The digital age has truly changed the way the world works, and one of the biggest benefits that it has brought is the ability for people to have access to resources outside their immediate surroundings (Google! Siri!).
This is why the recent years have seen a considerable growth in the number of small- and medium-sized businesses making it in the big leagues. Where growing your business in the past meant having to expand your structure and increasing your capital and costs, today, more things are possible with a relatively lesser resource.
This is all made possible by current technology allows us to work and get help from people halfway around the world from us. Of having a virtual staff to provide every imaginable computer and phone-based service.
Gone are the days when you would have to choose between limited choices – hire your own people and buy every piece of equipment (increasing your costs) or doing everything (with your very limited finite time).
Virtual staff would work for you without the need for them to be physically located in your business premises. They can work from the comfort of their own home office, and could come from a different town, state, country or continent!
What can your virtual staff do for you?
Here’s an infographic that could give you a general idea of how helpful a virtual staff can be:
Yes, that’s 99 different tasks that you can finally take off your own to do list and pass onto someone else! There is actually over 100 tasks you can outsource, the info graphic above is a very limited list. There are so much more that a virtual staff can do. Basically, as long as it is computer and phone based, there’s virtual staff available to help you.
How do you find them? There are so many ways!
There are different outsourcing companies online that assist you in the entire hiring process, from posting the job ad to conducting the initial testing and interviews. You can also choose to post your own job ads across different freelancer websites and online job sites.
Why Hire Virtual Staff
When you outsource different services to virtual staff, there are so many benefits that come with it.
1. Decrease in Costs
Hiring your own people means having to ensure that you have enough space inside your office or business premises to accommodate them.
You would probably be needing new equipment as well, like a new desk, or a new computer.
You will also have to consider other things like additional electricity costs, more bandwidth use when it comes to your internet connection, more coffee cups etc.
Add these all up and you can imagine the additional cost of another person to physically report for work every single day.
When you hire a virtual staff, there’s no need for you to worry about all that. Virtual assistants,IT Professionals , social media managers, SEO specialists – every single virtual employee that you would probably hire would be working from their own home office.
A lot of virtual staff are found in countries like the Philippines, where the quality of work is excellent but the cost of labor is relatively lower.
2. Increase in Productivity
If you feel that there’s so much work to do but so little time to do it, then there’s a huge chance that half of the items on your to-do list do not really require your own personal attention.
So many business owners and managers believe that if you want it done the right way, then you have to do it on your own.
This is one outdated cliché that could make you lose out on all the additional time that getting a virtual assistant can give you.
Make a list of your daily to-do’s and look for things that you know you can assign to someone else.
Things like encoding new orders, responding to inquiries, monitoring your social media accounts, and similar tasks can be done by virtual assistants, leaving you with more time to focus on more important things like personally communicating with your biggest clients and accounts, or product development.
3. Increase in Flexibility
As mentioned before, a lot of virtual staff can be found in different parts of the world, with time zones that are different from yours.
This gives you the benefit of being more flexible with your hours. You can finally extend your operating hours and have the much later shift covered by virtual assistants, for example.
You can even start considering having a business that’s open 24/7, with different people covering different shifts. You can then take care of the busiest hours and handle the concerns of your regular customers yourself.
You can also start entertaining special requests from customers that you never really considered before. If, for example, you offer regular content creation services, but do not deal with SEO as you do not have the kind of background needed to consider yourself an expert, you can always hire a freelance SEO specialist so that you can start covering the needs of any client that requests for it.
From here, the possibilities are endless. You can eventually take care of their web design and maintenance for them as well, along with a few other services. You can now become a one-stop shop that covers client needs from end to end.
4. Better Work Quality and Skill Option
Imagine the pool of talent and skills that you now have access to – the world (practically).
While you’re still waiting for the perfect graphic artist to work on your marketing campaigns to walk through that door, there already are tens of thousands waiting for you to connect with them online.
A lot of these home based professionals, especially in the field of marketing and IT, have become harder to find in recent years. Having an option to source talent outside your country gives you an opportunity to find the best suited staff. Instead of settling for whoever comes along just because they’re the only ones available to work for you in your locality, it’s better to work with the experts online.
Paying Your Virtual Staff
A huge concern when it comes to hiring virtual staff is payment and compensation. Not only are you very (very) far away from your virtual staff, your currency is also different from them and their financial institutions work differently.
So how much should you pay? And How?
