REI Conversion Podcast Ep 20: Tips on Hiring Your First Virtual Assistant this New Year (with Seth Williams)

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I am joined by Seth Williams, who runs a real estate investing business, a real estate investing blog and podcast, and a land investing education site. He absolutely cannot do all this on his own and has been through the ropes of hiring help for one off projects to a permanent virtual assistant.

Listen to this episode as Seth Williams of REtipster shares his thoughts of what business operations was like before and after a VA (good and bad) and the new challenges that present itself when having a VA.

Seth also answers the most common questions of how much he pays his Virtual Assistants all the way to a very interesting hiring process to hiring the perfect VA.

Show Notes:
Zoom.us – a great video and meeting application for teams
Slack – easy to use application for team communication
Upwork – great place to find virtual assistants and other freelance workers for projects.

Podcast Transcription:

Jessey Kwong
Hey there. Welcome to the REI Conversion podcast. Where each episode we discuss strategies and digital tools to help you launch, automate and scale your real estate investing business. Learn how to run your investing business remotely. Find out ways to automate your business to better utilize your time and learn what other successful investors are implementing. So you could get to the next step closer to your investing goals. And I’m your host and founder of REI Conversion. Jessey Kwong. Hey, how’s it going? This is Jessey of REI Conversion podcast today I am joined by Seth Williams Found over RETipster. That’s www.retipster.com. Um, Seth really needs no introduction here, but again. Thanks. Thank you for coming on. Seth. How’s it going?

Seth Williams
Hey Jessey, yea thanks for having me back on. It’s going pretty good. How’s it going?

Jessey Kwong
Good. Good. Um, for those of you who don’t know, Seth got an amazing blog for real estate investors. Not only that, he’s got in land investing program, which I was actually part of when I first got started, and it’s been a tremendous help. And him and his community as well. So make sure you check out his Facebook group. That’s the REtipster community. Is that correct?

Seth Williams
Yeah, absolutely, you nailed it.

Jessey Kwong
Well, today, I am lucky enough to call Seth a friend as well as a team member here at REI Conversion, acting as an advisor for REI Conversion. So, Seth, we’re going to be wrapping up the year, and some of you listening may be listening to this close to the New Year’s. I’m still sort of figuring out a time we’re gonna actually launch this. And, um, some of you might be thinking 2020 is when I want to bring on a new staff or VA to my team to help, um, automate to help scale, tell grow. And that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about. We’ve covered VA’s before on this podcast in Episode 15 but it’s great having a podcast like this so I can bring on other guests onto the show and dive a bit deeper or give um, other perspectives so all you can get a more broad range of perspective on a certain topic. So, Seth, let’s dive right into this episode, on hiring your first staff member or your VA. But first of all, what is your What is your team currently? Look like how many, uh, how many are there of you guys behind RETipster?

Seth Williams
Yeah, good good question. Yeah. I mean, I don’t know that I’m like the foremost expert. Unlike HR and hiring tons of people, my team is currently including me, It’s three people play. What’s myself. It’s Jaren Barnes. He’s kind of like, uh, you know, version two of Seth in terms of he’s actually got a ton of incredible experiences. Very applicable toe what I do in terms of his ability to, you know, write and do video and audio and experience in the land business and houses. So he’s kind of like, you know, a dream team player. Also, I’ve got a virtual assistant and she’s based in Florida, and she helps him with a lot of a lot of stuff. That’s, you know, like a 10 or $20 an hour job, but not like the kind of stuff that I should be spending my time on so together they’re both extremely helpful.

Jessey Kwong
Right. So can you share what it was like for you before having a VA or a team member. Um, what was it like, sort of working, I guess, by yourself?

Seth Williams
You know, it sort of depends on, like what time window we’re talking about. I know, like when I was first getting started both in my land business and, you know, now an online business with REtipster. Um, it was really just kind of empowering and fun and exciting, because I, you know, I was just exploring so many new things, I was able to control every part of the process with my fingerprints on literally everything that happened. And actually, you know, I thought that was kind of fun. Like, I look back on those days of fun memories, but there came a time when, like, it just got so busy on both fronts, like it was just nuts like I couldn’t do it all and like something had to give. Like, I had either quit one or quit the other. Yeah, and that was kind of I probably should have hired people a lot sooner than I did, honestly, but, um, I finally just got to the point where, like, my quality of life was suffering and I was just stressed all the time. And that was when I finally broke down and got help.

Jessey Kwong
So when you first hired, um, and I’m assuming that survey that came on board first, you know, what were they involved with and what was the training process like? And how was it, like in terms of, you know, what was it for? And what was the training process like?

Seth Williams
Yeah. So, um yeah, I think was about a couple of years ago now when I first hired my VA and you know, it was pretty much just out of sheer necessity because I was getting crushed by a title wave of e-mails and other things that I had to do every week that were like there were important, but they were, like, super monotonous. And it wasn’t. It wasn’t like the highest value stuff that was really gonna make the hugest difference to the bottom line. But it’s still needed to happen, you know, like, you know, posting stuff on social media and responding to, you know, just random people who would send me emails. And, I mean, it was, part of it was there were certain jobs that, like I just needed her to do like, for example, sifting through my email inbox every day, which is actually like a fairly complex and very important task. It requires a lot of discernment, a lot of reasoning to look at every individual email and figure out. Okay. Is this just a spammer? Is this just some email list email? Is this a real person eyes, this somebody that I can respond to or does Seth need to respond to this like? There’s just a lot of different filtering criteria that has to be applied to these emails that come through. And, um, you know, that’s just a really important job, and that’s not something you can just hand off, to just a random person. Expect them to understand what to do. So, the training process was probably, it’s probably like a few months we were able to get about 80% of the job figured out just in terms of broad expectations and what kinds of emails are considered super importance. Um, you know what kinds of emails can just get a canned response like, I’ll tell you a lot of e-mails that come in. They either don’t warrant a response at all, or if they do want a response, it doesn’t require a whole lot of thought. It’s just like you can use a text expander snippet, which I actually set one up so that she can share access to that with me. But I basically have these, like, pre written responses to certain kinds of e mails. Like for example, Hey, we wanna pay you and have a sponsored blog post on your website and 99.99% of the time. The answer is just like “No, thanks” you know? So I basically just have ah, really well written kind response to that. And when those emails come in, she could just respond to that. And I’m also really careful to, you know, whatever she’s the one responding. She puts her name at the bottom and says, you know, executive assistant, so people know like it’s not Seth responding, this is his assistant, so there’s never any like trickery or any of that stuff going on. Um, but the other 20% of the job, it’s kind of like training that never really ends because it’s such a dynamic thing where there’s so many different variables that come into play like new changes that are always happening. And, uh, you know, it’s kind of thing where I basically have to always, kind of just monitor stuff that she’s doing and making sure it’s all making sense. That it all sounds right. The responses she’s sending out are the right kinds of responses and, you know, most of the time it is. But every now and then there’s a little like correction that I need to jump in. It’s, you know, I see you said this say this other thing next time, that kind of thing. So I I wish it was one of those things were like you could just hire a rockstar and let him go and just be done and never think about that again. But that’s that’s not how it’s ever been in my experience,

Jessey Kwong
Absolutely. You know, I I think a lot of people come into with the mindset of hiring of VA and they’ll they’ll soon realize, you know, because they’ve grown the team. Um, there’s actually, you know, not more work, but there’s different kind of work that you gotta learn in terms of, you know, now managing a team where when we were working by ourselves, it was just a lot easier in terms of keeping everything under control yourself. But yeah, it’s funny how that works. Ah, definitely opens a new can of worms, but it does alleviate a lot of the pressures that you had built up for a while, so.

Seth Williams
yeah, totally. Yeah, I think a big part of that that I guess, battle, If that’s the right word in terms of training, just the ongoing process of making sure they understand the basics and then all the changing things that happen. A lot of that has to do with, you know, hiring the right person in the first place like some people are just always gonna struggle. They’re never gonna get it like it’s just not the job they’re cut out for, and other people will find it a lot easier to thrive. And that’s something that I don’t have figured out yet in terms of knowing ahead of time. Yes, this person will succeed. I know there’s a lot of kind of common sense things you can look at just in the way that, like, I know a big thing I was looking at because I knew my VA was gonna be doing a lot of email stuff in posting on social media. So I was paying a ton of attention to how well, this person could write an email like. Did it make sense? Like, was it concise? Did they write email the way I would write email? Especially I found her on up work, actually and you know, I think there were about 20 people that responded to my initial job posting  and at least half of them were just like, terrible writers. I mean, it was easy throwaways right off the bat. Um, and Ah, yeah. I also asked for applicants to like to submit a video, just a one minute video introducing themselves and that kind of thing. Just ah, understand. Like, Yep, this is a well spoken person, like they seem to have a good head on their shoulders. There’s a lot you can tell from a very little task like that. I mean, if you can take the information, you can gather up front and get somebody who seems to have a good head on their shoulders. I think that can play a huge part.

Jessey Kwong
So before we go any further on this episode, I do want to let you know that we currently have our Land Forever Plan on Discount Up until December 31st at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time .This is your last chance to get our Land Forever Plan at a huge discount regularly priced at $1497. You can get it for $300 off today and grab it for $1197. Get access to both REI Landlist and REI Landleads both to generate more leads and move properties with our automated add-ons. Get future updates, get future add-ons and forever support for your site. If you’ve been considering launching your land investing sites or already a REI Conversion website owner, make sure you grab the land Forever plan at the discount today and never worry about a subscription again for your site. Head straight to forever.reiconversion.com before December 31st at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. Reviewed by Seth of REtipster.com  “As by far the easiest WordPress team he’s worked with for any purpose, not just real estate, but across the board”. It’s your only and last chance before we increase the price, and it all ends this year at the very last second of 2019. So pauses show, head over to forever.reiconversion.com, grab or upgrade today to our Land Forever plan and never worry about any further subscription on your site again.  

Jessey Kwong
Yeah, um, I think also, you know, figuring out your work style and how, if they work within your sort of work, start one of the things that I typically, whenever I hire someone to work on a certain task or whether it’s you know, when I was hiring for my VA, I always made sure that a lot of people just don’t are not comfortable communicating by voice or screen recording. I felt that very odd, especially with a lot of VA’s out there. Um, I made sure every time like “hey are you built a video chat?” and then also get them to be able to perform a few task on a screen recorder and be able to explain things to me. I felt that one. Because sometimes you know, it’s it’s just easier to communicate with my team members through, you know, quick zoom call or as quick zoom meeting or whatever it may be rather than, you know, chatting on slack or something like that. So, yeah, I definitely think, you know, running thumb through a couple small task can reveal a lot about somebody. Um, just making sure that they’re sort of a good fit with the way you work or the way you know you’re you’re certain style. Um oh. How many V’s have you gone through in the past? Ah, and typically, have you found a reason to let them go or you haven’t actually let them go.

Seth Williams
You know, um, my current is the only one that I’ve had, like, a long term, like more than a few months at a time. And I’ve worked with a lot of other people, though, unlike one off projects that lasted, you know, a few weeks to a few months at a time, like there was a known end date in the future. And, I’ve found most of the people I’ve worked with on up work or the lance before that. And, um, most of them have been fine. But there have been a few that I basically just had to pull the plug before they were done. And usually the reasons for that were either just grossly incompetent or, like just outright lying in the original job application about what they’ve done or what they could do or just not responding to may. I mean, it’s pretty basic stuff, you know, right? I mean, even if somebody is not hitting the mark right off the bat like that doesn’t just automatically mean I’m done with him. It’s it’s usually gonna I kind of expect that, you know, Um, so, uh, yeah, it is about a common thing, but when it has happened, it’s like a just while this person was over the top. Bad. What? What they were doing.

Jessey Kwong
Well, um, if you were to give advice on hiring a first view, let’s say specifically for land investing. Um, what would you tell them? Where should they sort of look that you’ve looked before? And, um, what should they sort of be keeping in mind? I know that’s a lot of questions in one, but I guess any sort of general thoughts in terms off other investors looking to grow their team with a V A.

Seth Williams
Yeah, you know, I think it would be maybe this is just common sense again, but I think it’s smart to just have very clear expectations in your mind of what this person is gonna be doing. And, um, also just realizing that, like, no one person can do everything and that I mean, that should just be obvious. But I feel like some people don’t get that. They hire one person and expect them to be, you know, everything that anybody could ever do, Like you need to be a Web developer and the editor and ah, video editor. And it’s just crazy. So just understand that everybody has their limitations And, um, you know, I think another part is I didn’t actually do this. But I heard about this idea from Perry Marshall’s book, the 80 20 marketing book that he wrote he mentioned just in passing this idea of when you want to hire somebody on a site like up work to do a job and you want to get like the best possible person like one way to do that. Following the 80 20 principle is the higher, like, 10 people to do the exact same job because inevitably one or two of them are going away. Outperform everybody else and then you’ll know then, okay, that’s the winner. That’s the long term person. So it’s almost like you’re knowingly throwing money away. But, you know, using the job interview is an actual job. You’re asking people to do. but I mean, it actually is pretty brilliant when I think about it, because, I mean, there’s no better way to really know what you’re dealing with and to actually work with somebody. And, ah, you know, in hindsight, I think if I could go back and do something different, I might have done something like that. I’m not sure what I would have asked them to do exactly. But I just think that’s ah pretty smart way to find a rock star out there.

Jessey Kwong
I do. Like that one. Okay, so here’s the big money question I get. I hear this a lot is how do you know where to start? In terms of pay? Um, yeah. Hey, is there a sort of a dollar range that you can suggest what that was.

Seth Williams
That’s a really good question. I remember when I was getting ready to hire, you know, my via I knew a few other people that, um you know, they had American based VA’s, which is nice, because first of all, you know, English is their first language, and they’re not the same time zone or a very similar time zone. And, um, I had heard numbers quoted all over the board, but none of them were really cheap. Um, like, I think the range I heard was like 15 to 18 bucks an hour on the low end, and then the most expensive when I heard was, like, 85 bucks an hour. And, uh, you know, I I think that can be well warranted if it makes sense for the business and for the position. Um, but ah, you know, the number I land around was 20 bucks an hour and, ah, I’m aware of the Philippines and other places in the world, and sometimes I wonder, like, should I have done that? First? I know a lot of Filipino VA’s. I think they started, like, four bucks an hour or something like that. Um, and, uh, you know, maybe that’s a better way to go. I I do know with the people in the Philippines I’ve worked with in the past, the time zone difference was a big obstacle for us, though I think there are actually a lot off of, ah Filipino via Is that work like through the night on their end. So they’re actually awake during business hours in the U. S. so maybe that’s something you find too but, um anyway, to have a American based VA who is very well spoken, can write very well, is in the same time zone. Um, that was a big important thing to me because somebody who’s going through my emails, I mean, that’s I consider that one of the most important tasks. And it’s not something I can just flippantly hand off to somebody that I don’t trust. So for me, it’s it’s totally worth paying a higher amount to get somebody that I’m really confident in.

Jessey Kwong
yeah, yeah, I think also, cultural differences is a big one, too. I’ve worked with both, you know, I have ah, regular American VA as well, and she’s out in Ohio and I have. Ah, Filipino via that does sort of more of my smaller tasks. Um, but there is definitely a sort of a cultural difference that I noticed, and I can’t really sort of pinpoint any examples. Um, but certain things that we might think are quite simple, um, or or make common sense to us necessarily translate the same, especially abroad and overseas. So you know something to definitely think about, so yeah. Thanks. Thanks for sort of sharing the exact dollar that you’re offering your VA. You know, um, in this sort of the last question here, how does one know went to actually take on a VA. Like, you know, there’s a lot of people who might over analyze this. I hear it. You know that because it they, you know, they cost a lot. They need to sort of accomplish some deal before they go ahead and hire a V. A. I’ve heard people say we should have VA’s from the get go. Um, What’s your thoughts on that?

Seth Williams
Yeah, I think, um, who’s sort of a couple of components this on? I think the 1st one is like, if you find yourself regularly spending all of your time doing like $10 an hour jobs for your own business so that you’re not able to spend your time doing $1000 an hour work. That’s one thing that might be a pretty good indication that hey, maybe you should start looking into getting some help here because, I mean, it’s just literally dragging you down like you’re not able to really, you know, streamline your time and spend it where it’s most valuable. But the same coin. You do need to actually be making money first. I think, um, I guess if you’re already independently wealthy and you have a bunch of money sitting around, fine, that’s one thing if you want to knock yourself out. But if you’re starting out like I was where you know, I had no money, really. Um, I It’s not just that I couldn’t justify, like I just flat out didn’t have the money to hire a VA so I had to do it all myself. And, um, it’s one thing that ah, I think that’s just the reality for a lot of people when they’re getting started and a lot of people started gloss over that when they just say, Oh, yeah, I just automate everything. Just hire VA’s. It’s like they need money first, you know? So, um, I would say I mean, if you don’t have the money to do that, then you’ve got a different problem, and that is that you haven’t found what works yet. You need to really figure out. I mean, what are you adept at doing so that you can really start making money and just basically, how do you get to that point as quickly as possible, where you do have the money in the revenue to justify paying somebody to help you out?

Jessey Kwong
Yeah, right. I also I definitely agree with that. And, I think I’ve mentioned this before, too. And, you know, even though you don’t have a VA, doesn’t mean you can’t start prepping for that. I always have, you know, on my Mac book, I always have my notepad open in the background somewhere. And whenever I feel like just randomly thought  “man, this is such a drag, like have to do this again” whether it’s like, you know, prepping my mailers or, you know, my deal of the week. Those are like those type of things that you dragging and that are repetitive and can be easily delegated cause you know, these these type of task can be easily systemized. Um, was that you should be making a quick note about you can come back and elaborate on those a little bit later when you’re closer to hiring of VA and start small, you don’t. You don’t have to have a huge budget to bring on a VA, and sometimes it might be easier to bring on a VA for a couple of tasks. Regular tasks, um, and then grow from there. Obviously there, they’re probably gonna be working with other, um, you know, other companies as well, but I think starting small is another one. So you don’t over analyze before you actually add someone on to your. Team

Seth Williams
Yeah, I did a very similar thing. I remember I had a big spread sheet with a list of things that just were painful every week that I had to do. And it’s it’s a great exercise to go through, I think just said that I know you don’t kick the can too far down the road where you’re trying to shoulder everything yourself like know very quickly. Okay. I need help here now, when it’s not a struggle to articulate that.

Jessey Kwong
Yeah, for sure. Hey, Seth this has been really helpful. I just want to thank you for coming on the show and helping. Let’s get to that. Next step is you always do with your podcast, REtipster podcast and your blog and your entire platform. Seth, am I missing anything that I didn’t cover that you think we should have talked about in terms of VA’s?

Seth Williams
Um So if you’re listening and haven’t followed Seth yet, make sure you do. Check out our tipster dot com. Seth. Thanks very much again for coming on. And you, all of you listening out there, um, have a happy New Year.

Jessey Kwong
So if you’re listening and haven’t followed Seth yet, make sure you do. Check out REtipster.com. Seth, thanks very much again for coming on. And all of you listening out there, have a happy New Year.

Seth Williams
Absolutely Happy New Year, everybody.

Jessey Kwong
Awesome. Thanks, Seth. Before you stop this podcast or head to the next episode, I want to personally thank you for listening to this episode of the REI Conversion podcast. If you found this helpful, we greatly appreciate an awesome review and rating on whichever platform you’re listening to this on. And if you have two minutes and wanted to step it up even more and help others feel free to share this and other Facebook groups or pages or any communities giving others a heads up of the REI Conversion podcasts or this specific episode that may help them on their investing journey. Once again thanks very much for listening and catch you on the next episode.

Jessey

Jessey

My desire in starting REI Conversion was to empower other real estate investors with the digital tools to help get investors started and grow their business. Not only do I work closely with the team and services at REI Conversion but enjoy building relationships with all of our investors (don’t be afraid to book a tour/call with me).