In this episode, David Dodge and Mike Slane talks about how could find a Virtual Assistant and when is the right time to start thinking to hire a Virtual Assistant.
David: Alright guys, welcome back to the Discount Property Investor podcast. This is your host David Dodge, joined by co-host Mike Slane, hey Mike.
Mike: Hey Dave, how are ya?
David: I thought you were gonna jump in there, bud?
Mike: Well I was kind of in a daze because I was thinking about the topic today which I am pretty excited about. It just changes our business so much. Guys, we are in the real estate business, more specifically the wholesaling business, that's where we started, where we started in real estate investing heavily, or full time I guess. We both own rentals as well. What we are going to talk about today, really just transformed our business I think. I think it is the thing that changed it from-- I guess a solo-preneurship to what feels like a business in my mind.
David: That's correct. What is the topic today?
Mike: Virtual assistants.
David: Virtual assistants.
Mike: The reason--.
David: I love this topic. This is going to be a good episode, guys.
Mike: Let's just talk about our business and how it has evolved and let's mention our VA's, because we appreciate them.
David: We sure do.
Mike: No reason not to. Dave, when we started, you had-- this is five years ago, folks, when we started Dave was like, I am going to hire a VA, he went out and found somebody, started working with them. A few months later Dave's business merged into mine, and our other partner's Bill's. All decided that we were doing a lot of the same stuff, I like what you're doing, you like what I'm doing, let's get married. We rushed right in and formed a business together.
David: That's right.
Mike: That's what it's like, you're basically married.
David: So we did.
Mike: Honestly it's been good.
David: It's been great.
Mike: It was business love at first sight.
David: That's right.
Mike: We decided to start working together. Dennis was the VA you hired. Dennis has been an All start for--.
David: He has been with us for a long time.
Mike: The whole time we have been together.
David: I brought him with me tonight, because I already had him working for me tonight.
Mike: I think you just kind of hired him at the time. I think when you hired him you were like, hey you want to split the cost of this guy? I am pretty sure we were thinking of sharing him anyways.
Mike: Because I remember talking with Dennis prior to having our CRM set up. Yeah so anyways, long story short, Dennis has been a rock star for us. So let's talk about not necessarily how you found Dennis, but how somebody else could find a VA and when is the right time to start thinking about getting a VA. A new investor--.
David: Those are great questions, Mike. I like it.
Mike: I apologize, I am kind of jumping on with a bunch of them.
David: This is great. You know me, I don't like scripts.
Mike: I know. A new investor we don't necessarily recommend outsourcing everything from day one.
David: No, you need to learn how to do all of it.
Mike: Yeah, you have to know what you want someone to do--.
David: It's difficult to train them if you don't know how to do it yourself. That's really what it comes down to. Getting a virtual assistant to me was-- it was necessary at the time I got it. I had done a couple of mail campaigns, and at the time I didn't even have a CRM, I was still writing out all the leads by hand. I literally had two or three folders, probably three, one for people that I needed to follow up with in the future. One for warm leads, then ones for either appointments or contracts or whatever. If something is happening with these leads, or working them. Before I knew it my folder for my follow ups was as big as a phone book. It was stacked full. I was still doing marketing so I had calls coming in, multiple a day. It was getting very difficult to juggle all the calls that were coming in, as well as returning calls that came in while I was on calls, as well as trying to make calls to people that I hadn't talked to in three, four, five weeks. So at that point, that's when it became necessarily, because I had a choice to make. I could either sit at home and spend most of my day on the phone, or I could get out in the field and I could view properties and make offers.
Mike: That's a really excellent point, Dave. What do you use VA's for first? What do you use that time that you freed yourself up for? I think what Dave is trying to point out is, you want to use your VA's for lower dollar activities, or lower dollar generating activities, and you want to spend your time--.
David: And activities that you can do anywhere in the world.
David: I am in the market where the houses are at, so I need to go look at them.
Mike: And meet with sellers in person.
Mike: Build rapport.
David: That needs to be my focus, making offers, looking at houses, and talking to the hot ones. Talking to all the people that are not hot, or following up with people every three or four weeks that don't want to sell me their house for two years is not the best use of my time. The cool thing about virtual assistants is that they don't have to be in China or the Philippines, or India, or wherever you may go, Indonesia or whatever right. They don't have to be outside the United States. If you are listening to this, and you are outside the United States, the same rules apply. It just means they are not in your office. I have friends that have virtual assistants that live three or four blocks from them, right? They are still an assistant, they are just virtual, and that's the beautiful thing about living in this time and this age, is if you have a cell phone or even a computer or both; you can do most of the tasks.
Mike: It is really neat. I guess what is fun or funny about VA's, and hiring VA's, is kind of like you are think, oh I am just hiring some VA. Well it's basically-- the reason you use the VA in my opinion, and the reason you are going to outsource it to the Philippines or another country is because you get a better value. What can you afford at the time? Well if I could afford a hired sales professional, be able to pay them $100'000 a year--.
David: A sales manager--.
Mike: Like Dave said, when you are starting out, you can't necessarily afford that. You find someone who is willing to make phone calls, is not in the US, and is willing to do it for a lower price for you essentially.
David: Language is important too, speech, especially if they are going to be on the phone. You want them to sound like they are from where your callers are going to be from. Doesn't have to be exactly, but you are going to have a better response rate when somebody picks up the phone for a call, or calls somebody back and they just get somebody that sounds like they are in the area. You definitely don't-- if they have a heavy accent you may want to put that person on texting or CRM work, or anything other than phones. I really want to dial in on that though. You really want your people that are on the phones to have very good English. That's why we like the Philippines, because they have very good English. Again, there are lots of other places to find virtual assistants. We have always hired Philippine--.
Mike: English is the primary language there, isn't it?
David: Second language, but I believe it is the best country that speaks English as a second language, does that make sense? They have their own language that is the first language, but in terms of their second language, they are the best in the world for grammar, pronunciation, and actually sounding--.
Mike: Let's talk a little bit--.
David: I guess the nationality is irrelevant.
Mike: Let's talk a little bit about how you find a virtual assistant. Super easy, guys. Again if you are looking for an inexpensive choice we would recommend the Philippines, all our VA's are from the Philippines like Dave said. They are doing great. Thanks for everything you do.
David: There are tons of places to find them, but I wouldn't want to confuse people. I would say there are two places I would go.
Mike: Okay, where would you go?
David: I would go to Google-- not Google, I would got to Facebook.
Mike: Boom, I was going to say I would skip Google.
David: I would go to Facebook, and I would find real estate specific virtual assistants in virtual assistant type groups. That is the first thing I would do. If you don't find luck with that, go to Upwork.
Mike: Here is the thing, you are probably going to find work with that.
David: There are services everywhere. The third thing you could do is go into Google and type in 'Real estate specific virtual assistants'. You are going to find them, but here's the problem; you are basically going to come across an agency, which isn't a bad thing necessarily because they may train and provide support to those people, which can be valuable. However, the agency is going to make up their hourly cost anywhere from 50-100%. Mike and I like to pay our virtual assistants from $4-8 an hour, versus 10, 12, 14. It's the exact same amount of work and labor. I like to bypass the service, and just go straight to the person. However, pros and cons. The cons there is they may need more training or have non, you may have to train them more and less support. Again, if you are in this for the long run, which I highly recommend you have that mindset, it's going to be much cheaper.
Mike: It is like hiring and employee.
David: That's exactly what it is.
Mike: Just because someone--. Just because someone is called a virtual assistant, they are an employee for you. Have that mindset that you are going to have to train them. It doesn't matter even if you are working with a service like Dave said, and you are going to pay a premium, because those service, those providers typically will say they are trained, they are fluent in English. They do a screening, so again those virtual assistants are probably going to have a little but more experience in real estate potentially than someone you go and find yourself. Like Dave said, there are pros and cons, very well said. One more thing I would like to touch on--.
David: I've got a couple.
Mike: Upwork, just circling back. Upwork is another place to find them, but that is probably going to be better for more one off or specific tasks, like if you are doing-- what would be a good example for Upwork?
David: You need some help with your website, need some help blogging. It could be anything, guys. I need help doing data collection.
Mike: Upwork probably isn't going to be the one for answering phones.
David: Yes and no, it's going to be the place to find people, and you can work with several people, and when you find somebody that you like, then you can just hire them. It doesn't have to be through Upwork or not, you can just go there to locate them.
Mike: We are not suggesting you violate any of the terms of Upwork's policies etc.
David: Not at all.
Mike: Moving on, again my opinion of Upwork is going to be more the little projects.
David: Upwork is cool if you do continue to go through them, which I recommend that you do, but you can do whatever you want. They will take screen shots of the individual's work, you can set up time clocks in there, so you can real dial down on what you want them to do, and how they are doing it. Another software that we just started recently to help track the hours, the day to day tasks and what activities they are doing is a service called HubStaff. We just started using that a couple of months ago.
Mike: Wish we were using it for a couple of years.
David: It's been working great for us. That is definitely another place to go.
Mike: HubStaff does what David just said, it's going to-- the Virtual Assistant is going to log in on that software on their computer, and it's going to-- it's basically a time clock. But, it can also take screen shots of the virtual assistant's computer, and set intervals. You can set it for, what is it? Ten minutes?
David: Five, ten, fifteen or twenty. But the cool thing too is not only does it do time tracking and screen shots so we can know what else is going on, there are two other features that are super powerful. You can set an auto log off. If they walk away from their computer and you can set it for five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, but if they walk away from their computer, you can automatically clock them out if they are not working for that period of time, if there is no movement on that mouse or keyboard, it will actually log them out. So they can't be stealing time from you. That is the number one thing that I really, really like about it. Number two, is you can track all the websites and apps that they are actually using when they are on the clock. If you have a great person, obviously you are not going to want to micromanage them, and you are going to give them lots of leniency. But, if you are in the hiring stage, or if you are considering about letting someone go because they may not be performing properly, you can track and see where they are spending their time.
Mike: That's the thing--.
David: If they are on Facebook or Instagram for four hours of their eight, that is not part of the job tasks or duties, red flags, it's just great.
Mike: HubStaff, they even have efficiency metrics, they just kind of plug that in automatically for you. They are not 100% accurate, but it's helpful.
David: It's helpful.
Mike: It gives you an idea of-- this person--.
David: That fact it logs them out after-- I think ours is set to ten minutes is amazing. It prevents them from stealing time. It's not that I am trying to come down on them, but if they are stealing my time, that is disrespectful to me, and I want to be respectful to them.
Mike: People get a phone call or whatever, you take a phone call for five minutes, no big deal. But, if you are on the phone for 45 minutes talking to your mom or your aunt, you are not working.
David: So clock them out.
Mike: Fair for both parties. Again, we pay them fairly as well. For what we are paying here in the US it is very good value. But, what they are receiving in the Philippines is also good value for them, it's just the difference in money or the value of money over there, so very cool.
David: Absolutely. Let's talk about the where, why and when and how, Mike. So where? We talked a little bit about. That's Facebook groups, Google search for real estate specific VA's, and or-- we were just talking about that website-- Upwork. That would be the where, okay?
Mike: The when, we have talked about that as well a little bit, Dave. I think-- it's when do you hire a VA? It is when you have reached that point of I cannot keep up with all of my work. That to me is when you should do it, or a little bit before then. Once you have got so many tasks that you are not quite able to keep up with all your phone calls coming in, or all of your leads coming in, and doing the follow up that you need to do to serve your clients.
David: Yeah that would be a win guys.
Mike: Well here is another example of a win, okay so if you are working full time, and you literally cannot answer the phone when it rings, that is a great time to consider having someone else answer the phone for you. So Monday through Friday, say you're working 9-5, you have a 9-5 job, and you can afford a little bit of money. Guess what? It's time to hire a virtual assistant to answer those phones for you, so your phone calls get answered right away. Someone from your company is talking to your seller leads right away. Setting appointments for you, giving the anotomy to schedule an appointment for you to go look at the house.
David: Love it.
Mike: That way you are not letting those leads slip through the cracks.
David: Love it.
Mike: Again, when you are ready, if you dove in full time, once you are already working full time and you are overwhelmed, hire a VA, or like I said, if you are working full time, and trying to do this as a side hustle, that is another time you can leverage other people's time and talents, such as VA's, virtual assistants to you know-- get your real estate investing career off the ground a little bit faster.
David: Love it, let's talk about the how. The training. You guys want to train your virtual assistants if they are not already trained, and you want to train them specifically to your business, your CRM, your software, your processes. I like the simple tool called Screencastomatic. There is a newer service out called Zoom. You can use other softwares like Snagit. But essentially you can record your screen, Zoom can even do this for you as well. You can drop these into YouTube or some of these sites have their own hosting, and you want to record your trainings. Reason being is that if you decide to hire a second or third virtual assistant, you don't have to spend two weeks or a month or whatever, tons of hours retraining them. You just give them your catalog or library of trainings. Those will already be specific to the softwares and processes that you are doing, because you are training somebody how to correctly do that.
Mike: Awesome. Forget about that.
David: You can't forget about that. Paying them, that is something you need to address too.
Mike: I want to interject a little bit on that.
David: Please do.
Mike: The training topic, that is really good and I think it is super important to get on a video call. David talked about Zoom, and the other one is Loom or whatever.
David: There is a ton of them though.
Mike: It's important they can see your face and you can see their face in my opinion. You are not in the same room, so you are not really building that rapport, but you want to have a relationship with this person. Talk about another person, you want to have a relationship with them, make sure you guys are both on the same page. So when we hire a new VA, Maria is our newest VA, we-- for the first week, we said okay, everyday at this time let's get on a phone call, just so we can at least see each other, talk to each other in person via software so we can get on the same page. Once they are up and running, then it is maybe once a week or every other day. Now on top of that we also use a software called Slack that is basically like an instant messenger, so you can message them, so you don't need to jump on the phone all the time with them. Okay, Dave, sorry didn't mean--.
