any tasks (including templates)

Have you read the E-Myth by Michael Gerber?

emyth

If you haven’t, go pick it up from Amazon here and cancel your plans to go bowling tonight.

It is simply a MUST read for any entrepreneur.

However, if you don’t like reading here is my 30-second summary:

You can group every task you complete within your business into one of three categories:

  1. Technician – Writing sales copy, handling customer queries…
  2. Manager – Recruiting, reviewing performance of team…
  3. Entrepreneur – Defining strategy, researching new marketing channels…

Michael basically says that in order to be successful in a small business you must shift more of your time from the Technician to Manager to Entrepreneur categories.

And it is from the Entrepreneurial position that you are able to create a system that will operate without your direct input.

And now, your next non-mandatory piece of homework for this assignment 😉

cashflow

But again, I am feeling kind so will share what I believe to be the most important concept from the book:

  • Employees – Work In A System
  • Self Employed/Contractors – Are Systems
  • Entrepreneurs – Build Systems
  • Investors – Invest Money In Systems

Pretty simple right?

So I would urge you to close your eyes RIGHT now and be honest with yourself:

Which category do you currently spend most your time in?

Because this post Is all about building your ability to become more of an Entrepreneur, to build a system that generates value for your customers AND captures value for yourself and your shareholders WITHOUT your direct involvement.

This releases your time to do whatever you wish:

To sit around eating pizza all day, to go hiking or to start another business…

The Efficient Outsourcing Formula

After spending five years in outsourcing: three in the corporate world and two in the online marketing world, I have developed the following simple, four step formula to effectively outsource any task or process.

STEP #1 – IDENTIFY TASKS TO BE OUTSOURCED

Spend 1 hour thinking about your business and where within it, you spend you time.

Then simply download this free tool that we use in our online businesses to identify which tasks and processes within your business are outsource friendly.

taskoutsourcingtool

You will need to enter each task you operate in your business in the “Tasks” column and then input a numerical value between 1 and 10 into the next 5 columns.

The tool will then provide an opinion as to whether this is a task that should/shouldn’t be outsourced in your business.

If you don’t want to complete the above exercise…

Here are 5 Tasks we believe you MUST outsource in your business to fuel your growth:

  1. Social Media
  2. Lead Generation
  3. Customer Service
  4. Inbox/Calendar Management
  5. Data Entry

Review each post and then come back to move on Step 2 of The Efficient Outsourcing Formula:

STEP #2 – PERFORM THE TASKS TO BE OUTSOURCED

This is the crucial step that most people miss.

Once you are aware of the tasks that should be outsourced within your business it is vitally important to have a good idea of how the task or process is performed yourself.

This enables you to both optimise the process and to understand how much time needs to be invest to achieve the desired end result.

STEP #3 – CREATE WORKING PROCEDURES

And for my third and final book recommendation: Work The System by Sam Carpenter.

It’s an awesome story about how Sam turned his small business around from chaos to a well-oiled machine through the use of documentation.

workthesystem

Each process you outsource must have an associated Working Procedure – a document detailing exactly how the process is performed in either written, image or video format.

Here is the Working Procedure template we use in our business:

working procedure

And here is an example of a completed working procedure for the creation and posting of social media content for one of our online business.

For bonus points, you can use Screenflow to create videos of you/your team members completing the process.

STEP #4 – TRAIN YOUR TEAM

If you are the person that has created the Working Procedure for each process in your business then it is your responsibility to train the person who will be taking the responsibility in the future.

To do this, we perform both:

  • Forward Job Shadowing – You operate the process whilst your team member observes
  • Reverse Job Shadowing – Your team member operates the process whilst you observes

It is only when all four of these stages are complete that you can step back and allow the process to operate independently of yourself.

One of the biggest mistakes with outsourcing is a lack of training and the expectation that everyone knows precisely how you want things done.

The better the training you provide, the less time you will have to spend managing people.

This is the outsourcing process I used for 3 years whilst working as a Management Consultant at Accenture AND as three years as an online entrepreneur, trust me…

It works.

How To Sell A Business For Seven Figures

 

Let’s be brutally honest here, we don’t know how to sell a business for 5 figures, let alone 7 figures…

But that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to try.

Inspired by Matthew WoodwardBuffer and Gary Vaynerchuk, who are all BRUTALLY honest about their goals and progress.

AND after assigning one of the focusses of the Virtual Valley Blog as Honesty AND getting excited about our two years goals, we decided to make these public and to publish a monthly update on our journey to selling Virtual Valley for seven figures.

Who This Post Will Help:

  • Anyone interested in starting an online business
  • Anyone already running and online business
  • Anyone that wants to feel better about their decision not to invest time and resources into building and launching a business online

How To Read This Post:

  • If you are a startup founder/internet business owner pressed for time, scan through the headings in the Table Of Contents below and review those relevant
  • If you are a normal person or just like stories, then settle in and enjoy the rollercoaster
  • Goals

    Here is our Goal Pyramid for the next two years:

    You can read about our LONG build up to the launch here and once we finally reach the launch we aim to achieve the following in the next two months:

    $7K MRR

    Equivalent to 10 full time Virtual Team Members, we aim to have $7k in monthly recurring revenue by the start of February.

    To clarify our business model, Entrepreneurs are able to hire Team Members through the Virtual Valley platform by validating their credit/debit card details or PayPal account, which are then charged an amount equivalent to the amount of hours worked by their Team Member multiplied by their Hourly Rate as tracked by our time tracking software at the end of the month.

    The Team Member Hourly Rate includes a 20% uplift that we provide in exchange for Team Member recruitment, payment escrow service and time tracking software.

    SYSTEM WITH 5 WORKING PROCEDURES

    After reading:

    We have decided to focus on building a system that is as automated and documented as possible, which will help us when the time comes to find a buyer, retain knowledge through staff turnover (although we plan on zero attrition) and to drive profitability.

    Each major process within the Virtual Valley system will have an attributed Working Procedure, you can download our template here:

    Download our Working Procedure Template

    50 GUEST BLOG POSTS

    Inspired by Leo from Buffer, we plan to gain initial traffic and links for Virtual Valley by placing value offering post on blogs followed by one of three Customer Avatars (an idealised and imaginary version of the customer we believe could benefit from using Virtual Valley).

    We will create another full post on our Guest Blogging procedure and the results experienced but have some reasonable results over the past 6 weeks which can be seen here.

    1K BLOG COMMENTS

    As you may have noticed, we are attempting to bootstrap the growth of Virtual Valley, partly for the challenge and partly due to a lack of capital.

    Though, in conjunction with Guest Blogging and an ACTIVE Social Media presence we also plan to build relationships, contribute to blogs that we admire (and that are followed by our Customer Avatars) whilst sending traffic back to the Virtual Valley blog using comments to add value.

    100 BLOG SUBSCRIBERS

    If you have spent ANY amount of time in the online marketing world you will be aware of the mantra:

    “The money is in the list”

    Which isn’t 100% accurate…

    The money is actually in the relationship with the list.

    So we will aim to provide content that will help 100 people over the next two months SO much that they will hand over their permission for us to contact them again in the future in the form of their email address.

    We will then add further value in the form of information regarding working with Virtual Team Members, so much so that a number of those 100 subscribers will ascend to Entrepreneurs that have hired a Team Member through the Virtual Valley platform.

    10K TWITTER FOLLOWERS

    As part of our integrated content, social and SEO strategy, we will aim to tweet 50-100 times a day on both the @virtualvalleyio and @tomhuntio (our founder) Twitter accounts sharing relevant content, building relationships and generally having a laugh with our audience.

    There will be no fake followers or other such “shenanigans”, just manual human connections every day for the next 60 days or so before we review our strategy again in February.

    Here is our progress so far:

    You can view and download our Goal Pyramid & Progress Tracker Template by entering your email address here:

    Goal Pyramid & Progress Tracker Template

    We are off to a strong start with MRR due to an existing client from a previous business and a friend who was happy to test an unfinished product.

    Three Key Learnings

    1. CREATING VALUE TAKES TIME

    CREATING VALUE TAKES TIMECLICK TO TWEET

    In his book Zero To One:

    Peter Thiel describes a business as:

    “Creating X amount of value for the word and then capturing Y of X.”

    First we must focus on creating “Y”…

    The “Y” that Virtual Valley provides lies in our curated database of the best Virtual Assistants in the Philippines and our proprietary time tracking and invoicing software.

    Now, building both of these has taken months…

    Not the 30 days that we envisioned to start this project.

    So, for all you founders out there, do NOT be surprised that if you through up a website for a product/service you think you can create and you don’t get traction, remember, creating your “Y” takes time.

    2. PEOPLE DON’T SHARE YOUR CONTENT IF IT IS NOT AWESOME

    PEOPLE DON’T SHARE YOUR CONTENT IF IT IS NOT AWESOMECLICK TO TWEET

    Our first blog post received over 120 shares, which for a first post on a blog, we think it AWESOME, so thanks everyone for sharing. Now maybe it was the brutal honesty of the post or the detail in which we went into, we do not know.

    However, our second piece of blog post, received just 27 shares and we believe this is because this piece of content was just not as awesome.

    Going forward, EVERY piece of content we release WILL be awesome and hopefully the amount of people that we help AND our share count will reflect this.

    3. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT

    NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTCLICK TO TWEET

    It’s true.

    No one cares about your product (except from maybe 2 of your closest friends and your mother)

    They only care about what your product can do for THEM.

    We have found that when describing Virtual Valley to people online or in person with this approach:

    “Virtual Valley is a Virtual Team Building Platform connecting….”

    We get many more glazed looks and non-committal gestures compared to this approach:

    “What would you do with an extra 8 hours a day?”

    So if you are building your marketing approach for your business/startup, try taking your customers perspective when sculpting your message.

    Three Key People

    Ever since starting work on Virtual Valley 4 months ago we seem to keep crossing paths with amazing people that always seem to help us on our way, here are three of the best from the past month:

    1. CODY MCKIBBEN

    Generously allowing us to take over his blog for a guest post that eventually was shared a total of 6.3k times, Cody inspires and educates digital nomads around the world and is an all round top guy.

    2. KEVIN DUNCAN

    Kevin has an awesome blog about being a better blogger (which we may have an upcoming guest post on) AND is amazing to talk to via email. This post on building relationships really made us think about how we interact with people.

    3. VINCENT DIGNAN

    Vincent is BIG on Twitter. He recently spoke at an event Virtual Valley sponsors in London, you can check out the video here (the second speaker is our founder Tom, though you can’t hear him). He provided inspiration and an insight on the execution required to growth hack Virtual Valley over the next 2 years.

    Three Key Tools

    1. BUZZSUMO

    Our guest post submission success is increased significantly when we have spent time on Buzzsumo before submitting. In 2 seconds you can uncover the most shared articles of a blog or for a keyword.

    We do this before submitting a guest post to ANY blog to help us craft our article and headline to something that is proven to work on their site.

    2. SOCIAL LOCKER

    If you are spending time creating awesome content that will attract people, then why not multiply it’s exposure by adding social content gates.

    Take your premium templates/ebooks/downloads and put them behind a Social Locker.

    3. VIRAL CONTENT BUZZ

    Again, Viral Content Buzz can provide extra exposure for your content AND can provide you will great content to share on your social media channels.

