I've been intrigued with the idea of virtual assistants and virtual support since reading Tim Ferriss' Four-Hour Workweek.
But I could never figure out how to make it work as a freelancer. It felt like one of those things that sounds great on paper ... but doesn't quite work in practice.
Well, over the past year I've seen other freelancers use virtual staff successfully. So I decided to look further into this and learn how it can work, even you're not yet making the big bucks.
In this week's podcast, I interview Chris Ducker, author of the new book Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business.
Chris is regarded as the number one authority on the subject of virtual staffing and personal outsourcing. And in this interview he shares some very practical ideas on how freelancers can leverage virtual staff to save time and boost their earnings.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.
Tell us about yourself?
Chris Ducker started in sales and marketing in London. For many years, he worked 14-hour days, six days a week in his own business, with little time with his family. In 2010, he decided to replace himself in his business and work as a virtual CEO. During this time, he launched Virtual Staff Finder.
Today, he lives in the Philippines. He has one company with three subsidiaries and 270 employees. He is an international speaker, blogger, podcaster and author.
How can freelance professionals use virtual support?
There are two types of outsourcing models types for the solo-preneur.
- Task or project based
- One-off projects, such as logo design, landing page development, transcription work.
- Team building
- When you’re maxed out, you can either build up or break down. If you want to build up, you need to develop a team.
With this structure in mind, you can start thinking about the types of tasks and roles you can delegate.
Three Lists to Freedom:
- Things you hate doing
- Things you can’t do
- Things you like doing or things you’re good at, BUT your time would be better spent on other things.
These three lists are your blueprint for outsourcing.
Is virtual support only for successful freelancers?
Absolutely not. Your future success could depend on it. Virtual support might be what takes you from the $50,000-75,000 range to double that amount in 12 to 18 months. As entrepreneurs, time is our most valuable commodity. Anything we can do to buy more time is a good thing.
How can we outsource effectively when tasks are small?
You only have to teach someone how to do a task one time. The trainee can then perform the task multiple times. Shoot a training video and use it to teach the next trainee when needed.
You can use virtual support to check your email, upload transcriptions, create SlideShare documents, handle social media updates, etc. It all adds up to a larger block of time. And as virtual support makes your life easier, you’ll find new ways to apply it.
What should we consider when hiring virtual support?
Whether you decide to outsource locally or offshore, consider:
- Skill set. Interview thoroughly and ask about skills. Don’t presume.
- Growth potential. If someone is investing in their own skills, they’re an attractive hire.
- Personality. Chris will interview a candidate for an hour. A longer conversation helps you understand if he/she will mesh with you and your business.
Chris always asks interviewees:
- What have you done in the last year to improve your skills?
- How long are you expecting to work for me if you get the job?
You need to give the same attention to hiring virtual employees as you would traditional employees if they’re going to be part of your team.
Where can we find the right people?
Job posting sites like Elance and Freelancer.com are great places to start. You can test the water with little financial risk.
Try working with the same freelancer several times to see if you can develop a rapport. Most of these people prefer to work with someone on an ongoing basis.
Use a recruitment company. Chris’s company is Virtual Staff Finder. For a fee, they will look for candidates, conduct interviews and check references. You’ll be presented with three final candidates to interview and select from. You then deal directly with the new hire.
Should freelancers approach task-based projects with the mindset of finding someone more permanent?
Most job posting sites won’t allow you to specify that. They don’t want to lose potential customers or fees.
But once you’re working with someone, you can communicate the opportunity for something more permanent.
What about language barriers with oversea services?
Language barriers vary with geographic area. Chris finds that language is often an issue in the Indian market, but it’s also very inexpensive.
In the Philippines, English is often very good. But if you want good support, you have to pay well and on time.
What should we do when we end up spending more and more time managing our virtual team?
Hire a project manager. Virtual teams usually start with a GVA (general virtual assistant) then add a developer, designer, writer, editor or something.
If your GVA has been with you for a while, promote them to project manager. Pay them a little bit more. Then you can get back to more productive tasks.
Where can we learn more about you?
Chris Ducker’s upcoming book on working with virtual staff to become more productive: