- Jonathan Shank ( )
- Eric Davis ( )
- Charles Max Wood ( )
01:03 – Jonathan Shank Introduction
03:45 – Types of jobs you can outsource
08:35 – Picking the right people
11:18 – Figuring out what to outsource
13:39 – Hiring domestic vs overseas workers
16:52 – Sampling groups vs hiring regulars
21:05 – Improving delegation skills
23:27 – Mistakes people make when getting started outsourcing
- Be Specific
26:11 – Letting strangers into your business
34:29 – U.S.-based VA firms
- 36:38 – Outsourcing technical things
Contracts with Attorney Jared Richards
CHUCK: Yeah it’s all fun and games until you put a nail through your foot.
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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 48 of the Ruby Freelancer Show! This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. And we have a special guest, Jonathan Shank.
CHUCK: So Jonathan, do you want to introduce yourself really quickly?
JONATHAN: Sure! My name is Jonathan Shank, I’ve been working with Virtual Assistance for a couple of years, which I guess the reason that I’m up (here). I represent [inaudible], by that kindly to be on your podcast. I guess I started a couple of years ago as working on my own business on the side and I found that when the whole world of virtual assistant is open to me, I realized there’s so many people out there that can help me with my business that it really was something that really helped me out quite a lot. So as a result, I’ve been working with them for a couple of years, and I’ve had so much success personally that I kind of decided that I just want to share that with others. So I started the website “yourfirstvirtualassistant.com”, and a podcast, and there is other thing.
Basically, (I’m) just trying (to) show people just from square one how easy it is to take a lot and find your first virtual assistant. So that’s kind of how it started. Now whenever I have a chance, I kind of spread the news of how you can use them on various businesses.
CHUCK: I went to your talk at New Media Expo and it seem like you were mostly talking about oDesk. Is that the way you usually go? Or are there other avenues you take to find people?
JONATHAN: Yeah. I would say that the vast majority of what I use has been oDesk. I’ve tried a lot of the other sites as well, and for me, how I work it seems to be the best, at least as really conducive to how I like to do things. For instance, if you have a fixed-price job, it’s very easy to quickly have a small [inaudible] avenue to get a lot of people that do inexpensive work. You go to some of the other sites, like for coding for instance, and you might find people that typically for larger jobs. I do so many smaller to mid-sized jobs that I find it pretty easy to use oDesk. One of the features that seems to be useful there as well is the fact that if you’re doing a job and it’s hourly, they automatically track the view of his time, and they have a little screen captures every like 20 minutes or so and kind of make sure that they’re actually doing the work.
And just in general, it could be one of the things where — that’s where I got started with and I got used to it and I just continued to use it. I know there are some new ones like one of them is called “Witmart”, W-I-T-M-A-R-T for instance, and basically I think that’s sort of a Chinese-based, and I always have my eyes open to other places as well. But so far, oDesk has been like my place of choice.
CHUCK: I’m a little curious, what kind of jobs do you usually outsourced to folks?
JONATHAN: I do quite a few types of jobs. I have put on like engineering hat, I’m really actually an engineer by trade. I have a 9-5 job and the fact that the current job that I have, which I started about a year ago, I’m an electrical engineer/virtual assistant manager. So in that role, in my 9-5 job, I do things such as go around the company and see different divisions, how they can use virtual assistants. So one example, that might be — we have a sales team and some of them are bilingual, there might be from Brazil for instance, and they spend most of their time trying to make sales. However, the more sales you make, the more support you have. And so they would start to get a big backlog of translating documents into Portuguese, for instance. And so what I would do is I would go on like oDesk for instance, and I would try and find someone who could translate the documents for us who kind of knew our industry and who would kind of work well at this. So that’s one example of kind of a practical thing of (what) you can find like since oDesk is kind of international, there’s over a million folks there. I was pretty easy to find someone who lived in Brazil for instance, just in translation work.
