Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business, by Chris Drucker
Using virtual staff located overseas has become popularized by our shift to a virtual world and with the release of books like Tim Ferriss´ book The 4-Hour Workweek. The idea of foreign workers who charge minimal wages and work to build your business all while you sleep is a romantic notion to many entrepreneurs, myself included.
How Hard is it to Do?
Executing on this strategy of outsourcing areas of your business to virtual and remote workers is, however, a skill in itself that requires testing and practice. It is not without its trial and error. Language differences, working across time zones, challenges that come with being unable to provide truly face-to-face and hands-on guidance. These hurdles to an effective working relationship with virtual staff can make many entrepreneurs question whether the notion of a remote workforce for their business is really all that it has been promised to be. I was skeptical too, and my initial experiences did not do much to resolve that skepticism. A range of mixed experiences with virtual staff from India, Colombia, The Philippines, and elsewhere, always brought me back to the politically-charged policy of “hire American” or worse for me, just doing all the work myself.
Virtual Freedom, the focus of today’s review, completely changed my experience of working with remote staff. I now have a team at any one time of five to ten overseas workers assisting me with a whole host of projects, including, but not limited to: website development, social media management, bookkeeping, SEO and online marketing, legal research, full management of my rental property portfolio, and a whole host of other daily tasks that I simply have decided I just do not want to do! Working effectively with overseas staff has provided me with great relief from all the demands on my time as an entrepreneur. Most critically, it has freed me up to focus on the aspects of my business that require the deep work and thought necessary to execute at a high level without the distractions from the mundane tasks I have now taken off my to-do list. So how can you get to this same point?
Virtual Freedom gives you the plan. Allow me to summarize. However, diving into this book yourself is essential. If you can pull just one nugget of wisdom from this book, the impact on your time-savings will be worth the few dollars this book costs.
Determine the Tasks You Need Done
What tasks in your business don’t you like doing? What don’t you know how to do? (Note: It is true by the way – there are a lot of things I outsource just because I know there is a virtual worker I can work with who is way more talented than I am in those given areas (i.e., anything tech-related!). Also, what should you not be doing (i.e., tasks that do not provide a good return on investment (ROI) of your time)? The book does an amazing job of walking you through the process of getting clear on the answers to these three questions! This is the threshold step. You will never be able to work effectively with outsourced talent if you do not know exactly what it is that you will ask them to assist you with.
Get Clear About the Skills Needed to Execute on Those Tasks
OK, you created a list of ten things you would like to outsource. If you could get these off your plate, it would be a game-changer for you. Executing on this step requires that you be incredibly precise about the likely skills needed to complete those tasks to the standards that you have. Will the person that you hire need to be focused on website design? SEO? Graphic design? Video editing? Developing apps? Accounting? The list goes on. Here is one piece of critical advice I took from the book and that I now know from personal experience to be true: there is no such thing as a “super virtual assistant” who can complete to a high-level all of the various tasks that you are seeking to outsource. Hire one person for each distinct project or skill! Unreasonable expectations as to the capacity of virtual assistants seems to be the number one reason that the relationship does not work for most people. Could you do all the things mentioned above effectively if someone asked you to? Probably not. So do not put that same expectation on your assistant´s shoulders. Creating reasonable expectations is your responsibility as the entrepreneur or business owner.
How to Hire
Finding the right person requires you to be precise in the job description that you create. “Web Developer”, “Content Creator”, or any host of similar vague descriptions are likely to leave you unsatisfied with the results. The book will help you create a crystal clear job description that will help attract the right potential candidates, and, just importantly, keep away the wrong ones. The book also dives into the best places to search for this talent. So check it out!
Training, Management and Precision
You hire an employee to work for your business and you spend several weeks training them, providing them company manuals and working with them hands-on until they know the ropes. Why would things be any different with remote staff? The book reiterates, and I have made this mistake time and time again with my own remote team, that the remote work relationship struggles when the entrepreneur is not incredibly precise in their instructions and requests. This training process, like training any person, can, of course, be time-consuming. But you will never get maximum results (the whole reason you are going down this road in the first place) if you do not put the effort in upfront to allow your virtual team to have success. Precision is critical! In the book, you will find incredible practical advice for providing the necessary training and instruction your team will need (and also how to create and document those training systems so that they can be used over and over again as your staff grows).
Maybe you have tried the virtual assistant and remote staff path before with mixed or disappointing results. Is it possible that you are partially to blame for things not working out as hoped? Speaking from my own experience, it is worth giving it another (or first) try! The burden, however, is on you, the entrepreneur, to make this relationship function in a way that serves you. Reading Virtual Freedom will be your key for unlocking the benefits that will come to your business and personal life from having that effective team working while you rest. No reason not to get the book and get started!