Virtual Assistants

Quick Outsourcing Tip for the Day: Learn About Your VA’s Culture

One of the first and most meaningful hires you can make as an entrepreneur is recruiting a virtual assistant. You will have to spend precious time and resources on things that do not directly contribute to the success of the organization not until you have someone on your staff that you can assign unique duties to. If you are planning to hire outside of your own country, make sure to study up on the country’s culture. 

Learning about a prospective hire’s culture that resides in another country is a highly crucial and vital thing to do. Nathan Hirsch and I made the mistake of not doing this before starting to outsource and hire from different countries with our first business, and it surely hurt our hiring process. Without proper knowledge and understanding of the people we were trying to hire and manage, we could not adjust our methods to their culture.

Doing this will help you know what life is like in their respective countries and how culture plays a role in their lives. We know that everything we are talking about may still sound vague and unclear to you at this point. To help you understand the value of learning about your VA’s culture more, we have listed down four areas you should look into when outsourcing:

1. Look Into How the Average Person Lives

Filipino VAKnowing how an average person lives in a particular country will enable you to gather a brief idea of how the country is at present. Additionally, it will also reflect the lifestyle and the level of living of that specific country’s citizens on average. The way an average citizen lives basically shows how a typical person is like in their nation.

This is important to know for you to gauge whether their way of living matches with what your company can potentially offer to them or not. This offer may vary depending on the task that you will outsource from these virtual assistants. Every country has a unique approach to living life, which makes knowing each one that belongs to your prospective hires all the more vital. 

2. Look Into the Average Wage for People in the Country

A country’s average wage often goes through constant monitoring and is used by the government and other organizations or companies. This is a tool that serves as a benchmark for the level of salary of individual workers in a specific industry, area, or country. The average wage for people in a specific country is the mean salary of either a particular group of laborers or all workers.

Similar to learning the way of living of an average person in a specific country, knowing the average wage of its citizens is equally important. You can determine whether or not your company will be able to provide the same level of salary to the virtual assistant you are looking to outsource hire. It is highly essential to be wise in matching the ability of your business to pay with the level of wages that you will pay so you can still make a profit in outsourcing.

3. Look Into the Core Values They Believe in and Follow as a Culture

When looking for someone to outsource, we talk a lot about finding a cultural fit, but much less about finding the right fit for our values. Culture describes how work is done, but principles illustrate how organizations focus, make compromises, and reconcile disputes. A community may celebrate innovation, but ideals decide what is lost in the search for it.

If you can, talk to someone from the country and understand what life is like there and how their culture plays a role in their lives. Without proper knowledge and understanding of the people you are trying to hire and manage, you will be unable to adjust your methods to their culture. It took us years to figure out how to properly work with different cultures, and we ultimately ended up loving working with people from the Philippines.

We ended up establishing good relationships between those we outsourced from the Philippines because they had many qualities and cultural values similar to our own. Among these are their strong belief in family, hard work ethic, determination, ability to fight through tough times, and a commitment to high-quality customer service. Had we known all of this upfront, it would have been a lot easier to recruit, interview, hire, and manage people from the Philippines.

4. Look Into What the Government is Like and How it Impacts the Population

The government is the highest regulating body across all countries. Due to this fact, it will only be befitting that we learn what each one is for the country that you are planning to outsource your virtual assistants from. From its regulations, policies to its way of running the country, these collectively impact the country’s citizens or its entire population.

As a business planning to outsource from these countries, it is pertinent that you study each of their government systems. The first reason is knowing what their regulations are and how they handle their employed citizens. The second, enabling us to know how these regulations affect and impact the entirety of its population

Why Learning Your VA’s Culture is a Must

If you are looking to outsource in 2020, take the extra hour to do your research. Also, make sure that you know the culture of where you are looking to hire. It will go a long way in building trust and hiring the right people. 

This will not only enable you to hire the right employees but also save a lot of time, money, and effort. Additionally, it will help you in creating an internal company culture that aligns with the people you are hiring. Learn their culture and hire the right people so you can establish a pool of people that are headed towards the goal of your business, whether these goals be short term or long term. 


Virtual Assistants

4 Ways to Avoid Disappearing Virtual Assistants

Has this ever happened to you?

You hire a virtual assistant (VA) who you think will make your life easier. Then out of the blue, your virtual assistant disappears on you.

When we first started hiring VAs 8 years ago, we experienced this first hand and it frustrated us so much! You spend all this time training and getting someone onboarded, then poof! They’re gone and you’re stuck doing things all over again.

But those “failures” didn’t deter us. Instead, we came up with ways to make sure that it didn’t happen again going forward.

And in this article, we are going to share with you four things to keep in mind to ensure you won’t have to deal with disappearing virtual assistants again. 

1. Start evaluating from the first introduction.

When you sent them an email to set up a time for an initial interview, how quickly did they respond? On the day of the interview, did they show up on time? If they can’t reply to an email within 24 business hours,that’s an issue. 

Response time is crucial, especially in a remote office environment. So meeting a potential VA who puts a lot of value on time and quickly responds to messages should be a non-negotiable requirement from your end.

If they can’t do either of those things, run away! It’s not going to work out.

2. Look for red flags in the interview.

The interview stage is a chance for you and your VA to get to know each other better. So, you need to take the interview seriously and make sure that you’re asking the right questions so you can assess their:

  1. skills
  2. attitude 
  3. culture

Don’t hire based on skills simply alone. You need someone that has a good attitude, values family, and is looking for a long term opportunity.

Plus, you need to watch out for red flags such as:

  • Do their rates fit your budget?
  • Can they work according to your schedule?
  • Can they work the number of hours you require?

If there are any red flags, don’t go forward!

3. Once you find someone you like, take them through an onboarding meeting

Avoid Disappearing Virtual AssistantsThis is a meeting we see SO MANY entrepreneurs skip.

You’ve got to set clear expectations once you hire someone before you get into training.

Set a meeting and talk to them about:

  • How you expect them to communicate

We’d like to emphasize that communication is a very important aspect of making a remote arrangement work. You don’t get to see each other every day so proactive communication is extremely vital.

This is why during onboarding, you must clearly discuss with your VAs what communication channels to use and when. If one channel fails to work, there should be a backup. 

