I have been outsourcing for many years now and my first experience was not a pleasant one.
It was back in 2008 and outsourcing had just become the rage and it was the latest trendy thing in the internet marketing and blogging world. Those that couldn’t afford to outsource where doing so because they could hire high quality virtual assistants from Asia and not have the high costs that you would associate with hiring from somewhere like Europe, USA or Australia. Plus they were much more hard working and it seemed perfect on all accounts.
My experience with virtual assistant agencies
So I went ahead and hired a virtual assistant that was part of an agency in the Philippines. It sounded ideal because you would have someone that would work exclusively for you and you would be pay them a set amount for a week of them working for you.
Well it should have sent alarm bells ringing when they wanted payment in advance but I wanted to give them a go and tried them out.
Firstly they were working office hours which in reality was 1am-9am my time meaning that they would only be able to get back to me the next day and any problems with work wont be able to be dealt with.
This resulted in me only getting about two hours work completed per day out of them and that 60 hour week I had paid for had turned into 10 hours. So in the end I ended up paying for 50 hours that they never even worked on.
There was also no tracking and the work that did come in (during the 10 hours) I felt like I could have achieved in 1 hour.
It was therefore a terrible idea for the following reasons:
Someone else has trained them in basic virtual assistant tasks
This meant that they were not very experienced in what you had paid them to do and would mean that for every 10 hours you paid them for they only really worked at the speed of one week.
Costs of virtual assistants
Back then the going rate for a virtual assistant in the Philippines was around $0.50 an hour and through the agency you were paying $2.50 an hour. This then meant that it was costing a lot more than it was if you were working directly with them.
You were then paying 80% more than what your fellow internet marketers were paying because you had a middle man to pay.
They were on a different time zone
With being on the UK time zone it meant that they were always working while you were sleeping and if there was a problem they would down tools and you would end up paying for staff when they were probably working for someone else.
Proof of work
You would also not have any time tracking and would therefore have no knowledge of when they are working or what they were working on. So if you thought they were working slow you had no proof if they were playing on Facebook games when they should have been working for you!
What I Did Later…..
After this experience I actually went and found my own team and trained them up myself. I then knew they were trained properly and they picked up the work so much faster.
Secondly, I hired them through Odesk and because of this I was able to track their hours and make sure I wasn’t paying the earth to an agency that wasn’t doing anything. This then meant that I was paying for 5 what I was paying for 1 with an agency.
Thirdly, I made sure I was paying above the Filipino minimum wage by at least 20% (it is currently $0.87 per hour) and this then created loyal employees that didn’t feel like they were being taken for a ride.
Finally, I went looking for those that could work in the evenings and this meant that they were working during my day time and if they had a problem I could deal with it straight away instead of us having further problems with lack of communication. This was also fantastic because the majority of Filipinos that are looking for work have a full time job and are just looking for some part time work.
Control & Cost
These are the two that spells out why you shouldn’t use an agency. You have no control over your virtual team because they are answering to someone else and NOT you!
You have not interviewed them so you don’t know what their skill set is or how good they are at taking orders.
From a cost point of view they will charge you about 5 times what you would pay if you hired them directly. This doesn’t just apply to virtual assistants either as I have seen the same trait with writers too. I remember before the Google updates there was a writing agency that charged $40 for an article that a writer was getting paid just $6 to produce!
Hire a virtual manager
Instead train up your best virtual assistant and turn them into your manager. Then everyone is still working for you, but you don’t have the hassle and managing everything yourself.
I suppose you could put me in this category as I do this myself when I manage websites for clients. And it’s a much more time saving way of going about things.
Just think of why you are outsourcing in the first place and why outsourcing direct may be a much better option for long term blog growth.