Welcome to my ultimate guide to outsourcing. I wanted to provide something for my fellow food bloggers that you could use as your resource for either right now, or for when you decide the time is right for outsourcing.
Someone asked me when I first outsourced and I am struggling to remember the exact date as it was that long ago. It was sometime in early 2009 and it was when I first discovered Odesk. Before that I had a child slave. Otherwise known as my then 7 year old that was very good at basic data entry. It was amazing to have someone that you could pay in ice cream and burgers to follow people for you on Twitter!!!!
But the moment I did first outsource for the first time I realised what an amazing thing it was. You realise as an online business owner how time consuming certain parts of your business has become. That time spent following people on Twitter, Instagram or even Pinterest can take over your life. Then there is the time spent on designing your own infographics for Pinterest or those time consuming data entry jobs.
The first thing with outsourcing is that you have suddenly freed up your time, to actually achieve something with your day. Think of it like this…..you’re a full time food blogger and you dedicate 3 hours a day to basic social media before you can go off and do some food blogging. But what if you could reduce that to half an hour and then you were straight on with your content? You might actually end up with some time to promote your content, build new income streams or even expand your traffic.
Then you think about the cost and as your food blog is only making you $500 a month you give it up as a bad job. But with countries like the Philippines where you can get quality staff for less than $2 an hour you suddenly have a world of possibilities.
Hiring From The Philippines & Morals
Okay so I had a few complaints when I mentioned on Facebook that I could hire from the Philippines for such a little rate. The thing is I have hired Filipinos for the best part of seven years and no one has ever complained about the rate or where I am hiring them from. So I was quite surprised to see that there was ever an issue with it.
The funny thing is I woke up to these comments the morning after watching one of my favourite TV shows. It was Undercover Boss UK. It was based around Stenaline which is a British Ferryline that transports people to Ireland, France and Holland. Its offices are in Sweden though they spend most of their time in UK waters.
Their entire cleaning team for the cabins are Filipinos and are paid $4.50 an hour (about 40% of the UK minimum wage). They work 7 days a week, 11 hours a day and work 6 months on and 2 months off. Many are away from their families and they find it very difficult to cope, but they do an amazing job.
I thought the hours were very long and that they should at least do a six day week but I wasn’t offended by the wages and as Dominic shouted at the television when we were watching it….”it was good business sense”. When every other similar company is doing it, if you are to compete on prices and business growth then you need to do it too.
If they did the same job in the Philippines they would earn about 75% less and they would of course get Sundays off but they wouldn’t get a fully paid 2 month holiday in between contracts.
Many would comment about what about work for the Brits? Well there are plenty of other jobs available for them and the cleaning staff is the only sign of foreign workers. I also grew up in England and many are too snobby to even consider working as a cleaner.
Then you compare the rates in the Philippines to those in the USA. I have worked with people in the US. The average rate would be $20-$30 an hour and I have never come across so many unreliable workers. It was like they didn’t want the work. They would always be late to meetings, leave in the middle of meetings, work would be sent in late and then they would quit and wouldn’t actually bother to tell you!
But if you are a start up company then having a full time VA from the Philippines is a must and for a full timer you can expect to pay about $60 (above their minimum wage) a week compared to $800 for an American.
The other thing is that you can change a Filipinos life. It’s not a job to them it is a life changer. It is like an American getting a basic online computer job and being paid that of an office manager. I had one couple working for me a few years ago and they were really struggling financially.
At the time the average rate was $0.50 an hour for jobs online (I am not kidding) and we paid them $2 an hour each to manage sites for our clients and as a result they earned enough from us to be able to own their own house. They pointed out that they were the first ever in their family to be in a position to do this.
In general though you will find there is a lot of home based mums that want to earn a bit more money while being at home with the kids. Also because transport is so expensive over there by offering $1 an hour it is like them earning $2 an hour working in the city.
The one moral I feel you should have is this – when you post jobs looking for staff many will go much lower than they want to be paid to secure the job as they are that desperate. I have recently seen people apply that offer to work for $0.30 an hour. You have to make sure you give them a decent rate as no one should live off this.
And for a final note about morals I have been on the other side and been the freelancer working on Odesk. But there are enough jobs on there for everyone. I would of course never try to compete with a Filipino and the rates they can offer. But at the same time there are a lot of skilled jobs that they can’t do that you can. My rate on Odesk was $50PH and I always had at least 6 jobs in progress at any one time.
What To Hire For?
There is always a big question over what you should hire for. Some people get engrossed in the idea of having someone working for them that they forget to make it count. They are too busy with the ego boost of being the boss!!!