David: Those are some gold nuggets, man. Those are great nuggets, I love that.
Mike: What are you doing? Pulling up some--.
David: I want to see the pay scale, because earlier we mentioned that we like to pay anywhere between $4-8 for a virtual assistant. Now we pay these assistants one of two ways. We currently use Transfer-Wise, or we use PayPal. Transfer-Wise is a little cheaper in terms of your costs, and their costs to receive. But PayPal works just as well. The average hourly rate in the Philippines guys, I am looking this up on Google, I typed in hourly rates, I came across a site called Pay Scale, it looks like the average hourly rate in the Philippines is 150 Philippine pesos. What would you call that? The transfer or conversion rate between the two, one US dollar is equal 50.49 pesos. That is according to today's conversion rates. That may vary from day to day. But basically 1 to 50. If they are getting 150 pesos an hour, that's equivalent to three bucks. That is the average salary there. Look at it this way, guys; if you're paying somebody 4, 5, 6 bucks an hour, they are making-- in some cases double what the average individual in that country is making, hourly worker, right. So look at our own area, right? What's the minimum wage here, Mike? Didn't they just raise it?
Mike: The fight for the 15 is the big thing--.
David: We are at 8.60 an hour--.
Mike: I would have said 7.75.
David: If you double that, that is-- 17 dollars an hour. You are essentially paying somebody the equivalent of 17 dollars an hour, but you are only coming out of pocket six. That is almost a third. Your money can stretch a lot further, so it benefits you, the person who is hiring the personal assistant. But, flip the script; you are empowering and helping another individual that lives in another part of the world to make in some cases double the salary of what their peers are making. It's not like you are necessarily undercutting them or paying them low wages, you are giving them double what most of their peers are paying. That's what I'm getting at, it's a win win. Money has different values in different parts of the world, love that.
David: What did we forget?
Mike: I think that's pretty much it.
David: Did we do the why? Why is just simple. You can't be two places at once. You need to be able to outsource some of these activities so you can get your time back. If you haven't read 'The e-myth', that's a book I want to name drop in this episode. It's a great way to figure out what you want to outsource first. Basically you build a big diagram of your company, even if you don't have positions for those yet. You in the beginning are all those positions. Then what you do is start to erase your name from the boxes and you start putting other people's names in. That could be one other person to begin with. It doesn't have to be a whole team. Two makes a team.
Mike: Mine is 'The 4 hour work week' Tim Ferriss. Took me about 25, are you kidding me? He talks a lot about outsourcing your life, or hiring virtual assistants, just doing one or two tasks as a time. Very neat stuff, very interesting concept. I think it is pretty widespread now. Again, 'The 4 hour work week', pretty interesting on hiring VA's, and having other people do work for you. Very cool.
David: Also one more thing, when you go to hire you don't have to bring them on full time to begin with. You may be able to hire somebody for 5-10 hours a week, or 20 hours a week. If you like that individual then up their hours, maybe up their pay over time and give them more, right.
Mike: Or a task based thing.
David: That's where Upwork comes in. You don't even have to necessarily have them on salary. You can just say, this week I have a lot of work for you, but next week I may not have any. That's okay, you can find people that are willing to work project to project.
Mike: A great thing for somebody starting out would be, hey I have all these leads that I haven't followed up on in six months. Call these 30, 50 100 or 500 numbers--.
David: All I need to you do is call them and see if they are ready to sell.
Mike: See who is ready to sell so I can make some money.
David: Virtual assistants are huge, guys. To wrap this episode up-- there will be a time when you become overwhelmed. To me that's the time you should look at getting the virtual assistant. No sooner than that though. Reason is you want to learn how to do all these activities so you can teach them. If they come to you with a problem later, you need to have answers for them, right?
Mike: I also think, I guess we didn't touch on this earlier, you should probably be doing a deal or two before you start hiring someone else.
David: Yeah, why wouldn't you? Use the house's money to pay for it.
Mike: I just thing we get a little bit ahead of ourselves when we are ambitious about the business.
David: It's a great point.
Mike: Just thought I would throw that out there.
David: Guys, reach out to us if you have questions about virtual assistants. We are here to help. One thing I do want to drop really quick because I doubt we will do an episode on it, but I want to talk to you for a minute about this is-- we have a brand new podcast website. There is a new domain name too. It used to be DiscountPropertyInvestorPodcast, which is like 300 letters long. We are going to forward that to the new one, but the new one is really easy to remember, it's DPIPodcast.com. We have got all the episodes over there, we are updating the site daily. I am really excited about that, so check that out.
Mike: Hopefully it's easier to navigate.
David: Alright guys, signing off, go out and get yourself a virtual assistant if you need one, and automate your business. It will allow you to do more deals, have more time, and make more money. Until next time, signing off.