VirtualStaff.ph

VirtualStaff.ph is a virtual assistant job board based in the Philippines. The company was founded in 2016 and all of their assistants work from their homes across the Philippines.

The company offers a marketplace to post individual jobs that can be picked up by their assistants, and ongoing hires for long-term work.

If the site looks or feels familiar, it’s a near-identical copy of the much larger and more-established OnlineJobs.ph, which has been in business since 2009 and has more than 250,000 members.

About VirtualStaff

VirtualStaff.ph was founded by British entrepreneur Michael Brodie. Michael was one of Europe’s youngest retail entrepreneurs at 17, and after outsourcing some of his own workload to the Philippines, he decided to start his own virtual assistant business.

The business model of Virtual Staff is different than most of the other virtual assistant companies based in the Philippines.

Their staff are all home-based, and there are no project managers acting as a middleman or point of contact.

This enables them to offer very competitive rates, however, interviewing and selecting an assistant from their database comes down to you.

Their target customers are entrepreneurs, bloggers, coaches, podcasters, busy CEOs, and anyone else who wants to free up more time by outsourcing some of their business tasks.

How it Works

Services

The service provided by VirtualStaff.ph is as an online marketplace and job board to help you connect with virtual assistants in the Philippines.

They have a database you can sort through by skills, ratings, or hourly rate. You can then reach out to the assistant and interview them or ask any questions to help you establish if they’ll be a good fit.

Their assistants cover the wide range of tasks you would expect from virtual services. So any remote tasks like social media management, website content, audio editing, online research, etc, you’ll find an assistant to work with.

For more bespoke tasks like php editing or handling your customer service, look for an assistant listing the specific tasks in their bio and discuss your project with them.

Plans and Pricing

It’s free to post jobs on their job board, but that’s almost entirely useless, since you won’t be able to contact the applicants until you pay. I guess the advantage is you can see if your job listing attracts any candidates before you plunk down the cash to be able to communicate with them.

There is a monthly fee of $39.99 to enable you to connect with their assistants, and then once you make your hiring decision, you’ll pay your assistant directly based on the salary you agree on. 

At press time, that $40 monthly fee had been slashed to just $10 though.

VirtualStaff.ph Alternatives

Like I mentioned, the primary competitor to Virtual Staff is OnlineJobs.ph. They charge $49 a month to access their job board and communicate with candidates, but I think you’ll find a much broader talent pool there.

If the direct hire model is a little intimidating, you might consider a managed VA solution, with companies like TaskBullet or VA Staffer

Your Turn

Have you worked with VirtualStaff.ph? If so, please leave a review below to help others with their decision.

Read More

Cloudstaff

Cloudstaff have been in business since 2005 and provides virtual assistants to businesses and entrepreneurs across Australia, UK, USA, China, and are soon expanding to cover the Middle East.

They have several offices in the Philippines and manage their assistants in-house. Their headquarters is in Pampanga, Clark, and they have offices in the business districts of Makati, and Ortigas.

About Cloudstaff

The company was founded by Australian entrepreneur Lloyd Ernst. Originally, Cloudstaff was a tech company and they still cite tech and being their strongest area. However, they work with businesses from all industries.

In an industry that has a high staff turnover and sees a lot of companies come and go, Cloudstaff says they have a monthly staff turnover rate of just 1%. That’s a vote of confidence if you want to build a long-lasting relationship with your VA.

They provide virtual assistants to entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes. Their mission statement best explains their goal:

“We help businesses be more efficient by providing the resources to do the time-consuming, repetitive tasks that stop your core staff from focusing on the things that are really important.”

Being based in the Philippines this also means they are able to offer competitive rates.

Services

When signing up with Cloudstaff one of their team members will communicate with you to fully understand your requirements and find the best suited virtual assistant to assign to you.

You are also assigned a dedicated account manager to communicate with if you have any questions, problems, etc.

They have some good tools to help keep you informed on how your assistant is progressing. There is a communicator app that allows you to view screenshots of your assistant’s PC, you can request daily updates, and the set performance KPIs.

