How to Determine a Fair Wage for Your Foreign Virtual Assistants

How to Determine a Fair Wage for Your Foreign Virtual Assistants

How much you pay a Virtual Assistant depends on where they live and work. If your hiring from the UK, you can expect to pay anything from £10 to £35 per hour. If you’re hiring from the Philippines you will get offers of work anywhere from £1.00 to £10.00 per hour.

If you’ve never worked with people from overseas, that may sound absurdly low.

You may take objection to these low rates, maybe you think this is ak

in to slave labour, maybe you think it would be impossible to have a good quality of life on £3.10 per hour?

When I first posted our pay rates

The intention of this post is to give you enough information to make your own assessment as to what you should pay your international remote workers. After reading this I hope you will be confident that you are not taking advantage of people and that what you are doing is giving your workers and their families a decent quality of life.

While you are reading this, all I ask is that you keep an open mind and read the whole of this article. If, after reading this, you find an issue with our reasoning, I encourage you to share your thoughts and make suggestions as to how we can determine what would be a fair wage, one that provides a decent and happy life for your team. As you’ll read below, we are conducting further research into this ourselves and will publish our findings in due course.

What is a fair and decent wage?

The question of what is a ‘fair’ wage when hiring from abroad is a difficult one to answer and is the cause of much-heated debate whenever I post about this subject.

When I started using Virtual Assistants, I began with a UK based VA on £12.50 per hour, but, as my company had very little revenue, I was really limited as to how much work I could afford to outsource.

After reading Tim Ferriss’s book, ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’, I got the idea to look further afield to countries where the cost of living is much lower and therefore, the expected pay rates were less.

After a bit of trial and error, I found a great VA based in the Philippines.

When advertising the position, I received over 1000 applicants. Many applicants were asking for as little as $1 per hour (I have since learned this is the rate paid by many larger Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies). I took issue with these exceptionally low rates and I know from speaking with my current team of 13 full-time Filipino VAs, that one can hardly exist on $8 per day!

To figure out what I should be paying, I did some research into the average wages for Filipino VAs.

First of all, I looked at the recruitment site I’d used, Online Jobs, https://blog.onlinejobs.ph/comprehensive-guide-to-virtual-assistant-salaries-in-the-philippines,  and Chris Ducker’s blog, author of Virtual Freedom, https://www.chrisducker.com/how-much-do-i-pay-my-virtual-assistant/

Based on these sites, an entry-level wage for a general assistant VA should be about £3.00 per hour (it was a little less when I started a few years ago), so this is what I paid in the beginning.

After some lengthy discussions with our team we reviewed our wage rates earlier in the year and now have a basic starting wage of £3.10 (£3.30 after 4 weeks probation) and we pay considerably more for experienced staff.

I recently posted on Facebook to encourage people to start using Virtual Assistants. In that post, I stated what we currently pay. I had a mixed response, and some people were strongly opposed to paying someone so little.

This prompted me to do some further research, as I wanted to be sure I was paying enough to give people a decent quality of life. I don’t want people working for me to be just surviving day-to-day, I want them to have enough income to enjoy their lives and support their families.

Here’s what I found doing some preliminary research:

At the time of writing (August 2019), The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) currently pegs day-to-day poverty threshold at Php9,063.75 a month for a family of five. This equates to just £141 (€155) per month (for the entire family). However, there is much debate about this being insufficient to provide even a basic living wage above the poverty line. 9 out of 10 families in the Philippines are currently below this poverty line.

In order to know what amount of household income will provide a family with a decent quality of life requires far more data than simply looking at the average earnings and the relative cost of living. For the Philippines, where our team is based, this research has been done by IBON who ‘seeks to promote an understanding of socio-economics that serves the interests and aspirations of the Filipino people’, https://www.ibon.org/about/

They suggest a more realistic minimum household income [for a family of 5] is PHP23,660, or £370.20 (€407.22) per month, including bonuses.

https://www.ibon.org/family-living-wage-for-a-family-of-five-members-in-ncr/

However, The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has recommended that PHP42,000 or £650 (€715) per month is “a decent income [for an average household of 4.4 people]’ https://www.ibon.org/time-for-govt-to-come-up-with-realistic-poverty-threshold-ibon/

Our entry-level wage for an unskilled, general admin role, full-time Filipino contractor is about £3.10 per hour rising to £3.30 after a 4-week trial period. This equates to £528 (€580) per month. We also give an 8% Christmas bonus, 20 days paid holiday and some additional benefits such as maternity pay. We give inflation-linked pay rises as standard and a performance review linked rise every 6 months.

This means that even if the new trainee is the sole earner in a family of 5, they are above the recommended minimum household income of £370.20 (€407.22).

Once someone has been with us for 12 months, they would typically be on more than £4.06 per hour or £650 (€715) per month (due to promotions and pay rises) and therefore on their single income could support an average-sized family.

You can see all our wage banding here: https://bit.ly/3moNQQP

Below you’ll find a sample of wages, hourly rates and relative cost of living in EU member states. I was surprised to see the seventeen-fold difference between the highest and lowest hourly rate within the EU!