Another example would be just basic research, whether it’s like on engineering. Like myself, I’m trying to find some new technologies, some of the new hardware, or whatever. If it’s something that’s not super technical that you have to be an expert to search on it and you can do a Google search on it, I’ll just write up a one paragraph “I’m looking for this particular type of hardware, it needs to have XY and Z, and here are 3 links for examples of what I’m looking for”. I’ll send that to a VA, and then they can go on, they can search. It might be $2 an hour for example, and they could spend 20 hours, and freed up my own time to do some engineering work. That’s kind of an engineering on the side of what the way you can do.
On the personal side, the possibilities are pretty endless as well. Just kind of a one example is my wife for instance, we’ve been married for over 10 years, and she has this big stack of envelopes from friends and family throughout the years. And then she has directories from church, and she’s got print outs from 5 years ago when she tried to make or we tried to make a list of addresses and things like that. And she had addresses from when we got married and who are we going to send the wedding invites to. But these are all hard copies stuff. And she was going to go and type all the stuff into the computer and I said “Hold on! Why don’t I just take pictures of all this stuff and I’ll get someone to type it in for us?” And so I did that. I took high resolution of all the envelopes, all the hard copies of everything, and it took someone about 7 hours of work and I paid him $15 and freed up two or over nights. We got an excel contact sheet that had like 400 contacts in there. So there’s tons and tons of things you can do, but that’s just a couple of examples for instance, of how you could use them.
CHUCK: Interesting. Yeah I have a transcriptionist or two, I don’t remember because I have a VA that manages these folks, and I’ve hired them on oDesk. They’re in the Philippines so their native tongue isn’t English, but their English is good enough to where it is mostly correct so we can pretty much just — To get those transcriptions, I just put them on the websites. And so it’s really nice that way. And I’ve really liked that. I’ve been looking on oDesk as well for a bookkeeper because back in October, I may have gone into this nightmare on this show, I’m not going to rehash everything that happened. But basically, I was working with a VA firm here in the U.S., things didn’t work out with them, the VAs they gave me were just flaky and didn’t get stuff done. So I dropped them, picked up this other person that now manages all of the shows, and she’s been terrific! But one of the services they offered was bookkeeping, and so I’ve been trying to replace the bookkeeper that they had work on my stuff. And I need to get it done so I can get my taxes filed.
CHUCK: I’m not really sure the best way to go about hiring somebody. And my CPA’s office here is rather expensive as far as bookkeeping goes, so I’m looking for somebody else online that I can go with to get that done. I’ve looked on oDesk, but I’m just not sure how to pick people. Does that make sense? Do you have any suggestions for how to pick the right people?
JONATHAN: Yeah. Well a couple of things in play there, in any job there’s “how do you pick someone who’s good”. And I guess what I’d say about that is there’s just kind of a skills for seeing if they have the skills that you need that they have for high rating on oDesk, things like that. There’s kind of the general method of doing that, but when you’re talking about someone like an accountant, you need someone that you can trust, right? And you don’t want to just send it to Josh Moe. And for something like that, I would probably advice going with someone that has a firm that manages them. You can find contractors like that on oDesk, but for something that has to do with that personal [inaudible] of nature, I wouldn’t go with the individual per person on oDesk, if that makes sense.
The deal (or) the thing you have going to is you kind of have a low margin of error because you got to have your taxes done, and it’s got to be done now, and it has to be correct. And anytime you bring up at anyone knew, who are going to let us talk if it’s an oDesk or whatever, that’s kind of an HR issue where you had to pass yourself “does this person provide the quality that I can trust?” And so that’s where you tend to have to pay a premium to get someone you can trust, i.e. local CPA or whatever. One of the things with VAs that I tend to do is it’s kind of a longer process where you go and you try someone and you try someone else and you eventually start building this network of folks that you can trust. And that’s good for kind of have a long term situation. But if you something that has to be done right (now), then you don’t quite have the advantages of trying to find someone as inexpensive and reliable that can do exactly what you need to do. That can be a little tough.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense.
ERIC: Yeah. That’s kind of what I heard, too. Someone recommended like if you’re looking at researcher something, hire three different people to do it. And of those pick like the best two, give them another kind of a bit more either larger of more time critical job. And then of the two who do that, pick the one that did it the best and then stay with him kind of for the long term if you should. Or try to like build up relationship over 6 months to 12 months, try one person then try another one. But like he was saying, if you need to get your taxes done in the next few months, which means your bookkeeping needs to be in the next month so you’re kind of you got a deadline, and so now you have to probably pay for a more professional level of service.
CHUCK: Right. Absolutely.
CHUCK: The next question I have is, how do you identify the things that you can outsource to somebody else?
JONATHAN: The things that you can outsource are obviously something that someone can do remotely. And I kind of like to back it out just one notch and not just focus on that. I think when someone tries to hire a VA for the first times that they haven’t done one before, I know you have, one of the things that you have to do is change the mindset and not think in terms of “what do I have in front of me that seems to be the most stressing” because that oftentimes can be the thing that only YOU can do. Because if you’re an expert programmer, it’s kind of very hard for you to get someone to offload what you are best at and what you’re specifically looking to do. However, there might be other areas in your large [choppy] where you can be more efficient. And so this start thinking in terms of “What are some of the things that like are competitive? What are some of things that I can write a paragraph or instruct someone? And what are some of the things that like let’s say I had an intern, or another employee that I could explain how to do and then they could go do them?” You can start thinking of some of the things that a VA can do for you. And it’s really just a matter of figuring out how to systematize the type of things that you are looking to do.
The other trick is, you can think about the things that you dread to do and the things that you hate to do, and that kind of suck your brain power. And oftentimes, those are good candidates, too. Let’s say you’re [inaudible] and you have a job that’s really tedious, it’s going to be pretty easy to find someone who has an opposite mindset to you. And they’ll actually be able to do the work even more effectively than you can. So I guess in short, where it comes down to is the strategy I use in general is “do you focus on doing what your core competency is” and then you kind of delegate the rest of the stuff that is just kind of in support of that.
CHUCK: That makes a lot of sense. So one more question and then I’ll let Eric start asking questions. It seems like on oDesk there are a lot of people that are overseas and a lot of people that are on the sides of the seas, I guess, in the U.S. And the domestic workers seem to be more expensive than the overseas workers, not always, but generally. And so I’m trying to figure out when it’s appropriate to hire somebody on this side of the ocean versus the other side.
JONATHAN: Sure. Well I guess a lot of times it kind of comes down to the suitability of the job. If it’s something that — There’s just some jobs that it’s just a better fit to have someone locally. For instance, if it’s something that has to do with you need to know a background or a bit of information on something that only someone in the U.S. or a Westerner would understand; something that might have to do with some sort of high-tech skill that is more prevalent in the U.S. I guess really where it comes down to is, never forget that someone who’s inexpensive – ineffective. And what you’re looking to do is going to cause you to have more work, and it’s actually going to lose you money. So, really kind of starts with figuring out for a particular job or a need that you have, what are the skills that are needed to accomplish that job and who’s going to have that.
As an example, for myself, recently I had a 401K from a previous job and this guy came in and he was telling me “well, you should go with this portfolio and invest your money with our company”, and I had some financial questions for him. I was in a pinch, and I need an answer the next day. So I actually leveraged. I used oDesk to find some financial information; more of I said like “go to Morningstar, and do an analysis”, and I found that guy in the Bangalore, for instance, in India who is in the financial market, who does a lot of finance stuff. And so on one hand, he kind of knew how to kind of evaluate these other investments and tell me if they’re any good. And since he’s on oDesk, he’s quick; I can get him right away. So that was a plus.
And so he got me about 80% of the answer that I needed, but also at the same time, even though he was quick and he was available and he was an expert in his field, he wasn’t an expert on U.S.-based stocks because that’s not what he was used to, so he had to do some research on it. And so the next day, I was able to find someone else locally who could answer some of my other questions. That was an example of kind of using the best of both worlds; there’s no way I could have like get at 9 at night, gotten the hold of a financial expert. But over in India, you have to turn around the world, it’s in the morning; and people on oDesk, they are always looking for work, So it’s easy for me to get on Skype and talk with that other guy, but at the same time, I still needed to find someone more local and U.S.-based to really understand all of the ins and outs of what I was looking to get done.
ERIC: That’s kind of a question I have is, when you’re hiring people, do you tend to kind of have a set of regulars that you go back to for most projects? Or do you tend to kind of open up a new project and kind of let anyone in, new people in, and keep sampling like a whole bunch of groups? Like how do you kind of balance that?
JONATHAN: Well, a lot of your jobs can largely be clumped into types of things. For instance, graphic design for my website or whatever, I have one person that I really really like. She’s just amazing and she does an excellent job. I tend to go back to her for just about everything I need with that; so I found someone who’s good with graphic design.
Audio editing is another example where I have a couple of people that I trust for audio, for editing my podcast. Because again, it’s not just having a skill set and understanding how your business works. If you’re already have invested the time into someone where they understand you and your business and your needs, then they kind of have that tribal knowledge already. So they’re going to be more effective for you than even if you could find someone who are little less expensive, but you had to go through the training process again.
Same thing with web research. If I have to do some more research and it has to get done like the next day and it has to be correct, I have a couple of people that I’ve used before and I can just ping them on Skype and say “Hey, are you available? If so, here’s what I like you to do” or “here’s what I need to be done”. But if you have the jobs that are like really really specific, like for coding, it might be “Hey, I’m trying to find someone who does –”, you’re trying to find, I don’t know, about a particular function or there’s a certain method that you don’t know, that you’re not aware of. And so you can always — what I do in something like that is I’m just throwing up a job on oDesk and say “I’m looking to do XY and Z [cut]….and in that case then, you open it up and you’d see kind of who pops up. So it’s kind of a balancing act. But the long you do it, the more people you have to draw from, and the bigger your network becomes of folks that you can like, at the moment’s notice, ask for help from.
CHUCK: Yeah I kind of like the idea of building up a set of people that you can go back to for the same kinds of jobs. And I remember while we were at New Media Expo, I guess I should tell people, Jonathan and I split the cost on our room at New Media Expo so I got to see quite a bit of him. And I remember getting online and –
JONATHAN: [laughs] Don’t take that the wrong way!
CHUCK: [laughs] Yeah! We’re both happily married, thank you very much.
JONATHAN: That’s right.
CHUCK: To other people, thank you very much.
CHUCK: But yeah, he would get on Skype, or we’d just be chatting and he mentioned that “Yeah, one of my guys in wherever — India, Philippines, whatever — I had him take care of this or that while I was out and about.” It was just interesting. He kind of has this list of people that he can go to for different stuff.
JONATHAN: Yeah. When people think about 6-12 months from where they are today, that’s one of the things I like to encourage people about. I say “You know, you might be intimidated by using virtual assistants or maybe you think it’s going to be frustrating or maybe you’ve had a couple of bad experiences with it, but it’s a skill that needs to be developed. But once you develop it, once you learn how to go and identify your job and figure out who’s the quality virtual assistant for you and then successfully manage it, you can start to build up a large –” And it’s not even so much an employee-employer relationship, it’s a network of relationships period. They’re my friends, virtual assistants, they’re entrepreneurs just like most people like you and I are. They can really relate to you and it’s a very quick way to just kind of develop almost a community of folks that you’re friends with and are happy to help you out and you’re fighting for their family at the same time.
CHUCK: Yeah it really makes a lot of sense.
ERIC: I have a question. If like I’m a very heavy control freak and have never really been taught how to delegate, like I’ve delegate a few things, but it’s very ad hoc and I know I’m not good at it. What advice would you give to me or someone else, who wants to improve their skill like delegating and kind of get started with outsourcing some things, but they don’t know how to start and they’re afraid of making mistakes? What advice would you give them say for the next 3 or 6 months to kind of improve it?
JONATHAN: Well for the first thing like anything, it’s largely a mental issue. It’s the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, the fear of screwing up, making people nap, whatever. Like a lot of things in business, you just got to go for it. As far as the mechanics behind it, you can post 300 jobs of $5-$10 on oDesk, so you can pick anything. I would suggest something that you’re interested in, something that you’re good at so you can manage someone and you know if they’re doing a good job or not. But I would just pick a specific task and say “I’m going to find someone who can do this for me”. I could do it myself, and maybe would take you — It’s probably worth it if it’s something that maybe could take you 5 hours as opposed of just like an hour or two. But find something that might take you a better time and just go to the process of going to oDesk and posting a job and starting to interview the candidates. You will learn so much in your first few jobs that your delegation skills will start to go up, and that’s something that’s transferable to all search areas in your life. Aside from VAs, it can help you with other areas in your business. And it’s a free skill to have once you start to do it.
On my website for instance, I kind of walk through a method of step by step and there’s various podcast and things that — I step through those. I mean honestly, (if) I’d send someone there, I’m not making any money on that, this side, or anything. I just like to teach people how to use them. I just encourage people, “Just give it a shot. The downside is really low and the upside is really high.”
CHUCK: Yeah I like that, too. Just the idea that if you want to try and delegate something, it picks up and it doesn’t cost a lot, then your risk is real low. Are there any mistakes that people make when they’re getting started with outsourcing?
JONATHAN: I would say the biggest mistake that people make is that if and when the job does not go exactly as planned, especially at first oftentimes it does not, we tend to assume that the issue is with the other person like they’re careless, or not listening or whatever. And usually most of the times, especially at first and especially if you’re not a manager, you don’t have a lot of experience delegating, usually the issue is on your side where you weren’t clean, either in your thinking, on what you wanted, and you kind of kept changing the scope of the job. Or if you weren’t clear in your thinking, you might have to re-explain very clear what you wanted. Because that is one of the steps that people trying to crossover, is that they want something down and I’d just say “I want someone to do X”. But really, there’s probably like 4 or 5 to 10 to 20 discrete stuffs and discrete ways to specify something that they needed to layout and spend about 5 minutes actually laying exactly what they’re looking for, so that’s frustrating.
Like for example, if you just do a basic web research job, say you want to see some potential clients for a product offering or you might offer. And you want someone do a search for them like a 50-mile radius (of) all the companies that do X. So you might say “I’m looking for all the companies that — I don’t know — I’m looking for all the plumbers in a 40-mile radius and send me a spreadsheet.” If that’s all you said, you might get people (that have in it) that give people’s name that ain’t a plumber, or you might get the addresses but not the phone numbers, or you might get the addresses, the phone numbers, all of these additional information and so someone spends 15 hours when really it could have been done in two hours. And you can just be frustrated where as if you just went and spent 5 minutes and say “I’m looking for plumbers, and the plumbers going to entail XY and Z. Here’s the spreadsheet with the columns of what I’m looking for, and I filled up 2 examples so you could understand exactly what I’m looking for. Please go and provide me 20 contacts or spend up to an hour and get back with me.” It all has to do with your technique and length things out at first. It’s basically garbage in, garbage out. The better you clarify things upfront both in your mind and in how you explain them, the better your results are going to be.
CHUCK: So I have a somewhat loaded question. This is something that I’m not, in fact I’m not even remotely close to comfortable doing [laughs], but I’m curious as to what your advice is, whether or not you would advice it, if there are good ways of making it less risky?
I mean my business is writing code for people. And I’ve thought long and hard about expanding my business to basically include sub-contractors or other service providers that either are related to my business like designers, etcetera, or other programmers. I’ve really really hesitated about even looking on oDesk for other programmers that I could sub-contract; I’m much more comfortable dealing with people that I know.
But assuming that I don’t have a network of people that I can just go to, is it advisable to do that kind of thing? And is there a good way of doing that kind of thing?
JONATHAN: Let me ask you this: what are the potential cons that would prevent you and make you be hesitant to do that?
CHUCK: Well, code quality’s kind of a big deal. I charge a premium price for programming; I honestly don’t think that I’m outside of the ballpark of people at the skill level that I offer and that the value is fair. But it’s significantly more than the $30 or $40 an hour that some people seem to think they can get a good developer for. And so if I am selling a service where I write code at that level, I want people who are sub-contracting for my company to also perform at that level.
JONATHAN: Sure. So one of the things you have to make sure, you have to ask yourself irregardless if it’s a VA or not, is how — and this is just a “expanding your business” question — is how do you ensure quality control if you’re not the one driving off the code and you’re not the one exchanging money for time or time for money or whatever – that you’d take yourself out of the loop of your own business. That’s one of the first things you have to do. You give a systemic challenge that you have to overcome before you even look at who you hire.
For me, I would thought a direction. I thought you’re going to go was you were working on a developing a product for instance, and you’re hesitant to have someone (from a) third-world country or halfway around the world who’ll work on it because you’re afraid they’re going to steal your idea, take your techniques, or things such as like that. I don’t know which way you are going with that. But to address the question you brought up, I think that that’s just a natural progression of any business as to figure out how to take yourself out of the looped loop, if you want to really grow, and then you figure out a way that you can ensure it’s quality code. And part of that, like for instance I spent a good 40 hours training an electrical engineer in the Philippines remotely on something that he — it was an audio — and he just did not have much audio background to begin with. But he was a very intelligent individual, he was going to get his Master’s Degree, he was a fast learner, he was interested. And after I finished training him, he already knew how to do what I needed him to do even better than I could do it. And he was quicker because he’d spend more time doing it. And so I was able to take myself out of the role of doing this. First I would have assumed was a “Oh, I’m an audio guy, I know audio and I’m an electrical engineer and I can do this and I can put all of the stuff together”, which is true but once I show to someone how to do it, they come of most better ideas. I had a system in place that I could validate what he was doing, but man, it really freed me up to move on to other areas that I enjoyed better, and to be more of a program manager.
That’s kind of part of the hesitancy that I see with a lot of engineers, or software developers, or whatever. It’s if you have the mindset and the mentality of “business mind” and “I just want to do it, and I don’t want to talk to other people; I don’t want to be messed with, I just want me and my project”, well, you’re not going to do very well with delegation period. And you kind of have to get out of your comfort zone and also kind of get over yourself if your goal is to expand your business or make more money or whatever. And now again if that’s not your goal, then great! You don’t have to do that; you can be perfectly happy being a premium “code” guy. But if you want to expand and if you have other reasons that you’re looking to bring additional help or make more money, that’s one of the first things you have to realize. It’s to be willing to shift your mindset because it will be kind of challenging mentally to do that at first.
CHUCK: So have you looked at any of the services like fiverr.com? F-I-V-E-R-R.com?
JONATHAN: Yeah! You can get some of the best bang for the buck for things there for a couple of reasons. They have two dynamics going on there. One is they can crank up the same thing over and over again pretty much. They started like they have a template. I guess I’m thinking in terms of like someone who’s doing a video and control for you or various projects like that. They can do one thing and make it really impressive looking, and then they can sell a bunch of them in bulk and very quickly.
The other thing that comes into play, people want to use Fiverr to get their foot on the door and then hopefully that’ll lead to other things. Like for instance, there was a guy who’s in the US who offered to remotely remove a virus from my computer for $5. And for a guy spent like 3 hours on my machine before it cleaned it up, I’m like “why is he doing this?” And then I realized since like “oh, it’s because the next time I have a virus, I’m going to be coming to him because he was successful”. So you can kind of take advantage of that on the sites like Fiverr, and you can take advantage of that on sites like Elance, oDesk, etcetera. Because you have to understand at any given time, there’s always a group of people who are just trying to break into either Fiverr or oDesk or Elance or whatever. They’re just trying to get their foot on the door and get some recognition so they’re willing to provide some excellent value and great quality work for very inexpensively.
