General Admin VA

Leverage your time (and money) with a Virtual Assistant working in our Australian run office in the Philippines.

If you've read Tim Ferriss's "The 4 hour work-week" or have tried hiring an online personal assistant (VA) before, then you've probably come across of some of the challenges I have.

When I finished reading The 4-hour work week, sometime back in 2006/7 - I thought "you beauty, this is it!" I can leverage my time with online help that won't break my budget as a new startup company.

My first step was to email the Indian outsource companies mentioned in the book (Brickwork I believe) only to find their quoted hourly rates were not much better than what my own country's rates were. Hmmm...so much for that idea then.

Next I was introduced to Odesk, Rent-a-coder and e-lance. Whilst I did have some success there, I also wasted and lost money hiring contractors that never delivered what was promised. If you want to go down that path I have a few tips below...

No matter what program I tried though, I found the general rule to be as follows:

Assuming you adhere to a very good (strict) interview process, your success rate will be somewhere along these lines:

For every 10 virtual assistants you try / hire:

  • One will turn out to be excellent. You'll probably end up keeping him or her for as long as you have active projects.
  • Four will get the job done eventually, but you'll look back and wonder if you could have saved a lot of bother by just doing the task yourself.
  • Three will be terrible. Despite saying all the right things in the interview process, they bombed out.
  • Two will never even start the project - after you've awarded it to them.

Now if you don't adhere to a strict interview process, then your figures are going to be even worse. Take it from me, even 6 months ago, as I write this now, I lost money by giving an initial payment to "get started" on two Odesk projects. Once I had sent the 20% initial payment I never heard from them again.

I don't write this as sales fluff - trust that I am speaking to you from personal experience when it comes to hiring virtual assistants. It can be very rewarding when you find the right person, but it can equally (or even more so) a major headache. As a small business owner, the last thing I have is more time to clean up someone's mess.

So born from this frustration, I am really excited to offer you what we call a "Delonix Teams" service. Westerner owned and run physical office in the Philippines.

How this differs from the "normal" VA process is that instead of you hiring someone that works from home, your employee will report to our office during normal business hours.

Why the Philippines?

Of all the countries you may consider hiring a virtual assistant, in my experience, the Philippines offers these positive factors:

  • The Philippines is the 3rd largest English speaking country in Asia
  • Filipinos are more fluent in English than Indians or Chinese
  • Filipino workers are usually loyal, trustworthy and hard working
  • Filipinos have had a large influence from the US and thus can understand (and implement) your instructions
  • There is a huge pool of very talented, skilled staff in the Philippines

This was why I expanded my business by setting up an IT office in the Philippines.

What are the downsides to hiring a Filipino virtual assistant?

I doubt you will find many companies freely admitting the negatives, but in the interest of being open and fair, there are a few challenges I've come up against when working with Filipino virtual assistants:

  • Many residential areas of the Philippines has issues with electricity - known as "brown outs". These can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. If your Filipino VA is living and working from home in an area that sees frequent brown-outs, this affects their work and thus becomes a frequent excuse.
  • The Philippines Internet infrastructure is MANY years behind most western countries. Whilst we enjoy speeds of 100MBps or more, the fastest you will get Internet connection in most residential areas is "up to" 10MBps and the cost for this far more than 99% of Filipino VA's can afford. In fact you'll find most work-from-home Filipinos have an (up to) 1MBps or 2MBps connection. This means your Skype / VoIP calls with them are always dropping out.
  • The Philippines experiences many Typhoons from June to December each year during their "rainy season". These cause widespread damage and can knock out the power / Internet connection for days.

So in order to address all these issues, I've set up a physcial office in a Philippine Capital City known as Cebu. Our staff come to work every day just like a normal office. The building has backup power generators, and we have 5 separate Internet connection lines, inlcuding two fibre-optic lines.

An office manager & HR person keeps track of all the staff, there's IT tech support on hand, and a wealth of training videos and whitepapers I've accumulated over the last 8 years of Internet Marketing. With this infrastructure in place, we can now offer you many types of outsourced staff with a low recruitment fee, and even lower hourly rates.

To the left is an actual photo of our office in the Philippines.

Your VA will have their own dedicated work station, Windows PC, Internet connection, VoIP available if you need them to make or receive calls, and best of all - if you ever have any issues communicating an idea or problem, you can always escalate your concern to another "westerner" working alongside the team.

So how does the whole process work?

  1. First we'll discuss your specific requirements, to get as much info on what you need, and what skillsets they require.
  2. Next, we go through your requirements and use this to create an eye-catching job ad for several online job sites and for the local newspaper.
    As applications come in, we’ll screen out resumes that do not warrant an interview (do not possess the required skills or qualifications, not enough experience etc). We also look at factors such as distance from our office, length of time spent at previous employers, and other reasons specific the (different) culture of the Philippines.
  3. For any resumes we feel worthy of an interview, we’ll get the candidate on the phone and have a brief chat to hear their phone manor.
    If they speak well on the phone, we’ll invite them to the office for an interview.
  4. On their arrival we’ll hold another brief chat, to assess their English proficiency face to face - particularly looking for their spontaneity in conversation while speaking in English.All Filipinos can speak English, however excellent English speaking (and grammar) comes with call-centre experience (and possibly over-seas work experience).If they pass, they will then take our written examination (typing / grammar test and essay) to ensure they are suitable for us to recommend to you as our client. If they pass all the exams, we’ll then sit down with them and conduct a more detailed verbal interview, to get more of an insight into their attitude and skillset. Typically we’ll screen the resumes down to around 6-10 interviews and then present our pick of the top 3 candidates for you to have the final phone or Skype interview (if you so choose)
  5. From there, we'll shorlist the top 3 that we believe best suit the position. You have the option of conducting a skype video interview with all 3 candidates and choosing your VA, or you can leave the final decision to us if you don't have the time.
  6. From there, your Virtual Assistant will commence working for you (and only you) using our infrastructure / facilities and under our watchful eye of our managers. We can manage their Internet firewall rules - giving them access to the sites you need, and blocking the ones you don't.

We can assist you with extra training (if required) or even delegate them with tasks on your behalf (based on your initial consult). We can offer you as much, or as little assistance as you need.

The most important part of our service is we ensure your VA is actually working for you! They turn up to work each day, and are reprimanded if they're late, and rewarded if they have perfect attendance (and punctuality) each month. When you hire a virtual assistant through us, you will get a monthly report on their hours, and you'll know they are actually working for you and not sitting on Facebook all day.

"But I can take screen shots of their work" - Yep, I used to do this too when I first started hiring VA's. It's not too bad when you only have one part-time VA. But I'll be honest, as a busy small business owner, the last thing I want to do at 5pm is go through and check 8 hours of screen shots from my VA. And I've had up to 8 VA's working for me at any one time. And trying to check screenshots of 8 workers...nope, that's got knobs on it. For me, I just didnt have time to do that, I even considered hiring someone just to check screenshots and make sure the others were working!!

So forget that - you can be rest assured, your VA will be working 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week for you and not sitting on Facebook all day, or looking after their children (or whatever else work-from-home VA's can do)

We can even give you acceess to our CCTV stream online. Yep, we're a real, normal office!

Why "Delonix Teams" beats a "work-from-home" VA every time...

  • You can speak with another "westerner" here that will understand your instructions, and can coach your VA if needed - GOLD!
  • We ensure your staff are arriving to work on-time, and are working for you – they are not browsing Facebook all day, or worse still, working at home for another client when they should be working for you.
  • Work from home VA's are easily distracted by their parents and children. Unfortunately many Filipinos (especially the parents) still don't see work from home jobs as a "real job" and they ask their kids (your VA) to do things when they should be working for you. I know this because I've seen it time and time again, having lived here since December 2011.
  • None of this “waiting for half a day for email replies”…we are working full time in a physical office during office hours, and are available immediately on Skype or phone.
  • Work-from-home VA’s tend to have a habit of doing well for a few months, then start to drop off the radar and you don’t hear from them for days at a time. This is often because they've started working for someone else at the same time as you.
  • Work from home Filipinos blame power-outages (called “brown-outs”) and Internet connection problems for disruptions to their work. Our building has back-up power generators, and FIVE separate Internet connection lines, including two fibre optic lines.
  • Whilst we can't control the weather, being based in Cebu, we avoid most of the Typhoons affecting cities like Manila.

What other benefits are there?

  1. The office is managed by an Australian who has run his own business since 2002, and has been an online marketer since 2006.
  2. Escalation - having a communication issue? Escalate your problem to our HR manager or client liaison
  3. Training - we have a huge library of video training / courses on things from Social Media Marketing to Search Engine Optimisation
  4. We build a strong team environment, making coming to work enjoyable for our staff, so they will stay working for you longer, and happier.
  5. We pay your staff their government entitlements, their tax and added health insurance
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