    Three Key Focus Areas

    1. CONTINUE TO FOCUS ON CREATING INDIVIDUAL RELATIONSHIPS

    Though time intensive, we have benefitted massively from building personal relationships with people associated in the blogging, outsourcing and startup world by offering value upfront.

    Whether this be guest blogging, commenting or retweeting their content, this invariably leads to us receiving something in return at a later date.

    2. GAINING FEEDBACK ON THE SYSTEM FROM FIRST CUSTOMERS

    We must endeavour to speak one on one with the first 10 Entrepreneurs that use Virtual Valley to understand the following:

    • How they found us
    • Why they are using the service
    • What they likes/disliked about the experience

    As at this early stage, learning will be the key to continual improvement of the service.

    3. DOING THINGS THAT DON’T SCALE

    As well as interacting one on one with each Entrepreneur that creates an account on Virtual Valley, we will also be manually connecting each Entrepreneur to the best possible Team Member to ensure an awesome experience using the platform.

    Though not sustainable in the long term, this will help word of mouth spread and us to learn more about our customers.

    Summary

    This post gives more of an overview of the goals for the next 2 months…

    However, in upcoming monthly updates, we will go into greater detail on what has/hasn’t worked which inherently, will be more practical.

    We decided to share and document our goals so openly to inspire others to join us on a journey of their own AND also to gather feedback :)

    Therefore, if you have any feedback or opinions on the goals stated above or even our method of achieving them, please Tweet us or leave a comment below.

    And finally, if you think our journey will inspire anyone in your network it would be AWESOME if you could use the share buttons below to send a link their way, who knows the effect that it could have?

 

How To Sell A Business For Seven Figures – March 2016

 

Another month passes…

Many more bugs, many more issues, many more improvements and most importantly, many more new friends.

It is starting to feel like we are building a real marketplace startup.

Yes, a number of Entrepreneurs this month came to Virtual Valley, created an account, interacted with AND hired Virtual Assistants with ZERO interaction from myself or Zandro.

The feeling of helping Entrepreneurs AND Virtual Assistants through connection and software is wonderful, almost worth all of the bullsh*t that you have to go through as a solo startup founder 😉

Who This Post Will Help:

  • Anyone about to launch their online business
  • Anyone in the process of building an online marketplace/SAAS business

How To Read This Post:

  • If you are a startup founder/internet business owner pressed for time, scan through the headings in the Table Of Contents below and review those relevant topics
  • If you are a normal person or just like stories, then settle in and enjoy the roller coaster

Goal Update

Here is our famous Goal Pyramidupdated for Quarter 2 of 2016:

Goal_Pyramid_-_Google_Sheets_🔊

Wait a minute Tom, haven’t you changed some of your goals since last months update?

Yes, here is the Goal Pyramid from last months update:

Goal_Pyramid_-_Google_Sheets

And here is a summary of our 6 weekly metrics for the past 4 months:

Q1You will note strong growth in:

MRR – We maintained the 12 paying customers from the month of February with an 80% churn and added 3 new paying customers in March which increased our revenue by $1,084 and 213 hours charged. We also increased our average hourly rate by $0.50 to $5.02.

Guest Content Spots – I outline EXACTLY how this was achieved in this podcast episode.

Twitter Following – And I outline EXACTLY how this was achieved in this podcast episode.

Though we were somewhat stagnant in:

Blog Subscribers – I am still yet to find a reliable and reproducible approach to building our email list of Entrepreneurs through this blog at the rate required, here is our daily subscriber growth over the past month:

Daily_Subscriber_Growth_🔊

Steady but uninspiring.

I have tried:

  • In post content upgrades on blog
  • Welcome Mat on blog
  • LeadDigits™ through podcast

And I believe that these methods are sufficient to hit our subscriber goals, the issue lies in the time required to create the content of sufficient value to incentivise Entrepreneurs to provide that all important permission asset, leave this with me.

Blog Comments – Partially down to lack of motivation and partly due to lack of measurable results, we have paused our blog commenting campaign.

Working Procedures – The increase in number of Working Procedures in January was down to the new processes we needed to formulate after launch, since then, just a couple of new processes have been required. As we bring on a Technical Cofounder and scale our offerring, I expect that further Working Procedures will be both formulated and documented.

And here are the Weekly Metrics we will be tracking moving forward into Quarter 2:

Goal_Pyramid_-_Google_Sheets_🔊We have opted to replace tracking the number of Blog Comments with Hours Charged, as this will give us greater clarity on our progress towards Virtual Valley’s ultimate goal and reason for existing:

To give Entrepreneurs back 1 million hours of their time by 2018.

In other news, we have seen significant growth in monthly podcast downloads:

Podcast

General_Stats__Liberated_Syndication_-_Libsyn_🔊

And are look to sustain this rate of growth to 25k downloads in Quarter 2 (in comparison to 11,086 in Q1) .

Three Key Learnings

1. BE CONTROVERSIAL

If you are struggling to gain traffic/exposure for your site, try taking a contrarian (yet un-offensive) viewpoint.

This is exactly what I did when suggesting a novel way to use Auto DM’s on Twitter in this guest blog post for Marketing Profs (402 Shares).

Which… let’s say… was not well received:

Twitter Hate 6

Which then stimulated a healthy discussion:

Twitter Hate 2

Some of these “hater’s” persevered through this in-personal direct messaging, only to receive further automation:

Twitter Hate 5

Twitter Hate 4

However, the lovely blog host Ann Handley, seems to understand this concept:

Twitter Suppoert 1

Do you think it’s a co-incidence that we experienced our largest % increase in Twitter following (9%) in the week this post was published?

Goal_Pyramid_-_Google_Sheets_🔊

2. WE NEED A TECHNICAL CO-FOUNDER

A couple of mornings ago, our application sent out an email to ALL of our Entrepreneurs with just the digit 1:

Airmail

That awkward moment when your application sends all of your customers an almost blank email.CLICK TO TWEET

Now, I do not bring this up to apportion blame, I bring this up to highlight the fact that we do NOT have technical resources incentivised towards our vision, and are therefore likely to make significant mistakes such as the email above, this needs to change.

And this is why I have spent the majority of my time this month in search of a Technical Cofounder that will take on a significant amount of equity in the platform to provide a sufficient incentive AGAINST these types of technical blunders.

3. OUR USER INTERFACE NEEDS TO IMPROVE

My experience with user interface is somewhat limited.

Which I believe is why when I asked our trusted advisor Stephen Fishburn (see Key People Section below) to have a nose around the platform, I received this avalanche of Skype feedback:

1

Since launching Virtual Valley, we have spent minimal time understanding the Entrepreneur user journey through the system and have therefore been blind to this type of feedback for the past 3 months since launch.

If we are to optimise this user flow to increase hours charged and therefore revenue, this needs to change.

Three Key People

ADAM CALLOW (FOUNDER OF EXPERT TRADES)

As part of our Guest Content Spots metric, I have been reaching out to other influencers that have a similar audience, one of these is a podcast that I am rather envious of:

Messages_on_SoundCloud_🔊

If you enjoy listening to the 0-$4 Million podcast, I would highly recommend Startup Diary for MUCH better production quality and a similar level of honesty.

Adam and I connected on Skype and agree to a talk through our respective journeys on each others podcasts, here is my interview on Startup Diary:

And you can learn more about Adam and his story in his interview on 0-$4 Million here.

DON SEVCIK (FOUNDER OF MATH CELEBRITY)

Don is one of our first Entrepreneurs here at Virtual Valley and also has great Facebook outreach skills:

VV_Entrepreneur_Mastermind_🔊

It turns out that Don has significant experience in PHP and we connected about the Virtual Valley Technical CoFounder opportunity, which he agreed to be recorded for this podcast interview.

To bring perspective, imagine that the job you applied for didn’t say you had the role and wanted to share the fact that you had applied AND why you had applied with the whole internet, what would you say?

If you are as much as a legend as Don, you would say YES.

STEPHEN FISHBURN (FOUNDER OF GET WELL CITIES)

What happens when you cold email someone who could become a potential mentor/advisor?

I’m not 100% sure, but on this occasion a relationship has been formed that could see me travel 6757km to spend a week in Stephen’s Brooklyn apartment to build the specification for the next evolution of Virtual Valley during the month of April.

Now, this would not have happened if Stephen had not been so liberal with his extensive knowledge about startups, technology and concierge services, check out his startup Get Well Cities with the link above.

Three Key Tools

1. TYPEFORM

Here is an elegant model for human behaviour:

bj-fogg-behavior-model-grapic

And the reason I use Typeform for ALL of my surveys, is that I believe it significantly increases the ability of the subject to act in the presence of a Trigger to take the required action.

I mean, just look at the design of the question:VV_Testimonials_🔊

Beautifully simple.

So when I send a link to our Entrepreneurs requesting their feedback for potential testimonials, I simply send them a link to an embedded Typeform and this simple design increases the ability of the Entrepreneur to provide the information required.

Plus, they also like to share our content on social media:

Typeform Twitter

2. ZAPIER

As I strive to leverage the value of my time by handing over as much of the tasks within Virtual Valley to our team/computers, Zapier has been a key player.

Here are a couple of Zapier automations we have utilised over the past month:

Adding All Twitter Mentions To A Google Sheet

Content_Social_Plan_-_Google_Sheets_🔊

These Twitter Handles can then be simply added to our “Twitter Friends” list in Buzzsumo:

Twitter_Friends_-_Outreach_Lists

This enables easy and simple outreach to all of our Twitter Friends as and when required (e.g. to request shares for this blog post).

Auto Welcoming New Followers

And as we have seen above, that sometimes Twitter automation can lead to frustration with the Twitter purists and sometimes it can lead to building awesome relationships:

Conweets___Conversations_between__tomhuntio____danicastellanom

Daniela is a passionate entrepreneur building an eCommerce store with a MISSION, we are now business friends, all thanks to an automated Zapier Tweet.

3. NINJA OUTREACH

Let’s keep it simple…

I used Ninja Outreach to reach out to Podcast hosts during the past 2 weeks and invested approximately 12 hours which resulted in the following 7 interviews being published:

With around 8 more interviews recorded and 10 booked. Furthermore, in true Virtual Valley style, the outreach process has now been fully outsourced to Zandro leaving me the task of simply turning up to the interviews and talking.

Three Key Focus Areas

1. CONFIRMING TECHNICAL CO-FOUNDER & ADVISOR

Once we have our Technical CoFounder and Advisor positions finalised with people that understand the role, are incentivised to complete the role and have the ability to perform the role, I see our progress accelerating significantly.

I will no longer have to invest time in managing freelance developers and being fully responsible for our technology stack, which will leave me free to accelerate our marketing strategy from Phase 1 to Phase 2.

2. PREPARE FOR TRANSITION FROM MARKETING PHASE 1

Though I wasn’t completely conscious of this strategy from Day 1, our marketing approach fits nicely into two different phases. Phase 1 focussing on setting a foundation of SEO, Content and Social Media exposure through guest blogging, our own blog, social media profiles and the podcast.

As expected, Phase 1 has produced a “trickle” of demand side customers (Entrepreneurs) and it will be the role of our Advisor, Technical CoFounder and myself to collate feedback from these initial customers and translate these into improvements to the platform.

Only then can we move onto Phase 2…

Which currently consists of 4 areas:

  1. Cold Email – As outlined in this podcast episode
  2. A Double Sided Referral Scheme – E.g. an existing Entrepreneur can invite a friend and if that friend hire’s a Virtual Assistant, both sides are awarded X number of free hours
  3. Experimentation With Facebook Ads – Though I’m sure this would take weeks of optimisation to reach a reasonable CPA, if achieved could prove to be an extremely scalable acquisition channel
  4. An Affiliate Program – To enable us to leverage on the relationships built with influencers over the past 4 months, we will collaborate on webinars which will offer value and will culminate in an offer with a revenue split between Virtual Valley and the affiliate

Phase 2 focusses on scaling an optimised Virtual Valley service based on the feedback of the customers from Phase 1.

3. COLLATE FEEDBACK AND IMPROVE PRODUCT

As outlined above, once the Advisor and Technical CoFounder roles have been filled, we will work together to translate the feedback from our existing customers into an optimised offerring OR a completely new offering that would NOT be based on exchanging time for money, more to come in next months update…

Summary

Though our 32% growth on hours charged through the platform from February to March is promising, this only equates for 5.5 out of the estimated 3-400 full time Virtual Assistants we will need to be charging per month to reach our $4 million exit goal.

In order to achieve this we will need to make significant changes to the platform to ensure we are offerring the value necessary to attract AND sustain Entrepreneurs using the platform.

Therefore, by the next monthly update I expect our newly appointed Technical CoFounder will have transformed our platform and should be on our way to explosive growth as fueled by Phase 2 of the marketing strategy.

And finally I need a favour from you…

You know that one friend who is also talking about starting an online business? Let’s inspire them by using the social icons below to share this post.

How To Sell A Business For Seven Figures – Jan 2016 Update

Wow, what a month.

We finally have built a platform and even better… we have people using the platform!

In fact, I’m sitting here 2 hours prior to when the first monthly automated payment is to be taken from our Entrepreneurs, with 80% being transferred to our Team Members and 20% to Virtual Valley, let’s hope it works.

This post will outline our progress through the launch and the initial feedback stages through to the start of our bootstrapped growth.

Who This Post Will Help:

  • Anyone about to launch their online business
  • Anyone in the process of building an online marketplace/SAAS business

How To Read This Post:

  • If you are a startup founder/internet business owner pressed for time, scan through the headings in the Table Of Contents below and review those relevant topics
  • If you are a normal person or just like stories, then settle in and enjoy the roller coaster

Goal Update

You will note a slight change in our goals since the December Update as we actually hit a couple before the launch date and I wanted to align them to the yearly calendar quarters. Here is our updated two year goal pyramid:

Goal_Pyramid_-_Google_Sheets

And here is a weekly breakdown of our progress thus far:Goal_Pyramid_-_Google_SheetsGuest Content Spots, Twitter Followers and Working Procedures have been awarded an orange RAG status as their progress has shown more promise than our MRR, Blog Subscriber and Blog Comment growth.

A Guest Content Spot can either be a guest post or a podcast interview, such as this slightly shaky one on Nathan Latka’s podcast.

A Working Procedure is simply the documentation of one of Virtual Valley’s processes, they have been built for all of the marketing activities that Zandro and his colleague Stephen undertake each day and will be created for other activities over the coming months. They retain process knowledge regardless of who is responsible and enable us to track improvements reliably.

Our Twitter following (for both @tomhuntio and @virtualvalleyio) has been growing steadily over the past couple of months but we will need to grow exponentially over the next two months in order to hit the 10k goal. In case you are curious, we discussed our tactics to grow from 2-5k followers in 2 months in Episode 12 of 0-$4 Million.

Which brings us nicely on to the Podcast…

iTunes #1

Yes, “0-$4 Million: A Startup’s Bootstrapped Journey To A Seven Figure-Exit” managed to hit the #1 New & Noteworthy spot in the Business Category of iTunes and #14 spot in the Overall New & Noteworthy spot on the iTunes Homepage.

All Of iTunes

The system we have built to produce the podcast takes up around 5 hours of my time (Tom) and costs approximately $30 for Zandro and Spartak’s time (our Russian podcast editor) per week, for 5, 10 minute daily episodes.

We have an upcoming guest post that outlines exactly how we built this system and how you can too, I will link from here when it is released.

I will also publish a full account of our launch plan that produced 258 downloads on launch day and propelled us to the top of iTunes with just a few hours of my time.

General_Stats__Liberated_Syndication_-_Libsyn

It also felt good to get some recognition from a podcasting legend:

Twitter___Notifications

Check out the upcoming 0-$4 Million Podcast Episode 019 to find out how we managed influence JLD to dropping this tweet.

Three Key Learnings

1. GUEST BLOG POSTS WILL NOT SEND YOU AN AVALANCHE OF TRAFFIC

Guest Blog Posts Will NOT Send You An Avalanche Of TrafficCLICK TO TWEET

Unless you land a post with a highly engaged blog that is the PERFECT fit for your favoured writing topic, style and product, do not expect an avalanche of traffic. This has been our experience.

Instead, we believe that the greater reward of guest blogging comes through the relationships that you develop with key influencer’s in your industry.

These connections could ultimately prove priceless in your journey to online business success and may prove to be so for Virtual Valley.

2. YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS WILL NOT EXPECT YOU TO BE PERFECT

Your First Customers Will NOT Expect You To Be PerfectCLICK TO TWEET

Or if they do, you probably don’t want them to be your first customers.

We are starting to see this whole “build an online business” thing as more of a process as opposed to an event. Your marketplace or SAAS product should be un-recognisable from launch day to 365 days later as your product should exist in a continuous state of iteration.

Thus, do not be afraid to ship that risky feature for fear that your first customers will be upset and will leave, as you won’t know unless you try.

Just remember, ships were not built to be kept in the harbor and you will be surprised to see the effect of a simple apology on the mood of a disgruntled customer.

3. IF YOU HAVE FRIENDS, GETTING INTO ITUNES NEW & NOTEWORTHY IS NOT THAT HARD

If You Have Friends, Getting Into iTunes New & Noteworthy Is NOT That HardCLICK TO TWEET

Our promotion for 0-$4 Million consisted of:

  • Setting up a very clear and simple subscribe and review instruction page
  • Promising to mention people in the show that subscribe and review
  • Posting strategically in relevant Facebook Groups
  • Mailing the Virtual Valley and TomHunt.io lists
  • Pushing out to all of the Virtual Valley and our personal social channels
  • Hassling all of our personal networks, personally

Not rocket science hey, maybe you should start a podcast?

Three Key People

1. ANA HOFFMAN

Purely for this awesome tweet:

Feedback

And also because I have just drafted a 4.7k word post containing 42 Lessons’s From 42 Guest Blog Posts that I am hoping Ana will accept as a guest post on her awesome blog Traffic Generation Cafe.

2. SUJAN PATEL

For emailing me after I signed up to use his AWESOME tool Notifier asking if I wanted to jump on a Skype call to discuss content marketing.

Which we did and he gave me some awesome content marketing ideas for this blog and also invited me into his secret content marketing Slack community:

_82__Roundcube_Webmail____Inbox

3. ARTHUR RADKE

For being our second Entrepreneur on the platform to hire a Team Member, for putting up with all of our teething problems and for being an all-round legend.

So much so that he even agreed to be interviewed live in Episode 14 of 0-$4 Million to give his thoughts and feedback about his time with Virtual Valley to date, which fortunately were all positive and constructive.

Three Key Tools

1. OPTIMIZELY

Who would have thought that you increase the engagement rate on the Virtual Valley homepage by 7% simply by altering the sub-headline from:

“We Connect Virtual Entrepreneurs With Rockstar Virtual Assistants”

To:

“Hire An Awesome Virtual Assistant In 5 Minutes And 7 Clicks”

We would not have thought this if we had not had access to the FREE tool Optimizely, which enabled us to run split tests on any Virtual Valley page.

2. UPWORK

Though technically a competitor, we had to drop the guys at Upwork a mention as it would not have been possible to go from idea to implementation to top ranking in the iTunes New & Noteworthy with 0-$4 Million over just 1 month without them.

Our Russian podcast editor Spartak, was the first freelancer we tried for the podcast, he was flawless and we now manage and pay him through the the Upwork platform.

3. NOTIFIER

This free tool will save you a solid 30 minutes with every blog post that you promote, in fact shortly after finishing this post I will be using it to extract and reach out to each person mentioned in this post on Twitter, in an attempt to obtain those all important shares.

Three Key Focus Areas

1. CONVERSION FROM LEAD TO ACCOUNT

We average 3 leads per day generated through this blog and The Outsource Savings Calculator which are then placed on an autoresponder that educates each lead about outsourcing before suggesting that the Entrepreneur could create an account and “Get Hiring!”

Follow_Up_SeriesYou can see that we have favourable open rates (this is low on the first mail as it previous was a plain text mail and therefore was not tracked.), yet we still think there is considerable room for improvement in conversion from lead to creating an account.

This autoresponder will be expanded with step by step walkthroughs for the top 5 highest leverage tasks to outsource for any online business owner with the goal of increasing this conversion rate.

2. CONVERSION FROM ACCOUNT TO HIRE

Entrepreneurs can create a Virtual Valley account to enable them to post roles and message Team Members, but only validate their PayPal account and set up a pre-approved payment upon sending a Hire Request to a Team Member.

Once accepted the Entrepreneur can view the off-platform contact details of the Team Member and they can work together on external collaboration tools, with all time being tracked and data fed back to the Entrepreneur Dashboard. With total charges being taken from the Entrepreneur account at the end of the month.

We currently have 28 Entrepreneurs signed up (that are not friends), yet only 7 of these have hired and are working with Team Members, which is a an opportunity for improvement.

If anyone has experience with this type of CRO, please drop me a mail at tom@virtualvalley.io.

3. CONTENT CREATION

Through this blog and the podcast, we have built an awesome platform to disseminate content that can really add value to those on a similar online entrepreneurial journey, so would be doing ourselves and others a disservice if we were NOT to continue creating awesome content.

Though in particular, we need to focus on creating the content that our potential customers would consume prior to using the platform. Our ideal customer is a new online business owner that has just reached the point in their new venture where they can experience greater growth through investing their time in the high $ value tasks within their business.

Summary

This month has had it’s ups (podcast launch and they first few paying customers) and it’s downs (Team Members not able to track time due to anti virus software interfering with our time tracking software), but the learning lessons have been tremendous.

The ball is now in our court to take the foundation we have built to further bootstrap our own growth to a position that would enable us to calculate the following metrics reliably by the end of 2016:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost – How much it costs us to acquire an Entrepreneur
  • Lifetime Customer Value – How much a Entrepreneur is worth to us over the lifetime of their relationship with Virtual Valley

Once these metrics have been calculated, optimised and are favourable, we can take them along to potential investors to tell a compelling story about Virtual Valley.

We decided to share and document our goals so openly to inspire others to join us on a journey of their own AND also to gather feedback :)

Therefore, if you have any feedback or opinions on the goals stated above or even our method of achieving them, please Tweet us or leave a comment below.

And finally, if you think our journey will inspire anyone in your network it would be AWESOME if you could use the share buttons below to send a link their way, who knows the effect that it could have?