Country
Average NET Annual Wage (single, no kids, 2018)
[Gross Earnings]
Average Household Income (Married Couple, 2 kids 1 at 100% ave, 1 at 67% ave)
Minimum Wage, annualised (2018)
Median hourly earnings (2014)
A relative cost of living Index*
Earnings/Cost of Living^
SwitzerlandNo dataNo dataNo data€29.46230
Luxemburg€41,943€83,499€24,000€18,38174480
UK€34,049€60,151€18,600€14.81174345
EU-19 Average€26,233€48,749No data€14.08N/A
Spain€21,199€37,183€12,600€9.83130286
Czech Republic€11,265€21,810€6,216€4.56100218
Bulgaria€5,512€9,668€3,300€1.6783116
Philippines€8,508^€4,442^^9094

Data from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat

Hourly Earnings: https://screencast.com/t/O1vlSAOMvP

Minimum Wages: https://screencast.com/t/uNsvMqhZVL1

Gross Salary: https://screencast.com/t/rCLCvyac0

* This is the recommended minimum living wage as the official minimum wage has been criticised as being unrealisticly low.
** This is the recommended Living wage for a family of 5.
*** The idea of including the final column was to give the means to compare the relative wealth of countries. I have simply divided Household Income by the Cost of Living.

Cost of living index from https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/ranking

* A Price Index of 134, that means that living there is 34% more expensive than living in the Czech Republic’. See the full explanation here: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/ranking#price-index-explanation

 

The point of including this table is to show that what one needs to get paid, to have an average quality of life is relative to where you live.

This doesn’t mean that a Bulgarian on €1.67 per hour enjoys the same quality of life as a Swiss resident on €29.46. On the contrary, simply by looking at the relationship between hourly rate and cost of living cost index one can see a disproportionately low wage in the poorer countries, suggesting that those people have less disposable income after paying for life’s essentials (last column).

However, if you lived in Switzerland and employed someone living in Bulgaria and paid them €29.46 per hour, that person would have a disproportionately high quality of life due to the relatively low cost of living in Bulgaria compared to Switzerland.

Similarly, if you live in the UK and advertise a Virtual Assistants job at €14.81 per hour (the national average wage) you’d have a pretty tough job of convincing anyone living in Switzerland to apply. Conversely, your average Bulgarian, living in Bulgaria, would jump at the chance of earning €14.88!

The final column is simply the household income divided by the cost of living- this is an arbitrary number and is not proof of anything, but it does suggest that the relationship between household income and the relative cost of living is disproportionate for countries where the average income is lower. This suggests that it may be harder to have a decent quality of life in these countries, despite the low cost of living.

This concerns me as we want our team to enjoy life and not just survive. We are conducting an independent research project into determining what constitutes a fair and decent wage for a typical Filipino VA. For example, we want to know if the wage we pay an individual VA should be sufficient to support their entire family or is it fair to assume there would be more than one earner in the household? There are many other questions we want answers to, and we’ll publish all our methods and findings.

We aim to publish the results in early 2020 and will amend our wages and recommendations if needed.

By providing what we believe is a fair wage to provide a decent quality of life we have been able to provide stable, regular income to 6 people in one of the poorest countries in the world. This number is set to double in the next 6 months. If I had decided to hire within the UK, I would probably still be stuck with one, part-time VA as I simply wouldn’t have been able to grow the company at the same rate.

Our remote team of Filipino VAs run every aspect of our company. They manage other team members, create our websites and marketing materials, conduct research, write articles, solve problems and develop our products and services.

They are our first and second line support, our personal assistants and our source of countless innovations and ideas that help keep our businesses growing. They have genuine career prospects, engage in personal development and training and as a result enjoy their work and add value to our company every day. We rely on them sticking around for the long term, so we need to be sure we are doing right by them!

Using the data currently available to us for the Philippines, we recommend aiming for a family household income of at least £650 per month (including bonuses) for entry-level work. Therefore, we believe that our current base rate of £528.00 per month (not including 8% Christmas bonus) per person is fair. We’re also proud to have 2 families within our team where we employ two family members, so their household income is more than £1000 per month.

I hope you found this useful and welcome your comments and suggestions for our research project.

Finally! A Speedy Process For Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Finally! A Speedy Process For Hiring a Virtual Assistant


Are you daunted by the hiring process and don’t know where to start? Read on to find out how you can hire your next virtual assistant with our easy to follow 6-step guide. It will show you how to hire a Virtual Assistant in the Philippines in around an hour. All you need to do is follow the steps and put them into action.

Step 1: You need to write a killer job post.

To attract the best candidates, you need to write a job post that will catch people’s attention. By following our step by step guide in our recent blog, you will be able to write a job post that will draw in the best virtual assistants that the Philippines has to offer: https://blog.systemsandoutsourcing.com/blog/writing-winning-job-post-recruit-best-virtual-assistants

Step 2: Create Your Application Process

Using a Google form is a great way to ask a series of questions to eliminate most of your applications in a few minutes. All you need to do is create a simple questionnaire and then share the link at the end of your job posting.

Step 3: Post Your Advert

The best website that we have found for hiring virtual assistants in the Philippines is https://www.onlinejobs.ph/. Not only is there a wide choice of great virtual assistants who have a variety of skills sets, but you can also post links to your Google form, you just need to subscribe for one month to do this.

Step 4: Shortlisting

A word of warning after years of experience, don’t be tempted to look at any CVs that are sent your way, except those that pass the final video stage. If you do, it will sway you and take you away from the process that you have created.

Instead, do the following:

  1. Unpublish your job advert after 48 hours
  2. Open the Google Form
  3. Click ‘Responses’
  4. Then ‘create spreadsheet’ (green box) to export all of the results.
  5. Turn off ‘accepting responses.’

Now, my quick method for shortlisting candidates is to go to the spreadsheet and look at relevant columns that can help you eliminate candidates based on their answers. For example, a column containing candidates’ answers regarding their availability. The people who answered with a lesser amount than you require can be deleted.

Step 5: Interview

In the 5-minute video that you will have asked the candidates to send over with their responses, a great tip is to watch this video at double speed. This way each interview takes 2.5 minutes per person. This saves you a lot of time and still gives you all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Our team typically interview for most job posts and the entire hiring process takes us around 1 hour, regardless of how many people apply.

Check this FB Live on how you can interview your VA in 2.5 minutes or less: https://www.facebook.com/groups/systemsandoutsourcing/permalink/369065480209016/

Step 6: Start Outsourcing Your Time-Consuming Tasks!

Now you have a new member of your team on board, you can start outsourcing all those time-consuming tasks that were taking up your free time.

We wish you good luck on hiring your next virtual assistant from the Philippines!

Guidelines on Registration & Tax Obligations for Filipino VAs

Guidelines on Registration & Tax Obligations for Filipino VAs

I know the subject of taxation isn’t exactly an exciting subject to most of us, but it is an important one to understand and get right. Having a good understanding of the VA tax obligations in the country where you plan on setting up as a freelancer is a great place to start for any budding VA. When you start up a VA business in the Philippines, the first thing that you really need to look into is ensuring that you are set up in a legit manner. If you are not set up through the taxation system properly it will lead to you having real problems down the line which are easily avoidable with a bit of time and effort in the beginning.

What You Should Know About VA Tax Obligations and Registration

Sole Proprietor or Professional

First of all, you need to think about if you want to be a sole proprietor or a professional? The vast majority of freelancers in the Philippines appear to register themselves as a professional. There are some differences between the two, as you would expect on how you run and register.

The one major reason to register as a sole proprietor is if you want to scale your business and build a team, as this option does make this easier. You can also do this as a professional, but you would need to hire your team as subcontractors instead of employees, so you are not responsible for paying their government contributions or taxes.

Registering with the BIR

Freelancers who are working via the internet in the Philippines must register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) who are the central governing body within the Philippines which is responsible for all tax policies, documentation, and compliance.

Those that are self-employed and receiving an income from their profession need to ensure that they comply with the new digital models for freelancers. There are some reasons that you can be exempt from taxation, but please ensure you get up to date advice on this. The reasons are as follows;

  1. If you are earning the minimum wage.
  2. If your gross income is below the Basic Personal Exemption (Php 50,000, regardless of marital status) and Additional Personal Exemption (Php 25,000 per child dependent with a maximum of 4).
  3. If your annual salary is either Php 60,000 or below.

(SOURCE: https://www.taxumo.com/freelance-tax-philippines/ Date accessed: 11/10/19)

To become a fully registered freelancer you need to acquire a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). This is the number which will relate to all your accounting matters. The BIR now has an operational e-registration system where you can apply to get your number online. There is a registration fee of Php 500 which is applicable each year and can be paid either online or through an Authorized Agent Banks (AABs) at a convenient location for you. Once you have made the payment you need to attend your nearest BIR office to receive your TIN Card. You need to have this card to start the process of registering as self-employed / freelancer.

The requirements for tax registration are as follows for freelance registration:

  1. Occupational Tax Receipt (OTR) / Professional Tax Receipt (PTR)
  2. PRC License (if Licensed Professional
  3. Barangay Clearance
  4. Form 1901 (3 Copies)
  5. Form 1905 (3 Copies) – If applicable
  6. Form 0605 (3 Copies)
  7. Clear Scanned copy of Birth Certificate
  8. Marriage Certificate (If Applicable)
  9. Proof of Billing
  10. 3 Copies of 2 Valid IDs
  11. Title of Property OR Lease Contract
  12. Copy of Client/Project Contract
  13. 3 Original Signed Copies of Special Power of Attorney (SPA)
  14. Letter of Intent in Registering as a Freelancer / Professional

(SOURCE: WEBINAR with Atty Nelson Kevin Baldonado Date accessed: 11/10/19)

Before you look at completing your certificate of registration which will be issued by the BIR there are a couple of things that you need to understand.

Income Tax

Income tax, which is a tax levied on the income earned, so you need to decide what type of income tax you will be subject to paying.

There are two options of income tax rates you can choose from:

1. Graduated Income Tax Rate

The income tax due is based on your net taxable income. The calculation of rates is shown in the table below.

If you go for the Graduated Income Tax Rate, your gross expenses will be based on whichever type of deduction you choose below:

A. Itemised

This is when you have expenses that you will have paid out for in order to provide the service that you do. With this type of tax deduction, you will need to keep all your receipts on record for your business expenses. These expenses are then deducted off your gross income which lowers your taxable income.