  • Their schedule

If you hire a VA from across the world, the difference in time zones can cause confusion and issues in the future. So as early as the onboarding stage, clarify which time zone both of you must refer to when setting meetings, deadlines, and shift schedules.

  • Their internet and power

Power outages, internet connection problems, and other emergencies happen. And in a virtual set up, not having backup plans in case those emergencies arise can cause problems. Check out our article on different communication channels you must set up with your VA  to learn the strategies we use to effectively communicate with virtual teams.

  • How to deal with issues if they come up

Remember, you are hiring a VA to get tasks and responsibilities off your plate. You need someone who can resolve issues on their own and won’t rely on you before they make simple decisions. During this stage of the onboarding process, start sharing an overview of your SOPs so they know they have material to refer to and that they are accountable for the tasks assigned to them.

  • Your company culture

Having team members that fit into your company culture is another important consideration. Yes, skills are important. But in the long run, you can’t keep people who don’t share the same values with the rest of the team. So take time to discuss your company culture with your potential virtual assistant to see if they are suited to work with you.

You may think these topics aren’t important, but they will come back to bite you if you skip over them on the get go.

4. Keep a close eye on them for the first 2-3 weeks

The first two to three weeks is when the VA will shine or fail. This timeframe is very crucial, and you have to assess their performance closely.

  • Make sure they are communicating how you want them to.

Check if they provide you with constant updates, and they utilize the communication channels you require. 

  • Make sure they are showing up on time for meetings.

Keep count of any delinquency and ensure that they stick to the schedules.

  • Make sure they are checking in at the start of their shift and at the end of their shift.

Closely monitor their job performance and ensure that there is no evidence of slacking during their shifts.

Don’t give them any slack until you know that you can rely on them and that they are living up to your expectations.

In conclusion

If you do all of these four things, there’s a better chance that you won’t have to deal with disappearing virtual assistants or that you’ll catch a bad egg well before they even have the chance to disappear on you.

We talk all about this and more in our Cracking the VA Code system.

How about you? What other hacks do you have to make sure VAs don’t disappear on you?

Virtual Assistants

Why We Interview Using Slack Instead of Audio or Video

In an earlier blog, we talked about why we conduct our meetings through Slack. Another thing that may baffle a lot of people is that we also conduct ALL of our interviews using the same channel. Back when we were still handling FreeUp, we followed the same process using Skype. We did that for more than five years!

We know that the norm is to conduct interviews using video or voice calls. But over the years, we found it more effective to interview virtual assistants through Slack chat and here’s why:

1. It’s the main communication channel we will use once we start working with them

Everyone in the Outsource School team works remotely. As we have shared before, about 90% of our virtual assistants are based in the Philippines. We communicate with them daily through Slack chat and emails.

So when we interview, it is very important for us to see how they communicate via Slack. Some of the things we make sure to take note of are:

  • How fast they respond.

In a remote set up, communication is extremely important. We want to gauge as early as the interview stage how fast they can respond when they know they are on shift and should be focusing on their tasks at hand. 

  • How their English grammar is.

As we hire almost all of our VAs from the Philippines, we need to assess how good their English grammar is given that this is not their first language. This is extremely essential if you are hiring someone for customer service, content writing, and even graphic design roles. For any role that involves talking directly to clients or creating content that will reach your clients, you have to make sure that their English grammar is good. 

  • How well they can understand our typing.

It is definitely easier to catch instructions during audio or video calls. But since we use chat to communicate 90% of the time, we definitely prefer virtual assistants who can understand our typing. And if they can’t, be able to ask for clarifications immediately to make sure that we understand each other.

  • How well they can carry on a conversation with us on Slack chat.

Aside from being able to understand what we are trying to say, ideal VAs should also be able to clearly express themselves on chat. This is important so that they can let us know if any problems arise in the future or if they have any questions or suggestions. Good communication must come from both sides.

If ever we decide to hire them, 99% of the communication will happen on Slack so why not use that for the interview too? If you can’t understand each other on chat or if they’re taking too long to respond, that’s definitely a red flag that you have to consider. You are most likely to experience a lot of communication problems down the road if you decide to hire them.

2. It gives us a record of the conversation that we can refer to when making a final hiring decision

When hiring for a new position, we typically like to interview at least two people; sometimes three or four depending on how the first two go. If you’re fairly new or haven’t done interviews before, the number could even go up. And that’s perfectly fine because it is important to hire the right person so you don’t have to go through the entire process again.

One main benefit of interviewing via Slack chat is that we get to have written records of each interview – no matter how many they might be. This makes it easy for us to go back to them and review the conversations once we have completed all of the interviews. From there, we can make good comparisons on who is the best candidate for the role and make an educated final decision.

Sure, we have tools today that allow us to record audio or video interviews. But it can take a lot of time to go back and listen or watch each recording when you’re trying to decide which candidate is better. Plus, we’re sure you take down notes while listening to these interviews anyway. So it’s really more efficient for us to just do the interviews on Slack and read them again once we are ready to decide who to hire.

3. It allows us to get all the facts that we need in a timely manner without being persuaded by emotional factors

Interviews can really drag out sometimes and take a lot of time more than what you initially set. It’s easy to lose structure and start talking about things out of topic. We know from experience because we used to conduct two-hour long interviews in our first company. 

With Slack chat, we know the questions we want to ask, we know the information that we need, and we know how to dig deep into the person’s motivation and values. Depending on what role we’re hiring for, we can prepare the exact questions to ask beforehand and easily copy and paste them during the interview.

With this structure, most of our interviews are completed within 30 to 40 minutes and we have all of the information we need to then make a final decision on who is best to hire. 

Lastly, it allows us to keep most of the interview fact-based and less about emotions and our “connection” to the candidates – which can happen if using audio or video.

And don’t get us wrong, we are all about cultural fit and making sure to hire people that align with our company values, but you can learn all of that through chat conversations just as much as you can via audio or video. 

In conclusion

We are not saying that there is anything wrong with interviewing via audio or video. But we are making a strong argument that it might not be necessary when hiring for a virtual position where most of the communication will be over Slack chat anyway.

So feel free to try using chat in your next interviews and apply some of the tips we shared above. It just might work wonders for you as it did the same to us. If you do decide to try, let us know how it goes!