Let’s start with the average amount that virtual staffers usually ask for:
Now there are so many things to consider as far as figuring out how much you should be paying your virtual staff. Although the chart above is an a good accurate guide of how much different kinds of virtual staff from the Philippines usually ask for, take note that these amounts can go higher or lower than these given ranges.
Here are some of the things that you would have to consider to figure out what’s fair, and whether it’s okay to go beyond or below these salary ranges above:
Urgency of need (If you need them to start right away and they have other projects pending on the side, they may ask for a bigger amount)
Part-time, full-time, or on an as-needed basis?
Amount of experience
Range of services that can be offered (Some can take on tasks of both a content writer and an SEO specialist as the same time, for example)
Long-term or project-based?
Additional perks and benefits
Location (Staff from Metro or City area ask for higher rates due to higher cost of the living and higher number of work opportunities)
How should you send the payment?
As far as methods of payment are concerned, there are few of options.
You can send via your local banks. But (but!) it cost a lot to send money this was both in the service fee and currency adjustments. In Australia for an example, it costs $22 service fee to send any amount in the Philippines and the exchange rate is 3-4 pesos lower than the actual PHP/AUD current market rate. So if you are sending AUD$1,000 to your staff, your staff us losing 3,000 to 4,000 pesos equivalent in his local currency! (Note that this is a lot of money in the Philippines. A full-time housekeeper in the Philippines is paid around 4,000 pesos a month. The currency lost in this transaction can almost pay a full-time housekeeper for your staff!).
PayPal is the most popular method of payment as it very easy to use. The one downside to PayPal is the fact that once the payment goes through and appears on your employees’ PayPal accounts, withdrawing these to their bank accounts would still take 3 to 5 business days.
Some people go through the route of using transfer services like Western Union. The downside of Western Union is also the service fee. It’s high and it increases along with the amount of money you send (eg. The Service fee for sending $100 is not the same as the service fee of sending $ 1,000, $10,000 etc.) There is no flat rate when it comes to service fee. Not to mention the fact that there is a limit to how much you can send per transaction.
If you hire your virtual staff through an outsourcing company. This is often the most convenient route to take. As long as you pay the outsourcing service regularly, your virtual staff also gets paid on time, usually using the payment methods that they are most comfortable with.
If you choose not to go through an outsourcing company, you can also look for remittance services that offer a number of ways for you to send money to the Philippines. iRemit to the Philippines, for example, allows you to pay your virtual staff by sending it directly to their bank, by letting them pick up the cash from different remittance centers all over the Philippines, or by having the cash delivered straight to their door (Yes! The cash is handed right at the staff’s doorstep. The service is called Door to Door) .
Last Minute Tips
Here are a few last-minute tips on hiring and paying your virtual staff:
ALWAYS ask your virtual staff how they want to be paid. If it’s a possibility from your end, then go for it. Remember that their convenience is important. If you make life easier for them they will make life easier for you.
ALWAYS ask whether they would rather be paid on a fortnightly or a monthly basis. Although a lot of Filipino virtual assistants are used to getting paid every 15th and 30th of the month, some also agree to be paid only at the end of the month.
ALWAYS do a thorough background check, especially if you choose to hire your own people instead of going through an outsourcing service. Ask for NBI clearance and past work references.
ALWAYS find ways to test each person’s capabilities. If hiring a writer, for example, don’t be contented with samples that they send you. Ask them to write a topic of your choosing and give them a deadline. This will tell you on the get-go whether they fit what you need or not.
ALWAYS be ready to answer questions. Because you are in a virtual setting, it is important to keep the lines of communication open to ensure understanding when it comes to tasks and processes.
ALWAYS find ways to track your staff’s progress and productivity. There are different team collaboration tools that you can use online. Some outsourcing companies also have their own platforms.
ALWAYS find ways to properly track your staff’s work hours and activities (for those whose staff are paid by the hour). There are different time tracking tools online that do not just keep track of when they log in or out, but also take screenshots and measure mouse and keyboard movement.
ALWAYS make sure that your virtual staff submits proof of their internet connection speed and computer specs. As much as possible, ask them to have a backup computer and a backup connection source. This way, you avoid too much downtime due to technical constraints.
ALWAYS asks your staff of their communication preference, are they more effective communicating via voice chat? Text chat? Drawings? Desktop sharing session?
SO are you ready to start your own virtual team?