Leveraging Virtual Assistants
Buying cheap / quality labor.
I know I’ve been slacking with the content recently, but it’s for a good reason - business is booming. That being said, there is one last topic that I really want to cover before I feel like I’ve posted the essential information needed to scale an arbitrage business to six figures and beyond - virtual assistants.
What They Do
A virtual assistant is someone who works remotely and performs low ROI / time consuming tasks, which allows you to focus on the business as a whole.
In the context of an arbitrage business, I think VAs can utilized for the following tasks:
Product research (finding profitable items while you sleep)
Administrative tasks (updating spreadsheets, tracking inventory costs / order cancellations, repricing, etc.)
Customer support (responding to buyer messages / resolving account issues - this one probably isn’t needed unless you’re around the seven figures mark because buyer messages aren’t that frequent)
There’s likely other ways that VAs can be used but I’m not at a high enough level where I need to be thinking about it - all of my VAs just do product research at the moment.
Where They Come From
When people think of remote work and outsourcing, most people will think of India - and for good reason. Most companies do outsource their support function to call centers in India because it’s incredibly cost effective. However, in the Amazon space people get their employees from somewhere else - the Philippines.
Filipinos make great VAs for three main reasons:
Low cost of living - The minimum wage in the highest paid region in the Philippines is 11,860 Philippine Pesos per month, which as of the day I’m writing this article is worth approximately $220 (source). The average monthly salary for a Filipino VA in the Amazon space is $500, so they get to make more than double minimum wage in their country doing basic tasks.
Highly educated - Although it might not seem like it due to the low cost of living, the Philippines is actually one of the most educated countries in the world. As of 2019, their literacy rate is 96% (source). There are lots of people with degrees (real ones) who will be smart enough to learn how to source items and become really efficient at it.
Hard working - Filipino culture is very family oriented. It’s not uncommon for lots of extended family to live together, and they work hard to provide for their loved ones. By giving them an opportunity to become high earners (relative to their fellow countrymen), they will work very hard to maintain their position and give their families a higher quality of life. They’re also very respectful to their employers and are far less likely to slack off than your typical American / European employee would.
Where Do I Hire a VA?
When it comes to hiring a VA, you have two options - Hire them yourself or pay an agency to do it for you.
Hiring by Yourself
The first thing you’ll need is an account for onlinejobs.ph, which is a website where you’ll be posting your job listing. onlinejobs.ph is full of Filipinos looking to get a remote position doing VA tasks, and everyone who applies will be verified with their government ID so you don’t have to worry about any funny business.
When you write your job posting, I recommend putting in at least one “gotcha” question - this can be anything such as “What is your favorite color and why?” or “What is your favorite animal? Explain”. The reason you want to put in a question like this is you want to distinguish between the applicants who actually read the job posting and those who just went down the list of jobs and copy-pasted the same paragraph for each one.
If you want a sample job posting, you can find one here (credit to @FieldsOfProfit for creating this).
This job posting can be modified based on whether you want to hire someone who has past experience with product research or not. As someone who has hired both, while hiring someone experience will get you off the ground faster I believe that hiring someone with no experience is better long term because you can mold them to align with your philosophy on what makes a good product and how to find them.
If you want to hire someone with experience to save time, I recommend sending this Keepa test I made a while back to the promising applicants and ask them to complete it. This should only take 15-20 minutes and give you a good idea of who knows how to analyze products.
Once you have your candidates, set aside some time to interview them and pick the one you think fits the best. I wish I could give you some more insight on interview tactics but that’s not really my specialty - here’s a list of questions you can use though (once again credit to @FieldsOfProfit).
Hiring Through an Agency
If you don’t feel like going through that entire process and would rather have someone else do it for you, you’re in luck. There are a handful of organizations out there that will hire someone for you, and train them to excel in your business.
For my most recent VA, I used Fast Track FBA’s VA Hiring and Training Academy. You pay $850 and they find a suitable candidate on onlinejobs.ph with no experience, train them in product research, and then turn them over to you. My experience with this program has been very positive - if you can afford it, I highly recommend you use their service. The only downside is that due to the high demand there may be a delayed turnaround time - I had to wait 5 weeks before receiving mine. They’re also developing a program to provide Administrative VAs as well, which I might look into when I feel like I need one.
Training Your VA
Regardless of whether your new VA has experience, you still need to train them. If you just let them go off and do their own thing, I can promise you that they won’t give you exactly what you want. It is beneficial for both parties to spend time with each other and come to an understanding on what sort of products you should be waking up to on the sourcing sheet.
I recommend that for the first month you have a daily call with your VA and analyze the leads they found together. Ask them to explain their thought process and why they thought each product was a good arbitrage opportunity. From there, you can praise them for what they got right and help them adjust by pointing out things they missed or explaining situations they haven’t seen before.
You should also have some form of documentation that outlines what to do in certain situations. This is more commonly known as Statement Of Procedures, or SOPs. SOPs are important because they allow your employees to learn the business processes without you spending a lot of time with them. They might not be super important when you have one or two VAs and can afford to spend time answering their questions, but you won’t be able to do the same thing when you have 5-10 VAs. Every time you come across something that isn’t laid out in your SOPs, add it so your VAs don’t have to come to you for help. I recommend using Notion to store all of your documents.
For this last section, I’m just going to quickly go over some programs / websites to use for the logistics side of having an international employee.
You can use whatever you want for communication. On a smaller scale (1-3 employees), something like Skype / Discord works perfectly fine. I’m currently using Skype with my two VAs. As you scale though, you might want to look into something that does better with more people such as Slack.
You’re going to have to give your VAs access to all of your various software accounts (Keepa, SellerAmp, etc.). There really isn’t a huge issue with giving them your passwords in my opinion, but if you want to be really secretive about it you can use something like LastPass so they can log in without seeing the password.
I personally don’t track the hours for my VAs because I find it to be too much of a chore and it hasn’t really affected the output of my VAs. If you want to track time though, some good tools to use are Clockify (free) and Harvest (paid).
The traditional payment method for VAs seems to be Wise (which just requires a bank account on your end), but I have heard of some VAs being paid through PayPal and in even rarer cases, crypto. If you’re hiring through Fast Track FBA though, you’ll be expected to use Wise.
This was a longer post than usual, and I still don’t feel like I’ve covered as much as I wanted to. If there’s anything that didn’t make sense in this post, please drop a question in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it.
And for a shameless plug, I have 7 open spots on my leads list.