Virtual Assistants

The Top 10 Outsourcing Courses of 2020

Outsourcing is an excellent way to achieve efficiency in your company. Many talented and competent individuals from around the world can take off that extra load of work from you.

Countries like the Philippines are one of the leading locations where global businesses hire their virtual assistants.  

However, a common dilemma among entrepreneurs who are new to outsourcing is the fact that they don’t have the right hiring process in place. Aside from that, the increasing number of reports about scams and bad hires has discouraged them from outsourcing.

That is why we created this list. It’s to help educate entrepreneurs like you about the basics of outsourcing. To help you get started, check out these top 10 outsourcing courses of 2020:

1. Cracking the VA Code Cracking the VA CodeCracking the VA Code is one of the many courses offered by Outsource School. The instructors and producers of this course are Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan, the men behind many successful e-commerce businesses and FreeUp. A product of their 10+ years of experience in the industry and onboarding virtual assistants, the course aims to help entrepreneurs build the right system for outsourcing.

Created to help elevate the skills and hiring processes of virtual assistants, “Cracking the VA Code” is proven to be effective by many entrepreneurs. It includes modules, cheat sheets, methods, and techniques you can utilize to avoid the common mistakes in the onboarding procedures.

2. Outsourcing Without Fear- An Entrepreneur’s Hands-On Guide

The first step in outsourcing is knowing its basic definitions, pros and cons, and how it can help you build your company. If you are one of those aspiring entrepreneurs who are new in the industry, this is the outsourcing course for you.

Know the basics of outsourcing with this hands-on guide. Bryan Durkin, an esteemed business owner, direct sales representative, and creator of this outsourcing course is honest in saying that he is addicted to helping people. The course’s objective is to lay out all the twists and turns in outsourcing with the provided learning materials and business advice from Bryan himself. 

3. Podcast Outreach Formula

Outsource School is hosts a variety of courses and playbooks that will help entrepreneurs set up their businesses for success by employing virtual assistants.

Aside from Cracking the VA Code, another excellent course from the same platform is the Podcast Outreach Formula. Loaded with systematic ways and proven effective procedures for landing more podcast interviews with a VA. Be informed of the essentials in interviewing, onboarding, hiring, and managing your virtual assistants.

4. Master Outsourcing

master outsourcing

Master Outsourcing caters to all the areas in outsourcing, ensuring the discussion of all multiple points and the best processes in contracting work. 

This outsourcing course will not just improve your hiring skills but will also teach you best practices in budgeting, project management, product development, and increasing success rates. Set and reach team goals by applying your learnings from this course.

5. Digital Flipping Masterclass: Learn To Flip Services Online

Digital Flipping

Digital Flipping is the process of getting a job from an employer, outsourcing it for a lower price, and make some profit. In this masterclass, you will learn about the foundations of digital flipping, outsourcing, agency business, profitable niches, and risk management. 

This course will teach you how to become an active connection between the employer and competent freelance workers around the globe and gain income. Start building your own service flipping business with this course, and provide meaningful services to improve it. 

6. Outsource Everything (almost)

Outsource everything

Wouldn’t it be amazing to outsource everyday and straightforward tasks efficiently? Get your kid a tutor, have a freelancer handle your website, have assistants who will grow your business, and a lot more. 

From the name itself, Outsource Everything (almost) is an outsourcing course that will teach you what tasks you can outsource and how to do it effectively so you are able to save more time and money. The course is organized into three sections. The first is an overview of outsourcing, the platforms you can use to find freelancers, and a real walkthrough process with in-depth case studies. 

7. Outsource Your Life and Business

Outsource your life

Simple tasks won’t seem to matter until they pile up and take so much of your time. These can drain your energy and consume the time meant for your other priorities. This course will help you regain all the lost times and catch up on the things you love doing.

Covering the foundations of outsourcing, what you need to outsource, finding the right team and growing with them, and building your business with your team of assistants. 

8. The Guide to Philippines Outsourcing 

the guide to philippines outsourcing

The Philippines is home to many competent and talented virtual assistants. VAs from the Philippines provide exemplary service and maximum efficiency. This course will walk you through the process of finding, hiring, and managing Filipino virtual assistants. The best thing about this outsourcing course is that it is for FREE!

9. Outsource Easier!

outsource EASIER

Growing a business takes a lot of time and effort. The dedication you have for your craft will determine its sustainability and success. Fortunately, there are now many resources to help you achieve your goals without overworking yourself.

One of these resources is this outsourcing course called Outsource Easier. Run by Dina Eisenberg, a former prosecutor turned ombuds and today an effective outsourcing & onboarding mentor. Focusing on assisting firms and lawyers delegate tasks through onboarding and efficiently manage daily operations. Eisenberg, an award-winning coach, will nurture you with knowledge in the legal field and running your firm through outsourcing.

10. Mobile App Business Ideas & Hiring/Outsourcing Engineers

Mobile App Business Ideas & HiringOutsourcing Engineers

The surplus of mobile applications in the market has created a new digital industry. This industry is a promising and profitable one that provides a platform for developers to showcase their ideas. With over 2,000,000+ cumulative app downloads, Alex Genadinik, instructor of this course, ensures that this course will equip students with the latest trends and skills in the mobile application business and outsourcing engineers. 

This outsourcing course covers lessons from the development of your app idea to the app’s actual launching. You will learn different marketing strategies and development techniques after you take this course.

If you know how to outsource, you hold an advantage in today’s technologically advanced era. Maximize the potential of people around the globe and collaborate with them to create excellent products. Start your first outsourcing course today, and discover skills to improve and grow your business.

Virtual Assistants

Are Text or Video Standard Operating Procedures Better?

Every business owner has to face the challenge of building standard operating procedures (SOP) documents. Aside from the amount of time and effort required to build SOPs, they also face the dilemma of choosing what platform works best: text or video.
Standard operating procedures consist of step-by-step instructions that are collated by the business or any organization. These steps help employees complete tasks effectively and according to company standards. SOPs also help them achieve high-quality output, efficiency, and consistency.
We started with text SOPs here in Outsource School. We were running our eCommerce business, buying and selling products on Amazon then when we created an SOP for filling orders as this was the a daily task for our VAs. As the years went by, we have created a combination of text and video SOPs which have both resulted to significant positive impact in our operations.
So to answer the question posed above, none is better than the other. An SOP that preferably has both video and text is best, and here is why:

1. It caters to both visual and reading learners.

video and text SOPsWhen you give both text and video SOPs to your employees, you address both visual and reading learners. Some people find it easier to comprehend and grasp instructions written in text but have difficulty understanding procedures shown on video.
This situation can also be the same for those who find video SOPs easier to understand. Making sure that standard operating procedures are available for both platforms eliminates this dilemma. This assures you that everyone on your team understands the company guidelines and processes.