How Does Virtual Valley Work?

OK.

You have heard about us through Twitter, a friend or have reached our awesome blog through Google.

And now you have an inkling about what Virtual Valley does but do not understand how the platform works and how we can help you work ON your business and not IN your business.

Well you have landed on the right web page because in the next 10 minutes, this is EXACTLY what you are going to learn.

Who This Post Will Help:

  • All those people who have asked me “What Is Virtual Valley?“
  • Anyone who currently runs an virtual business and is spending too much time in the day to day running
  • Anyone who is considering setting up a virtual business and wants to be successful

How To Read This Post:

  • Go through step by step, otherwise we will lose you, though if you are intelligent it will be possible to skim read each headline

OK.

You have heard about us through Twitter, a friend or have reached our awesome blog through Google.

And now you have an inkling about what Virtual Valley does but do not understand how the platform works and how we can help you work ON your business and not IN your business.

Well you have landed on the right web page because in the next 10 minutes, this is EXACTLY what you are going to learn.

Who This Post Will Help:

  • All those people who have asked me “What Is Virtual Valley?“
  • Anyone who currently runs an virtual business and is spending too much time in the day to day running
  • Anyone who is considering setting up a virtual business and wants to be successful

How To Read This Post:

What Is Virtual Valley?

Virtual Valley is a Virtual Team Member that connects Entrepreneurs with Awesome Virtual Team Members. We have designed the marketplace to enable Entreprenuers to hire a new Team Member within 5 minutes and 7 click from landing our homepage (like Amazon 1-Click but for people).

After all, if you are recruiting to save time, sure you want to minimise the amount of time you spend trying to save time?

Once an Entrepreneurs PayPal account or Credit/Debit card has been validated and the Hire Request has been accepted by the Team Member, the Entrepreneur is able to view the contact details of the Team Member and can commence work off of the platform. All the work completed is recorded with our proprietary Time Tracking software that feeds back Total Time, Active Time (as measured by mouse/keyboard activity) and 6 screenshots (taken at random intervals) per hour to the Entrepreneur Dashboard.

The Total Time spent is then multiplied by the Hourly Rate of the Team Member and this amount if taken from the Entrepreneurs PayPal or bank account, with 80% going directly to the Team Member and 20% going to Virtual Valley.

Simple right?

The rest of the post takes your step by step through the journey of hiring an awesome Virtual Team Member…

Create An Account

As with any platform you must first create an account so we can take your email address, circulate it with multiple third parties and then spam you for the next 6 months (Joking!)

Go here:

Or use one of the multiple “Get Started” buttons on the Home Page.

Ensure that “Entrepreneur” is selected in the drop down and then enter your details.

You Can Now Register With Code “LAUNCH“.

After you have clicked on “Register” you will be sent an email to confirm your email address and once the link in that email has been clicked you will be directed back to the “Get Started” page and will be able to log in using the details you provided.

Post A Role

Ok, we’re in…

You have two options to locate your Rockstar Virtual Assistant: Post A Role or Browse Team Members.

To Post A Role, go here:

 

 

And enter the details of the role for which you are recruiting:

  • Role Title – Title of your role
  • Hourly Rate – The hourly rate that you are prepared to pay for your Rockstar Team Member
  • Role Start Date – The start date of your role
  • Role Description – Describe what your Rockstar Team Member will be doing
  • Add Skills – Add the skills your require of your Rockstar Team Member

Click submit and your Role Post will be displayed to all of the Rockstar Team Members in our database. You will receive an email every time that a Team Member applies to your Role.

Browse Team Members

If you do not have a specific role to recruit for, you can simple browse our database of Rockstar Team Members by clicking here:

Currently we are only providing Rockstar Team Members in the General Virtual Assistant Category but will open up new Categories in the near future.

You can sort Team Member by Hourly Rate or Full/Part Time by using these buttons:

Filtering

Once you have found a Rockstar Team Member that could be a good fit for your business you can view their profile:

You can view their Overview, Profile Image, Skills, Hourly Rate and a video showing them introducing themselves.

You can Bookmark Team Member to build your shortlist and to come back to the Team Member later.

Question Team Members

You can Message Team Member to discuss the role in greater detail:

Virtual_Valley

We do not yet support video conferencing inside the platform prior to hiring, though this is next on our list…

Hire Team Member

Once you are happy with your Rockstar Team Member and their Hourly Rate, you can Hire though the platform through Virtual Valley using the orange buttons on the Team Member profile and on the Message screen:

You will be prompted to agree with the Virtual Valley Terms Of Service:

Virtual_Valley

Validate Credit/Debit Card Or PayPal Account

And then to validate your PayPal email address:

Virtual_Valley

Review_your_information

(StartOut Consulting is the parent company of Virtual Valley).

Once validated, you will be sent back to Virtual Valley and will need to select the role (if any!) that you have hired for, in this example below, this TM was not hired for a specific role:

Virtual_Valley

And to select the role which you are hiring the Team Member for (if any).

When successful, a hiring request is sent to the Team Member.

When the Team Member accepts the hiring request you will receive an email:

VV

And will be directed to their profile where you will now able to view their contact details:

Virtual_Valley

and will be able to view their contact details on their profile.

Start Work & Track Time

You can now start working directly with your Team Member on other communication tools outside of the platform and as this happens, as if by magic…

Virtual_Valley

… Data will find it’s way from your Team Members machine to your “My Team Section” in your Entrepreneur account.

  • The Total Time Spent
  • The Total Active Time (Measured through tracking keyboard and mouse activity)
  • 6 Screenshots Per Hour Taken At Random Intervals

You can also review a summary of all of your Team Member spend in the “Time Tracking” section of your profile:

Virtual_Valley

Review Payment

At the end of the month, Virtual Valley will be in touch (this is not yet automated) to communicate the total amount that will be charged to your PayPal account for your approval prior to the final day of the month when the payment will be taken.

Repeat

Overtime, we will be invest a specific amount of our revenue into improving Virtual Valley, any ideas? Tweet us.

At Virtual Valley, we are streamlining the outsourcing process to leave you to spend the MAXIMUM amount of time working ON your business as opposed to IN your business.

Thus overtime, you will have to spend ZERO time to with payroll, admin and recruiting, which gives you more time to spend doing the things that matter, whatever that may be.

Ok Sounds Good, But How Do You Guys Make Money?

Good question…

As you may have read here, Virtual Valley has made a journey through various business models in it’s development.

Though we decided that the most effective method to monetise would be through a 20% uplift on the Rockstar Team Member hourly rate.

We were originally going to charge Entrepreneurs a monthly membership to access our database of Rockstar Virtual Team Members.

Though we realised through speaking to our customers that value could be added through longer term security provided by a payment escrow service and time tracking software, so we built it 🙂

When Virtual Valley takes your monthly payment we remove 20% and invest that back into our business and pass on the rest to the Team Member.

If you have any other questions, you have three options:

  1. Leave a comment in the box below and we will respond within 12 hours
  2. Head here to view our Frequently Asked Questions and use the Chat Widget in the bottom left corner
  3. Add our manager “zandrollano” on Skype

OK, let’s get started:

CLICK HERE, SIGN UP FOR AN “ENTREPRENEUR” ACCOUNT

See you on the inside!

We Recruited 57 Virtual Assistants (So You Don’t Have To)

 

When building a marketplace, the pro’s and venture capitalists suggest that you artificially build one side before inviting the other to the platform. Presumably to avoid their disappointment in arriving at a barren land. We chose to do so with the “supply side” of Virtual Valley: Virtual Assistants. 

Thus, we have spent the past 6 months searching for, interviewing and recruiting over 100 Virtual Assistants from the Philippines.

This post will take you through exactly what how we did so with just two resources: Zandro and myself.

Who This Post Will Help:

  • Anyone looking to expand their online team
  • Anyone running an online business that expects growth
  • Anyone running an online business that is not growing, but wants to grow

How To Read This Post:

  • Read through in full to give an overview and then jump back to sections when actually recruiting
  • If you are experienced in recruiting virtual assistants, then jump to relevant sections using the content table below

Overview

Before we jump into the 5 Step Rockstar Virtual Recruitment Process we defined, I wanted to quickly address a question I was brutally subject to when pitching the idea for this post to a friend:

Why write a peice of content that effectively encourages readers to NOT use your platform?

The answer is simple.

I want to provide information for Entrepreneurs that will increase their chance of success in the world of online business, regardless of whether they use Virtual Valley (or not). As I believe that if you are honest, and genuinely add value to the world, this value will eventually make it back to you.

Let’s take this small company as an example:

maxresdefault

Google have built their success around being brutally honest and adding value to everyone that visits their search engine.

We all ask Google questions just like this on a daily basis:

how_can_I_make_my_blog_post_more_exciting_-_Google_Search

Google then says:

Well, I don’t actually know that much about blogging, but here are some people that do:

how_can_I_make_my_blog_post_more_exciting_-_Google_Search

And actually, here is one person that is so confident that they can help you, they are willing to pay to be clicked on:

how_can_I_make_my_blog_post_more_exciting_-_Google_Search

Compare this approach to the old and now dying “web portals” such as AOL and Yahoo that try fruitlessly to keep you on their property as long as possible to maximise ad impressions and it becomes obvious why Google is now the dominant force on the web.

We are taking the same approach: give your customers what THEY want, NOT what you want them to have.

Give your customers what THEY want, NOT what you want them to have.CLICK TO TWEET

That said, if at any point during this LONG post you feel that you would like to take advantage of the long, hard hours we put in to find these 57 Rockstar Virtual Assistants, click here, and create an Entrepreneur account. Before we jump into the process let’s understand WHY it is important to get the “right people on the bus” as Jim Collins would say…

@JimCollins Said Let’s Get The Right People On The Bus.CLICK TO TWEET

Finding a virtual assistant that is a cultural fit for your online business AND the necessary skills is going to be hard.

If you spend 1 hour interviewing 3 candidates and recruit the one that you get on best with, it is likely that you will regret this in the next 6 months. You will be forced into spending more time (and money) on relevant training and will potentially have to fire them when their performance slips due to the cultural mismatch.

With every aspect of your business, you need to be looking for the ROI (return on investment). Investing a little more time on the recruitment process will pay you back significantly with cost and time savings associated with lower attrition in the future.

Ok, let’s get into 5 Step Rockstar Virtual Recruitment Process we defined during our tireless recruitment of 57 Rockstar Virtual Assistants over the past 6 months…

Step 0 – Harvesting

Yes, I just used the term harvesting to describe the process for gathering applicants to your open role…

Why not use the term harvesting to describe the process for gathering applicants?CLICK TO TWEET

It seems fitting as you will plant seeds in various locations on the internet, wait a few days, and will “harvest” the results. The seed will be sown in the form of a Job Description.

But we won’t be calling it a Job Description, we will be calling it a Job Mission.CLICK TO TWEET

Each Virtual Assistant within your online business must have Job Mission aligned with the vision of your company. For example, Virtual Valley’s mission is to give Entrepreneurs back 1 million hours of their time by 2018 (and to be acquired for $4m in the same timeframe).

So, whenever I look to recruit a new Virtual Assistant, I ensure that every task and process that the new Virtual Assistant will undertake, will draw us closer to this vision.

EXERCISE 1: WRITE YOUR JOB MISSION

It is important to remember to Start With Why, as you want to attract Virtual Assistants that resonate with “Why” you do things and are not just focussed on financial motives.

Enter your email address here and I will send you over the Job Mission that we used when recruiting our first Virtual Assistants to work for Virtual Valley itself, not the supply side of the marketplace. We now need to sow this seed far and wide to maximise our harvest, here are the channels that we used:

  • Company Social Media – Tweet/Update a link to your Job Mission page on your website

 

  • Company Email List – Email out a link to your list asking fro referrals

 

 

 

 

  • UpWork/Freelancer/PeoplePerHour/Guru – Create free accounts and post Job Mission

 

 

  • Craigslist – Create free accounts and post Job Mission

 

 

  • Referrals From Existing Employees – Ask your existing Virtual Assistants for referrals

 

 

  • Friends – Ask your online business friends for referrals

 

 

We found that the most effective channel was to ask existing Virtual Assistants for referrals within their network. Think about it… If you have already found someone that has the skills and culture fit for your business, it is likely that they hang around with people similar to themselves.

Before you jump in, it is also to remember that recruitment is a two way selling process: each candidate is selling themselves to you, but the A Players will also be being sold to by your competitors.

Thus it is important to build “selling” into your recruitment process to ensure that the A Players in your industry see you as the “place to work”. Here is a couple of examples of how we did this:

  • Filipino VA’s are motivated heavily by job security, we therefore were very clear about the fact that if a Virtual Assistant was accepted onto the platform, we would help them find a role for the rest of their online working career

 

  • Created an interesting, varied group of representative Test Tasks

 

 

  • Used my “online celebrity” shown through articles/videos about other businesses to build authority for the platform

With this in mind, move onto:

EXERCISE 2: DISTRIBUTE YOUR JOB MISSION

 

Step 1 – Screening

In order to screen (or even to recruit!) effectively, you need to understand which competencies and characteristics you would want your ideal VirtualVirtual Assistant to embody. Here is a list of ours:

  • Resourcefulness

 

  • Inquisitiveness

 

 

  • Experience

 

 

  • Organisation

 

 

  • First Impression

 

 

  • Customer Focus

 

 

  • Communication

 

 

  • Excellence

 

 

  • Like-ability

 

 

  • Listening

 

 

  • Energy

 

 

  • Reliability

 

 

  • Enthusiasm

 

 

Here you will need to refer back to your Job Mission to determine the characteristics and competencies that will enable your Virtual Assistant to contribute to the desired end result for your company.

EXERCISE 3: DETERMINE YOUR DESIRED COMPETENCIES/CHARACTERISTICS

 

Obviously, each of these characteristics will not be equally important for the job mission so your next task is to assign a weighting (between 0 and 1.0) for each competency/characteristic.

EXERCISE 4: ADD WEIGHTING TO EACH COMPETENCY/CHARACTERISTIC

 

At each stage in the 5 Step Rockstar Virtual Recruitment Process you will be assessing one of these competencies/characteristics. You need to keep things organised during the recruitment process:

Recruitment_Master_Plan_-_Google_Sheets

We built a tracker that automates the whole recruitment process with minimal input from your or your hiring manager and will spit out a final rating for each candidate. Click here, enter you email address and I will send it over to you.

You then need to determine which competencies/characteristics you will focus on in each stage and then assign a question to each one.

You can see in the image above we chose to asses: Experience, Organisation and First Impression in the Screening stage with the following questions:

  • How well written is their CV? (spelling, grammar, mistakes)
  • How does the layout of their CV make you feel?

How does the layout of their CV make you feel?CLICK TO TWEET

  • How professional is their cover photo?
  • Do they have experience as a GVA?
  • Did they use the right subject line?
  • Do they have any relevant qualifications?

Colour the template in green where you will need to input a value, this will help with calculations later. Once you start to Screen your applicant CV’s, create a tab for each and give each a score out of 10 for each of the questions you decide to assess.

EXERCISE 5: SCREEN AND TRACK YOUR APPLICANTS

 

The Virtual Recruitment Tracker will calculate the average score of each applicant for the Screening round then you will need to determine the percentage of Virtual Assistants you take through to the Initial Interview.

Due to the high quality of candidates we Screened, we took 80% through to the next stage.

Step 2 – Initial Video Interview

For all of those that pass your Screening, set up an Initial Video Interview as soon as possible, let’s keep this efficient.

As with the screening round, you will most likely focus on specific competencies/characteristics as shown below:

Recruitment_Master_Plan_-_Google_Sheets

During the 10-15 minute video (this is important!) interview, we chose to assess:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Inquisitiveness
  • First Impression
  • Customer Focus
  • Communication
  • Excellence
  • Like-ability
  • Energy
  • Reliability
  • Enthusiasm

With the following questions:

  • Do they ask questions/seem interested?
  • Are they happy/smiling?
  • Are they easy to understand?
  • Is the first minute of the conversation enjoyable?
  • Do they understand when you explain Virtual Valley?
  • “What do you do outside of work?”
  • “Do you have siblings? If yes, how many? and older or younger?” (more younger siblings = higher reliability)
  • “Are you religious?” (more religious = higher reliability)
  • “How long do you expect to work with Virtual Valley?”
  • “What have you done in the last 12 months to improve your skills?”

Interview Question: What have you done in the last 12 months to improve your skills?CLICK TO TWEET

  • “Describe your ideal position and what makes it ideal?”
  • “Give examples of your going beyond what was normally expected to make a clients life better?”
  • “What motivates you?”
  • “If you had a question for your client but they were not available, what would you do?”

You will need to design questions that assess your specific competencies/characteristics.

EXERCISE 6: PERFORM AND TRACK INITIAL INTERVIEW WITH APPLICANTS

 

It is very important to update the spreadsheet and record notes LIVE in the interview, as after the third one in 30 minutes, it will be hard to remember details.

If possible, I would hire a recruitment manager (or your current Virtual Assistants) to host the initial interview, to improve your time efficiency and to provide two opinions for each candidate.

Step 3 – Competency Video Interview

It is now time to introduce a school of recruitment thought called TopGrading…

It was pioneered at General Electric with Jack Welch and is the brain child of Brad Smart. Over at Topgrading.com they outline a VERY detailed process for recruiting manager to high level executives in multinational corporations.

Now I’m not saying that our hires are less crucial than those, but I am saying that we can streamline this process, here are the two primary principles:

1. Deep Dive Into Each Previous Employment

For each previous role, ask the following questions and leave room for the candidate to elaborate:

Tell me more about X position?

Then dig into:

  • Successes
  • Failures
  • Responsibilities
  • Least favourite part
  • Most favourite part

As you repeat this for each role you will start to see patterns of behaviour which will be more reliable than simply asking someone what their strengths/weaknesses are.

2. Use a TORC (Threat Of A Reference Check)

At the end of the interview, ask these two questions:

If we asked your boss about your strengths/weaknesses what would he/she say?

Then say:

Ok, if we wanted to speak to your ex boss to check a couple of details, would you be happy to put us in touch?

This question is sure to eliminate any B or C players that have slipped through your process as it is often only A players that maintain solid relationships with previous bosses.

2nd interview

We chose to assess the following:

  • Inquisitiveness
  • Experience
  • First Impression
  • Communication
  • Like-ability
  • Reliability

With these questions:

  • Do they ask questions/seem interested?
  • Are they happy/smiling?
  • Are they easy to understand?
  • Is the first minute of the conversation enjoyable?
  • Do they understand when you explain Virtual Valley?
  • “Tell me more about X position” (successes, failures, responsibilities, least favourite part, most favourite part) (Repeat for each role)
  • “Why did you leave X position?” (Repeat for each role)
  • “If we asked your boss about your strengths/weaknesses what would he/she say?” (Repeat for each role)

It is in this 30-40 minute interview that you can really dig down into the experience of your potential Virtual Assistant using the previous experience question listed above.

EXERCISE 7: PERFORM AND TRACK COMPETENCY INTERVIEW WITH APPLICANTS

 

Once you have input data into the Virtual Recruitment Tracker, a score out of 10 for each candidate is calculated, again, it is down to you to decided the proportion of potential Virtual Assistants you will invite to the next stage.

Step 4 – Test Task

You now you have a good idea about how your potential Virtual Assistant is as a person, it’s now time to assess their ability and experience.

You need to design a set of tasks that replicate typical opportunities that the Virtual Assistant would experience on an average day in the role. They should take 1-2 hours (no longer as we will not be offering any renumeration for these) and should have enough guidelines to be clear but also leave room for initiative (especially if this is one of your chosen competencies/characteristics).

Do not be afraid to include specific details in your Test Task, this will help to assess for Attention To Detail (obviously!) and Excellence. We do so by specifying certain subject lines to use in emails and formatting guidelines.

Click here, submit your email and I will send you the details of the Test Task we send to each of our potential Virtual Assistants when they reach this stage of their application.

Test Task

EXERCISE 8: DEFINE, SHARE AND TRACK TEST TASK WITH APPLICANTS

 

Step 5 – References

For those applicants that have scored highest in each of the 4 previous sections, you can now request that they introduce you via email to one of more previous bosses/managers.

Once introduced, shoot them a quick email with no more than 3 questions, remember, they do not have to comply, so be grateful and brief.

We wanted to check:

  • Experience
  • Communication
  • Reliability

So asked:

  • Regarding details/dates/responsibilities of that specific role
  • “How was the communication of X?”
  • “How reliable was X?”

References

Again, document the responses in the form of a number between 1 and 10 in your Virtual Recruitment Tracker.

EXERCISE 9: FOLLOW UP WITH AND TRACK REFERENCES

 

Offer

The Virtual Recruitment Tracker will combine each rating, the weighting for each competency/characteristic and will produce and summary score for each candidate that passed through each stage of the process.

Recruitment_Master_Plan_-_Google_Sheets

It this then useful to have a summary meeting with each member of your team that was involved in the recruitment process to summarise and to decide which of the candidates should receive an offer.

Once the decision is made, I then recommend having a one on one call with EVERY potential Virtual Assistant that made their way through the full process to give feedback and to present the offer (if they have been chosen).

This is important, as you want each and every applicant that has passed through your process to be in a better place afterwards, regardless of whether they we successful or not.

Leave Each Applicant In A Better Place, Regardless Of Their Success In the Process.CLICK TO TWEET

This will also help the word of mouth spread for your business and is the nice thing to do.

EXERCISE 10: GIVE FEEDBACK AND OFFER TO EVERY CANDIDATE

Summary

Ok, so there is a Step By Step guide to recruit Virtual Assistants.

But lets face it, there is a lot of work to do/things that could go wrong especially if you are not experienced with interviewing.

In fact, you probably have better things to do like:

  • Finding customers
  • Making your existing customers happy
  • Spending time with your friends and family

Which is exactly why we have spent the past 6 months recruiting Virtual Assistants, just for you.

Therefore, you would like to take advantage of our investment in recruitment and hire a Virtual Assistant through the Virtual Valley Platform: click here and get hiring!

