Guide to Hiring Virtual Assistants (VA) for Niche Websites

Mushfiq

Building niche sites presents a great opportunity to leverage geo-arbitrage when hiring VAs. Hiring help will significantly expedite the growth of your niche websites allowing you to focus “on” the business rather than “in” the business.

In 2021 alone, I spent $76,749 on VAs, which include writers, content formatters, website designers, on-page SEO assistants, backlink outreach specialists, and more. I’ve been utilizing VAs since 2010 consistently.

In this write-up, I will discuss how I go about hiring VAs. Here’s what’s covered:

  • Tasks you can outsource to a VA
  • How to find rockstar VAs
  • Tips for working with VAs
  • Actionable takeaways

Let’s get into it!



Why Hire VAs to Work on Niche Sites?

A rockstar VA can save you a tremendous amount of time and allow you to focus on more important tasks in your business.

Once you have hired excellent VAs, they can take over many of the tasks required to manage your sites and automatically execute processes like uploading articles or link building.

It makes a lot of sense to outsource any tasks that you can pay someone to do for a significantly lower per-hour cost since technically, your time as a website portfolio manager is worth a lot more.


8 Niche Website Tasks to Outsource to VAs

Here are some of the tasks that I have found to be an excellent fit.

1. Uploading and formatting articles in WordPress

Uploading and formatting articles can be a time-consuming part of publishing content since most freelance writers and content agencies provide articles as Word documents or Google Docs.

This type of repeatable task is a great fit to outsource to a VA. Ask your writers to email completed articles to your VA’s email to make the process automatic.

2. Adding Images to Articles

Adding relevant images to articles is an important and time-consuming task for publishers.

This task can be handed over to a VA who can choose relevant images from your preferred stock image provider (e.g. Shutterstock, Deposit Photos), resize the image to reduce file size, upload the image to WordPress, add descriptive image alt text, and place in the appropriate parts of the article.

Takeaway: I highly recommend the Short Pixel WordPress plugin to automatically compress all uploaded images.

3. Online Research

A VA with good online research skills can be a huge advantage to your business since you can acquire useful information about competitors or collect facts that can be used to improve content.

Some examples of online research include:

  • Create a list of the top competitors in your niche with over 5,000 AHREFs traffic. Use the AHREFs competing domains report and search Google for your top keywords to find competitors.
  • Find relevant data points about a topic from government sources (e.g. Data.gov) or statistics sites (e.g. Statista.com).
  • Find startups from Tech Crunch or Angel List in {industry} that are 100% remote or have a 4-day work week.

4. Data Collection

Adding specific data points or statistics to articles is a great way to make content more valuable and useful to readers.

Some examples of data to collect include:

  • Product features and specifications.
  • Specific type of products under $100 (for best budget option).
  • Contact information for brands to negotiate a higher affiliate rate than Amazon.
  • Teacher salaries by city from BLS.gov.
  • Walkscore and Transit Score by city (Walkscore.com).
  • Information about businesses in specific cities (e.g. best food tours in Memphis, TN).

5. Data Entry

Adding data found online into a Google Sheet can be useful in several ways such as organizing data into tabs to be used in articles or programmatically creating pages using Zapier’s integration with WordPress and Google Sheets.

You can also request that data can be added directly to pages using WordPress, such as adding data tables or bullet lists to a group of published articles.

6. Writing

You can use VAs to write full articles for a website, although it may be difficult to get the same quality compared to freelance writers. Make sure they use a grammar checker like Grammarly to improve sentence structure.

John Jonas, the founder of OnlineJobs.ph hired a VA from the Philippines for $400 per month to write product reviews for an affiliate site and it grew from zero to $10,000 – $15,000 in earnings after one year.

One approach is to have VAs write a basic article on many topics to test which ones receive organic traffic or rank on the first page of Google. You could then hire a freelance writer or content agency to rewrite the article with higher quality content to try to improve rankings to the top 3 positions in Google.

Note: I have a more detailed guide on how to hire writers. That’s worth a read.

7. Link Building Outreach

VAs can effectively collect contact information from a large list of websites and enter them into a Google Sheet. A VA could export all the websites that link to competitors from AHREFs, upload it to Google Sheets, and find contact information for each site.

You could then use a tool like GMass to send templated email outreach with Gmail and Google Sheets. GMass will dynamically insert data from the Google Sheet into each email using variables like the title of the page or the first name of the contact.

The VA could also learn to send customized email outreach through a Gmail account or company email and BCC you on the emails for quality checks. Alternatively, they could create emails as drafts that you can send after they have been reviewed.

Takeaway: Paying a per-link bonus may be a good incentive to encourage VAs to build links efficiently.

8. Submit HARO Responses

Hiring someone to submit high quality HARO responses to answer journalist questions related to your niche is one of the best tactics for building authoritative links to your niche site.

A VA can be trained to filter through the HARO requests and respond to the most relevant ones with a provided template that includes your bio.

The answers can be written based on information from your website and you can review submissions for accuracy before they are sent.

Bonus: Outside the Box Tasks

With some creativity, you can find many additional tasks to outsource that will generate value and save time.

  1. Use AHREFs to export the top pages and keywords for all competitors and add to Google Sheets (with a separate tab for each competitor).
  2. Email link reports each Friday showing all new links in the past week for your portfolio (from AHREFs, Google Search Console, etc).
  3. Email anyone that mentions your brand without linking (use Google alerts or search your brand name in Google and filter to “Last week”).
  4. Pitch relevant podcasts to have you as a guest (great way to get relevant links from the podcast episode show notes).
  5. Find guest posts by competitors and email those sites a pitch to write a guest post.
  6. Find and email experts on a topic to request a quote to include in an article.

The possibilities are endless!


3 Best Marketplaces for Finding VAs

Here is a breakdown of my favorite places to find VAs. I’ve used all of these platforms on and off. For this write-up, I decided to post a test job application to see how many people apply in a given time frame.

This experiment won’t look at quality as that’s upon each individual that is hiring but will look at how “active” each platform is in bringing applicants.

1. Upwork

upwork va job posting 1

Test Results: Within a few hours, I received 125 proposals. Many of the proposals quoted a price of less than $5 per hour.

Upwork is my go-to platform for finding freelancers and VAs. I’ve used it since the early days when it was called ODesk, and then later rebranded into UpWork.

From UpWork, I’ve found many VAs that till this day format my content to upload into WordPress. It is also an excellent platform to find niche-specific writers.

Pros

  • VAs available from almost any country.
  • It’s free to post jobs ($29.99 to make it a “featured” job).
  • Good review and ratings system provides more information about candidates.
  • Easy to use payment system.
  • Included time tracking software that takes random screenshots of the freelancer’s screen.

Cons

  • They take a high percentage from the freelancer (20% of the first $500, 10% of the first $10,000).
  • You are required to work with hired contractors on their platform (or pay a 13.5% fee of estimated earnings for 1 year).

Takeaway: Require that the job proposal include a specific keyword (e.g., “NICHESITES”) to ensure the applicant has good attention to detail and to eliminate automated applications.

2. OnlineJobs.ph

online jobs screenshot

Test Results: I received 19 applicants in the first 24 hours after the job post was approved.

OnlineJobs.ph is the largest job board for VAs in the Philippines. You can find many well-educated, English-speaking professionals who are happy to work full-time for less than $500 per month.

You can post jobs for free but you will have to upgrade to $69 per month to communicate with applicants (you can cancel once you have hired a VA). You are able to view each applicant’s cover letter and monthly rate without the subscription.

Pros

  • They have over 1,000,000 Filipino virtual workers on their marketplace.
  • They don’t take a percentage from the VA so your hourly price could be lower.
  • Filipino culture promotes hard work, honesty, and loyalty.
  • English is one of the official languages of the Philippines and is taught extensively in college.
  • Free to post a job (subscription required to contact applicants).

Cons

  • No time tracking unless you pay the monthly subscription ($69/month).
  • You need to pay your VA directly (e.g. Paypal).
  • There are no reviews or ratings from past clients.
  • Only VAs from the Philippines.
  • Due to tropical storms, some parts of the Philippines are prone to power and Internet outages.
  • Employers in the Philippines are legally required to pay a bonus of an extra month of pay (aka “13th month pay”) around Christmas time. Although overseas employers are not required to pay, VAs may expect to receive this bonus.