2. SOPs provide a realistic look at how tasks are carried out.

Whether it be a procedure written in text or displayed on video, an SOP will give employees a glimpse of how tasks are carried out. This is especially useful for newly hired employees as it shows them what your company’s processes are when it comes to particular tasks. This will also serve as a guideline on how to complete tasks according to company standards. This provides uniformity in their output. 
On top of this, SOPs usually include common challenges employees face when working on a task as well as possible solutions. This helps a lot as it not only makes the task easier to complete, it also saves the employee time from having to figure out how to solve a problem.

3. Standard Operation Procedure Text Documents Can Be Used for Future Reference

text SOPA standard operating procedure presented in the text serves as a guide that your employees can go back to anytime. This is especially useful if you are a business that manages your team remotely as you won’t have to keep answering the same questions over and over. Additionally, text SOPs can be considered as a cheat sheet that they can refer to when working on a task.
Written SOPs do not only work as a reference for your employees. It is also a tool you can use to hold them accountable for their actions. A written step-by-step procedure can help you set standards for your workers which you can use to evaluate their performance.
Standard operating procedures are not only beneficial for your employees but also to you, their manager. These documents can help guide you in evaluating the performance of each member of your team thus allowing you to rate your employees fairly. 
What most organizations do not realize is,  SOPs can help build employee expertise through routine processes. Working with no SOPs can lead to more errors and miscommunications.
This is not to say that employees should be treated like robots. However, if you hire the right people and train them well, you will eventually find yourself working with people who work autonomously and who always use their best judgment when it making decisions. Transferring knowledge to new hires is always a critical part of the process.
Every step of the procedure should be discussed in detail. This removes the confusion that employees may experience in the absence of a point of reference.
Performing repetitive tasks will allow your employees to learn the process by heart. As a result, they can execute these tasks seamlessly and more efficiently.

4. Text and Video SOPs Can Easily Be Updated 

It is important to revisit and update your standard operating procedures regularly. Doing so keeps your organization up to date with new regulations, technology, and best practices in the industry. It also ensures that your procedures and policies are still effective and consistent with your organization’s goals.
Some organizations may need to add new sections to existing SOPs and revise and delete older parts. SOPs, whether in text or video, provide a more accessible avenue to make this possible. Because employees can easily access the processes, updating them will not be as hard.
Traditionally, employees are informed of any updates on SOPs through face-to-face meetings. This method decreases the productivity of the organization as a personal orientation eats up a lot of time. You have to do it for every department, which makes it all the longer to finish. These days however, a quick email sent will suffice.
While it may take longer to do both, it will save you significant time and money in the long run. Having both SOP formats will take a lot of weight off your shoulders while assuring that your employees are as productive.
Virtual Assistants

5 Reasons to Hold a Team and Culture Onboarding Meeting with New Hires

Just in a physical office, an onboarding meeting is also crucial when hiring remote employees to be part of your team. It is important to discuss matters such as company goals, expectations, tasks, compensation, culture, etc. with your newly hired virtual assistants as early as the first day. This ensures that any confusion and unrealistic expectations are eliminated.

At Outsource School, we have a unique onboarding process called the SICC Method. The acronym SICC stands for: schedule, internet and power issues, communication, and culture. Any time we hire someone new for our team, we make sure to bring them through this method.

You may be wondering why there’s a need to go through such an extensive process when you can just give them documents to study. In this article, we will highlight the 5 reasons why holding a team and culture onboarding meeting with new hires is essential. 

Once you’ve read and understood the reasons, you will most probably find yourself agreeing and will proceed to including this in your virtual assistant new hire onboarding process.

Let’s get right to it!

1. Proper introduction to the team.

virtual onboarding meetingThere’s no better way to introduce new hires to your team than in an onboarding meeting where most, if not all, of your team members are present. Make sure to introduce each team member by name and give a quick overview of what they do. This will give your new hire an idea on who to go to when they need help with certain tasks.

On top of this, new hires will become familiar with the organizational structure of your company. They won’t be left clueless when an issue arises because they’ll know who exactly to report to.

2. It makes them feel connected to the mission and vision of the company.

Most people do not realize that the company’s vision and mission statements play an essential role in ensuring the success of the organization. The mission statement serves as the team’s clear and practical guide for making decisions. On the other hand, the vision statement ensures that every decision made is appropriately aligned with what the team hopes to achieve.

One of the reasons why conducting a team and culture onboarding meeting is important is because of these two factors:

  1. This is where you’ll be introducing your company’s mission and vision statements.
  2. Making sure that they know the mission and vision of the company ensures that their own goals align with your organization’s. 

3. An onboarding meeting gives you the opportunity to discuss your company’s values.

Aside from the company’s mission and vision, you should also discuss your company values during the onboarding meeting. With a clear understanding of the values your company upholds, your employees will understand what you stand for, what you believe in, and also apply this to their own professional lives.

These company values will also serve as a guide as they advance further in their career. If they are guided by the right set of values, they’ll be able to make sound decisions that will serve to benefit not only themselves but also your company. 

4. It makes them feel valued and heard.

new hire onboardingThough your newly hired virtual assistants have only been with you for a minute, it is important to make sure they do not feel as if they are less valued and heard compared to the tenured members of your team. The warmth and sincerity of the welcome they receive from your team during the onboarding meeting will make them feel valued and excited to begin working.

While new hires will always show a certain level of enthusiasm during the first month or so working with a new company, this can easily run out. It is your job to make sure your employees are continuously motivated and when it comes to new hires, the best way to do this is by making sure they feel valued, heard, and that they are important to your organization.

5. It gives new hires an idea of the type of working environment in your company.

The culture and working environment varies from one company to another. Some organizations are purely formal; the employees are solely focused on their work. Meanwhile, there are more relaxed work environments and these are the ones that foster employee relationships more than anything and is what’s usually adopted in virtual offices.