And finally, if you have a friend that is struggling with the growth of his virtual business, use the social icons below to send this article over, you could change their life, seriously…

How We Recruited 57 Rockstar Virtual Assistants (So You Don’t Have To)

 

 

When building a marketplace, the pro’s and venture capitalists suggest that you artificially build one side before inviting the other to the platform. Presumably to avoid their disappointment in arriving at a barren land. We chose to do so with the “supply side” of Virtual Valley: Virtual Assistants. 

Thus, we have spent the past 6 months searching for, interviewing and recruiting over 100 Virtual Assistants from the Philippines.

This post will take you through exactly what how we did so with just two resources: Zandro and myself.

Who This Post Will Help:

  • Anyone looking to expand their online team
  • Anyone running an online business that expects growth
  • Anyone running an online business that is not growing, but wants to grow

How To Read This Post:

  • Read through in full to give an overview and then jump back to sections when actually recruiting
  • If you are experienced in recruiting virtual assistants, then jump to relevant sections using the content table below

Overview

Before we jump into the 5 Step Rockstar Virtual Recruitment Process we defined, I wanted to quickly address a question I was brutally subject to when pitching the idea for this post to a friend:

Why write a peice of content that effectively encourages readers to NOT use your platform?

The answer is simple.

I want to provide information for Entrepreneurs that will increase their chance of success in the world of online business, regardless of whether they use Virtual Valley (or not). As I believe that if you are honest, and genuinely add value to the world, this value will eventually make it back to you.

Let’s take this small company as an example:

maxresdefault

Google have built their success around being brutally honest and adding value to everyone that visits their search engine.

We all ask Google questions just like this on a daily basis:

how_can_I_make_my_blog_post_more_exciting_-_Google_Search

Google then says:

Well, I don’t actually know that much about blogging, but here are some people that do:

how_can_I_make_my_blog_post_more_exciting_-_Google_Search

And actually, here is one person that is so confident that they can help you, they are willing to pay to be clicked on:

how_can_I_make_my_blog_post_more_exciting_-_Google_Search

Compare this approach to the old and now dying “web portals” such as AOL and Yahoo that try fruitlessly to keep you on their property as long as possible to maximise ad impressions and it becomes obvious why Google is now the dominant force on the web.

We are taking the same approach: give your customers what THEY want, NOT what you want them to have.

Give your customers what THEY want, NOT what you want them to have.CLICK TO TWEET

That said, if at any point during this LONG post you feel that you would like to take advantage of the long, hard hours we put in to find these 57 Rockstar Virtual Assistants, click here, and create an Entrepreneur account. Before we jump into the process let’s understand WHY it is important to get the “right people on the bus” as Jim Collins would say…

@JimCollins Said Let’s Get The Right People On The Bus.CLICK TO TWEET

Finding a virtual assistant that is a cultural fit for your online business AND the necessary skills is going to be hard.

If you spend 1 hour interviewing 3 candidates and recruit the one that you get on best with, it is likely that you will regret this in the next 6 months. You will be forced into spending more time (and money) on relevant training and will potentially have to fire them when their performance slips due to the cultural mismatch.

With every aspect of your business, you need to be looking for the ROI (return on investment). Investing a little more time on the recruitment process will pay you back significantly with cost and time savings associated with lower attrition in the future.

Ok, let’s get into 5 Step Rockstar Virtual Recruitment Process we defined during our tireless recruitment of 57 Rockstar Virtual Assistants over the past 6 months…

Step 0 – Harvesting

Yes, I just used the term harvesting to describe the process for gathering applicants to your open role…

Why not use the term harvesting to describe the process for gathering applicants?CLICK TO TWEET

It seems fitting as you will plant seeds in various locations on the internet, wait a few days, and will “harvest” the results. The seed will be sown in the form of a Job Description.

But we won’t be calling it a Job Description, we will be calling it a Job Mission.CLICK TO TWEET

Each Virtual Assistant within your online business must have Job Mission aligned with the vision of your company. For example, Virtual Valley’s mission is to give Entrepreneurs back 1 million hours of their time by 2018 (and to be acquired for $4m in the same timeframe).

So, whenever I look to recruit a new Virtual Assistant, I ensure that every task and process that the new Virtual Assistant will undertake, will draw us closer to this vision.

EXERCISE 1: WRITE YOUR JOB MISSION

It is important to remember to Start With Why, as you want to attract Virtual Assistants that resonate with “Why” you do things and are not just focussed on financial motives.

Enter your email address here and I will send you over the Job Mission that we used when recruiting our first Virtual Assistants to work for Virtual Valley itself, not the supply side of the marketplace. We now need to sow this seed far and wide to maximise our harvest, here are the channels that we used:

  • Company Social Media – Tweet/Update a link to your Job Mission page on your website

 

  • Company Email List – Email out a link to your list asking fro referrals

 

 

 

 

  • UpWork/Freelancer/PeoplePerHour/Guru – Create free accounts and post Job Mission

 

 

  • Craigslist – Create free accounts and post Job Mission

 

 

  • Referrals From Existing Employees – Ask your existing Virtual Assistants for referrals

 

 

  • Friends – Ask your online business friends for referrals

 

 

We found that the most effective channel was to ask existing Virtual Assistants for referrals within their network. Think about it… If you have already found someone that has the skills and culture fit for your business, it is likely that they hang around with people similar to themselves.

Before you jump in, it is also to remember that recruitment is a two way selling process: each candidate is selling themselves to you, but the A Players will also be being sold to by your competitors.

Thus it is important to build “selling” into your recruitment process to ensure that the A Players in your industry see you as the “place to work”. Here is a couple of examples of how we did this:

  • Filipino VA’s are motivated heavily by job security, we therefore were very clear about the fact that if a Virtual Assistant was accepted onto the platform, we would help them find a role for the rest of their online working career

 

  • Created an interesting, varied group of representative Test Tasks

 

 

  • Used my “online celebrity” shown through articles/videos about other businesses to build authority for the platform

With this in mind, move onto:

EXERCISE 2: DISTRIBUTE YOUR JOB MISSION

 

Step 1 – Screening

In order to screen (or even to recruit!) effectively, you need to understand which competencies and characteristics you would want your ideal VirtualVirtual Assistant to embody. Here is a list of ours:

  • Resourcefulness

 

  • Inquisitiveness

 

 

  • Experience

 

 

  • Organisation

 

 

  • First Impression

 

 

  • Customer Focus

 

 

  • Communication

 

 

  • Excellence

 

 

  • Like-ability

 

 

  • Listening

 

 

  • Energy

 

 

  • Reliability

 

 

  • Enthusiasm

 

 

Here you will need to refer back to your Job Mission to determine the characteristics and competencies that will enable your Virtual Assistant to contribute to the desired end result for your company.

EXERCISE 3: DETERMINE YOUR DESIRED COMPETENCIES/CHARACTERISTICS

 

Obviously, each of these characteristics will not be equally important for the job mission so your next task is to assign a weighting (between 0 and 1.0) for each competency/characteristic.

EXERCISE 4: ADD WEIGHTING TO EACH COMPETENCY/CHARACTERISTIC

 

At each stage in the 5 Step Rockstar Virtual Recruitment Process you will be assessing one of these competencies/characteristics. You need to keep things organised during the recruitment process:

Recruitment_Master_Plan_-_Google_Sheets

We built a tracker that automates the whole recruitment process with minimal input from your or your hiring manager and will spit out a final rating for each candidate. Click here, enter you email address and I will send it over to you.

You then need to determine which competencies/characteristics you will focus on in each stage and then assign a question to each one.

You can see in the image above we chose to asses: Experience, Organisation and First Impression in the Screening stage with the following questions:

  • How well written is their CV? (spelling, grammar, mistakes)
  • How does the layout of their CV make you feel?

How does the layout of their CV make you feel?CLICK TO TWEET

  • How professional is their cover photo?
  • Do they have experience as a GVA?
  • Did they use the right subject line?
  • Do they have any relevant qualifications?

Colour the template in green where you will need to input a value, this will help with calculations later. Once you start to Screen your applicant CV’s, create a tab for each and give each a score out of 10 for each of the questions you decide to assess.

EXERCISE 5: SCREEN AND TRACK YOUR APPLICANTS

 

The Virtual Recruitment Tracker will calculate the average score of each applicant for the Screening round then you will need to determine the percentage of Virtual Assistants you take through to the Initial Interview.

Due to the high quality of candidates we Screened, we took 80% through to the next stage.

Step 2 – Initial Video Interview

For all of those that pass your Screening, set up an Initial Video Interview as soon as possible, let’s keep this efficient.

As with the screening round, you will most likely focus on specific competencies/characteristics as shown below:

Recruitment_Master_Plan_-_Google_Sheets

During the 10-15 minute video (this is important!) interview, we chose to assess:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Inquisitiveness
  • First Impression
  • Customer Focus
  • Communication
  • Excellence
  • Like-ability
  • Energy
  • Reliability
  • Enthusiasm

With the following questions:

  • Do they ask questions/seem interested?
  • Are they happy/smiling?
  • Are they easy to understand?
  • Is the first minute of the conversation enjoyable?
  • Do they understand when you explain Virtual Valley?
  • “What do you do outside of work?”
  • “Do you have siblings? If yes, how many? and older or younger?” (more younger siblings = higher reliability)
  • “Are you religious?” (more religious = higher reliability)
  • “How long do you expect to work with Virtual Valley?”
  • “What have you done in the last 12 months to improve your skills?”

Interview Question: What have you done in the last 12 months to improve your skills?CLICK TO TWEET

  • “Describe your ideal position and what makes it ideal?”
  • “Give examples of your going beyond what was normally expected to make a clients life better?”
  • “What motivates you?”
  • “If you had a question for your client but they were not available, what would you do?”

You will need to design questions that assess your specific competencies/characteristics.

EXERCISE 6: PERFORM AND TRACK INITIAL INTERVIEW WITH APPLICANTS

 

It is very important to update the spreadsheet and record notes LIVE in the interview, as after the third one in 30 minutes, it will be hard to remember details.

If possible, I would hire a recruitment manager (or your current Virtual Assistants) to host the initial interview, to improve your time efficiency and to provide two opinions for each candidate.

Step 3 – Competency Video Interview

It is now time to introduce a school of recruitment thought called TopGrading…

It was pioneered at General Electric with Jack Welch and is the brain child of Brad Smart. Over at Topgrading.com they outline a VERY detailed process for recruiting manager to high level executives in multinational corporations.

Now I’m not saying that our hires are less crucial than those, but I am saying that we can streamline this process, here are the two primary principles:

1. Deep Dive Into Each Previous Employment

For each previous role, ask the following questions and leave room for the candidate to elaborate:

Tell me more about X position?

Then dig into:

  • Successes
  • Failures
  • Responsibilities
  • Least favourite part
  • Most favourite part

As you repeat this for each role you will start to see patterns of behaviour which will be more reliable than simply asking someone what their strengths/weaknesses are.

2. Use a TORC (Threat Of A Reference Check)

At the end of the interview, ask these two questions:

If we asked your boss about your strengths/weaknesses what would he/she say?

Then say:

Ok, if we wanted to speak to your ex boss to check a couple of details, would you be happy to put us in touch?

This question is sure to eliminate any B or C players that have slipped through your process as it is often only A players that maintain solid relationships with previous bosses.