Once you have finished getting excited here are a few suggestions for food bloggers of what to hire for:
- Basic social media
- Basic admin tasks
- Analysing your traffic
- Posting to social media groups
- Sharing your recipes on recipe sharing sites
- Getting advertising leads
- Contacting brands for products
- Blog outreach and connecting with fellow bloggers
It is also a good idea to hire a graphics designer. You would follow the same hiring rules but pay a little extra. $2-$3 per hour is a good rate for this. They can then do your ecovers, blog graphics, social media graphics etc.
I reckon we should always start a food blog with a virtual assistant that way they can help you get your food blog moving much quicker and then you can concentrate on your content. I find that as long as you don’t outsource yourself then you are good. By yourself I mean don’t let your site quality go down by losing your personality so the recipes should never be outsourced and you should always answer your own emails and social media questions.
The Job Opening
The first thing you need to do is create a job opening on a job site of your choice. I have always got the best staff from Odesk (now called Upwork) and have always had a love/hate relationship with them. Maybe this is because I have worked as a freelancer and an employer that I can see both sides of them and how unreliable they are. So I choose to find virtual assistants via Upwork and then hire them outside of Upwork. This is of course against the terms and conditions, but in my mind it is a risk worth taking.
So once you have an account set up (either with Upwork or with a similar place) you need a job template.
Here is an example of mine:
The important points to cover in a job opening are:
- Minimum hours
- Rate of pay
- What skills are required
- What experience is needed
- How they will be interviewed
- What they have to quote
Beware though you will get a lot of spammers when you post a job opening on there. It is famous for it. I would say that out of one job opening you could find 45% could be spam applications. That’s why it is so important that they have a word or phrase to quote at the start of their cover letter so that you know they have read it in full.
So the first thing I do is archive those that are not appropriate:
I will remove all those that are not from the Philippines – I am looking for Filipinos and I am paying based on their minimum wage so I am going to focus on this area only.
Any that have not quoted me – this is important as this is your chance to get rid of the spammers.
Then get rid of the passport photos – It has become common place that agencies with poor quality staff use fake passport pictures for photos that they have found on the internet and is not really them. This is like the advanced spammer and often belongs to agencies where they want to increase the limit of jobs they can apply for so they will open fake upwork accounts.
Once I have got rid of the ones mentioned above I will probably have about 50 applicants.
Then I go through what is left and read their cover letters and select the first 10 for interview. You will find that 1 in 5 will be worth hiring so if you need 1 member of staff interview 5 as a minimum requirement.
And then I would simply invite them for interview at a specified date. Remember the timer difference and aim for their evening when if they have a full time job they will be home for. For example I do 2pm my time which is 10pm in the Philippines.
I interview 5-10 people at once. This may seem extreme especially if you have not done it before. But I have a system, I have questions pre-written and I am fast. Plus then if people are late or if people don’t turn up you can then still have some people there.
But if this is your first time you may prefer to do it with just one.
Here are a few things I suggest you cover in the interview:
- Ask them about their experience
- Discuss their qualities
- Ask them about their life experiences
- Tell them about your company
- Ask them about how experienced they are with the programmes you expect them to use
- Tell them about the rate of pay
- Explain to them what will be expected of them
If you plan to hire them you can finish off by getting all their contact details, a start date for training, telling them when they will be getting paid and asking them if they have any questions.
An interview from start to finish should take about an hour.
I also recommend that you copy and paste your questions into Word and then when you are hiring in the future you already have the questions pre-written and then it is easy for you in the future.
Your Virtual Assistant
You now have your own virtual assistant. Remember to treat them like they are gold. This is something that I learnt from my Grandad. He worked in management in drinks factories up until his retirement in the late 90’s. He looked after his staff and unlike other factories that had a six month turnaround on staff, many of his had been employed for more than a decade.
The process of hiring a virtual assistant can be rather time consuming so if you treat them right then they will stay with you for years. You want this. You want them to feel wanted and for you to be nice to them.
The one thing that my VAs say to me is how badly they have been treated in the past and how they feel like one of the maids in the movie The Help and in my opinion this should never happen.
A good VA will stay with you in the long term and that is what you want. Apart from new hires I have made for Recipe This all my assistants have worked for me for over 2 years.
I also say the best ones to have are those with a lack of experience in internet marketing as you can train them up. If someone is internet savvy, knows how to send an email and is good with Excel then you have a great candidate.
I also train them up in one job at a time, that way they can get used to it before you give them more duties.
As you build up a team some of it will be trial and error. You will soon learn the ropes about being the boss and you will find that your time will be freed up in the long term for you to increase and build your online business. Outsourcing is important if you want to grow your online business and even though it can be scary at first it will be worth it in the long term.