There are many other reasons why it is vital to hold a team and culture onboarding meeting. If you haven’t implemented this in your new hire onboarding process yet, I highly encourage you to do so. Your entire organization will benefit greatly from this step.

Virtual Assistants

3 Communication Channels You MUST Set Up With Your Virtual Team

Remote work setup has become more widely adopted now that we are living in a “new normal” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With that said, you have to learn how to effectively manage a virtual team to still operate continuously and efficiently during these unprecedented times.
Communication plays the most vital role in managing a remote business. When working with a team of virtual assistants, it is crucial that you use the right communication channels. This will ensure that everything will run smoothly and efficiently.
Good team communication will help you oversee your operations better and provide solutions to unforeseen events. In order to establish a clear communication line for your virtual team, you need to use a tool meant specifically for this purpose. The initial setup might be a little challenging as there are requirements you’ll need to fulfill and you still have to get used to the whole process, but it will significantly benefit your business in the long run. 
In this article, we discuss the strategies to find the most effective ways to communicate with virtual teams.
Here are the top 3 communication channels that you MUST have set up:

1. Daily Check-Ins and Check Outs

There are two things you should initially require from your virtual team. First, they should check in with you as they sign in to start work for the day, just like in a traditional workspace. And second, they must send you a message when they wrap up at the end of their shift.
You can even have them summarize what they accomplished for the day and what they will be working on the next time they log in. Checkouts will provide them with an overview of the things they need to work on next and plan their schedule accordingly.
If you are a busy business owner, you may not have time to review these daily check-ins and checkouts until later in the day. However, the upside to these is they keep you in the loop with what your virtual team is up to and, most importantly, it holds them accountable for their work and actions.
This step is crucial to managing a remote team effectively. Once you implement this for your team, you will realize how much of a game-changer it can be in terms of maintaining an open communication line with your team.
If you do not have it set up yet, meet with your team to talk about and set expectations. This way, you are assured that you are all on the same page. A personal briefing also lets you see how it impacts team communication in general.

2. Emergency Communication Methods

emergency communication lines

There can be several things both you and your employees can never avoid. Emergencies like team members losing power, the internet going out, family members getting sick, and your team themselves getting sick, are only some examples. There are a lot of emergencies that could arise in your virtual team.
The best way to curb emergencies so that they don’t lead to a communication breakdown is to have an emergency communication channel set up. I prefer this to be a mobile app like Viber or WhatsApp because these are still available even when power is out, or the internet is down.
After setting this up, all you need to do is set the right expectations with your team. Make it a point to require your team to reach out to you via your emergency communication channel in case of an emergency. Doing so will ensure that you are in the loop with what is happening, and you are not left wondering where they are during the hours they’re supposed to be working.
When you set this expectation upfront, you cut the chances of a virtual team member disappearing on you in case of an emergency. 

One good tip is to also have them list down an emergency contact person. It could be their significant other, mother, father, or sibling. Whoever that person may be, secure their contact information so you can reach them during emergencies.

3. Weekly All-Hands Meetings

Weekly Meetings
In most offices, teams hold weekly meetings where everyone joins in the conference room, and they go over goals for the week, issues, etc. However, these are not limited to traditional workplaces. Weekly meetings are also applicable to virtual teams.
It is essential to set aside time every single week for the team to come together to talk about specific topics. It can be about the business in general, getting and sharing updates, talking about some problems they are encountering with their tasks, and brainstorming on different topics.
You can do this meeting every Monday morning – this will help get the week started on the right foot. And to keep it simple, you can do it via Slack chat instead of video or audio. With Outsource School, we have been running these meetings for 3+ months now, and with FreeUp, we ran them for 3+ years.
Such strategies make a significant impact on the team’s productivity and organization as a whole. Plus, it gets the team excited for the week ahead and makes them more motivated to hit their goals.


Communication is the lifeblood of a remote organization. A business without a secure connection among its virtual assistants and freelancers will eventually result in it falling apart. People will begin to leave, and you will be stuck in a place where work is back on your plate.
No business person wants that to happen. Thus, you must make sure to have these 3 communication channels set up with your virtual team. Put it at the top of your To-Do List so you do not forget about it, and start getting things done as soon as possible.
It will not take long to set them up, and they’ll drastically improve communication with your virtual team.
Virtual Assistants

3 Key Areas of Your Amazon Business to Automate

Anyone who tells you that FBA is a get-rich-quick scheme is lying — running an Amazon business is a tremendous undertaking.

With so many moving parts, founders often find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of things they need to quickly become an expert in. 

We see brand owners stuck in the mindset that they simply need to work harder on their business to see the real results. In reality, they need to work smarter.

Now more than never, there’s no excuse to be spending your precious time and resources on repetitive processes with predictable outcomes.

Outsource School provides some tremendous resources for making the most of your understandably limited bandwidth by outsourcing the most time-consuming tasks to skilled Virtual Assistants (VAs). By providing extensive training, instruction, and feedback, you’ll be able to effectively offload tasks that require consistent employee input. 

But while you may have your process down for outsourcing tasks, are these tasks still taking up headspace and sucking time each day, week, and month? 

Let’s take it one step further: automation.

In this article, we’re covering three key areas that you should be automating in your Amazon business. With these tips, you’ll be on your way to focusing on true high-impact activities that will actually grow your business (and your bottom line).

While your business can never truly run itself — there’s a reason human input is valuable and important — you’ll set your business up for success and avoid spending too much of your valuable time on time-consuming tasks. Let’s dive in!

Listing and Keyword Tracking

The first key area of your Amazon business that you should be automating is monitoring your product listings and tracking your most important keywords. 

How are you currently tracking whether your product was switched to the incorrect category? If you are suddenly dropping off in ranking for your most revenue-generating keywords? If your product was mistakenly (or maliciously) flagged as an adult product? If you are no longer able to receive reviews?

Many FBA sellers are still manually checking their listings daily to make sure all of these items are in line, and wondering if there is a better way to keep an eye on these crucial parameters.

Hint: there is.

Alerts from Seller.Tools will act as a customized surveillance system for your storefront, monitoring any important change in your product listing, ranking, or review rating and eligibility. 

Once you’ve decided what you want to monitor, you can opt in to receive an alert through a number of different channels with any relevant information to then take action and correct the problem.  

Even if you’ve offloaded this task to your VA, you’re still using their time to constantly monitor when you could be automating. This is the next step to seamlessly running your brand like an enterprise-level business!

Ranking + Rebate Distribution

Although it may seem intimidating and complicated, ranking on Amazon is really quite simple: target high-value keywords and get solid reviews. 

Even FBA sellers who have figured this out still struggle with the time-consuming nature of verifying valid purchases, manually sending rebates to their customers, and following up on a schedule to try to convince the customer to leave a review on Amazon. 

While this isn’t complicated in and of itself, it quickly becomes a huge undertaking if you’re running multiple rebate campaigns and giving out 100+ products daily.

Does this sound like a bookkeeping nightmare? I’m with you. The Seller.Tools team had the same thought and knew there had to be a more efficient way to rank on Amazon.

Seller.Tools is an industry leader in rebate campaigns for Amazon sellers and provides the most innovative, cutting-edge tools to automate this process while also creating a phenomenal, 5-star worthy experience for your customers. 

Rebate Automation from Seller.Tools makes it even easier to offload ranking and review capture, as it’s far simpler and quicker to onboard a VA with this methodology. 

What if you could:

  • Send your customers right to your product, targeting your most important and profitable keywords
  • Automatically verify their orders with Amazon in seconds and provide real-time responses with Amazon order updates
  • Instantaneously create and deliver a real gift card with over 100 different store options to your customers
  • Reliably follow up and request a review on the other side of the 5-star-worthy experience automatically

And the best part: what if you were not involved in a single step of this process?

With Seller.Tools + ManyChat, it’s so simple to get your VA up to speed and manage far more pieces of this ranking puzzle than they could if it was executed manually.

Anyways, working with clunky Google Sheets and dealing with PayPal mass payments (and mass fees!) doesn’t sound like any fun at all. Want to get in on this? Check out Rebate Automation here to learn more!

Team Communication + VA Task Management

Finally, one additional key area of your Amazon business that you should be automating is in communicating with your team and assigning tasks to your virtual assistants.

You know you’re on the right track when you’ve built out a strong, well-trained team of VAs who are actively involved in the day-to-day operations of your business.

However, if you want to do it right, managing these VAs takes time that you may not have. Keeping an eye out for changes in key areas of your business takes up a tremendous amount of headspace that brand owners simply do not have.

You’re ultimately still creating a bottleneck in your business if tasks need to filter through you.

What if you could automate your communication and task management for your VAs, and send time-sensitive tasks that require action right to the person who will be taking that action? 

Using a tool like Zapier unlocks huge potential for true automation in these areas. 

Now let’s get to the good stuff: how do we automate communication and task management? Let’s think back to our previous example with Alerts. 

  1. Set up an Alert in Seller.Tools whenever your product is not eligible to receive reviews (or any other important listing attribute you’d like to monitor).
  2. Set up a Zap to send a quick task to your VA to address the issue. Include all of the relevant information in the task, so they don’t have to come to you for further instruction every time.
  3. Follow up with an automated Slack notification to confirm they have received the task and have the action item covered. 
  4. Reclaim your headspace and deep work time, and get back to work!

Your VA’s time is still valuable and still requires an investment on your part. Setting up automatic, action-oriented Alerts will make your team of VAs even leaner and reduce your overall costs by focusing their time and attention on action instead of monitoring and waiting for tasks to come through. 

Automating these three key areas will increase the return on investment you’re seeing in your team of VAs, and will unlock claimed time so you can spend more time on the things you do best. 

How do you automate your business? Join the conversation and leave your best ideas in the comments!

Cydney Glasser | Marketing and Communications Specialist, Seller.Tools

Cydney guides digital communication at Seller.Tools, and loves empowering Amazon sellers to crush their goals by building innovative growth-hacking strategies.

She has an educational background in marketing and nonprofit management, and has enjoyed working in digital marketing and impact communication within multiple industries. Cydney is thrilled about the endless opportunities within e-commerce and the chance to be a pioneer in an ever-changing industry!

Virtual Assistants

How to Delegate as a Solopreneur

There is a common belief that only big businesses can afford to hire many employees, while the smaller ones, let alone the solopreneurs, simply have to stick to the DIY. 

Luckily, remote work has enabled the gig economy to flourish powered by the convenient freelance marketplaces where everybody – and I really mean everybody – can get the expert help they need, when they need it and for how much they can afford.

I specialize in consulting startup founders on how to build and launch their MVPs in a super minimal way by leveraging the open talent model – global freelance marketplaces. 

Typically my clients are early stage founders, thus bootstrapping or working within tight investment limits. Often they have an already existing business to keep running in order to feed the spin-off product development. 

Still, on average, we manage to work with at least 10 experts in the first few months and always have the right person for the job and the crucial advice to make the best decisions for the business. 

But today I’m not even talking about these small businesses. I’m talking about myself. A solopreneur. Somebody who runs a one person show, an independent consulting where it’s simply me. The product is my expertise service. The business is me. 

I’m going to give you 10 examples of the tasks that I’ve outsourced and couldn’t be happier about. Read on!

What to outsource as a solopreneur?

  • Logo Design

You’re either artistic or you’re not, but there are also many technicalities around it (the resolution, file formats, transparent background or not, etc.). 

Instead of trying to do it myself, I contract it out to someone, give them exact details of what logo I’m looking for then go through their versions as they’re submitted. 

  • Video and Photo Editing

Sure, there are many tools for editing media files and they all claim to be user-friendly. Still, for an inexperienced user to make sure the bullet-points appear one by one as the speaker (myself in the video) says the sentence, would probably take many trials and errors to get in sync. 

I’ve outsourced all my video work and kept working on what I’m really good at while the video was being prepared for me. 

  • Website revamp

In the spirit of the MVP, when I was first starting out, I did a simple website using one of the no-code CMS platforms (mind you, I’m a software engineer myself, but simply not specialized in developing front-end pages and not eager to learn something I don’t plan on doing in the future). 

Once my business started taking off, I wanted a more professionally looking website and with the options to integrate the add-ons I needed. I hired a WordPress developer and while he was working for me, I kept working for my clients on the work I plan to continue in the future. 

  • Website add-ons

When your business is growing, the new needs appear, for example to integrate scheduling calls within a calendar on your website. 