You can expect support for all just about any remote tasks you are looking to outsource. However, to give you an idea of their assistants’ skillsets, they group their services into the following:

  • Accounting and finance
  • Back office
  • Creative and marketing
  • Customer service
  • Development
  • Engineering and drafting
  • Software QA
  • Technical support

Plans and Pricing

Cloudstaff do not have any monthly plans or hourly rates. To work with them you need to tell them about the tasks you want to outsource and what you’re expecting from their assistants and they will provide a custom quote.

When I pressed them for an idea of what clients can expect to pay, they said, “Prices can range depending on skills and experience needed, so maybe around $1,300 to $3,000 per month.”

They also added that there is a, “One month advance deposit, plus one month (refundable) security deposit, and a one-time setup fee of $760.”

Cloudstaff Alternatives

There is no shortage of virtual assistant companies operating out of the Philippines. It’s always wise to get a quote from more than one company and check out some reviews from clients.

If you’re attracted by a more transparent hourly or monthly pricing model then check out OnlineJobs.ph or TaskBullet, two highly rated VA companies also based in the Philippines.

Your Turn

Have you worked with Cloudstaff? If so, please leave a review below to help others with their decision.

Read More

Smith.ai

Smith is virtual call answering service for small business and individuals. They answer your inbound calls, take messages, arrange appointments, and more, so you don’t have to.

The company was founded in 2015, their headquarters are in Palo Alto, CA, and their team is spread across the US.

About Smith

The company was founded by Aaron Lee and Justin Maxwell. Aaron is a former CTO at The Home Depot and one of the founding engineers on Google Video and led YouTube monetization.

Justin was the design lead for Google’s Android Auto, and has designed products for Apple, Mint, Sony, and plenty of other startups.

They started Smith because they are passionate about helping small businesses and startups. Justin said they had the idea for Smith, “After repeatedly hearing that existing options simply weren’t what our customers wanted.”

Where Smith separates themselves from a lot of the other virtual receptionist services is in their billing. They charge per-call, not per-minute.

Virtual Assistant Assistant Exclusive: Use code VAA at signup to get $25 off your first month!

This model will offer greater value to businesses that receive fewer calls with longer duration. Don’t worry about spam or unwanted calls either, these do not count towards your monthly quota of calls.

Services

Their receptionists handle just about anything they can from the end of a phone line. Most commonly their services include:

  • Call answering
  • Taking bookings and scheduling appointments
  • Live call transferring
  • Delivering voicemails via SMS or email
  • Providing you with instant call summaries
  • Setting up custom voicemails
  • CRM integration with many popular CRMs
  • Spanish speaking callbacks
  • Zapier-parseable email format for Zapier integration
  • Call screening

Smith not only take inbound calls, they can make outbound calls on your behalf too. You can leave it to their receptionists to book appointments, return calls, find out information, or carry out cold calling.

Plans and Pricing

Smith charge per call, not per-minute like most virtual receptionist services. They currently have three monthly plans as follows:

  • Starter – $50 per month – 10 receptionist calls and 1 live transfer phone number.
  • Basic – $135 per month – 30 receptionist calls and 2 live transfer phone numbers.
  • Pro – $400 per month – 100 receptionist calls and 5 live transfer phone numbers.
  • Custom – If none of the above meets your needs they are open to putting together a custom plan if you contact them.

Virtual Assistant Assistant Exclusive: Use code VAA at signup to get $25 off your first month!

All of their packages also include:

  • US-based receptionists available during business hours of 9am to 9pm EST/ 6am to 6pm PST.
  • Daily and instant summaries of calls taken via text or email as and when you want it.
  • Live transfer of priority calls.
  • Voicemails transcribed and sent to you via email or SMS.
  • Spam and sales calls are blocked without charge.
  • Call screening and prioritization of calls.

They offer a free 30-day/10-call trial if you want to test their services. You can even keep your number if you decide not to continue with them.

Smith Alternatives

Ruby Receptionists and Vicky Virtual are two highly rated virtual receptionist companies worth seeking a quote from.

Like a lot of virtual receptionist companies, they both operate on a pay-per-minute model however, so your decision may be swayed depending on which model offers the most value to your business.

Your Turn

Have you worked with Smith? If so, please leave a review below to help others with their decision.

Read More

DesignPac

DesignPac is a graphic and web UI design company offering affordable monthly plans for all kinds of graphic design tasks and has been in business since 2016.

The company is based in Kathmandu, Nepal, and this is where their team of designers are based.

About DesignPac

Unlike a lot of the graphic design companies that operate on a crowdsourcing platform, Design Pac operates on a monthly membership model.

If you want to work with the same designer on an ongoing basis for larger design jobs like branding or graphics for your blog posts you’ll likely get better value from the monthly model.

With 24-48 hour turnaround on most of their plans Design Pac offers quick, affordable solutions to your graphic design needs.

Services

DesignPac’s designers specialize in graphic, printing, and user interface designs. All you need to do is provide as much detail as possible, and leave the designing to their designers.

You are matched up with a dedicated designer with all but their least expensive plan. You are also given access to a dashboard to keep an eye on the progress of your tasks and have an open line of communication with the designer.

There are four simple steps from ordering your designs to receiving the finished work.

  1. Send details of your design brief. The more detailed and descriptive you are the more accurately their designers can work to your vision.
  2. Once a designer has been chosen you’ll have access to a dashboard to see how your job is progressing and talk with the designer.
  3. When your job is finished and you’ve been sent the work you can request revisions if you want to make any changes.
  4. When you’re happy with your designs you choose the file formats and are sent the completed designs.

Plans and Pricing

Design Pac have four different monthly plans as follows:

  • Flexible – $99/month – 4 graphic design tasks, 3 revisions, 1 task at a time, 48-72 hrs turnaround time.
  • Starter – $199/month – Unlimited graphic design tasks, 5 revisions, 1 task at a time, 48 hrs turnaround time, dedicated designer.
  • Small Business – $399/month – Unlimited graphic design tasks, unlimited revisions, 1 task at a time, 24 hrs turnaround time, dedicated designer and account manager.
  • Agency – $699/month – Unlimited graphic design tasks, unlimited revisions, 2 tasks at a time, 48 hrs turnaround time, dedicated designer, account manager, web UI and mobile app UI designs.

DesignPac Alternatives

If you like the monthly plan model and require ongoing design work, you might consider UnicornGO or Design Pickle, which seems to be the market leader in this space.

DesignPac is one of (if not) the most affordable “unlimited” design service, especially to be assigned a dedicated designer, and the portfolio looks pretty good to me.

For one-off design projects on a smaller budget, there’s always Fiverr — where I’ve had hit and miss results. And if you’re curious to test out the crowdsourcing model, 99Designs and DesignCrowd are worth a look, but you’ll probably pay more than DesignPac’s monthly fee for just one design.

Your Turn

Have you worked with DesignPac? If so, please leave a review below to help others with their decision.

Read More

Tammy’s Office Solutions

Tammy’s Office Solutions is a virtual assistant company based just outside of Richmond, VA. Most of their virtual assistants are based in the US, with some across the border in Canada.

The company has been operating since 2008. They provide a wide range of virtual services and mostly work with small-to-medium-sized businesses.

About Tammy’s Office Solutions

The company was founded by Tammy Durden. After becoming disabled due to an illness in 2001 and finding it increasingly difficult to work outside of her home, Tammy started offering virtual assistant services from home.

It wasn’t long before she had a larger workload than she could manage on her own. Tammy started employing staff and Tammy’s Office Solutions was born as a company.

Being disabled herself, Tammy knows all too well how mobility can be an issue for the disabled community. That’s why she’s proud to help others in similar positions the opportunity to work from their homes.

She said, “Most of our team are either disabled themselves, or mothers of disabled children.”
Targeting small to medium-sized businesses and business owners, Tammy said they work especially well with coaches and speakers.

If you are spending too much time with the day-to-day tasks of your business and can’t find time to carry on growing your business Tammy has assistants on hand waiting for your call.

Services

Tammy’s Office Solutions group their services into the following areas to give you an idea of the kind of tasks they specialize in:

  • Bookkeeping – Bank reconciliations, expenses, monthly P&L’s, balance sheets, etc.
  • Digital Marketing – Social media marketing, branding, content creation, multimedia, etc.
  • General Virtual Assistant Services – Email management, website maintenance, preparing presentations, customer service, etc.
  • Writing Services – Website content, blogging, ad hoc writing, ebooks, etc.

When you sign up you will have a consultation with Tammy to discuss your requirements and find the best package and assistant for you to work with.

Plans and Pricing

There are 4-tier pricing plans for their bookkeeping, digital marketing, and virtual assistant services as follows:

  • Tammy’s bookkeeping plans start at $269/month for their Setup Package, and their Platinum package tops out at $459/month.
  • Their Digital Marketing packages start at $276/month and range up to $569/month.
  • General virtual assistant services start at $400 for 10 hours a month ($40 per hour). That rate drops to a $35/hour equivalent if you go to 40 hours a month ($1400/mo).

Pricing for the writing services are available on a project-by-project basis or you can task your general VA with content creation.

Tammy’s Office Solutions Alternatives

Some of the highest rated US-based virtual assistant companies worth checking out include BELAY and Worldwide 101, both of which also offer bookkeeping and marketing as part of their service packages.

If you have ongoing content writing needs, you might consider a specialized writing service like Copywriter Today.

When I asked Tammy what sets her company apart from the competition, she explained, “the ability to have all of your business needs met in one place, through one company, and talk to one person.”

Your Turn

Have you worked with Tammy’s Office Solutions? If so, please leave a review below to help others with their decision.

Read More

The “Small Pond” Virtual Assistant Hiring Strategy

A couple weeks ago I told you about my latest VA hire, and how for the first time I had to calculate the projected return on investment of the position in terms of more than just freeing up hours of my time.

I also mentioned that my hiring strategy for this role (a dedicated Pinterest marketing specialist) was a little different than what I’ve done in the past.

Normally I’m a fan of a “big ocean” strategy, one that allows you to cast a wide net and filter to the most qualified or best fit candidates.

But this time I tried the opposite: a “small pond” strategy.

The Small Pond Strategy

Because the skillset was so niche, I went directly to a friend of mine who teaches an online class on how to become a Pinterest VA.

Which is probably even niche-ier. But shows that it’s an in-demand skill.

I used her VA finder tool and got several applications back, all from people who I knew had invested in their business and were trained in this specific marketing strategy.

I first heard of this from another podcast host, who did something similar when looking for help in growing his Instagram account.

Instead of posting the job on Upwork or another “big ocean” freelance platform, he turned to someone who was teaching Instagram marketing to pull prospective hires from his list of “graduates.”

And for niche skills like this, I think it makes sense to go small and go directly to the source. In an ideal world, you can find someone who’s had the results you want to see and is training others in their system.

It won’t work 100% of the time, but is another way to narrow down your search and find pre-qualified candidates.

Have you ever done the same?

Put it in Action

If you wanted to replicate the “small pond” hiring strategy, you could start with a Google search for “[skillset] + training/course”.

For example I searched “bookkeeping training courses” and found some promising results:

For other searches, you’ll find blog reviews and podcast interviews that should lead you to the training instructors that can lead you to your job candidates.

Some popular online training platforms even have built-in job boards that are used both as a selling point for would-be students and for employers looking for specific roles in their business.

A well-known example in the blogging space is the Problogger Job Board, where you can find qualified writers who you know have at least been exposed to the Problogger style of blog writing.

You may have to pay a nominal fee to post your job to sites like these but the theory is you’re reaching a higher caliber candidate and making that needle a little easier to find in the global talent haystack.

Your Turn

What do you think? Could you use this method to source your next hire?

Let me know in the comments below.

Read More

How to Hire Thousands of VAs for $1

A friend of mine is really into investing. He’s always checking his portfolio and calculating his net worth.

What’s this have to do with outsourcing?

Well, it was actually something he told me:

“Investing lets me delegate all the hard work to millions of employees scattered across the world… and I don’t even need to hire a VA to manage them!”

Investing as Outsourcing?

I’d never really thought of investing in that light before, but it’s true. I invest in my own businesses, but I also invest in much larger companies through mutual funds, stocks, and lately a service called Betterment.

With each dollar I invest, I’m essentially “hiring” thousands of workers — and getting to share in the fruits of their labor.

Someone else is doing all the screening, interviewing, managing, strategizing, and executing, and yet these “outsourced” workers still historically return 7-10% to silent investors like me.

Put that way, it’s a pretty cool way to delegate.

Now of course those rewards usually aren’t as lucrative as investing in your own business (it may not be as risky either), but I wanted to share the concept of investing as outsourcing because I thought it was an interesting illustration of how delegation is all around us.

In practice, Betterment adds another automated layer of outsourcing in addition to the funds and companies it invests in on your behalf. It automatically allocates, rebalances, and tax-loss harvests your funds based on the goals you set, and charges a fraction of what a traditional financial advisor does. (For arguably better performance.)

I’ve been on the platform around 24 months and think it’s pretty slick so far.

Your Turn

Have you ever tried it (or another robo-advisor service)? Do you think of buying stock in a company as hiring a virtual assistant? I never did before, but I do now!

Read More

10/80/10 Outsourcing

No, no, it’s not just a “new” way of explaining the 80/20 rule.

I was listening to a podcast the other day (this one) and at the end of the episode the host explained his 10/80/10 framework for outsourcing.

How it Works

You’re in charge of the first 10% of the task or project, to lay the foundation and explain the requirements.

Then your virtual assistant or team takes over for the middle 80% and does the actual execution work necessary.

Finally, you’re back in the picture for the last 10%, to put any finishing touches on the project, do a quality check, and give it your stamp of approval.

I thought that was an elegant way to look at outsourcing relationships, and it’s a “system” you may already be using without even realizing it.

10/80/10 Outsourcing in Practice

For example, with research tasks, I’m outlining the objective and the structure (10%), handing it off (80%), and then reviewing the results (10%).

For design projects, I’m sharing my vision and the goals, handing it off to the creative designer, and then requesting any revisions necessary.

For my podcast, I’m recording the raw audio and making editing notes in a Word doc. Then I share the raw audio file with the podcast editor who cleans it all up. Next, I add in the intro and outro and take my final pass through the file.

If something is missing or there’s not enough detail, I’ll use my review stage for quality control and ask the assistant to dig a little deeper.

Your Turn

I think this framework is useful for a variety of tasks and projects, and I’ve already started thinking about how I apply it to graphic design, data entry, and content writing applications.

In a way, it makes delegation a little less scary, because you’re not putting 100% of the project in someone else’s hands — you’re still setting the course and you’re still responsible for takeoff and landing.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.​​​​​​​

Read More

Calculating ROO: Return on Outsourcing

When I was making my first virtual hires, I saw it as a cost.

Since I was doing everything myself up to that point, it was just an additional expense.

Well it didn’t take long to realize that hiring a VA shouldn’t be a cost at all, but rather an investment. 

And like any investment, you’d expect to earn a positive return — otherwise you wouldn’t make it!

Calculating ROI

For my latest hire, a dedicated social media specialist, I had to sit down and calculate the projected return on investment (ROI) of bringing her on board.

Did it make sense? What kind of results would she have to drive in order to turn a profit on her fee?

To do this, I found the baseline numbers of what we were generating in terms of traffic, email sign-ups, and revenue. Some business owners know exactly how much a new email subscriber is worth — but I’m not one of them.

It was an interesting exercise to try and find out though, and the number I ended up with was around $0.25 per subscriber per month.

So if I were to hire a $500 a month VA, I’d need their efforts to generate at least 2000 incremental email subscribers just to breakeven.

Surprisingly — or perhaps not — it was the first time I ever tried to estimate such a number in advance of a VA hire.

(Historically it’s always been about how many hours it will free up.)

Have you ever done the same?

The Time Equation

Normally calculating ROO, or return on outsourcing, has been about the number of hours I can free up every week or every month. If you value your time at $50 an hour and can free up 5 hours a week, it makes sense to pay up to $250 a week for that help, right?

That’s how I’ve typically looked at the “returns” on my virtual assistants, and even how I present the savings opportunity in my book. And that’s because the alternative was doing the work myself.

Measuring Performance

In this case, it was work I didn’t particularly know how to do. What it forced me to do was come up with concrete deliverables (ie. double traffic from this social platform).

It also forced me for the first time to ask what that traffic was worth.

And at first glance, the numbers didn’t look good. It was going to be hard to justify this hire at her proposed rate because the necessary results for a positive return seemed pretty unrealistic.

So instead we set up a short-term compromise. Instead of agreeing to a flat monthly fee on an ongoing basis, we agreed to do a 2-month trial — calling it a Pinterest account “makeover” — at a slightly lower rate.

So far she’s driving strong results​​​​​​​, though we’re not quite to the “breakeven” point yet. After the trial is over, we’ll re-evaluate and see if it makes sense to continue down this path.​​​​​​​

Your Turn

What do you think? Do you have a number in your head for what would constitute an outsourcing “win” in terms of ROI (or ROO)?

Do your team members have a concrete metric they’re responsible for?

Read More

Horkey HandBook Virtual Assistant Finder

The Horkey HandBook Virtual Assistant Finder is a VA recruiting service by Gina Horkey. A professional VA and freelancer writer herself, she began training others to become virtual assistants as well.

The VA Finder tool came about as a way for her to connect her “graduates” with clients in need of their services.

About Virtual Assistant Finder

Gina launched the Virtual Assistant Finder in late 2016 and has already helped place dozens of qualified VAs with clients around the world (though predominantly in North America).

Because the service, like Gina’s VA training in general, is relatively new, you might find candidates don’t have years of experience under their belt just yet. Though I imagine that will change as time goes by and her business grows.

How it Works

How it works is you fill in a form describing your business and the role you envision for your assistant. When I tested the service for a recent hire, it asked if I’d ever worked with a VA before, how many hours a week I projected this role to be, my expected budget, and the skills and qualities I was looking for in an ideal candidate.

Once you submit your payment (a one-time fee) and your information, Gina shares the opportunity with her network of vetted VAs and they’ll pitch you directly.

I ended up getting 4 or 5 responses, interviewed 2 candidates, and hired one. From what I could tell, the candidates included mostly work from home moms.

Services

Gina’s VA grads are primarily based in the US and Canada, and are trained in social media, administrative tasks, and generally what it’s like to work with clients remotely. She has dedicated classes on becoming a freelance writer and on becoming a Pinterest VA, which is actually the role I was hiring for.

One advantage that I see is that each person in Gina’s talent pool has made a proactive investment in their business.

If you’re looking for someone with that kind of specialist training, I think it’s a pretty compelling value proposition, especially at the current price point.

Plans and Pricing

The recruiting service is a one-time flat fee of $47 (at press time), which is significantly less than other VA recruiting services like Virtual Staff Finder or Assistant Match.

After you make your hiring decision, you’ll pay your VA directly. (Mine invoiced me through PayPal.)

The interesting thing — and I liked this — was neither candidate I interviewed quoted me in terms of an hourly rate. Instead they offered package pricing based on what I was looking for.

That made it an easier decision because in this case I was trying to buy a result, not someone’s time. I don’t care how long it takes for them to get it done!

The Virtual Assistant Finder service comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, and actually my VA offered that as well if I wasn’t satisfied with her work.

I don’t think I’ll have to invoke it — so far she’s delivering great results!

Horkey HandBook Virtual Assistant Finder Alternatives

At the end of the day, you’re still getting a freelancer, and you’ll certainly be able to cast a wider net on a global platform like Upwork.

What I think sets VA Finder apart is it’s just a more selective candidate pool to draw from. You know each person who sees your job posting has gone through a specific training and made an investment in their education.

Aside from the recruiting services mentioned above, your other options are to try a specialist writing service like Copywriter Today, or to go with one of the larger VA companies like Time Etc.

Your Turn

Have you tried Gina’s Virtual Assistant Finder? If so, please leave a review below to help others with their decision.

Read More