B. Optional Standardised Deduction

This is the option to choose if your business expenses are less than 40% of your gross income as 40% is automatically deducted from your gross income.

2. 8% Flat Income Tax Rate

This option is available to non-VAT registered individuals whose gross sales/receipts for the year does not exceed P3,000,000. Income tax is calculated by getting 8% of your gross sales.

(SOURCE: https://www.bir.gov.ph Date accessed: 11/10/19)

Business Tax

Freelancers in the Philippines are considered self-employed professionals, earning personal income from businesses. This means they are also subject to paying Business Tax.

VAT or Percentage Tax System

You need to think about if you will want to go through the percentage tax system or VAT. You can opt-out of VAT if you are earning under 3 million per year and therefore you need to use the percentage tax system which only requires you to pay 3% of your gross annual sales.

Tax Calendar

Lastly, your Philippine Annual Income Tax Return (BIR Form 1700) needs to be filed and taxes are due to the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue on or before the 15th April. The tax year in the Philippines is a calendar year which ends 31st December of each year.

After taking all this information in and processing it just remember that the advantages of getting your taxes in order from the start as a freelance VA are:

  1. You will have a better chance of getting loans approved i.e. house, car etc.
  2. It is one of the requirements for a VISA application.
  3. The most important point is that it will avoid you getting tax penalties.

DISCLAIMER:

PS. We are not accountants, tax or legal experts the advice in this article is for information and advice only. Please seek your own independent legal and professional taxation advice from a qualified accountant.

Well, I hope this guide to taxation in the Philippines didn’t scare you too much, relieves any worries that you had and encourage you to start freelancing as a VA.

Why Are Some Entrepreneurs Overwhelmed When Others Cope Just Fine

Why Are Some Entrepreneurs Overwhelmed When Others Cope Just Fine

I want to share some useful insights I’ve had from speaking to dozens of business owners recently- some are struggling some are notThose that are doing well all have one thing in common, that is the subject of this article.

I have hundreds of friends and associates with property businesses – including myself. Since COVID kicked in, we have been inundated with dealing with cancellations, arrears and issues with development projects falling through.

Right at the time when the business owner needs to focus on saving the business, those that haven’t systemised their processes or who are still doing everything themselves are being overwhelmed by admin. This means they are getting squeezed from both sides- reduced income and a lack of time to do anything about it.

Those that have outsourced their day-to-day operations are able to cope much better, as they have the headspace and time to think and react. Without a team to do the work of your business, you can never take time off, never truly relax on holiday, and as I’ve just described, you will be hit hard at when the unexpected happens.

You quickly become the bottleneck and the single point of failure.

Also, if you are doing all the work, you are your business, you’re gonna have a hard time selling your business when you want to exit as investors aren’t going to be too keen on buying a company that relies on the owner to do everything – it just doesn’t make sense.

Maybe your goal is to leave a legacy. If it is, make sure it’s a legacy that your kids actually want! If they’ve watched you work yourself half to death and be an absent parent as a result, do you think they’d be keen to take over the reins?

I’ve definitely been guilty of putting my work before my family and friends in the past.

If you don’t build a team, you will be trapped in a prison of your own making. Your team is the key to set you free.


Despite all the reasons why growing a team is essential to your business and your own well being,
a staggering 76% of all business in the UK have no staff. 

Why is that? Why do most business owners fail to get help? 

They believe they are:

  • Saving Time
  • Saving Money
  • Are scared of letting go
  • Don’t believe anyone could do their work for them
  • Or they simply don’t know how or where to find affordable, talented staff and how to manage them effectivelyI was guilty of thinking all of these things. Maybe you can relate to some of these too?

    I blame the lack of a good team as the major reason I was on the brink of bankruptcy by the age of 26.

    It was 2006, and I’d been building my property portfolio for 4 years. I’d sunk everything into the latest development project when I ran out of money. I was forced to move back in with my parents, lived off credit cards and used overdrafts and loans to pay suppliers and labourers.

    When the day finally came to get the project approved so I could refinance the property and pay off my debts, I was excited, to say the least.

    That excitement turned into horror when the building inspector refused to sign off the development.

    I’d failed to meet certain fire regulation standards, and the property was deemed as unfit for purpose. It was going to take thousands of pounds that I simply didn’t have to make right.

    I can remember the moment so clearly- where I was stood, what the weather was like, and the sick, churning in my stomach as what should have been the happiest day of my business’ journey suddenly turned into the worst.

    I had no way to pay off my debts, and the interest was mounting up.

    After weeks of stress and sleepless nights, I eventually did get the approval I needed. I was able to remortgage the property, clear my debts, and save my business.

    I was lucky, but many business owners aren’t.

    A major factor in this venture going wrong was that I was trying to do everything myself so I ended up overwhelmed. I made too many mistakes and just didn’t have the time to focus on the important stuff.

    One of my biggest reasons for not growing a team was lack of cash. Hiring UK based staff wasn’t an option. Like most self-funded startups, I just didn’t have the money.

     


After nearly 16 years as a one-man-band, I finally hired my first virtual assistant about 4 years ago.
 