The platforms I use like Calendly, MailChimp etc. come with extensive documentation and integration instructions, but then again, I have my primary work to do. Happy to have outsourced the work, the investment has paid off so many times already.

  • SEO

Like many tech driven areas of expertise, this one is subject to the constant changes of the search algorithms, tendencies, and strategies. What might take me days of research, an expert focused on their field can do within a few hours of an audit of my website. 

  • Slides

When I’m preparing a talk or webinar, I simply throw the content on the slides and ask for help putting it in a nice format, all elements aligned, all colors combined. Lovely!

  • Book cover

Writing a book isn’t an easy task, let alone coming up with a good book cover. Outsourcing a task like designing the book cover to somebody who has the talent and experience required is a huge help and can save you hours of time working on something you’re not qualified to do.

  • Proofreading

Believe me, even the native speakers use proofreading services. When writing a book (or an extensive article), you are focused on the content and on the flow. The more you read, the less you notice mistakes. 

A fresh set of eyes can make a huge difference. I loved reading my chapters put in an elegant error-free version by the proofreader I hired.

  • Formatting

The online world can get complicated with all the different rules for the formats that are accepted by certain platforms. 

While it does make sense to have some standards that make things more convenient for the content consumers, it’s a lot to keep track of. My book final file was produced by a freelancer who does that multiple times per day and knows the formats front to back.

  • Keywords research

Based on your suggested keywords and your ToC, an experienced person can find the keywords that you can leverage to drive more visitors. This does take a lot of time and experience, and I’ll keep outsourcing for sure.

While I am 100% satisfied with my experience so far, in the next phase, I’d like to experiment with a long-term VA that would get deeper into my business and help me with the tasks that are more on the ”outside”, like reaching out to potential partners, checking in on the ongoing activities with the other collaborators, etc. 

How to outsource as a solopreneur?

What I tell my clients, I apply myself as well, and here it is: any successful collaboration, whether it’s a long-term one with a core team member, a one-time simple assignment, or a partnership arrangement, is built on and requires all of the following 10 points for successful outsourcing: 

  • Your own clarity on what you need help with and what you expect from the collaboration

Give yourself a diagnosis. hehe! What do you suffer from? What do you struggle with? And: what kind of result would make you happy and feel that your problem has been solved?

  • Your own clarity whether it’s the lack of expertise or lack of time that you are trying to solve

This is crucial. If you lack time, you find a follower type to teach/train to overtake some of the tasks from you, usually the repetitive ones. 

On the other hand, if it’s the expertise you are lacking, well, you need an expert. And you need to be able to express your pain point to them clearly. 

  • Selection of the right collaborator

Freelance marketplaces use references from previous clients to present the freelancers to the potential new clients. Together with the freelancer’s profile, the references are a great tool when selecting. 

In addition, I like doing video calls with the top 3 candidates, to get that feeling if we are indeed on the same page.

  • Selecting the right collaborator at the right time and on the right terms (full / part time, long / short term, or on an as-needed basis)

Often entrepreneurs are reluctant to hire and wait too long and get in the situation when the work needs to be redone by the expert when they finally join. 

In addition, there are many research tasks, solution suggestions etc., that should be done prior to starting acting. With freelancers, you can do one time consulting, or arrange to be in touch on an as-needed basis, but don’t be reluctant when reaching out for help and advice.

  • Crystal clear input

No matter if it’s a simple one time task or a complex consulting request, list down all you have in a systematic way so it’s easy for the freelancer to understand.

  • Well defined output

Make sure you and your collaborator are on the same page with the goal of the collaboration and outline it clearly in writing so they have it to refer to at all times during the work..

  • Patience and openness to hear the suggestions

Your business is your love child, I know. You know your domain and you know your customer base. But remember that you’re reaching out to an expert because something was missing in the first place. Hear them out and listen to the ideas they have for your project.

  • Pre-defined collaboration tools and processes

Solopreneurs tend to think that they don’t need management tools and processes as they are not a team…they are solo. However, if you don’t want to be hearing the same questions again and again from each freelancer, digging into old email threads, losing track of what has been done and what is due and when, start managing from day 1. All the info in one place, all the tasks on the board, etc.

  • Maintaining the professional relationship during the collaboration

Remember that each expert is a business on their own, just like you. They offer their expert services, they invest into their expertise upgrades, and they handle multiple clients at the same time. 

Let them know in advance when their services will (not) be needed, ask what they think about your plan, etc. Show that you trust them and value their services.

  • Staying in touch after the collaboration has been wrapped up

It’s always easier to get additional work done by somebody who already knows your business and your way of running it. Keep in touch with your ex-collaborators and cultivate your network so you can tap into them in the future as needed as well.

The world’s become extremely remote and there is no reason to limit your business within the walls nor to do everything yourself. To learn more, check out:

Tijana Momirov is a software engineer, product manager and founder of StartupSetup where she helps founders start their startups, all in a remote, agile and super lean way by leveraging the gig economy. She’s been a full time nomad since 2010 and loves blogging and giving talks about nomadic lifestyle, managing remote teams, future of work, the gig economy, productized services and more. She is a co-author of “Your Company with No Walls” and mentor at various startup organizations. 

Virtual Assistants

Hiring Soft Skills for Attracting and Interviewing A-Players

Hiring soft skills are vital in attracting and interviewing candidates to spot the A-players. You need to apply soft skills like communication, flexibility, and relationship development to hire quickly and accurately. Hiring soft skills spells the difference between mediocre hires who waste your resources and getting the best of the best on the job straight away.

Here are the steps to take when hiring for soft skills that you can apply at each step of the process to attract and interview the best candidates for any role.

Hiring for Soft Skills to Attract the Best Candidates

When you create a description for a role, you need to be very clear and concise about what you want and don’t want in a candidate. These are the core soft skills to start with because you can only attract A-players if your description disqualifies mediocre candidates. This part of the process also requires keen decision-making skills.

Your Candidate Description

Start by describing the perfect candidate in as much detail as you can. Just go through everything you can think of, and sort it out later.

Candidate Soft Skills

Focus on the personal qualities of the person rather than their hard skills or experience – these latter qualities are easier to add in later.

If you find yourself stuck, just think about the qualities that you and your managers value in a person in general, in the work environment, and for the specific role you are looking to fill. 