ERIC: Yeah. Actually I have some experience with Fiverr because my first book I paid to have a digital cover made for it and I think it cost like $50 maybe $60. They gave me flat cover like a 3D one, like all the different varieties. And then the next book I wrote I wanted the same cover like the same basic design, but I wanted the title changed and kind of the front picture, so I want to have like existing brand. And by that time instead of going to pay $100 to get a new cover that’s 50% the same, I actually went to Fiverr and said “hey, I have this cover, I just want these few things changed, but I want it basically changed, send them out, put it into the 3 or 4 different formats and views”. And so I actually bought I think 4 or 5 different Fiverr deals to do that and told them like “you know, this is kind of image I want in the front”, and each one came back with a different picture and I ended up picking the best one, and basically threw the other 4 away. It kind of seems like a waste, but then when you think about it, I went pay $25 and actually got 5 different opinions that I could actually go off of. It was a great deal for me and I didn’t have to go and get photoshop or try to use gimp; I didn’t have to try to search the web for an image or anything. I think it took about an hour of my time in total just to have it all done.
JONATHAN: Yeah that’s a great way to do it. That’s kind of using the crowd-sourcing method that you get on some of those other sites like where there is a 101 –
JONATHAN: Yeah 101 designs, things like that. Or yeah, you get a whole bunch of people and you get some really quality work for very inexpensive.
CHUCK: So are there other resources? What about these U.S.-based VA firms? The one that I used that I dumped was Contemporary VA. Have you had much experience with them? What’s kind of your opinion on when you should go with them or when you shouldn’t?
JONATHAN: Sure! Honestly I haven’t gone with any domestic places if for no other reason that I’m still kind in initial stages of building businesses/hobbies. So I can’t justify the amount of work and the cost. And even when I was in New Media Expo in Vegas a month ago, I’ve talked to a number for people that have had success kind of when their business is in the growing stage where they have maybe 10-20 hours of work they could delegate. And they just need someone to be consistently there, day in and day out. And also, if it’s a sort of thing where you going to have to be interfacing with customers, maybe working on flights and itineraries, a lot of things that someone who’s U.S.-based will be good at, then I know that could make a lot of sense. So I think that could be a great opportunity and it can work really well. But like you said, it could be a bit of double-edged sword where on oDesk, if someone’s kind of flaking out on you, you just go find someone else. But on something like that, you’d hope the quality is higher initially, but if you get into a situation where you’re dissatisfied, then you might be locked into a contract or it’s going to cost you more money to switch or whatever. You have a bigger investment at stake to make changes with that VA.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense. Are there any questions we should have asked Jonathan?
JONATHAN: I just think it’s a sort of thing that just encourage folks to give it a shot and — I guess one question people have asked me before, which might be useful to cover a bit, is can you really get like really technical stuff done? Like okay you can get a generalist and this or that, but what if I have a really really niche thing like what if it’s Ruby on Rails or whatever? Can you really find someone that’s going to be successful at that? And that’s a sort of thing. It kind of varies by what it is; if it’s super specific, there might be less people out there. But you will be surprised what types of experts you can find out there. And I guess what I always say is, if you’re not sure, if you think well someone can’t possibly know that, just post a job and see, and you’ll be surprised. Like in my company for instance, we needed someone who’s expert in a particular type of plastic and who knew about Chinese source thing and things like that, and so we just threw out a job. “We’re looking for this type of plastic, I don’t know what it was. I was just cutting and pasting from what someone else told me that we needed. And we’re looking to do XY and Z”, and two days later, a PhD contacted us and he knew all the stuff about all these plastics that I had no idea about.
So I would just say, there’s a huge community of people out there, And if you’re wondering of someone can actually help you with something really really specific and really technical, just give it a shot. It can’t hurt and you might find someone who’s really awesome that can really impact your business.
CHUCK: Awesome. Alright good deal. We’re going to go into the pick section then. I’m going to make Eric go first.
ERIC: Yeah that’s normal.
CHUCK: That’s normal? [laughs]
ERIC: So my pick today is a blog goes on Bidsketch, it’s titled “Freelance Marketing 101: Creating a ‘Magnetic’ Freelance Business”. Saw it, I think yesterday. It’s pretty good; it actually talks about kind of like I think 3 things about how to kind of change your marketing if you’re a freelancer and what to do. And realistically like the first one’s about blogging, the second one is (what it’s called) appearances, and then the third one is SEO. It’s not like kind of the run-of-the-mill like “this is how you blog, this is how you do SEO”, but it’s actually kind of pretty different topics and a lot of the first one and the third one, the blogging and the SEO, are kind of how I’ve been doing it for the past few months. And I found some pretty good results from that. So it’s a good article, I’d recommend anyone just kind of take it into reading. Maybe if you can’t do all three, try to pick out at least one or two and it might be a pretty good biz to your business.
CHUCK: Sounds good to me. I’ve got a couple of picks. My first pick, I’m not sure if I picked it before, but it’s a “Presto Digital Timer”. It’s basically a kitchen timer – it is a kitchen timer. It’s got 3 buttons on it in minutes, seconds, to the stop/start. The reason that I like it or whatever (I’ve) been using it for is one of my clients. We have our agile estimations meeting and lately, those estimations meetings have turned into basically a story writing and feature clarification meetings, which they’re not really supposed to be. And so we as a team decided that we were going to limit ourselves to 5 minutes of discussion. And then if we couldn’t come to a consensus on the estimation, then we would just drop it and throw it back to the product donor for more clarification because clearly, it’s not clear enough for us to talk about and estimate within 5 minutes. And so that really helped. The first time I used it, the project manager — because this was a decision taken by the team and he was actually there when we made the decision, but for some reason, the first time I used it really pissed him off [laughs]. But anyway, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes; I got it off of Amazon.
JONATHAN: So this is the “pissed off presto timer”, is that right?
CHUCK: Yeah! It costs like $3.
[Jonathan laughs on the background]
CHUCK: And then the other pick that I have, it’s actually somebody in The Podcast Mastermind, Jonathan is also in The Podcast Mastermind incidentally; that’s how we met. His name is David Soler, and I’ll put a link to his website in the show notes. But basically, he is Sales and Marketing Coach, and he’s actually been helping me with the marketing for the Rails Ramp Up course. In exchange, I’ve been helping him with some technical stuff. But his advice has been pure gold! So i really want to promote him and say nice things about him because he has really really helped me. So I’m going to recommend that. If you want to ramp up on your sales and marketing, go talk to him and see what he has to offers.
And those are my picks. Jonathan, what are your picks?
JONATHAN: My pick is a website and a book called by the same name “Work the System” by Sam Carpenter. He basically takes businesses, and life, and whatever and look that through the lens of a system. And if you’re having trouble with a particular issue, it kind of helps you to analyze what’s broken in the system, possibly to help fix it. And when you’re doing things like delegation for instance, it’s really helpful to have a better grasp for how your business is working, the bottlenecks, and the ways that you can improve if you kind of break it down into the moving parts and see why you might be hitting road blocks again and again. I find it a pretty interesting read. It is a bit pitchy; it does seem to kind of encourage you to buy a very expensive product of your business and in that route. But if you’re going to look that, it’s just a good way, a new kind of refreshing way to analyze life and analyze how your business (is) in terms of a systematic approach.
CHUCK: Alright cool! Sounds interesting; I might have to go look at that. Alright, well thanks for coming to the show, Jonathan. It’s been great–
JONATHAN: Thanks for having me!
CHUCK: I think it really will kind of inform our listeners as far as what they can outsource and where they want to go and do it.
JONATHAN: It’s been a pleasure.
CHUCK: So one more time, where do people go to find you online?
JONATHAN: You can go to your, Y-O-U-R, firstvirtualassistant.com. And I also have a podcast by the same name in iTunes.
CHUCK: Awesome. Alright well, we’ll wrap the show up, we’ll catch you all next week!