How To Find Virtual Workers
Hiring virtual, overseas talent provides your cleaning company a competitive advantage in terms of 1) lower labor cost and 2) higher caliber of talent. It’s an opportunity to leverage the difference in cost of living between two countries to hire talent at a discount.
For example, you can easily hire a virtual assistant (VA) from Venezuela at $3.50/hr. Considering minimum wage as of this writing is around 4¢/hr (or $6.70/month usd), your VA will be banking at $3.50/hr! What does this mean (other than having an awfully happy VA)? It means you can hire the top-caliber talent because you are offering better pay compared to local employers. It’s a win/win!
Retaining higher-quality talent at a lower rate; I am surprised more cleaning companies (or any small business) do not take advantage of this! Customer service representatives, data entry, website developers, YouTube video editors, content writers, are just a few positions I have hired for at Dallas Maids and my other businesses.
Learning how to hire the right VA can be a challenge. Some countries offer more reliable, skilled talent than others. Workers often misrepresent their skill sets and other information. Here I will share with you my tips and tricks on hiring top talent accrued from a decade of hiring virtual workers.
Where to Hire Virtual Workers Online
There are a plethora of online sites connecting businesses with virtual talent. Some cater to a specific industry while others are aimed at a general audience. The platform I prefer for my house cleaning companies and have been using since 2012 is Upwork.com.
I have researched other platforms over the years, though Upwork has proven to provide the deepest talent pool while providing intuitive tools to manage your talent. Their monitoring system gauges the worker’s activity while providing screenshots to ensure they are not just chatting away with friends on social media. You may be able to save money by hiring directly, however I found paying a little more for the tools offered by Upwork is well worth it.
Where in the World to Woo Workers
The work ethic and moral compass of talent vary from country to country and from culture to culture. The Philippines is prized for its trustworthy and hardworking workforce while India is notoriously known for dishonesty and substandard results.
In addition to trustworthiness and work ethic, you may also want to factor in location, especially if frequent communication is necessary. Therefore, countries with similar time zones – and thus similar work hours – may be preferable.
One position each of my cleaning services has is a customer service representative who also helps manage the professional cleaners in field and provides assistance to my office staff. Since my companies are located within Central Standard Time zone and employ mostly Spanish-speaking staff, the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America are perfect.
My maid service in Memphis has a good-hearted and loyal lady from El Salvador. With Dallas Maids, we have an intelligent and very capable lady from Mexico. And my other house cleaning service in Dallas (Yes, I have two) is managed by an exceptional lady from Costa Rica. Despite being born and raised in Costa Rica, she has a 100% American accent. So, when it comes to virtual staff in charge of taking calls and helping my staff, Central America and South America are perfect.
In addition to these customer service managers, my other current virtual workers are a website/WordPress guru in Jamaica, a content writer from Venezuela, and a quality assurance supervisor based in the Philippines.
Talking about the Philippines, this is a culture that produces honest, hard-working talent so keep them in mind when seeking good people. The video editor I hired for our YouTube channel, Clean Freaks: Cleaning Tips and Household Tricks, was from the Philippines. The only caveat with working with Filipinos is they require clear, easy-to-understand instructions. Preparing an operation manual for every task you need completed will substantially increase their productivity.
I’ve had successful hires from Eastern Europe; one a writer and the other an excel programming pro. Also, from what I hear, Eastern Europe is a rich source of IT talent that costs a fraction of what you’d find here, in the United States.
The Bad… and the Ugly
India… yeah, just avoid India along with their neighbors Bangladesh and Nepal. I’ve had zero success there. Applicants lie about their work experience, their portfolio, their skill set, and even their gender… why would you lie about that? I am sure there is good talent there, somewhere. However, the sheer number of duds make it hard to find the little gems in that chaotic haystack.
Interestingly, I have had success with India’s neighbor, Pakistan. Needing a massive amount of grunt work done with data entry, I hired a Pakistani agency via Upwork. They were able to successfully complete the task and for super cheap. Maybe hiring an agency (who already vetted the workers) instead of an individual contractor is more effective for a labor market like India.
Another country to be wary of is China. I’ve only hired from there twice so that may not be a sufficient pool size to provide an accurate opinion. Both times resulted in overpromising and under-performing.