3. Fiverr

fiverr va lisitng

Another option for hiring VAs is Fiverr which has thousands of sellers offering VA services for $5 per hour or less.

Instead of submitting a job posting, you find freelancers by viewing listing pages where the seller lists their services and prices.

Pros

  • You can search for freelancers that provide the specific tasks you need.
  • You can read reviews by past clients who have used their service.
  • There are thousands of low cost VAs available with good English skills.
  • Gig listings show average response time so you don’t waste time contacting freelancers that don’t respond.
  • Easy to test many freelancers quickly with an inexpensive order.

Cons

  • Fiverr is more focused on gigs or projects rather than hourly work.
  • Fiverr gig workers often have multiple clients so they may not be able to focus exclusively on your project.
  • Buyers pay a 5% service fee and Fiverr takes a 20% cut from the seller.

Bonus: Acquire VAs When Buying a Site

This has been one of my best ways that I find excellent talent. When I acquire a website, I always ask the seller if they have any quality writers or VAs that can continue to work on the site.

They are already trained by the previous site owner and can also apply their skills to other sites in my portfolio.


5 Tips for Working with VAs

After hiring VAs to work on my project for thousands of hours, here are some of my top tips for recruiting great VAs and working together efficiently.

1. Test Many VAs to Find “A” Players

Similar to finding top-quality writers, it is a numbers game to find excellent VAs that will contribute the most to your business. The more VAs you test, the more likely you are to find the A+ players.

It can be helpful to conduct a brief paid test for applicants to check their attention to detail, productivity, and communication skills.

An example test project is to collect the features, specifications, and reviews of a specific type of niche product into a Google sheet. You can provide instructions in a Google Doc and compare the submitted Google Sheets from different applicants.

Note: Make sure to always respect the applicant’s time by making it a “paid trial”. No one should work for free even if it is a trial.

2. Provide Specific Instructions

Providing very specific and detailed instructions is crucial to the success of your project.

It can be helpful to provide step-by-step instructions in a Google Doc with screenshots. A narrated video walkthrough with a tool like Loom or an unlisted YouTube video can be very helpful to show exactly how you want a task done.

Note: Over time, you can build a library of process documents that can be reused on future projects or help train new VAs quickly whenever there is turnover.

3. Check for Understanding

Verify that the VA understands the task by asking them to complete a test task before spending a lot of time doing work that will need to be redone.

Let the VA know that you encourage questions if there is any uncertainty. You don’t want to have to spend money to redo work due to a misunderstanding.

If a VA doesn’t understand what they are supposed to do, is confused, or nervous about asking for help, they may choose to disappear rather than face embarrassment.

4. Provide Feedback and Encouragement

Most freelancers want to receive feedback to know how they are doing and they want to feel like their work is valuable and appreciated.

Having empathy for your VA and providing them with regular encouragement will help you to retain the best VAs who can contribute to your business for multiple years.

5. Provide Consistent Work

Keep quality VAs busy with tasks so that they know they can count on you for consistent work and reliable income. This will help increase the chances that good VAs will choose to stay on your team for the long term.




Actionable Takeaways

In my experience, taking the time to find and train high-quality VAs to work on your websites is a huge time saver and a great investment.

Here is how you can decide if a VA is needed:

  1. Take notes on what kind of tasks you are doing on a regular basis that is repetive
  2. Take notes on how many of these tasks are done across how many websites
  3. Write up (or record) the process in detail
  4. Bunch tasks up based on expertise (e.g., content formatting, adding images, and adding links can all be done by one VA)

Once you’ve done the above tasks, you can start the hiring process.

Although it can be difficult to find the right VAs and train them, outsourcing tasks can increase profits, help you grow faster, and make your business more passive.



Mushfiq

Analyzed by Mushfiq S

Mushfiq has been buying, growing, and selling website assets since 2008. His first exit was in 2010. Since then, he has done 200+ website flips with multiple 6-figure exits. Learn more about Mushfiq.


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