Most of the producing agents I talk to these days are miserable. Sure, they close 10 to 15 deals a year, have a solid lead generation strategy, and many of them make good money. Some even make great money. So why are they so miserable? Simple. Their business is plateauing and they can’t figure out how to scale. This is when I usually tell them they need to hire a real estate virtual assistant.
Here’s the excuse I almost always hear next: “But I can’t afford to hire anyone!” Well, can you afford $5 per hour if it meant you would double your gross commission income (GCI) next year? A better question might be: Can you afford not to?
In this article, I am going to walk you through my strategy for finding, hiring, and managing a real estate virtual assistant from overseas who can help you scale your business and (hopefully) be less miserable next year.
Getting Started: Identify Pain Points & Long-term Goals
Before you even think about hiring anyone, you need to figure out which tasks they can do that will actually help you move the ball forward. This is not always easy. Sometimes you might not even realize just how much time you’re wasting on mundane tasks that can easily be taken off your plate.
This is why taking an hour or two to really go through your day-to-day activity to find your pain points is crucial to the hiring process. You can start by actually logging your time for one week and then breaking it up into essential tasks that only you can do, and tasks that can be delegated to a savvy real estate virtual assistant (VA).
Here’s what that might look like:
|Scheduling social media posts|
|Engaging on social media|
|Finding content to post on social media|
|Following up with cold leads|
|Getting feedback from open house guests|
|Following up with homeowners|
|Cold calling FSBO|
|Writing listing descriptions|
|Searching for listings for buyers|
|Entering open house guests into CRM|
Now that you know where all those hours disappear to, you can start to put together a job description and time commitment for a virtual assistant.
Of course, you have two goals here. First, to free up some of your time to focus on high-level tasks that have a big impact on your bottom line, and second but equally important, tasks you can assign to a VA that you can’t find time for today.
Next, put together a dream list of tasks that you have thought about doing but haven’t been able to find the time for. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Targeted engagement on social media to build followers
- Editing long YouTube videos into smaller videos and posting on YouTube
- Designing more attractive posts for social media
- Making custom infographics
- Asking listing agents or buyer agents for feedback
- Designing and sending holiday cards, birthday cards, and so on
- Researching more affordable vendors for marketing materials
- Designing more attractive listing presentations
- Designing more attractive buyer presentations
- Website maintenance
- Scheduling blog posts
- Keeping your calendar up to date
- Screen incoming emails and calls
- Finding social media accounts of leads
- Researching leads on social media
- Entering open house leads into a customer relationship management (CRM) tool
- Posting ads on Craigslist
Obviously, this list is just a starting point. I am sure you can come up with 50 more tasks that would fit into a “nice if I had the time” category. Now make a plan to delegate them to your real estate virtual assistant.
What Are Your Long-term Goals for Your Business?
Believe it or not, many agents genuinely don’t have an answer to this question. If you want your business to scale in a sustainable way, then you’ve got some thinking to do. Sure, you want to make more money, but what are your specific goals for your business six months from now, next year, or in five years?
If this question stopped you in your tracks (sorry!), take some time to read Sean’s article on deciding on your mission, vision, and values. The article is written for brokerages, but the strategies apply to agents, too.
[Related article: How to Create an Inspiring Mission, Vision & Values for Your Brokerage]
How Much Does Hiring a Real Estate Virtual Assistant Cost?
Unfortunately, this is kind of like asking “how much do real estate agents make?” The answer will vary wildly depending on where you hire from, what kind of skills you need, and how competitive the job market is.
Since that’s not much of an answer at all, here’s a quick rundown of how much you can expect to pay an administrative virtual assistant with a few years of experience in different countries:
Cost of Hiring a Real Estate Virtual Assistant by Region
|Coastal United States (NYC, LA)||$15-$40 per hour|
|Rural United States||$10-$25 per hour|
|The Philippines||$4-$20 per hour|
|India||$3-$15 per hour|
As you can see, your money will go much, much farther in the Philippines and India. Having hired from both countries, I would go with the Philippines all day. English skills seem to be better in the Philippines.
That said, if you need a U.S.-based virtual assistant, you have to take the hiring process seriously. The competition for skilled assistants is fierce these days. That means skipping Craigslist and using an actual, professional job search site like ZipRecruiter. It’s the #1 rated job search app on iOS and Android, so it’s where millennials look for jobs these days.
How Much Does Using a Virtual Assistant Agency Site Cost?
Unfortunately, prices have gone up for these sites over the last few years. Today, for a one-month subscription, you’ll pay $69 per month for Onlinejobs.ph. However, this should be looked at as an investment, as the quality and affordability of candidates on this site is unmatched.
Agency sites like MyOutDesk generally don’t charge a monthly fee for access, but they do make a small profit on the salaries of the VAs they offer. That means you will likely pay 10% to 20% more for your VA every month, and that extra money does not go to the VA.
Hiring for One-off Tasks Isn’t Worth It
Since the hiring process for virtual assistants is very similar to the process of hiring any employee, it’s generally not worth the hassle for one-off tasks like data entry projects or designing banners. Instead, use Fiverr.
Where to Hire VAs: Stretching Your Dollar in the Philippines
Due to the relative strength of the U.S. dollar, your best bet for hiring affordable virtual assistants is the Philippines. The Philippines offers agents two massive advantages over hiring from the U.S. or other countries:
- Affordability: The median salary in the Philippines is around $12,000 per year. This means that you can afford to hire someone who would be out of reach in the U.S. or other countries.
- English skills and established outsourcing culture: Over 90% of Filipinos speak English as a second language, and outsourcing is very common there.