How to Hire Virtual Workers
You have your Upwork account and know where in the world to hire. With the multitudes of hungry VAs eagerly wanting your job, how do you pick the right worker? It depends whether you are looking for long term talent (like my customer service masters) or a one-time project (like my YouTube video editor). Let’s start with long term because hiring a competent, capable long-term VA is worth their virtual weight in bitcoin.
Upwork provides employers an opportunity to review the workers they have hired. Upwork also gives workers a chance to review the employers that had hired them. Scrolling through the workers, you can click on their profile to see the wonderful reviews touting their talent and urging anyone to hire these masters of whatever they do. Some may have a few reviews; others may have hundreds. Either way, if you are hiring long-term talent you DO NOT want talent with reviews.
Sounds counter-intuitive, though I found my best long-term performers were people that had just joined Upwork and hadn’t had a chance to garner many, if any, reviews. While those veterans that had been decorated with countless glowing, 5-star reviews were often mediocre performers.
Reviews Do Not Reflect Competency
People are Nice. As a business owner you know the importance of good reviews. If you have an underperforming virtual worker, you tend not ruin their chances for future employment by handicapping them with a bad review or opting not to give a review at all.
So, if you see a worker who touts a skill that would be hirable for a long-term assignment (like customer service) yet they have a zillion reviews, take that as a red flag. A lot of reviews mean they had a lot of chance to be hired for a permanent position yet have been passed over and over again. Instead, look for applicants with very little or even better, no reviews…
Competent Talent is Snatched Up
Good, long-term talent is gobbled up quickly. They do not have a chance to accrue a lot of reviews. The star performers I have hired were brand spanking new to Upwork. The mediocre always had a lot of great reviews but… a lot of reviews, a lot of employers being too nice, and a lot of wasted time for you.
Knowing reviews are not a good indicator of talent and that good people are picked quickly, here is how to search for your ideal, long-term worker on Upwork.
- To search for workers, at the top left is a field with “Find Freelancers & Agencies” in the text box. Let’s say you are seeking a customer service representative, just type in “customer service”. A list of virtual workers populates your screen.
- On the top right, there is an option for “U.S. only”. Make sure this is turned “Off”.
- On the left side of Upwork you may filter applicants based on certain criteria. Here are the filters I would input to find a long-term prospect:
- Location – Central America, South America (Similar time zones and a large pool of Spanish speaking talent)
- Talent type – Freelancers (If long-term, you want to form a relationship with the individual, not an agency)
- Hourly rate – $10 and below (In your job ad, you can specify $5/hr or whatever you want to pay)
- Job Success – Any job success
- Earned amount – No earning yet (To get the good ones, you need to catch them before others do)
- Hours billed – Any hours
- English level – Native or bilingual (Preferably speak with an American accent)
- Other languages – Spanish (I’d need someone to communicate with my cleaning staff)
A Good Profile
Having set the filters to the above, here is one of the first profiles to pop up:
Bilingual Customer Service Rep
I am a Canadian citizen living in South America. Over the past years I have worked for numerous american and world-wide companies such as; Sabre Inc, Amazon.com, Monterrey Lighting Solutions. I also worked for a Uruguayan airline; Pluna S.A. I have many year’s of experience in Customer Service, Collection’s, Administration and accounting, among other areas. I’m bilingual in english and spanish. I have great computer skills, I´m very responsible, attentive, goal oriented and self motivated I am also very patient and a quick learner.
I’m currently searching for a home based job as a Customer Service Representative. I have experience with SAP, SalesForce, Amadeus, Sabre, ICRM, Sharepoint, Netsuite, Microsoft Office, Shopify, Giorgias Helpdesk, Slack.
What Makes This a Good Profile?
Bingo! A Canadian who speaks perfect English (and Spanish) living in South America with a salary requirement of $6.25/hr. Quality, North American talent at South American rates. The best of both worlds!
Her work history demonstrates stability with over 5 years of employment at Sabre. If I was hiring for another customer service representative, she would be on the top of my list. Her resume mentions she works in Uruguay (see “Uruguayan airline”). The average hourly rate in Uruguay is $8559.25 per year or around $4.11/hr. Her salary request of $6.25/hr will ensure she lives a nice life in Uruguay while providing my cleaning company with quality talent at a fraction of the price I would otherwise have paid here in the United States.
Once a pool of potential applicants has been picked, I will request an audio file from them, telling me a little bit about their story. What I want to know is 1) how well they speak English and 2) how professional and friendly they sound over the phone.
Finally, after conducting the on-phone interviews, I would strongly recommend having the top 3 picks take a DISC assessment. I use The Steering Group. Once the assessment is completed, A Steering Group representative will review each applicant and offer input on who will be the best performer based upon your job requirements.
Post Hire – Keeping Your Talent
You have hired a stellar worker who is eager to prove themselves. Now what? With long-term hires 1) I start them at a lower salary that I would otherwise pay because I want them to prove themselves before earning exceptional pay and 2) if they have worked for me longer than one year, I fly them up to our office for our annual employee outing.
First, new talent should not start with exceptional pay; You want them to first prove their competency. If you’ve done your homework during the interview process, you are going to find high-caliber workers.
Still, you never know how they will perform until you have had a chance to work with them for a few months. Therefore I will provide a raise after 3 months based on performance then a raise on an annual basis (or sooner if they are rock stars). So ensure you leave room for raises.
Second, if your virtual worker is still with you after a year, I would assume that means they have proven themselves and have become an integral part of your operations, forming positive working relationships with your team.
A way to further build team synergy and to reward them for their hard work is to fly them up to the office so they can meet the team and myself in person. We have an official corporate meeting along with scheduling our annual employee outing at this time. Not only is this tremendous fun for your staff, it is also an opportunity to strengthen the chemistry among the virtual workers and your team.
Those that specialize in one-time jobs or short-term assignments will have accrued many reviews. Therefore, unlike long-term hires, tons of reviews are not a red flag.
You’ll want to look at their Job Success rate which appears in the search results. Job Success is the percentage of this freelancer’s jobs that resulted in a great client experience. Anything less than 95% I usually pass.
For important jobs such as website copywriting or video editing, I will hire the top three candidates based upon my criteria, assigning them the same task. This may seem expensive upfront but worth it because you are able to see their actual work. The best performer is assigned the remainder of the job along with being the natural pick for future jobs.
For example, when putting together our YouTube channel series, Clean Freaks, I hired 3 video editors to do the same job: Editing 1 video.
Here are the two that didn’t make the cut:
Yeah. Very cringe-worthy.
Now for the winner:
Having the opportunity to see the worker’s competency was well worth it. As you can see, the winning submission was a whole skill level higher than the other two.
Hiring the top 3 potential candidates for a small job then picking the best for the remainder of the assignment works well. Yes, the YouTube videos are corny but they are chocked full of good information presented in a corny yet enduring way. The top videos have surpassed 100,000 views making for a semi-respectable YouTube channel.
There you have it, my guide on how to find the best virtual talent for your cleaning business. Leveraging overseas talent has been a boon for my businesses. What’s not to like about getting the cream of the crop while paying bottom-of-the-barrel pricing? So if you are not leveraging overseas talent for your own business, you should seriously consider it.
This article was written as a resource for my appearance on Smart Business Moves hosted by Cleaning Business Today. Here is the show for more insight on how to find virtual workers.
Eventually, you will be stuck with the unpleasant task of telling your virtual worker you no longer require their services and are cancelingf the job. Here is a snazzy template that I found online to be useful and hope may help you, too.
This letter is to inform you that as of [date], we will no longer require your services.
We’ve enjoyed working with [name of company] but due to [reasons], we have decided to terminate our contract.
All outstanding deliverables should be completed before our contract is officially terminated. Please send us any pending invoices by [date] so that we can clear any outstanding amounts by [date].
Please note that as of [date] you will no longer have access to [relevant networks, systems, etc.].
Thank you for all your work over these [weeks/months/years]. If you have any questions feel free to reach out at [phone] or [e-mail address].
With that template as a guide, here is an actual letter I created:
Thank you so much for your hard work. I regret that this UpWork job and your services will no longer be required.
We’ve enjoyed working with you but since [other VA] has entered the project, it is apparent that sufficient talent has been allocated to this task.
Please email any material and information related to this job to [email].
Thanks again for your work over these three weeks. I will be leaving you 5 stars!
If you have any questions, let me know.