That was a turning point in my business and my life. I now have an established team, based in the Philippines, that run all my day-to-day operations, leaving me to focus on leading my company and sharing my knowledge with anyone who cares to listen (thank you for listening!). 

Like most companies, since COVID we have seen a squeeze on our revenue and we’ve had to turn all our attention to creating new content and services to help people get through these challenging times. In doing so, we’ve increased our sales by providing value to our clients. 

At the same time, we’ve also downscaled our team. 

Because we have robust systems, this has been a relatively painless activity for us as a business, despite it being one of the hardest things we’ve had to do emotionally, as we had to let some great people go. Thankfully, we managed to find jobs for everyone with our clients, so no one ended up losing their income! 🙂 

Also, since we have great systems, our remaining team is still able to run all of the day-to-day operations to allow me to focus on income-generating activities. 

If we didn’t have the team and systems in place to cope, we’d be in serious trouble right now. Instead, we are positioned to come out of this stronger and more profitable than we went in. 

I feel incredibly lucky that I figured out how to create systems and work with remote teams that live in countries, where the cost of living means we can pay just a few pounds per hour for highly talented workers and still give our staff a great quality of life. 

Working with Virtual assistants and creating systems and automation has saved our business during these challenging times. 

If you’ve not already done this, now is the perfect time to get started so you can outsource your admin and focus on generating income and taking advantage of the new opportunities as they arise. 

I’ll be sharing more content soon about how you can easily make the transition to building an affordable remote team soon, so keep your eyes open for my next few posts. 

Until then, I wish you all the best. 

Please feel free to get in touch if you need help. 

Reference

*THE REPORT ON SMALL FIRMS 2010-2015, Lord Young 2015.

10 Practical Hacks to Be More Professional During Online Meetings

10 Practical Hacks to Be More Professional During Online Meetings

The popularity of online meetings has skyrocketed in recent times.

However, many businesses are failing to train their staff on how to participate effectively in remote meetings.

As a result, communication can feel disjointed and impersonal, which can negatively impact productivity and ruin rapport.

In this article I address the ten most common mistakes to ensure you and your team are both professional and engaged when meeting online.

 

1. Internet

  • Video lag and intermittent sound negatively impacts meetings and leads to frustration and delays.
  • If you can watch YouTube or Netflix on high resolution without interruption to the playback, then your internet should be sufficient for online meetings.
  • Make sure you test your internet before the meeting using www.speedtest.com. Try positioning your computer nearer your router or use a wired connection. Consider fibre-optic and have a 4G backup

 

2. Audio

  • You can’t participate in an online meeting if people can’t hear you! Straining to hear someone and having to ask them to repeat themselves continually is frustrating and kills the flow of conversations.
  • Consider purchasing an external mic on a stand or a headset with a mic-arm to keep your hands free. Laptop and camera mics are notoriously low quality.
  • 38% of communication is through the tone of your voice. Therefore, it’s essential you speak at a natural volume and don’t get frustrated if people can’t hear you as this may affect how people interpret the meaning of your words.

 

3. Camera

  • Communication is 55% visual. When you chose not to switch on your video, you make it easier for the meaning of your words to be misinterpreted. It’s also really disconcerting when you have your camera, and someone else doesn’t!
  • Quick tip- drag the meeting window to the top of your screen as near to your camera as possible. Make the window small, so your eyes are looking in the direction of your camera when you are watching the speaker on screen. Also, use the ‘speaker focus’ view if available as this stops you having to flick your eyes around the screen each time someone new starts to speak.
  • One more thing. Don’t force your colleagues and clients to stare up your nose for the entire meeting! Your camera needs to be at eye level. Consider using an external camera or use an external keyboard and mouse so you can prop your laptop on a laptop stand (or a few books).

 

4. Lighting

  • Having a camera is pointless if people can’t see your face! For this, you need to have a well-positioned light source.
  • Sit facing a window or other light source. Turn off lights behind you and close any blinds. Try to light your face from both sides if possible.

 

5. Longer Pauses

Many of the natural cues from body language and posture missed in online meetings, so you need to give people extra time to respond. This is especially true when people are new to online meetings as it can take a while for them to gain confidence in the new environment.

 

6. Encourage Participation

When people sit around a table, it’s easy to spot when someone isn’t involved, and a good Chair would bring them into the conversation. This is much more challenging in remote meetings, and it’s easy to forget about quite individuals so everyone should make a conscious effort not to speak over people and to involve everyone in the discussions.

 

7. Written Notes

Unless you are a master touch-typer, I recommend you scribble your notes on paper and type them up later. Doing this will allow you to focus better on the conversations as you’re not continually looking at and thinking about your finger position.

 

 

8. Share Your Screen

When you discuss a document, web page or anything on your computer, share your screen and use your mouse to highlight as your would a laser pointer during a presentation. Doing this improves engagement and makes it much easier to follow what you are talking about- especially when bringing the conversation back after a tangent.

 

9. Record

  • Online meetings can be recorded at the touch of a button. Consider if this would be useful for your company. We do this so our team can clarify what was said without having to ask the attendees to recall events at a later date.
  • We also scribe our meetings using the recordings as the scribe can listen at double speed so this saves time and money.
  • Having a video archive has also proved useful with dispute resolution. We also share recordings of coaching sessions with our clients and staff so they can refer back as needed.

