Remote work and outsourcing are two sides of the same coin. As more and more people embrace working from home and struggle to maintain the boundaries between their personal and professional lives, delegating some of one’s daily tasks won’t just be normal. It will be downright necessary.
Enter the virtual assistant or VA. They can handle a wide variety of tasks, from the usual administrative ones like organising your calendar and schedule, replying to your emails, or booking your flights and accommodations, to more specialised tasks like managing your social media accounts, designing and maintaining your company website, and even looking after your books.
Best of all, the position is virtual, so you don’t need to be constrained by geographical borders. Simply put, you can hire the best VA for your needs and budget from ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
So, why not get one from the country that produces the highest number of experienced, talented, and hardworking VA’s? We’re talking about the Philippines, and here’s how you can go about it.
- Hiring Freelance Vs. Hiring Via A Virtual Assistant Company: Why You’re Better Off With The Latter And What To Look For
- What Services Can A VA Provide?
- How Much Do Virtual Assistants in the Philippines Cost?
- How to Assess VA Candidates
- Payment Methods.
- Pros and Cons of Outsourcing VAs
Hiring Freelance Vs. Hiring Via A Virtual Assistant Company: Why You’re Better Off With The Latter And What To Look For
It can be very tempting to hire a freelance VA. They’re cheaper, after all, and the cost is always a primary consideration for many SME’s who are trying to outsource some of their operations as they try to get their business off the ground.
However, the risks of hiring a freelancer can sometimes outweigh the cost savings by a mile. For instance, you will have to provide your own documentation. Employment contracts and NDA’s are crucial for your protection (and theirs), and in most cases, you’ll need to hire a lawyer to draft them for you so you can move forward with some peace of mind.
Secondly, it’s harder to keep tabs on freelancers. Sure, you can ask them to use time-tracking software, but they’re under no obligation to agree. Furthermore, freelancers who aren’t bound by a contract are free to leave at any time. Since their services are up for grabs for the highest bidder, they can leave you hanging the moment they get a better offer.
Lastly, having to plow through several freelancer candidates can be a time-consuming process. You would need to look through mountains of portfolios, ask for and examine work samples (that’s if they agree to provide these), and communicate with a candidate’s previous employers to confirm what’s written on their CVs.
In contrast, hiring a VA through a remote work agency can spare you from all these headaches. These agencies operate around providing their clients with the best possible remote talent, so they’re likely to have a rich talent pool ready the moment you come calling. They’re highly likely to be able to come up with a shortlist of viable candidates for you at the drop of a hat, so you won’t need to sift through a pile of resumes yourself.
Furthermore, remote work agencies have got the expertise and the hard-earned experience in facilitating remote working relationships. They don’t just have all the necessary and aforementioned legal paperwork in place, but they can also give you some great advice on how to avoid the usual pitfalls when hiring a VA for the first time, thus shortening your learning curve and helping you avoid costly mistakes.
Lastly, remote work agencies take all the guesswork out of compensating your VA’s properly. Since they’re immersed in the industry, they’re well aware of the going rates, so you can be sure that you are neither underpaying nor overpaying your VA.
So, let’s say you’ve decided to hire your VA via an agency. What things should you look for when choosing which agency to partner with?
If you’re a newbie to outsourcing, you would want to partner with an industry veteran to make the most out of your partnership. Outsourcing has a lot of benefits, but it’s not without its challenges, and you want a partner who’s already weathered those so they can help you avoid them.
Remote Staff, for instance, has had more than ten years of experience in actively scouting, recruiting, and onboarding top Filipino remote talent for its AU clients in various industries. You can bet that they’ve pretty much seen it all, and better yet, that they already have a system in place for ensuring that the working relationships between clients and VA’s run as smoothly as possible.
2. Existing infrastructure.
Apart from the paperwork involved (employment contracts, NDA’s, etc.), a good remote work agency should also have the tools and technology needed to facilitate a harmonious working relationship between their clients and their remote talent.
For example, ask if the agency monitors their remote workers on the client’s behalf. Remote Staff, for example, developed its own time-tracking software to monitor both the remote talent’s working progress and to ensure that they’re properly getting compensated for all the work they’re putting in.
Also, it helps if you won’t have to pay your VA yourself. It’s easy enough to wire money overseas, but the most reliable services for such can come with high processing costs, and again, there’s a bit of a learning curve involved if you’ve never done it before.