These will guide you to creating your candidate avatar. Use the soft skills of clear feedback and critical thinking and observation to analyze what qualities make for a successful candidate in that specific role.

Don’t Rush It

Go over your description at least a few times in the course of a week to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Get input from department heads if applicable – the person who works directly with hires knows best what qualities the ideal hire should – and should not! – have.

It’s vital to get clear on the don’ts as well as the do’s – but you want to translate the don’ts to positives so you can keep the description positive. 

For example, if you don’t want someone who’s late for meetings, write that as “punctual”, or if you don’t want a team member who doesn’t engage, write that as “team player” or “collaborative”.

Organize Your Thoughts

When you’re satisfied, separate the hard skills from personal qualities – the candidates’ soft skills. These details will go in the opening paragraphs of your role description. The soft skills must come first because these are the key to making good hires – not their hard skills.

Now separate the hard skills from the tasks. The hard skills will follow under a bulleted “Skills” section and the tasks will be described next under a numbered list of “Requirements”.

Pro Tip:  You have to include exactly what tasks the perfect candidate must know how to perform at a high level. Then, differentiate these from the tasks that you do not need them to be experts at. This will help you to avoid disqualifying a candidate with excellent personal attributes just because they aren’t good at using a certain tool, for example. Remember, it’s a lot easier to have a hire learn a few hard skills than to teach them soft skills.

Your Role Description

The best role descriptions are presented in a way that can be easily digested. This requires writing skills that combine critical and logical thinking, communication, and design.

Format Your Description

You can find a lot of examples of formatted descriptions just by doing a quick Google search if you need a more detailed point of reference. Look for formatting that you find easy to go through. Formatting alone, however, is not enough to attract the A-players.

Market to A-Players

If you’re not good at marketing copy, I suggest that you hire an experienced writer to craft your easy-to-read role description. Yes, you need to market to the A-players if you want to attract them to the role you are trying to fill. A-players never want mediocre work. They will always find great clients and projects. And yes, you need to make it easy for them because they will not waste their precious time deciphering a complex bunch of sentences. You would expect the same from candidates when they send you portfolios and cover letters, right?

Pro Tip:  It’s not all about the experience-money match for A-players. They look for authentic clients who are an excellent match for the way they work.

Market to your ideal candidate, but always be ethical – honest and transparent. If they find things to be different after a week on the job, they will not be happy and you will experience high turnover. This wastes a lot of time posting descriptions and interviewing and onboarding one candidate after another. And you’ll end up with someone mediocre because A-players don’t settle.

The key is presenting the information in a way that elicits the response that you want from the candidates that you want. Marketing is, after all, attracting who you want and repelling who you don’t want. If you want to learn how to do that in more detail, check out the Outsource School courses or set up a free consultation with me.

Hiring for Soft Skills When Interviewing A-Players

The two most important steps of any hiring process are pre-vetting and interviewing. The key is to do them from the standpoint of soft skills.

Candidate Pre-Vetting

The best candidates will be proactive, providing you with information about themselves and their skills and experience. This may be on their website or in their first communication with you. Take note of that information and use your critical thinking skills to pre-vet each candidate against your description. Then you can rank the applicants and interview the best matches first.

Interviewing the Best

The interview is your chance to get to know the candidate a bit and to verify their skills. The focus here should still be on their personal attributes. Definitely ask about their hard skills and experience to check their confidence levels (which can clue you in on whether or not they’re being honest). But you won’t know for sure until they’re on the job. Their attitude, however, as well as their ethics, etc., will show through more clearly during this conversation.

Ask for feedback throughout this process. Listen intently to all the candidate’s responses and questions – they give clues to the candidate’s state of mind and what’s important to them. Make sure you’re on the same page there, too.

Relationship Building

First, you must build rapport with the candidate. The easier it is, the better – this tells you that they are a fit for your personality and working style. 

If you will not be working with the person directly, make sure that whoever will be takes the lead during the interview. You will need to practice critical observation throughout the interview to pick up on subtle cues.

Brand Values

Second, you will need to once again effectively communicate your brand to each interviewee. You gave them a glimpse of it when you described the personal qualities of your ideal candidate, and now you need to drive it home. 

The person who will be an A-player for you is the one who is in line with your values and vision. Make sure you get on the same page on that before you proceed. If it’s not a match, you should move on, and don’t forget to update your description to be clearer on this point so you get better matches the next time around!

Role and Expectations

Third, if all goes well up to this point, it’s time to go over the role once again. This is to see if the candidate needs more clarity on anything. This is also your chance to add more detail if you need to. Go over your expectations for the role as well, and in detail. This includes things like work times and measurable output as well as experience and skills. Don’t leave anything to chance!

The best candidates will always have good questions to ask about some part or other of the skills or requirements if they’re not clearly defined. They may ask things that never crossed your mind because they are looking at the role from a different perspective. Stay keen and look for any indicators of a good or bad match.

More Relationship Building

Finally, end on a high note. You want to reinforce your rapport with the candidate, whether or not you will hire them. Respect is highly valued among A-players, and it can only help to be nice. Use your networking skills here. The candidate may be able to refer you to a better fit if they’re not the one, and that gives you a better chance of success.

Hiring the Best

This is where your negotiation skills come into play. You’ll need them to evaluate the candidate’s capabilities versus their rate and your budget, and come to an agreement with them. Whether this is for a one-time project or long-term work, you need to get on the same page before you get them officially on board.

Final Thoughts

Hiring soft skills can make or break your hiring experience. They are what help you take purposeful action at every step of the process and get the measurable results that you need to make the right decision.

More than matching a candidate to your requirements, hiring an A-player means knowing the primary qualities of an A-player. No matter what role you are filling, make sure that you are looking for a person who values and pursues positivity, work ethic, motivation, constant development, collaboration, tolerance, flexibility, problem-solving, and resourcefulness. And, most importantly, make sure that you and your team live and work by these same principles. That’s how you attract A-players and keep them onboard.

About the Author:

Julia is a career freelancer and agency owner turned coach for those seeking abundance and victorious living. A professional teacher and decades-long lover of the art of words on paper and the stage, she loves sharing actionable advice on life-changing topics. When she’s not helping freelancers and other small business owners grow, you can find her sharing lots of laughs over little crazy things.