 

10. Listen

  • And finally, LISTEN! When you’re in an online meeting, it’s easy to think people can’t see you. You may be tempted to check emails, look at your phone or whatever else you can think of. Try to resist this urge. Instead, imagine that you are sat in the meeting room with your colleagues and only do the things you would if they could see you.
  • In an online meeting, people can still see your eyes. If you continually look at your phone, they will think your distracted and not paying attention.
  • Lastly, if your the host, try to stare directly at the camera when other people speak, rather than looking at their image on the screen. This makes people feel as though you are giving them your undivided attention.

Good luck with your online meetings!

Dr. Steve Day

PS: If you’re using Zoom Meetings, please click here to watch this 30 minute deep dive into setting up and using Zoom like a pro.

10 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Help Free Your Time

10 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Help Free Your Time

If you are drowning in admin, email management or struggling with your digital marketing and website design, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs struggle with all the tasks that need to get done each day and end up working late into the night. If this is a problem that you frequently have, maybe you need to try working with a virtual assistant.

Virtual Assistants For Entrepreneurs

Finding the right virtual assistants can take a bit of time. Therefore, it is important to find the right person and someone who fits your business needs. Besides, once you find the perfect VA they can save you hours of time and effort, from managing your diary and emails to updating your website. Also, they will help you get out from under the mountain of work, and you will have some free time to concentrate on other aspects of your life.

Here is a list of tasks that a Virtual Assistant can typically help you with:

1. Email Management

If your inbox is overflowing or you are continually receiving messages, a virtual assistant can be of help. They can sort through your inbox and file emails, respond appropriately and unsubscribe to any unwanted emails.

2. Transcription

A virtual assistant can help you take your audio and transcribe it.

3. Data entry

Data entry can be a very time-consuming task and one that you can easily outsource to a VA. Simply send over the documents with the data, and your virtual assistant will add these to your software or spreadsheet.

4. Research

You can ask your virtual assistant to do your research for you. This can be travel itineraries, your competitors, product comparisons etc. They can perform these, and list their finds and sources of information.

5. Social media management

Your VA can manage all your social media platforms. Which means that they can upload posts, add images, manage comments, among other things.

6. Documents

Anything from reports to presentations, quotes, invoices and any other type of document can all be consolidated by your virtual assistant.

7. Proofreading

It is always a good idea to get your documents checked over by another set of eyes. Your VA might not be a professional proofreader. Although, they can read through your documentation and look for errors that you may have missed.

8. Website Design

Virtual assistants don’t just do your admin, some of them specialise in website design, content writing, and SEO. If you require a new WordPress site or regular updates, these are tasks that you could outsource to the right VA.

9. Video Editing

Video editing is a very time-consuming task. Going through your videos and cutting and merging content can take up hours of your time. This is a good job to outsource to a VA.

10. Content Writing

Writing is something you either enjoy or don’t. Some of us are great at writing engaging content, and others just aren’t. If you dread writing content or it just isn’t something you have time to do regularly, you can outsource it to your virtual assistant.

The relationship – Virtual assistants for entrepreneurs

Your virtual assistant really can make life easier, and the sky is the limit. They can help you with a wide variety of tasks. As you build up a relationship with your assistant, they can become a big part of your team. Your VA will save you time, and in some cases, even money.

I believe that if you try working with a virtual assistant it will be a positive experience and one you won’t regret.

Where to Find Your Superstar Virtual Assistant (VA)

Where to Find Your Superstar Virtual Assistant (VA)

Since outsourcing is a booming industry nowadays, there are a lot of options available for someone like you looking for their superstar virtual assistant. It could get stressful having to decide where to go to find what you are looking for.

To make it simpler and more efficient for you, it’s important that you take your pick from freelance marketplaces that have already earned a good reputation. Here are some such platforms that you should check out when looking for your superstar virtual assistant:

Upwork 

Upwork (formerly oDesk) is by far the most popular freelance marketplace.

With over 500,000 businesses choosing this online platform for finding the perfect candidate for their job vacancies, it is unsurprising how Upwork is steadily growing in terms of the number of freelancers. Its appeal lies partly in how it allows employers to gauge a prospective employee based on a comprehensive look at the candidate’s qualifications, skills, and work experiences as well as screening questions. Virtua

This platform features a new mobile app with messenger, among others, allowing easy communication between clients and freelancers and making it easier for freelancers to apply to and respond to job postings. While Upwork is popular among many employers looking for remote workers, it is mostly suited for ad hoc or project-based work.

Of course, as in any other platform, there are no perfect guarantees that you’ll get to find the right remote assistant for you on Upwork. There have been many cases of clients getting burned by freelancers who have delivered sub par output, if at all. Thankfully, Upwork has stepped up its game in its attempt to limit the number of unqualified applicants and freelancers as well as ensure that you pay only for the work done.

How has Upwork done so far?

First, the Work Diary. If you’re paying your freelancer by the hour, you can verify with his or her Work Diary first before releasing the pay. This is to make sure that you pay only for the hours when work has been done.

Second, the use of Connects. Freelancers are given only 60 Connects each month which they use to apply to job postings. By restricting the number of applications freelancers can make each month, the number of applicants applying for jobs they’re not qualified for is reduced.

Now let’s talk about the costs.

You can post jobs on the platform for free; Upwork will only charge you for the transactions you make. Upwork charges at 2.75% per transaction. Say, for instance, you pay your freelancer $100, you will need to pay Upwork $2.75. That means you pay a total of $102.75 for the transaction.

So, is Upwork worth it? Let’s have a look at some pros and cons.

Pros

Streamlined hiring process

Nothing can be more time-consuming than having to go through loads of applications when you only need one person to fill your job post. The good news is, Upwork has made it easier for you to get down to the right person by making sure that the applicants you get are the ones who are most relevant to your business’ needs. In fact, you can hire a recruiter or recruitment consultant via Upwork to help you wade through the Upwork market. These consultants bring with them the expertise in identifying who the best candidates are for your job post without you having to spend countless hours poring through every application your post gets.

You get to name your price

It’s not only freelancers who can name their price; you can too. You can specify your bid preference on your job posting, or you can opt to choose a freelancer based on his or her offered rate.

Improved Customer Service

Upwork has improved its customer services so that you no longer have to wait too long for your complaint ticket to be addressed. Plus, with the Live Chat feature recently added, the platform’s customer service has gone a stride further.

Cons

Freelancer reliability issues

Despite tighter screening procedures, issues on freelancer reliability still pop up from time to time. For example, some freelancers may fail to deliver the expected output on time, and some don’t deliver at all. In other cases, freelancers do submit an output, but one that is not at par with what was expected of them.

The ‘pay to play’ advantage

As discussed earlier, Upwork has employed the system of using Connects to reduce the number of unqualified applicants. However, Upwork has also allowed the purchase of additional Connects, giving companies and agencies with the financial capacity to purchase Connects an upper hand over qualified freelancers. This limits the chances of the talented ones to get a job and reduces the possibility of you landing with the superstar assistant you need.

Increased Site Fees

In comparison to other freelance platforms, Upwork gears towards the pricey end. Upwork deducts 10% off every freelancer’s transaction, as well as charges fees for premium membership. As a result, freelancers tend to price their rates higher to recover the amount deducted from them. And that means you’ll have to shoulder a rate higher than what it should have been.

OnlineJobs.ph

A platform founded in 2009, OnlineJobs,ph has become a popular platform for hiring both part-time and full-time workers from the Philippines. What keeps it appealing to employers is its filtering system, which effectively and efficiently allows them to easily sift through the freelance market. Since this platform is pretty much a resume database, you can opt to narrow down your search for the best applicant by using specific filters such as date of listing, skill levels, required skills, and expected salary.

Yes, we know that the thought of having to go through so many resumes just to find your perfect fit can be so overwhelming.  But here’s a useful tip that could save you much headache and time when going over the job applications: Watch out for those with resumes that have been updated within the last month. That’s a good sign because those who have not updated their resumes are either already employed or aren’t good enough to make the cut. Also, single out freelancers who have high English proficiency. You’ll get a feel of this when going through their resumes as well as profiles.

Let’s move on to the costs involved.

Onlinejobs.ph, unlike Upwork, is priced according to your subscription. Generally, you can be a member of this platform without paying for anything. And yes, with your free membership, you could post open jobs and filter through freelancers on the site. However, you cannot contact any potential worker unless you upgrade your membership plan.

There are three membership plans available, as you can see in the table below.

Free for Life

Pro ($69)

Premium ($99)
Job Posting3 posts3 posts10 posts
Job Post Approval Time2 daysInstantInstant
View Job Applications
Background Data ChecksUnlimited
Worker Mentoring Service
Contact Workers75 per month500 per month
Read Workers’ Reviews
Hire Workers
Pay with Easypay
Use Timeproof
Bookmark Workers

Now that you’ve seen the pricing plan for Onlinjobs.ph, the next question naturally is,

Is it going to be worth the fee?

Well, take a look at the features of this platform and decide for yourself.

You can run a background check on your applicant

Background checks do more than just help you gauge the competence of an applicant. It also helps you to determine how he or she will likely perform for your business. Basically, background checks ensure that you know who you’re hiring, minimizing the likelihood of being scammed by an unqualified applicant. They paint a picture of the applicant’s crucial behavior patterns based on information from the platform’s database and Facebook. This way, you no longer need to resort to guesswork when deciding who to employ for your company.

Take advantage of a virtual coach

Miscommunications are an inevitable problem in a remote workplace setup, particularly when you are dealing with someone of a different culture and background. This is why Onlinejobs.ph offers virtual coaching to employers. Basically, these virtual coaches help prevent misunderstanding with your remote employees so that they remain productive and efficient.

Think of virtual coaches as timesavers—they’re the ones who help your employee adapt to the remote workplace environment and excel at it. They serve as a mediator of some sort between you and your remote worker so as to prevent misunderstandings from taking place. And because they are bound by confidentiality, virtual coaches help build mutual trust and a healthy working relationship between you and your worker.

You can cancel your membership anytime

Sure, you have to pay $49 so you could seek out a great freelancer. But trust us, you won’t be taking months for someone to fill that position up. Once you get the worker you need, you can simply end your membership plan. That’s it. You won’t have to pay Onlinejobs.ph a percentage of your transactions, unlike Upwork.

Fiverr 

Let’s move on to our third source of remote assistants—Fiverr. You probably are wondering what sets Fiverr apart from the other two we have already discussed above. Well, the gigs available on the platform are what make Fiverr standout. Whereas Upwork usually deals with hour-based projects and Onlinejobs.ph have postings for part-time and full-time work, Fiverr offers small gigs—$5 jobs, for instance.

So how does Fiverr earn? Well, it takes a portion of the seller’s fees

On Fiverr, individuals sell their skills to interested buyers who then ask them to accomplish the task based on the buyer’s price. What makes Fiverr appealing to those who are looking for online gigs are its constant feature updates.

Here, have a look at some of them:

Automatic translator

Fiver has a global market, so you can’t always expect people on the platform to speak or understand English.  It’s, therefore, a good thing that Fiverr has this feature, as it allows you, the buyer, to be understood by a seller even if you don’t speak English. Fiverr simply translates your words into the language that the seller can understand, and does the same thing for you as well

Filter tool

Fiverr makes it easy for you to connect with the right seller with its new filter sort tool. Using this tool, you can easily sort your sellers according to the relevance of their offers to what you actually need, or according to their reviews. You can also browse through the recent additions to the list of sellers. Whatever filter you use for your seller search, the goal is to make the process easier and more efficient for you.

Fiverr’s features are definitely great for those who are looking for sellers who could take care of a one-time project at an agreed cost. Plus, you don’t have to pay a cent so you could place an order on the platform. The only time Fiverr will earn from you is every time you make a purchase.

The platform charges you a processing fee for every transaction. For transactions worth $20 and below, Fiverr charges $1. For transactions priced above $20, Fiverr charges 5%. But, and yes there’s a ‘but’, there’s a lot of negative feedback about this platform, with many buyers complaining that they have been scammed by their sellers.

Still, if you’re looking for someone to do some small tasks for you and you want them done right away and at a cheap rate, then you can also try Fiverr out.

MyTasker.com

If you’re eyeing India as your source country for virtual assistants, then heading to a virtual assistant agency for Indian remote workers would be a huge help. MyTasker is an India-based agency offering dedicated virtual assistant services at reasonable hourly rates. Founded in 2012, this virtual assistant agency provides employers with access to professional remote workers who aim to deliver nothing less than quality results. Pricing plans on this agency are pretty much flexible, as you will see in the table below.

MyTasker also offers services other than Professional services. These would include Virtual Receptionist plans as well as SEO packages. With a virtual receptionist, you have someone handling your business line ‘round the clock and logs as well as record each call made. This way, you’re able to maintain your company’s professional presence over the phone even if you’re out giving yourself a break.

For more information on MyTasker plans and pricing, click here.

Lastly, MyTasker’s SEO packages afford you the convenience of having SEO experts take care of your website’s SEO so that you rank on search engines and get more traffic. You may read more about their SEO services by clicking here.

True, the rates are relatively higher in comparison to other agencies offering similar services, but MyTasker has its good reputation to back up its pricing plans. All you have to do is pre-purchase hours from the agency and wait for a virtual assistant to be assigned to you. Your internal dashboard will let you know how many pre-purchased hours you have left. As there are no long-term contracts, you are free to cancel the service any time you wish to.

Boldly (formerly Worldwide101.com)

And we’re finally down to the last name on this list: Boldly.

If the site doesn’t ring a bell yet, it’s about time that it should. From the site’s tagline itself, “Premium Subscription Staffing”, we’re sure they mean serious business. And with top ratings from its clients, it sure is living up to that statement.

With its pool of well-trained and dedicated virtual assistants from the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world, Boldly raises the bar of excellence for the global virtual industry.

Take a look at their service features and you’ll understand why clients stay happy with the service they’re getting.

Virtual assistants are put through a rigorous screening process

Before your virtual assistant from this agency could even be your virtual assistant, he or she had to go through a rigorous screening process and earn that spot. The screening process ensures that you get the best virtual assistant for your business needs—someone who can handle sophisticated tasks with efficiency and ease. In fact, not just anyone can apply for the position. Only those who have at least 5 years of work experience in the industry are considered for the job post.

Personalized matches

Boldly doesn’t just assign a certain VAs to you without your approval. After you sign up for a specific membership plan, you discuss your company’s needs with a representative from the agency, who will then match you with the virtual assistant who best fits your requirements. The agency then makes sure that you speak with your virtual assistant first and approve your match before you cash anything out. That way, there are fewer chances that you end up dissatisfied with the service that you get.

Excellent customer service

Boldly is at the top of the industry for a good reason: it’s been able to keep its clients happy. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about your VA’s availability. Even if your primary VA goes on a vacation or on a sick leave, you won’t have to stress about the tasks you need to be done. Trained backup virtual assistants are available in such cases or if you need work done over the weekends and holidays.

Of course, great service comes at a cost. For more information on Boldly’s pricing plans, click here.

Judging from the pros and cons of each platform, and based on your needs and preferences, where do you think it’s best to post your job opening and why?