So, be sure to partner with a remote work agency that can take care of these concerns for you.
Remote Staff doesn’t just take care of payroll processing. They also handle deducting the proper taxes and government-mandated benefits for their Filipino VA’s – all so that their clients won’t have to.
And speaking of government-mandated benefits…
3. Proper compliance with the local government authorities.
The last thing you want is to be associated with an agency that illegally exploits its workers. The Philippines is notorious for having a lot of bureaucratic processes that can be a huge headache to comply with, so you need a partner company that can take care of these things on your behalf.
In Remote Staff’s case, the company is accredited by the appropriate governing bodies like PEZA and has all the necessary local permits to operate.
4. Favorable reviews from previous clients.
When shopping around for a remote work agency, it helps to ask for references. They can talk their services up all they want, but if you want the unvarnished truth, it’s best to get in touch with the very people who’ve already tried their services.
Were they happy with the VA’s they got? Are they still working with them? If not, why?
These questions will tell you everything you need to know, so don’t hesitate to follow through on those references.
5. A highly responsive customer service team.
Active and effective communication is key to any successful remote working relationship, and that includes the one you’ll have with your remote work agency of choice.
Pay close attention to how prompt they reply when you message them about your inquiries or concerns.
Do they get back to you within a reasonable period? Are the responses helpful and proactive? Is their customer service team able to address your concerns or questions to your satisfaction?
Some SMEs hesitate to partner with remote agencies because they’re worried about costs.
However, the rates of a freelancer VA and one from a remote agency aren’t actually that different, but as you can see, there’s a world of difference between the risks that come with each option. All you have to do is pick the right agency, and we’ve just shown you how.
What Services Can A VA Provide?
The term “virtual assistant” is actually an umbrella term for remote workers that perform a variety of functions. As with many professions, VA’s can fall into several sub-categories based on their skill sets:
1. Administrative Virtual Assistants.
What they do: These are the general virtual assistants, and they function like any executive assistant or secretary (except they can’t make you coffee). Common duties include managing your diary, scheduling appointments, maintaining a database, and handling your emails.
Some administrative virtual assistants even book plane tickets or hotel rooms – even from halfway around the world.
Great for: Business owners who need someone else to stay on top of things so they can focus on running their companies.
3. Virtual Bookkeepers.
What they do: Doing the books can be so tedious and time-consuming, but alas, it’s necessary. A virtual bookkeeper takes this task out of your hands.
These types of virtual assistants usually have a background in accounting, as well as proficiency in bookkeeping software. If you manage to hire a qualified and experienced one, they can handle your payroll processing and other financial areas of your business for you.
Great for: Entrepreneurs who would rather spend time getting more customers or improving their product line than balancing the books.
4. Research Assistants.
What they do: As the name suggests, these VA’s specialize in doing research for business. Whether it’s searching online for relevant statistics, connecting the dots, or laying out the resulting data in an easy-to-read format, they’ve got you covered.
Great for: Anyone who could use some help in identifying potential areas of growth for their business.
5. Customer Service Virtual Assistants.
What they do: Exactly as their title suggests, they manage customer communications. These may involve answering inquiries, troubleshooting concerns, and compiling data from customer responses.
Great for: Business owners who would like to give their customers extra attention without having to exert extra effort.
6. Community Managers.
What they do: Some businesses accumulate followings that are numerous enough to create an online community. The latter would then require someone to hang out there, just to answer questions and point people in the right direction. Some community managers also have the authority to kick unruly members out or to delete inappropriate posts as well.
Great for: Got an online community of loyal customers and/or prospective ones? Let a community manager keep an eye on them for you.
7. Digital Marketing Assistants.
What they do: These are like social media marketing assistants, except for your website. Thus, they’re skilled in SEO and overall digital marketing. Their updates can usually drive greater traffic to your website.
Great for: People who would like to rank higher on the search engine results list but don’t know how.
8. Real Estate Virtual Assistants.
What they do: Real estate VA’s handle both administrative and prospecting duties for their clients. Apart from managing schedules and appointments, they can also assist with prospecting, database management, and lead generation, among other things.
Great for: Real estate company owners who would like their businesses to run smoothly even as they devote more time to their clients.
How Much Do Virtual Assistants in the Philippines Cost?
The average monthly salary of a virtual assistant is AUD 500 – 600 for a 40-hour a week schedule. The more tasks are rolled into one role, the more expensive the virtual assistant’s compensation will be.