2nd interview

We chose to assess the following:

  • Inquisitiveness
  • Experience
  • First Impression
  • Communication
  • Like-ability
  • Reliability

With these questions:

  • Do they ask questions/seem interested?
  • Are they happy/smiling?
  • Are they easy to understand?
  • Is the first minute of the conversation enjoyable?
  • Do they understand when you explain Virtual Valley?
  • “Tell me more about X position” (successes, failures, responsibilities, least favourite part, most favourite part) (Repeat for each role)
  • “Why did you leave X position?” (Repeat for each role)
  • “If we asked your boss about your strengths/weaknesses what would he/she say?” (Repeat for each role)

It is in this 30-40 minute interview that you can really dig down into the experience of your potential Virtual Assistant using the previous experience question listed above.

EXERCISE 7: PERFORM AND TRACK COMPETENCY INTERVIEW WITH APPLICANTS

 

Once you have input data into the Virtual Recruitment Tracker, a score out of 10 for each candidate is calculated, again, it is down to you to decided the proportion of potential Virtual Assistants you will invite to the next stage.

Step 4 – Test Task

You now you have a good idea about how your potential Virtual Assistant is as a person, it’s now time to assess their ability and experience.

You need to design a set of tasks that replicate typical opportunities that the Virtual Assistant would experience on an average day in the role. They should take 1-2 hours (no longer as we will not be offering any renumeration for these) and should have enough guidelines to be clear but also leave room for initiative (especially if this is one of your chosen competencies/characteristics).

Do not be afraid to include specific details in your Test Task, this will help to assess for Attention To Detail (obviously!) and Excellence. We do so by specifying certain subject lines to use in emails and formatting guidelines.

Click here, submit your email and I will send you the details of the Test Task we send to each of our potential Virtual Assistants when they reach this stage of their application.

Test Task

EXERCISE 8: DEFINE, SHARE AND TRACK TEST TASK WITH APPLICANTS

 

Step 5 – References

For those applicants that have scored highest in each of the 4 previous sections, you can now request that they introduce you via email to one of more previous bosses/managers.

Once introduced, shoot them a quick email with no more than 3 questions, remember, they do not have to comply, so be grateful and brief.

We wanted to check:

  • Experience
  • Communication
  • Reliability

So asked:

  • Regarding details/dates/responsibilities of that specific role
  • “How was the communication of X?”
  • “How reliable was X?”

References

Again, document the responses in the form of a number between 1 and 10 in your Virtual Recruitment Tracker.

EXERCISE 9: FOLLOW UP WITH AND TRACK REFERENCES

 

Offer

The Virtual Recruitment Tracker will combine each rating, the weighting for each competency/characteristic and will produce and summary score for each candidate that passed through each stage of the process.

Recruitment_Master_Plan_-_Google_Sheets

It this then useful to have a summary meeting with each member of your team that was involved in the recruitment process to summarise and to decide which of the candidates should receive an offer.

Once the decision is made, I then recommend having a one on one call with EVERY potential Virtual Assistant that made their way through the full process to give feedback and to present the offer (if they have been chosen).

This is important, as you want each and every applicant that has passed through your process to be in a better place afterwards, regardless of whether they we successful or not.

Leave Each Applicant In A Better Place, Regardless Of Their Success In the Process.CLICK TO TWEET

This will also help the word of mouth spread for your business and is the nice thing to do.

EXERCISE 10: GIVE FEEDBACK AND OFFER TO EVERY CANDIDATE

Summary

Ok, so there is a Step By Step guide to recruit Virtual Assistants.

But lets face it, there is a lot of work to do/things that could go wrong especially if you are not experienced with interviewing.

In fact, you probably have better things to do like:

  • Finding customers
  • Making your existing customers happy
  • Spending time with your friends and family

Which is exactly why we have spent the past 6 months recruiting Virtual Assistants, just for you.

Therefore, you would like to take advantage of our investment in recruitment and hire a Virtual Assistant through the Virtual Valley Platform: click here and get hiring!

And finally, if you have a friend that is struggling with the growth of his virtual business, use the social icons below to send this article over, you could change their life, seriously…

There was an issue loading your timed LeadBox™. Please check plugin settings.

The 17 Best Places To Hire A Virtual Assistant

 

You started an online business… And now you are tired & stressed.CLICK TO TWEET

You started an online business… And now you are tired & stressed:

17 Places

Furthermore, you seem to spending SO MUCH more time on your online business than all of your friends who have 9 to 5 jobs and also your other friends that also have online businesses!

Someone needs to learn to delegate… And hire a Virtual Assistant, but not just a normal Virtual Assistant, you need the best Virtual Assistant.

Which is why we thought we would put together a BIG list of places where you will be able to hire a Virtual Assistant so you can select the place that suits you and your requirements:

Membership Sites

onlinejobs

OnlineJobs.ph

A BIG database of many types of Virtual Assistants. Entrepreneurs pay a monthly fee to access the database and communicate with Virtual Assistants.

Follow On Twitter: @onlinejobsdotph

Bestjobs

BestJobs.ph

BestJobs.ph provides another LARGE pool of Filipino Virtual Assistants for a broader selection of tasks compared to OnlineJobs.ph and Entrepreneurs can post job adverts and communicate with Virtual Assistants for free.

easyoutsource

EasyOutsource

Very similar to Onlinejobs.ph with a large database of many different types of Virtual Assistants with the Entrepreneur paying a monthly fee to access the contact details of the Virtual Assistants, to then hire off the platform.

Follow On Twitter: @easyoutsource

 

Freelancer Marketplaces

upwork

UpWork

Elance and oDesk have merged to form the largest and in our opinion the greatest freelancer marketplace in the world. You can hire Virtual Assistants on a project basis or using the Upwork payroll service.

Follow On Twitter: @upwork

freelancer

PeoplePerHour

Specialising in providing a LARGE variety of Virtual Assistants with different skills on an hourly basis.

Follow On Twitter: @peopleperhour

freelancer

Freelancer

Another large freelancer marketplace, Freelancer allows you to hire Virtual Assistants for specific projects or on an ongoing basis.

Follow On Twitter: @freelancer

guru

Guru

Specialising more on the technical side, Guru have an awesome database of highly skilled Team Members available for hire on a project or role basis.

Follow On Twitter: @guru_com

 

Recruiting Services

virtualstaff

Virtual Staff Finder

Virtual Staff Finder offer a recruitment service for Virtual Assistants for a one off charge and also guarantee that you work well with your Virtual Assistant or will find you another.

Follow On Twitter: @vstafffinder

 

Outsource Managed Services

mroutsource

Mr Outsource

With a total of 437 Entrepreneur liberated, My Outsource offers Virtual Assistant for full time packages at various skill levels.

Follow On Twitter: @outsourcemr

Virtual Coworker

Virtual CoWorker

With a cost comparison on their site showing savings of up to 70% against an onshore wage, Virtual CoWorker definitely offer a cost effective solution.

Follow On LinkedIn

hubstaff

HubStaff

Primarily and time tracking software as a service company, Hubstaff will also match you with a Virtual Assistant that you can use their software to track.

Follow On Twitter: @hubstaff

outsourced

Outsourced.ph

Outsourced.ph offer dedicated Virtual Assistants from the office facility based in the Philippines.

Follow On LinkedIn

cloudstaff

Cloudstaff

Cloudstaff have invested close to $5m in the systems that have enabled them to offer awesome Virtual Assistant services over the past 10 years.

Follow On Twitter: @cloudstaff

virtual done well

Virtual Done Well

Taking outsourcing to the Philippines to the next level, Virtual Done Well is a company operated by Filipino Entrepreneurs providing Virtual Assistants to clients in Australia and around the world.

Follow On Twitter: @virtualdonewell

365

365 Virtual Assistant

Offering Virtual Assistants for copywriting, data entry and social media, 365 Virtual Assistants are a great option for any internet Entrepreneurs looking to outsource.

Follow On Twitter: @365va

zirtual_logo

Zirtual

Zirtual provide dedicated US based Virtual Assistants from around the world to Entrepreneurs, Small Businesses and Small Teams.

Follow On Twitter: @zirtual

 

Virtual Team Building Platforms

vvlogo

Virtual Valley

Virtual Valley is a Virtual Team Building Platform. Entrepreneurs are able to hire Virtual Assistants through the platform, who’s time is then tracked and invoiced to the Entrepreneur at the end of the month.

Follow On Twitter: @virtualvalleyio

You now know all of the BEST places to hire a Virtual Assistant, but before we go, I need to let you into a little secret:

The most important part of your Virtual Assistant Recruitment process is the Test Task (A test you give each candidate prior to hiring).

The problem is that these are time consuming to create…

Which is why you can unlock the Test Task that we (Virtual Valley) currently give to each and every Virtual Assistant that we let onto our platform:

Download The Virtual Valley Test Task

I’m afraid it is now our time apologise…

Apologies to YOU because now you are no longer able to use the excuse:

“But I don’t know where to hire a Virtual Assistant?”

And also because initially when bringing even the best Virtual Assistant into your life, your workload will increase.

Though, slowly but surely, over time you find that you will spend less time working IN your business and more time working ON your business.

And that magical day will arrive where your Virtual Assistant will have your inbox cleaned, appointment scheduled and social media presence sorted so you actually take a WHOLE day off without stressing about things falling apart.

How about that?

If you know a friend who is seriously tired and stressed from working in their business do them (and us!) a favour by using the share icons below to send it their way.

You could be giving them their first true day off in years…

How To (Not) Launch A Startup

In This Post You Will Learn How To (Not) Launch A Startup: 9 Learnings From The Failed Launch Of Our New Platform: Virtual Valley.

Seeing as we are taking SO long to launch (initially estimated to be the start of October) AND that one of the three themes of this blog is Honesty

We decided to share the 9 key learnings from the past 3 months building up to the launch of Virtual Valley in a MEGA post, that will hopefully prevent anyone in a similar situation making the same mistakes that we have.

Who This Post Will Help:

  • All those people who have asked me “What Is Going On With Virtual Valley?
  • Anyone considering building and launching a business online
  • Anyone that wants to feel better about their decision not to invest time and resources into building and launching a business online

How To Read This Post:

  • If you are a startup founder/internet business owner pressed for time, scan through the headings in the Table Of Contents below and review those relevant
  • If you are a normal person or just like stories, then settle in and enjoy the rollercoaster

The Story

It all started around 6 months ago when I (Tom Hunt), was struggling to keep with the needs of the clients of an outsource service business I had started (we would provide awesome team members to startups in Europe and advise them on what/how to outsource).

As once this business grew to 6 separate clients, I no longer had time to work on my business as I was almost completely utilised focusing on theirs.

If you are a business owner I would highly recommend reading more about this here:

download

I needed to develop a solution that would still provide a high level of value (awesome virtual Team Members) whilst remaining scalable.

It seemed that moving away from a “Pipe” and towards a “Platform” business model was the only logical solution.

We initially decided to build a competitor to OnlineJobs.ph:

OJ-logo

Who do an awesome job of connecting Entrepreneurs with Filipino Virtual Assistants, where the Entrepreneur will pay a monthly flat fee to access the contact details of the VA’s. We felt that we could build a better user experience and a more curated database.

So where do you head when you want to create a piece of software and have no potential technical co-founders?

Freelancer marketplaces of course:

  • Upwork
  • Elance
  • PeoplePerHour
  • Guru
  • Freelancer

Which brings us to our first key learning…

The Importance Of The “Technical Co-Founder”

Allow us to introduce the “Principle-Agent Problem“, an effect realised when a party is able to make decisions on behalf of another party where their interests may not necessarily be aligned.

Thus, when heading to freelance marketplace websites to enlist the help of a company or individual to help you build your product, you may experience negative consequences from differing incentives.

Now, do not get me wrong, we enjoy a fantastic relationships with our technical team, yet in the future, I will be sure to invest more time in relationships with potential technical co-founders as I feel that a technical partner with the same level of incentive behind the success of the startup could lead to much greater results.

KEY LEARNING – UNDERSTAND THE INCENTIVES OF YOUR TEAM AND PARTNERS

 

Back to the story…

We headed to the various freelancer marketplaces listed above and created a job post with an aspirational title along the lines of:

“Wanted: Rockstar Dev Team To Build The Next Elance/Upwork/Guru”

Of course, with a title like that we were inundated with responses and immediately got to work screening, reviewing and setting up interviews with the promising candidates and judging on the following characteristics:

  • Portfolio
  • Understanding Of Vision
  • Value Offered In The Process
  • Price

Unsurprisingly, as a cash strapped startup we gave a greater weighting to the final of the four items whilst using the Lean Startup/MVP theory as a rationalisation for this approach.

Why invest more time/money than you have to prior to validating your idea?

We settled with an Egyptian developing partner (with MonkShimaa and Asmaa on functionality and Aly on design) to build our MVP with the initial estimations for the product (the OnlineJobs.ph clone) to be ready within 30 days, which would have been early September.

We agreed upon a price of $1,200, on the basis that I would provide design guidance…

Over to 99designs we go.

I posted a three web page contest outlining the idea behind the OnlineJobs.ph clone and opened it to their community and within hours had received a number of awesome designs.

Of which, this was our favourite:

attachment_58039355_png

We handed over to the developers then sat back and relaxed…

The Importance Of The Survey

We then decided to start thinking about what our customers actually wanted… always useful when creating a startup.

We then decided to start thinking about what our customers actually wanted…CLICK TO TWEET

We produced the survey below and shared with all of our previous clients and social network:

This doubled as a invaluable information gathering technique but also a marketing message:

“Tom and his team plan on releasing something new and interesting to this marketplace and actually care about what I want”

The survey revealed that the biggest problems faced by our audience were related to:

  • Finding Talent – Awesome, we were planning to building a far more curated database than OnlineJobs.ph
  • Trust – Interesting…

As with the competitors we were initially targeting: OnlineJobs.ph and EasyOutsource.com. Once you have hired a Virtual Assistant, you are left on your own to manage payments and the working relationship.

We then followed up with a number of the survey takers to understand that a payment escrow service could be of value.

More on this later…

KEY LEARNING – USE A SURVEY TO GATHER DATA ON WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT

 

The Importance Of Mentors

It was around this time that we discovered Clarity.fm:

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An online marketplace that enables you to find and speak to business people on a pay-per-minute basis.

It is like a sweet shop for Entrepreneurs.

We spoke with the following people:

 

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Khuram Malik

GAME CHANGING! Khuram spent 30 minutes questioning me on my previous business model and then we both ascertained that it would be possible to scale with a platform automating much of what we had been doing in the previous outsourcing business.

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Elad Bleistein

Elad was part of the early Fiverr marketing team so was able to provide GREAT marketing advice. He clarified the necessity for a strong brand story and clarity over the two metrics: Customer Acquisition Cost and Lifetime Customer Value.

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Charis Rafailidis

Charis and I discussed centralisation of platforms, how it is important to provide greater value after a transaction to ensure “stickiness” and the necessity of policing the platform to ensure value is captured by Virtual Valley.

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Nick Loper

Nick was a great soundboard to clarify how Virtual Valley was to differentiate from other online freelancer marketplaces. He also suggested we can list Team Member earnings on their profiles to incentivise them to continue using the platform.

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Shams Juma

Shams explained the importance of solving 1 single problem for customers REALLY WELL, and using powerful language in the marketing message to communicate this.

 

Combining the knowledge gathered from the Khuram call above AND from the initial survey of our previous customers and social network, we decided to pivot our business model away from the OnlineJobs.ph membership model to facilitate connections and then manage the transaction ourselves.

E.g. Virtual Valley would take the salary payments for Team Members (with a % uplift going to the platform) and would then pay the salaries of the Team Members.

This payment escrow service would provide value to both sides of the transaction as we would ensure that Team Member gets paid (if they have done the work) and that we were able to refund the Entrepreneur if they were not happy with the standard of the work.

Furthermore, with the advice from Charis, we decided that in order to incentivise Entrepreneurs to continue using the platform, that we should provide value after the transaction in the form of software.

Thus, we have built a time tracking application that each Team Member uses to track the their total time worked and a number of screenshots generated at random intervals per hour. All of which is logged in the system to be reviewed at leisure by the Entrepreneur, we will also use this data to invoice the Entrepreneur each month.

In total, we spent $397 on Clarity Calls, which (in theory) will be a small fraction of the increased revenue and impact to be made with the new business model and marketing learnings.

KEY LEARNING – SEEK ADVICE FROM WISE PEOPLE (EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO PAY THEM)

SEEK ADVICE FROM WISE PEOPLE (EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO PAY THEM)CLICK TO TWEET

 

The Importance Of Clear Communication

Everything seems to be going awfully smoothly right?

Well not for much longer.

Another advantage of having a technical co-founder (assuming they are in your location and speak your language) is that communication will be MUCH more effective.

We believe that if a person has trouble understanding what you are saying, it is your fault, not theirs.

If a person has trouble understanding what you are saying, it is your fault, not theirs.CLICK TO TWEET

Thus, when we failed to explain the change in business model to our wonderful development team, it was our fault.

And, frustratingly this didn’t come to light until around the original completion date, triggering an uplift in the payment required and an increase in timescales.

KEY LEARNING – HAVE PEOPLE REPEAT IMPORTANT CONCEPTS BACK TO YOU AFTER EXPLAINING

 

The Importance Of “Doing Things That Don’t Scale”

Due to the nature of the platform that we were building (connecting Entrepreneur with awesome Team Members) and the fact that we needed a highly curated database to differentiate from competitors, we knew that we had to manually recruit the first batch of Team Members.

After reading Topgrading by Brad Smart, we designed an extensive 5 stage recruitment process to ensure we only enlisted the BEST onto the supply side of the platform.

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This is one example of “doing things that don’t scale“.

Fortunately, this also enabled us to get REALLY good at recruiting awesome Team Members, which led us to be able to spot the potential of Zandro:

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and Dowell:

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Who both joined the internal Virtual Valley team to help operate and grow the platform.

We have a spreadsheet that we use to assess each different Team Member, pop your email here and we will send you a copy (no spamming).

Furthermore, we also started to get requests from ex clients and people from within our social network to commence with the Virtual Valley service prior to the platform going live.

Thus, Zandro, expertly understood their requirements and set them up with interviews with the database of Team Members we had been building:

image1Alex – Video Magneticimage2Christoffer – Nettly

(Great work Zandro)

Again, this is an activity that will not scale but will provide excellent testimonials, us the chance to perfect our processes and will catalyse the spread of the most powerful form of marketing: word of mouth.

KEY LEARNING – AMAZE YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS

 

The Importance Of Guest Posting

After the business model shift and a few changes of personnel in the development team, we still had a number of weeks to go before the launch…

With a number of years online marketing experience with previous sites, I always used to think that guest posting was a waste of time, until I learned that it was the main reason behind the growth of Buffer.

I used to think guest posting was a waste, then I learnt that it was behind @Buffer’s growth.CLICK TO TWEET

So, I learnt how to do it properly and managed to secure a total of 13 guest posts, including some pretty big spots within a couple of weeks:

Note that all of these posts exist on blogs that are popular with our potential customer.

Here is the tracker that we use to manage our guest blogging activities and here is The Ultimate Guest Post Submission Email Template we use to reach out to blogs, feel free to download a copy of each.

KEY LEARNING – GUEST BLOG POSTS CAN BE AWESOME FREE ADVERTS

 

The Importance Of Relationships

There are a number of people out there in the world that could be responsible for making (or breaking) your business. As startup founder or business owner, it is your job to find them…

And to more importantly make friends. Guest blogging is awesome for this, through providing guest blog posts I now have relationships with Cody McKibbenJohn JanschJeff Bullas and who knows, we may collaborate with them in the future.

On a more personal note, I was recommended by a mutual connection to speak with a young student that was looking for an internship with a startup.

After a quick chat, we brought Jose and partner Izaskun onto the team to design and develop the Outsource Savings Calculator:

 

(We will create a whole post on why we built this tool and how we are using it as a lead magnet for Virtual Valley in the very near future)

This would not have been possible without developing the relationship with the mutual connection that introduced us.

KEY LEARNING – HELP PEOPLE THAT COULD POTENTIALLY HELP YOU (BUT DON’T EXPECT IT)

 

The Importance Of Backups

Launch day arrives…

We are just finalising a couple of design fixes and testing out the payment service and time tracking software.

And then it happens…

I foolishly enable the access of a contractor for another project to my hosting account in order to complete a small fix.

He accidentally deletes EVERYTHING.

But it’s fine, Hostgator keep weekly backups of all of their shared hosting accounts right?

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Wrong.

(Though, in their defence, they are not required to per the service we had purchased)

Fortunately the development team had a full backup of the functional code behind the site, we had no method to recover any of the .html or .css code for the user interface we had painstakingly crafted.

An obvious lesson, yet one that needs repeating (if only for our own benefit).

KEY LEARNING – BACKUP EVERYTHING YOU HAVE (REGULARLY)

 

The Importance Of Understanding What Is Important

At Virtual Valley, we believe that the purpose of a business is to provide value to it’s shareholders and opportunity for growth and security to it’s employees and partners

In other words, the business is here to serve us, not the other way around.

Therefore, when catastrophe’s such as those listed above occur, it is important to reflect on what is truly important.

On this occasion, it translated into talking with and understanding the needs of the parties involved and not forcing them over work themselves in order to recover what we had lost.

A number of our development team had family or other pressing commitments around the time that we lost our code, so we ensured that they received their payment on time and did not push them to work despite the platform not being live.

This may not produce desirable results in the short term but will almost certainly lead to developing a more productive and healthy team over time.

KEY LEARNING – A BUSINESS IS BUILT TO SUPPORT YOU, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND

A BUSINESS IS BUILT TO SUPPORT YOU, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUNDCLICK TO TWEET

Now, we are aware that this post does not show the glossy launch numbers of other startups, a glamorous growth curve or smiling team members.

But what we hope that this post does communicate… is the bare bones reality of a startup trying to bootstrap their MVP with a remote team.

And though, it has been a stressful and over budget experience…

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

4 months on and we are FINALLY about to launch Virtual Valley.

If you have any questions regarding the above lessons or would like to know how they could apply to your startup/business, drop a comment in the box below and we will be touch to see if we can help.

UPDATE: VIRTUAL VALLEY IS NOW LIVE AND YOU CAN NOW 

CREATE AN ENTREPRENEUR ACCOUNT