If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.

– Simon Sinek

Do you have lots of time?

Probably not. Most likely, you’re probably busy as hell and time is a rare commodity for you. (But of course, you should take the time to read this awesome blog. *self pat on the head*).

This is where virtual assistants (i.e. outsourcing) comes in super handy.

Before I being on that topic…

Thanks to the wonderful world of governments printing money, average person’s buying power is dwindling by the minute.

It has some horrible side effects:

  • People take out more bad debt (i.e. credit cards, home refinances to finance their trips to Vegas, predatory pay day loans, etc.), which ultimately kills any real wealth
  • Both husband/wife have to work to maintain their lifestyle that their parents had in 50′s and 60′s with single income, which means less time with each other & family (and hence divorce and overweight kids with crazy mental problems who resort to eating fast food).
  • People are delaying marriages and women are delaying motherhood because of this perceived sense of lack of financial security. (Who would’ve ever imagined that taxation and government monetary policy were the ultimate solution to the exponential human population growth?)
  • People have to resort to government subsidies to supplement their life sustenance (food stamps, medicare/medicaid, social security benefits, etc.), which means greater or unfair taxes, greater struggle for middle class, more government bureaucracy, less freedom, and overall downward viral trend.

trickle-down

BUT.. it has some awesome advantages. Mainly that because most governments around the world are printing money too, but at different rates.

So if you’re an entrepreneur (i.e. opportunity seeker), this is a GREAT way to arbitrage that.

How is it that an excel monkey in US gets paid $25 per hour with benefits and even union protection, while someone doing the same amount of work at similar quality can do the same work for 1/5 that and with no benefits or security?

The intrinsic value of work is same, so why should the worker in US get paid 5x as much?

Who cares? I’m no social activist nor an economist, but at the same time, I accept the world as is.. and use that to my advantage.

I’ve hired people from odesk and elance on many occasions. I would say my experience has been hit or miss.

Why? No, it’s not because they suck.

It’s mostly because me (i.e. the “boss”) sucked at communicating what I wanted.

Remember, it’s their job to.. DO THE job, not read your mind.

Here are the lessons I learned through trial and error.

1) Be VERY VERY VERY specific about what and how.

As entrepreneurs and marketers in free country, we’re often left to our own device to figure stuff out.

If your job is to go from A to Z, it’s your job to figure out B to Y.

If you’re an entrepreneur, no one tells you how to get there. No one tells you the steps to get there. In fact, you will probably fail many many times.. even years.

With that mentality, you can never hire anyone and expect them to do what you do. Remember, employees aren’t you and will never be you. Especially from 6000 miles away.

One time I had a simple task: I gave a list of companies and I wanted them to find out a bunch of stuff, like website, email address or contact us page URL, phone number, whois email/phone, and linkedin URL of the management team. And size of the list was maybe 300.

Literally, that was the order. Not hard at all. I could probably hire a college kid in US to do it for $12/hr and in 2-3 days time.

My VA (virtual assistant)? She took 2 weeks, and delivered nothing.

Her comments were

  • what is linkedin?
  • what is “whois”?
  • I can’t open this CSV file. Do you have a Excel file?

My response?

funny-angry-dog

So the next re-post, I had to re-write the instruction this way

  1. Go to google. Search for “ABC Company”. Visit their website.
  2. Find out if they have a contat page. If there is an email address, put it into the spreadsheet.
  3. Go to LinkedIn.com. Do a search on “ABC company”. Look though and see if there are “CEOS”/”owner”/”director” level people on their. If so, click on it and put the URL into the spreadsheet.
  4. Go to whois.com. Search for the company URL. Get the contact information, including email/phone and put it into the spreadsheet.

Yes, i shit you not. Pretend that the person on the other end of the screen is actually a robot. Be as EXPLICIT as possible. Use “open browser” if you have to.

Guess what? The next time around, I got the job back in 2 days with complete perfection.

2) Avoid single point of failure.

Never EVER hire 1 person for a job that takes more than a couple of hours. Especially if you are hiring people you’ve never worked with before, or if the job is purely a “grind” (i.e. repeat the same boring stuff X times).

For “larger” projects, always split the job in X pieces and distribute…. AND have backups.

This is actually how torrent networks and P2P file sharing works. If one “producer” dies, than the whole job is screwed. So instead, spread the work among many workers.

Why?

multiple-cords-in-one-outlet

Things are BOUND to happen.

Some get “sick”. Some never respond. Some just forget. Some just quit because it’s too boring or it takes longer than expected.

Funny thing though… in these countries, people’s sick mom is probably the most excused reason for not completing their tasks.

And yes, have backups.

3) You get what you pay for, but you never know what you’ll get even if you pay 10x.

One time I had a similar “research the web” job to an older man in India, except it had 3x more columns and about 2x as many rows.

I didn’t know how long it would take, but i figured it would take couple of days.. maybe a week max.

Plus it was my first time so I didn’t know what people were willing to work for. So i had an “open bid” thing.

First bid from US, for $400. Umm, that’s high. Next.

A bid from Philllipines for $50. Woah… that’s crazy, 50, really?

Then bunch of other bids from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia… etc..

Literally it was 1/2 every time.

The older Indian gentleman bid $5. Yea, $5.

I wasn’t in a hurry so I hired him, and he actually delivered an AMAZING work… for $5 and in 2 days.

Did he automate? Probably. Do I care? No, not really.

Then another time, i had a much SIMPLER job (probably 1/10th the amount of work) that I hired out to a lady (i forget where). She offered $8 so I took it (i was in a hurry and she bid right away).

Work? Crap. She didn’t even understand what I was even asking for.

That’s the thing about these sites. Even with their “standard” tests and self reported evaluations, you can’t quite tell if they’re good unless you try them out. Just like online dating – your perception of their profiles often times don’t match the reality.

you-get-what-you-pay-for

4) Dealing with A-list players – Reward and Never Diversify

Some are just so damn amazing at what they do, that I wanna fly over to their country and kiss them.

1) Reward them

Interviews are painful because you have to transcribe them for SEO purposes.

I happen to hire a girl out of Jamaica who interviewed 2 interviews (one with Jeremy Shoemaker and one with Neil Patel) for less than $10 EACH.

Word count? One with Shoemaker was over 3k words…

And her job was amazing. Except for the parts where the audio was crappy, she pretty much nailed the job down to what I wanted.

I was SO happy with the job that i gave her bonus each time. In fact, I even added to my personal skype list.

2) They’re A-list in their game.. but doesn’t mean it translates over.

You wouldn’t expect Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, to be good at baseball, do you? (If you’re Michael Jordan, sorry for the below the belt punch. Hey, if it makes you feel any better, i bought a couple of your sneakers when i was in high school).

Same in outsourcing. Just because you’re great at transcription doesn’t mean you’re awesome at data entry.

If you have your favorites, give them the job that they were doing for you in the past.