Here are three factors that affect virtual assistant services’ cost:
1. Scope of Work.
Prepare a list of what your VA will do daily, weekly, and monthly. Be clear about what you expect your VA to do for you and for your business.
Let’s take a look at the top administrative and creative virtual assistant services roles below:
Average Rate per hour: AUD 4 – 10 Average Rate per hour: AUD 5 – 10 Average Rate per hour: AUD 4 – 10 Average Rate per hour: AUD 4 – 10 Average Rate per hour: AUD 6 – 10 Real Estate VA Average Rate per hour: AUD 4 – 7 Average Rate per hour: AUD 6 – 15 A clearly defined scope of work will help you create a working budget. As a result, you will get dedicated professionals who have the skills you need at the moment. In this way, you can avoid communication breakdowns and keep your VA long-term because they had proper expectations about the role. When your current state changes, then, you can look back at your initial plan and talk to your VA about how you can “grow” together.
Role / Salary Range Sample Tasks Description Some Basic Qualifications Social Media Marketing VA Content Writer VA
Average Rate per hour:
AUD 4 – 10
Average Rate per hour:
AUD 5 – 10
Average Rate per hour:
AUD 4 – 10
Average Rate per hour:
AUD 4 – 10
Average Rate per hour:
AUD 6 – 10
Real Estate VA
Average Rate per hour:
AUD 4 – 7
Average Rate per hour:
AUD 6 – 15
A clearly defined scope of work will help you create a working budget. As a result, you will get dedicated professionals who have the skills you need at the moment.
In this way, you can avoid communication breakdowns and keep your VA long-term because they had proper expectations about the role. When your current state changes, then, you can look back at your initial plan and talk to your VA about how you can “grow” together.
2. Identify and Outline the Skill Set Required.
Virtual assistance services evolve faster unlike any other because the businesses that demand these types of services follow trends.
The table below outlines the essential skills a virtual assistant should have in order to support their clients well. Most start as administrative support to executives and business owners and then grow into a specialized role where they can use all of their skills and talent.
As the relationship between you and your VA grows, so naturally you give them more tasks and responsibilities.
|Essential Skills||Special Skills||Uniquely Valued Skills|
|Executive Assistants|| || || |
|Technical VA||All the essential skills|| || |
|Customer Service VA||All the essential skills|| || |
|Content Writer VA||All the essential skills|| || |
3. Other Relevant and Recent Experience.
Each virtual assistant role needs to quickly adapt to the fast-paced execution of business strategies, that is why a virtual assistant takes advantage of this to do more for their clients.
The more they do, the more they learn.
As a result, clients can capitalize on their virtual assistant’s experience and craft a role where they can use their skills and add to them. On top of that, in the future, they can train, support, and manage the new team members on board.
You not only save time but you also save money for having the best virtual assistant match for your business.
How to Assess VA Candidates
1. Paper screening.
First, ask them for their most updated resume. The way a resume was prepared can give you hints on their written communication skills, presentation skills, and attention to detail.
Next, screen your applicants using the information on their CV. Check for how well the candidate can describe their past roles. If there are employment gaps in their resume, give them a chance during the interview to explain how they honed their skills during the gap.
Most people who took a break to take care of a sick family member or young children, were able to use or hone their skills informally through part-time jobs. Look for skills and lessons that they acquired during their employment break.
Lastly, check what they’ve accomplished. What were the seminars or training they attended, the certifications and awards if there are any. Pay attention to their description of their success in that role. Whenever possible, ask for their key performance indicators to gather facts instead of a self-assessment.
Interviews through a video call are the best way to meet your potential virtual assistant. There are non-verbal cues like micro-facial expressions and body language that sometimes tell you more than their verbal responses.
Use the interview to see how confident they are “face-to face” because some virtual assistant roles have client-facing elements – whether over the phone or through a video call. You need a VA who is not easily intimidated and carries themselves well.
Here are some guide questions to answer the top inquiries clients ask themselves during a hiring process:
How can I be sure that they can do the job well?
The goal is to uncover if they can do the task you would need your potential VA to do. Because by asking these questions, you also get to verify if you both understand what the job entails.
Sample questions include:
- Please describe the tools that you used to perform your job. Which of them did you find useful?
- Walk me through the tasks you did in the past when you were working as a [role].
- What would you say was the most difficult part of your job as a [role]?
- What are similar tasks you did in the past that you think will help you as a [role] now?
- How do you know that you did your job well?
Will we get along?
Personality clashes are normal at work. However, there are certain personality traits that thrive in certain roles. There are certain tasks some people enjoy.
The goal in asking these questions is to ascertain if you both can work through your cultural differences, strengths, and weaknesses.
Sample questions include:
- What are your hobbies?
- What do you do for fun?
- What are you most passionate about in life?
- When you’re angry or frustrated about something at work, what do you do to find your calm?
- When you encounter problems at work, what is the first thing that you do?
- How do you adapt to change?
How do I know our expectations about work are aligned?
The goal in asking these questions is to uncover their personal motivations and in return give you a glimpse of their engagement to your business goals.
In a perfect world, you would want to hire someone who sees your vision and mission as meaningful work and a worthy cause.
Sample questions include:
- What interests you about the job?
- What do you think are the most challenging parts of this job
- What do you hope to achieve in your personal and professional life?
- Given the chance and resources available, what would you like to improve/work on in your career?
Can I trust them?
Here, you’d want to know your potential VA’s values and work ethics. By asking these questions, you get a clear picture of who they are even when you’re not micromanaging them.
Sample questions include:
- What are your most important values?
- How do you practice those values in your work? In personal life?
- Can you describe a work problem you encountered that made you think of going against your values? How did you resolve it?
Interviews are useful to check if what the candidates say in their resumes are factual. In addition to interviews, you can also ask for a sample work submitted before you make a decision.
3. Sample works.
Sample works help you see your potential VA’s skills in action. You can sample a task or two so long as it doesn’t take more than two hours to complete.
Use dummy accounts for any mock call scenarios and never use actual pieces of information in your business.
|Executive Assistants|| |
|Customer Service VA|| |
|Content Writer VA|| |
The cost of turnover is three times the monthly salary of the person you lose. This cost includes the time you spent sourcing, interviewing, and training the person. What’s worse is that when they leave, you have to do the process of sourcing and hiring again and create a budget for their possible replacement.
At the end of the day, as an entrepreneur, you want trustworthy, determined, and highly skilled professionals to take care of your business. But did you know that paying your virtual assistants on time is a clear indication that they could trust you?
Most Filipino remote workers support their immediate and extended families and thus, having their wages sent on time is critical to building trust in a working relationship.
There are three ways you can send their compensation:
1. Direct to a bank
You will need your VA’s bank account number and swift code to set up your direct-to-bank payment transactions. Banks use swift codes to make sure that the money you want to transfer goes to the right bank account.
Some transfers may take up to 5 business days to be completed. Although once the swift codes are set up, the succeeding transactions may be easier. There may also be additional delays when local bank holidays shorten banking hours. This may result in further delays.
This is one of the most preferred ways to get paid because there are no fees to be collected from the VAs when they receive the payment. The bank fees are deducted from you, the sender.
Fund transfers via direct-to-bank method can no longer be edited, cancelled, or retrieved. There are no third parties involved in any disputes you may have.
2. Payment platforms
Global online payment platforms such as Paypal, Remitly, Transferwise pride themselves on the ease in sending money.
However, it is also important to consider how fast the money can actually be available for your VA to spend. Unlike in direct-to-bank transactions, there are fees deducted from you as a sender and some from the VAs upon withdrawal.
Transactions made through these payment channels usually have security features and fraud prevention measures in place.
Below are the common online payment platforms and their fees in different types of transactions:
|Cash Pick Up||Credit to Bank||Home Delivery||Money Wallet|
|Paypal||None||Takes 2-3 days||None||Yes, instantly|
|Wise (Formerly known as Transferiwse)||None||Takes 2 days||None||Yes, through bank transfer, credit, and debit card|
|Moneygram||Available in minutes||Available next day||None||None|
|Remitly||Takes 3-5 days||Takes 3-5 days||None||Yes|
|Azimo||Available in minutes||Available in minutes||Next Day Delivery||Yes, through credit or debit card only. Available in minutes|
Sources and references:
Beware of exchange rates and free or discounted fees for the first few transfers.
Be sure to read the fine print for transactions before you and your VA sign up.
3. Dedicated payroll system like Remote Staff
A dedicated payroll system is the most convenient way to send your VA’s wages because you save time in calculating, preparing, and sending them through payment channels.
One of the major disadvantages of doing your payroll alone for a foreign virtual assistant, there is a big disconnect from the time you send out the money to when your VA actually gets to spend their hard-earned money
Moreover, as your business and relationship grow, having a dedicated payroll system is more sustainable. You won’t have to keep in mind two countries’ bank holidays, your VAs wages, incentives, and payroll timelines.
Pros and Cons of Outsourcing VAs
There are plenty of benefits to outsourcing your VA’s, but it might not necessarily be for everyone either. As with anything else, you have to make sure that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages (or better still, that the disadvantages won’t apply to you and your company.)
That said, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of outsourcing your virtual assistant from the Philippines:
1. Lower costs.
This is perhaps the most significant advantage of hiring a virtual assistant from the Philippines. The cost of living here is so much lower compared to that in Western countries, and the exchange rate is in your favour.
Your Australian dollars will certainly go much further here, and you can hire an entire team of Filipino remote workers for the same amount you might spend on one local hire – yet still pay all of them a decent, livable wage. Talk about a win-win situation.
2. Asynchronous time zones.
Sure, this might make synchronous communication trickier, but it can also be advantageous. Depending on where you are in the world, a virtual assistant in the Philippines can help complement your work schedule by taking care of things while you’re sound asleep.
Furthermore, you can even gain an advantage over your competitors by offering 24-hour customer service, courtesy of your virtual assistants on the other side of the world.
It’s a lot easier to scale your business when you outsource your virtual assistant needs. You won’t need to do full-blown hiring or recruitment and neither will you have to hire someone full-time right away.
With virtual assistants, you can hire them on a project-based arrangement depending on your business needs, thus allowing you to cope with cyclical demands more efficiently.
4. Education and expertise.
Generally speaking, most virtual assistants in the Philippines are already equipped with a college degree as well as fluent English speaking skills. Communicating effectively won’t be a problem, and you can bet that the learning curve won’t be too steep either.
1. Asynchronous time zones.
Yes, this can also be a disadvantage. Not all Filipino remote workers are willing and/or able to work night shifts. Some will still prefer to work during the daylight hours.
Thus, if your time zone is several hours ahead or behind that of the Philippines,’ you might want to consider getting a virtual assistant from a country with a time zone that’s closer to yours. Either that or you persevere in finding a Filipino virtual assistant with the qualifications you need – and who’s willing to work nights.
2. Slower internet speeds and power outages.
The Philippines is situated in a geographical area that’s often buffeted by typhoons and other natural disasters. This can result in frequent power outages, depending on where your virtual assistants live. Obviously, power interruptions can interfere with your virtual assistant’s ability to do their job or even to get in touch with you about their situation.
The internet speed is also one of the slowest in the region, especially if your virtual assistant lives in a far-flung area. However, it should be noted that there are some better internet service providers emerging in the country and that some Filipino remote workers make it a point to have secondary backup connections in case their primary provider falters.
3. Trickier integration.
To be fair, this applies to remote workers in general, not just virtual assistants from the Philippines. Physical distances will always be an issue when it comes to integrating a distributed team. Building camaraderie within the team can thus be tricky.
On the other hand, technology can help a great deal in this case. Using instant messaging apps, video call software, and project management tools can help bridge the gap between your local team and your virtual staff, as is cultivating a culture of respect and trust.
Due to a largely non-confrontational culture, some Filipino virtual assistants suddenly up and leave without prior notice or any further communication. Sometimes, it might even be due to a general misunderstanding or confusion that they were too shy to speak up about or address.
Thus, it helps to cultivate frequent communication with your virtual assistants in the Philippines and to encourage them to ask questions whenever they feel the need to.
Virtual assistants from the Philippines have long been the secret weapon of many AU entrepreneurs and SME’s who have successfully scaled their businesses sustainably. As with many things worth doing, hiring, keeping, and working with Filipino VA’s comes with a considerable learning curve.
If you keep at it for long enough and do it right, however, the rewards are potentially endless, not just for your business but for your personal life too. Who wouldn’t want to have more time to do the things they like with the people they like, knowing that urgent and important matters at work are in good hands?
It also helps to partner with an experienced industry partner to minimise your learning curve, and to guide you through the trickiest aspects of working with Filipino virtual assistants. Remote Staff has been doing exactly that for countless AU SME’s for more than ten years. From arranging for your virtual staff’s payroll to providing constant support such as conflict resolution, you can bet we’ve got you covered.