We’ll be going over step 2 of the apple pie method, step through a real world example of how to use VAs. In this case, the example has to do with doing research in the exciting realm of minivans.
A listener last week wanted to know more about ways a virtual assistant could help out the person talked about last week who needed to bake a lot of cupcakes. In that example, the point being made was that while a VA couldn’t help bake cupcakes, there might be other tasks they could help out with to free up a person’s time to bake cupcakes.
In answer to that question, pulling for a real world example of a task I currently have on my plate, we’re going to be talking about how a Virtual Assistant could be used to research some information on a minivan. Specifically, we recently purchased a 2006 Honda Odyssey with the Navigation option, thinking that it could support an 8th passenger in the middle of the 2nd row. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as buying a seat and installing as that wasn’t an option for that style of Honda Odyssey, and there is no spot for a seatbelt.
Consequently, in order to install a seatbelt, you have to have a mechanic weld a fastener to the floor, and purchase the correct Honda seatbelt. I started researching this, but just don’t have time to finish, so I’m going to have a Virtual Assistant try and tackle the job.
It’s not the easiest job to do and should be rather challenging, but I’m going to take a crack at it. Also I’m going to give you an update on how successful the VA is on this particular project next week. I’m putting the template for this project at http://www.yourfirstvirtualassistant.com/template.
Let’s jump right into step 2, Posting the job.
The first thing to do is to have a firm idea of the job you needed to be done. What needs to be done? The job needs to be explicit and clearly defined. What skills are required? In my minvan example, this is going to be a pretty straight forward web research project where I’ll be looking for someone who has success in web research, but they will have to be able to understand the data and come to their own conclusions, so I’ll probably be looking for someone who has a bachelor’s degree, or has shown a lot of success in analysis before.
In addition to the skills required, you need to keep in mind what technologies are required for the project. In this case, it’s just internet access. Additionally, you should keep in mind what types of skills your VA doesn’t need. For instance, there can be very advanced researchers out there that work in the University field, or do analytics, business analysis etc. I don’t need any of those skills, so no need to pay extra for those skills.
Having a background in the automotive industry, safety, physics, mechanical engineering, etc. could be useful for this project.
Another thing that’s important to do is break the project into pieces. In this project there are a few main things that need to be figured out. In this project, the VA will need to figure out the special seatbelt that Honda uses, if they can buy them, how much they cost etc. I also need the VA to figure out how the seatbelt can be installed. Additionally, I want people’s feedback on doing it in general.
If this were a larger project, you might want to think about a project roadmap, and educate your Virtual Assistant for future jobs. Since this project is a one up project, they will not need any additional training. Sometimes however, you might want the first part of the project to be educating them in a particular area.
Another skill or attribute that is important is a VA’s enthusiasm and interest in the job. However, you need to ensure that just because a Virtual Assistant thinks they can do a job that doesn’t mean that they have the skills or background to do the job.
Sometimes it can be useful to create a word document or pdf document to attach to the job for additional information and clarity. For smaller jobs, this isn’t usually necessary, but for mid to large sized jobs, this can be very important. For this particular job since the information I’m looking for is so specific, I’ll be creating a document to attach.
When it comes to web researchers, there are tons of people out there, and you can quickly get 30 – 60 candidates in a number of hours. I like to put an “easter egg” to weed out candidates, which is a word or phrase they put at the beginning of their message which indicates that they read the job application, and didn’t just copy and paste a response to a number of jobs without actually reading them.
Another good thing to do is to ask for examples of previous work. In my project, I’m going to ask for samples of previous work with analysis. I think very few candidates will actually have done this, but I’m looking for candidates who won’t just copy and paste data, but can think through information and come to a conclusion.
Sometimes it can be helpful to read job postings similar to the type of work you are looking for. You can find lessons learned from their past experiences, and get ideas for things to include in your own post.
You can get projects done on a shoestring budget, and to get a good idea of how much you should pay for a given job before posting it, you can look at similar job posts. When posting a fixed price job, it’s good to know the going rate for a particular job.
If the going rate for a job is $50 and you post a fixed rate of $100 you might get some people who underbid closer to the standard $50 rate, but a lot of people that would have done it for $50 will just bid $100 instead. The more competition for a given job, the more bids you will get closer to the going rate, but it’s still better to start off with a bid closer to the going rate. For the Honda project, I estimate it will take 3-5 hours of work, so I’ll put the job at $10.
When you have a fixed price job, you need to set the criteria of exactly what you’re looking to get done, and not just be vague. It’s also important to set the timeframe of when the job needs to be done. Using the Perelli principle, it’s useful to set a short timeframe so that either the whole job, or the job needs to be completed within 24 hours.
If you need a job completed within 24 hours or less, understanding the time of day when most of your candidates are is good to keep in mind. Many people in Asia will apply, so posting in the evening US time could kick off a job by late evening. For instance, a job posted at 5pm could be started by 9pm, and completed through the night. Posting early morning might get VAs before they end for the day. The worst time for a job seems to be early morning to mid afternoon where it is in the dead of night many places in Europe and Asia, jobs won’t post instantly, and it tends to take about 20 min before shows up.
For ongoing work such as research, having someone hourly on an ongoing basis can be useful and help you get them in short notice without having to create a new job. Make sure to limit their hours and they must be well managed so they aren’t wasting time.
Keep in mind that if you’re not going to use a VA again, it’s good to close out the project. You used to be able to leave a job open pretty much indefinitely on Odesk, but recently jobs automatically close out after around 30 days. Closing jobs out after they are complete helps the Virtual Assistant because the feedback you give them can help them get futures jobs. I’ve not always been the best and closing jobs out when they are finished, and this is something I need to improve on.
Next week we’re going to talk about step 3, Prescreen your VAs and I’ll update you on my Honda Odyssey VA project!
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Thanks for listening, and until next time, remember, you’re only a few mouse clicks away from the exciting world of Virtual Assistants.