Virtual Assistant Agencies vs DIY Hiring
If you want to skip the hassle and hire a virtual assistant from the Philippines who already has real estate experience, you can use a service like MyOutDesk. This will make your life easier but will end up costing you more money than DIY hiring.
The Best DIY Hiring Website: Onlinejobs.ph
If you want to save some money and try DIY hiring, then I highly recommend using Onlinejobs.ph. This is one of the largest job boards for remote workers in the Philippines and will give you access to a massive talent pool. They even post a candidate’s IQ scores, DISC assessments, and other test results that can help you make a hiring decision.
Onlinejobs.ph is not free, though. You will need to pay $69 for a one-month account in order to hire workers. They do offer a money-back guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your results, you can get a full refund.
Ethical Concerns About Hiring From Developing Countries
If you’re having some ethical concerns about hiring from a developing country like the Philippines, then you’re not alone. The Close has hired assistants for WordPress, social media, and data analysis from the Philippines, and in the beginning, we also struggled with these concerns.
After some reflection, we decided that far from being exploitative, hiring from the developing world actually gave us a chance to help struggling families in countries that don’t offer the same opportunities as the U.S. Don’t get me wrong—the Philippines and other developing countries have some unsavory political leaders. But you won’t be supporting them. You will be supporting the people you hire
The Hiring Process
Since they offer the best bang for your buck, we will focus on using Onlinejobs.ph for the rest of this article. However, the same principles will apply if you decide to use other freelancing sites, like Upwork.
Posting Jobs vs Searching Resumes
There are two ways you can use Onlinejobs.ph to find virtual assistant candidates. You can search through resumes looking for great candidates, or post a job. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of each method:
Posting a job
You might get more interested candidates since they will all be “hand-raisers”
If you offer a competitive salary, you might get overwhelmed with applicants
You will know the candidate is actively looking for work
The best candidates might not see your job posting
Less competition from other agents searching resumes
You might find job seekers before they see your job posting
There are more than a million resumes on the site!
The most talented people don’t need to search for work!
Writing Your Job Description
Whether you decide to search resumes or post a job, you will need to write up a clear, and hopefully compelling job description. You can get started by writing up a bulleted list of the tasks you want your VA to do. Once you have that done, write up a quick, friendly, introduction to you and your company.
Deciding on a Salary
Before posting your job ad, search for keywords like “real estate” or “administrative assistant” or any specific skill you need, like “social media” or “photoshop.” While some VAs in the Philippines specialize in fields like graphic design or programming, most seem to be Jacks and Jills of all trades. If you take the time to find people with the skills you want, you’ll have a much better idea of what salary to offer.
IMPORTANT: If you absolutely need someone with specific skills, make sure you say they must have those skills to apply. If you don’t, you will get flooded with resumes!
Unlike job sites in the U.S., job sites in the Philippines offer substantial information about each candidate. It is not unusual for candidates to pose IQ scores, DISC assessment scores, and ID verification.
IQ, DISC Assessment & ID Score
While making a hiring decision based on IQ is probably not a great idea, DISC assessments can be useful if you want to hire a customer-facing assistant.
Next, check out their “Worker Skills” section, where candidates rank their skills in different software or tasks. I’ve found that most candidates on the site are very honest about their skill level.
Some candidates also have reviews from other U.S. companies that have hired them. I would hire someone with solid reviews over someone with no reviews.
The Interview Process
Once you’ve selected a few candidates to interview, make sure you ask them two questions along with your normal interview questions:
- How fast is your internet? (Internet speeds can vary wildly in the Philippines.)
- Are you willing to work U.S. hours? (Many VAs choose to work nights to be available during U.S. hours, but some do not.)
Making the Offer
While you don’t have to, sending your new hire an official offer letter and onboarding document will help them feel like they made the right choice. Make sure to spell out salary, tasks, payment, and hours worked.
Onboarding & Training Your New Real Estate Virtual Assistant
Once you have a new hire ready to go, you should start your onboarding process by giving them a (paid) crash course in the real estate sales process. There are plenty of great videos online that explain the process in plain English.
You should also set clear expectations and key performance indicators (KPIs) to make sure those expectations are met. For example, if you have someone running your Instagram account, you might set the number of new followers or posts per day as KPIs.
While freelancer sites like Upwork and Onlinejobs.ph offer time tracking services, you might want to consider using KPIs instead. Time tracking software sends the signal that you don’t trust them to work hard. Not exactly a great way to start a working relationship.
Settle on the number of hours they should work per week, then set ambitious but realistic KPIs and have weekly meetings to see how they’re doing.
Paying Your New Virtual Assistant
There are many ways to pay your virtual assistant, but PayPal or Wise (formerly TransferWise) are probably your best bet. Neither are free, but there are very few reliable free ways to send money halfway around the world. If you hire a skilled VA, they will likely tell you how they prefer to be paid.
Remember to Make Your VA Feel Like a Part of the Team
While many of the tasks you assign your new assistant might seem low priority, remember that this is a serious job for them. That said, you are responsible for setting the tone for your new hire, so make sure to offer some fun things to do instead of just grilling them about performance on every call. Ask about their family, send gifts during the holidays, and treat them like the important part of your team that they are.
If your VA is working U.S. hours, make sure they have a voice at weekly team meetings, and remember to include them in the fun stuff too. Being on-screen at 3:00 a.m. can be a little awkward, but making them feel like part of the team instead of a hired hand is a good trade-off.
Over to You
Have you ever hired a real estate virtual assistant? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments.