There is no secret to the fact that we here at SEO Cheat Guides are huge supporters of freeing up your time from doing what we consider ‘work’ and delegating those tasks to a system of virtual assistants as a part of any cost effective scaling plan.
Today I wanted to post an interview I did with Steven Kang, someone who is well versed in the technical side of SEO and someone who can share his experience utilizing virtual assistants. Steven has been working in digital marketing since 1998 and has a lot of experience in the SEO realm amongst others.
Steven is also someone who has worked with many VA’s throughout his career and he has insightful tips on cost savings and efficiency. He has worked both as a programmer and as a marketer so he has a unique perspective on digital marketing and VA management.
He currently lives in Texas with his lovely wife who is a real estate agent in the Dallas Fort Worth area and is the owner of the Facebook Group – SEO Signals Lab and Web Savvy Marketer.
For those of you who want to shed your 9-5 job you can take your inspiration from Steven. He immigrated to the United States from South Korea when he was 10 years old and what started out as a web design hobby grew into a business that allowed him to pursue this new venture as a full-time profession where he has been ever since.
If you wonder why SEO Cheat Guides is so passionate about teaching people how to grow and scale it’s because we want to see more Steven’s out there!
Stuart Trier: Steven, will you share with our audience how do you currently find your virtual assistants?
Steven Kang: I used to find VAs via eLance, Guru, Fiverr, Craigslist, iWriter, and Freelancer. Since eLance no longer exists, I continue to use all the other services to find worthwhile assistants. I should note though that because I’ve been in this industry for a while I now have many regular VAs working for me and don’t have to perform as many cold searches any longer.
Stuart Trier: How do you interview potential hires?
Steven Kang: Years ago, I spent a lot of time interviewing them, and this ate up a lot of my time. One of the biggest challenges for any growing SEO agency is hiring quality writers. This was a huge headache for me as I needed lots of writers but didn’t want to spend a lot of time on interviews.
After years of trial and error, I was able to simplify the interview process by creating what I see as a dummy-proof video tutorial. This made the hiring process smooth since I can send a tutorial link and each VA can visually see what is expected.
Stuart Trier: That sounds a lot like what we do with the agency behind SEO Cheat Guides and what we’ve been trying to teach people as well. It is nice to hear that someone else is scaling with the same approach. Do you use any special software to create your tutorial?
Steven Kang: Not really. I take screenshots of each step required and create HTML pages. You can think of it as a simplified version of a PowerPoint presentation. There are plenty of screen capture software out there. You can also create a PDF. Just make sure the tutorial is easy to follow.
Stuart Trier: With many VA’s working for you at one time, how do you manage them all?
Steven Kang: Working with a couple of VAs I could easily manage through emails and Skype. When the number grew, I knew I was having a major issue because it was difficult to keep track of all their deliverables in an organized fashion. I realized I couldn’t scale without minimizing communications with them. I analyzed the conversations we were having and realized each VA was working on too many steps. The more steps I gave, the more mistakes resulted and led to VAs asking for help. This defeats the purpose of using them for assistance as I’m supposed to free up my time.
I then divided up each group of steps into smaller tasks, just like you’ve mentioned in your Blogs, and I have received much better results. The key is bite sized and cookie-cutter tasks.
For example, each writer spent too much time on deciding what to write and editing at the same time. This was creating a bottleneck. So, I separated writing and proofreading into different tasks.
I even went a step further for the proofreading tasks. Editors can simply pass or fail each sentence. This simple change increased the productivity tremendously. How much do you need to pay per pass or fail submit? Not a lot.
Stuart Trier: That’s great! The smaller bite-sized tasks seem to have helped immensely. With so many VA’s working on one project how do you ensure you keep a lower VA cost? What has worked for you?
Steven Kang: It’s hard to lower VA cost when you are paying by the hour. You can’t just ask them for a pay cut. You hope their productivity would increase over time and contribute to lower overall cost. This usually doesn’t happen since most expect a raise the longer you work with them. In my case, I was able to save in VA costs by compartmentalizing the tasks and paying them per piece task rather than hourly. The VAs now have an incentive to produce more per hour. Paying per piece task enabled me to formulate a benchmark for each task and allowed me to negotiate a bulk pricing with VAs. I was able to sleep at night since I didn’t have to worry about unnecessary breaks VAs might take.
Stuart Trier: Do you recommend converting all VA work into per piece task?
Steven Kang: Not every type of work can be turned into per piece task. You can, however, turn most jobs into per piece if you are creative.
Stuart Trier: You seem to require a lot of content and I assume it has to be coherent. Do you hire your writers from all English speaking countries or just native speakers?
Steven Kang: I used to hire writers from the U.S., India, and Philippines. I now only hire skilled writers from the U.S. due to nuance differences in the languages.
Stuart Trier: How do you pay VAs?
Steven Kang: I use various methods. I use PayPal, Pay Pal mass pay, and Western Union. For the VAs with PayPal issue in some countries, I use Western Union as I can send the fund anywhere in the world without complications.
Stuart Trier: Do you pay them upfront?
Steven Kang: I like half and half. Upwork makes it easy to use their escrow system. For others, I pay half upfront and half when the work is done.
Stuart Trier: How do you monitor the quality?
Steven Kang: Since you never know how each VA will work out, I make it clear to them there is an evaluation period for each task. If the negotiated project was for 10,000 proofreads, I tell them the evaluation will be for 100 pieces. This way, there is no misunderstanding and can prevent bad feelings.
Stuart Trier: What’s your criteria for leaving a review on freelancer sites?
Steven Kang: I am very generous with reviews. Most VAs have to hustle to land a project and I know it’s not easy working as a VA. Unless a VA is an obvious fraudster, I go out of my way to help the person. Review is their lifeblood.
Stuart Trier: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who depend on VAs?
Steven Kang: In a nutshell, 1) Switch the compensation plan from hourly to per piece task whenever possible. 2) Create an awesome tutorial for VAs. This helps with hiring and quick deployment process. 3) Compartmentalize each task and make it as simple as possible to follow and complete. 4) Hire people who are good at each task. Over time, you’ll end up with super producers. They will contribute to overall lower VA cost.
Stuart Trier: Thank you for your insight.
Steven Kang: My pleasure.