Business Process Management

7 Marketing Tasks You Should Really Outsource to a VA


It’s no secret that time is money in any business. No matter whether you’re selling the hottest real estate around or making toothpicks for a living, you don’t have time to do everything yourself if you want to scale (or even run) your business effectively. You need to outsource some of your workload, but what should you offload?

Whilst the answer is really “anything which you personally do not have to do”, as long as your time could be better spent on something else, we have the top 7 tasks to outsource to a VA right here. These are the most common, time / resource consuming tasks which (frankly) we could happily see the end of.

If you want more time to focus on the things that matter for your marketing efforts, go ahead and outsource these tasks before anything else!

Gathering Emails

Nobody likes the arduous task of trawling through hundreds of contacts, manually adding their email address to each one. Equally, the task of finding new contacts and their email address can happily chew up hours upon hours of your work day; hours which could be much better spent personally building a connection to those new contacts, rather than just finding them.

Hence, whenever you have a task which requires the collection of email addresses, you should be outsourcing it to a VA. This is a prime example of everything an outsourced task should be; it’s time consuming, monotonous and doesn’t require any of your personal input or expertise to carry out.

Finding Contact Handles

This task has many parallels to gathering emails; finding other contact information such as Twitter handles or LinkedIn profiles can be just as time-consuming as gathering their email. Time which, once again, could be much better spent creating content to market, improving your website or, as with the emails, building a personal connection to said potential contacts. Essentially, instead of building the framework, you’re shaping your network.

Curating Social Media Content

If this is not already handled by your business process automation system, social media is something which you (by and large) don’t want to be dealing with. You want to have your social media accounts topped up with content that isn’t just an endless stream of self-promotion, but where exactly do you get content that resonates with your audience.

Depending on your tastes, you might try social bookmarking sites like reddit,, GrowthHackers, or putting together a small list on Twitter of accounts that tend to share top notch content. Making a marketing process for this should be easy if you know the kind of content you’d like to curate.

Visual Content

Whether you’re designing the cover for your brand new ebook or just need to get some header images to pair with your Twitter and Facebook posts, you could spend the time to do them yourself. After all, if you just have to do one or two images you might as well take the 5 minutes it takes to whip up a good image.

However, when you get to the stage where you need professional-looking infographics, 20 social media images a week and a new ebook every couple of months, it only makes sense to outsource the task to someone more qualified. Hey, just because the task is going to a VA doesn’t mean that it’s going to be worse quality! All you need to do is make some inquiries to learn who has experience with creating visual content, and then boom; you’re away.

Blog Commenting

Other than being a fantastic way to get your name and brand out there and seen on more popular sources, blog commenting is another monotonous task which can take up hours upon hours without ever being complete (as long as there are more blogs and new posts, blog comments can be made). So, rather than tackle it yourself, you can quite happily hand the task off to a VA without too much trouble.

The only problem which can be posed by outsourcing this task is that the comments should have some sort of review process. This could either be yourself (even if you review each comment, you’ll still save the time taken to write them) or a permanent member of your marketing team, but there should be at least a little quality assurance before a VA is allowed to say anything under your name.


Although this mainly applies to those of you who produce a podcast or video content, transcriptions are easy to do and provide you with extra content with relatively little effort. If you outsource the task you’re not even wasting any time on it – you’re essentially getting several mediums of content for the effort put into just the one.

Content Creation (Be Careful Though)

This may be a bit of a controversial one, but content creation doesn’t always have to be handled by an internal member of your team. You can outsource your content creation to a VA with little problem and, although you’d better have a thorough employee onboarding process to help them along, it should take little time for them to produce similar quality content to yours in the same (or even a shorter) time period.

As with the blog commenting, this should always be monitored and go through at least one of your team members before being pushed live; although many VAs are very talented and can most certainly deliver on what they promise, there’s always a chance that an error has snuck by them or that they haven’t got your tone right.

And there you have it! With a little caution and training, VAs can be a massive boon to your marketing efforts if you let them take these time-consuming tasks off your hands. However, why not take it one step further? Get creative with analyzing your day-to-day tasks and you may find that you can outsource more than you thought to great effect!

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Business People

Outsourcing Revisited – What I’ve Learned Since 2010

* caveat – this post is from the perspective of a small business owner who does not have full time managers and human resource specialists. Someone who doesn’t have systems and processes in place to manage large collaborative teams on long term projects. This is for someone managing a small team with limited resources and need work done in the most efficient and effective manner possible.


A while back a wrote a post called 4 Tips to Not Get Screwed on Elance which has gained some controversy and even some backlash from the Elance community, mostly from freelancers who wrote me up as some type of slave driver.

Well, since that post more than 2 years ago, I have clocked up A LOT more experience with Elance, oDesk and a bunch of other outsourcing sites. I have had many full time, part-time and freelancer staff and have learned a bunch more since I wrote that post.

First things first.

I completely stand by everything I wrote in the first post, and think it is excellent advice to cover your own ass. I understand this might irritate some people, but the fact of the matter is those people probably haven’t put up their own hard earned money onto a site only to had it flushed down the drain buy someone in another continent.

Of course, I would prefer to be able to put up a nice fluffy ad, sign little hearts above my i’s and frolic around a paddock while my work gets done, my business grows and my cash flow is controlled. Unfortunately I don’t live in a fairy tale and shit happens.

Even after I wrote that post, I have still had many disturbing experiences with outsourcing sites. Mostly from NOT following my own advice. I’ve had many delayed, disregarded, over priced and under delivered projects, again and again.

In fact, I have come to the basic rule that 50% of all outsourcing hires are going to fail within the first week. Please read that stat again, because it’s RIDICULOUS compared to a normal business.

Even guys I know who are based in the Philippines and have staff in house in their own office, think that a 66% stick rate after 1 week is doing well.

With these kinds of figures as an employer, it only makes sense that you need to be much tighter in not only your hiring process, but you project schedules, time tracking and more.

I am not running a start up in SF. I cant hire a few college grads, give them Mac Books and iPhones and expect them to sleep under their desk every night. Its hard enough getting virtual staff to show up everyday.

After my additional experience with virtual staff, there are a number of things I have learned. I will go into screening these concepts in later posts, but here are my 2 biggest takeaways:

1. Communication skills, Communication skills, Communication skills, Communication skills repeat etc...

Communication skills are EVERYTHING when dealing with virtual staff. Since you have no way of directly managing them, if they are a poor communicator, chances are your project is going to fall through before it even starts.

This should be your key screening metric during interviews, technical skills, processes and tasks can all be learned. But someone that doesn’t know how to do something, and never tells you that don’t know how to do it, is where everything falls down.

I will do a whole post if not multiple posts on screening communication skills.

2. Work Ethic / Current Situation / Motivation

Whatever you want to call it. We used to just call it “current situation” basically what it means is WHY does this person want this job? Do they NEED it? Are they EXCITED by the project? Will this be their primary focus? Do they already have multiple other clients and projects that are of higher commitment than your project? How much do those projects pay? What proximity and level of commitment will the worker commit to your project?

These are all questions that need to be asked when making the hire.

I have studied human resources and organisational structure and I completely understand this is not modern, traditional or textbook way  of approaching, hiring or managing staff in a traditional business.

But outsourced work is not traditional business. Ideally you want to create a collaborative culture or a fun working environment, but a REQUIREMENT is to get the job done in the most cost effective manner and thus the process becomes much more transactional.

With all the above being said, that doesn’t mean once you hire someone who you work well with you can’t empower them. On the contrary you should, but just make sure you screen thoroughly before relaxing on management techniques.




Step by Step Guide to Hiring a Virtual Assistant (or How I Hired my First VA)

hire virtual assistant

A few weeks ago I hired my first VA (Virtual Assistant) on I have outsourced things before like development projects to Elance (now UpWork) and little bits here and there to Fiverr (which rocks, by the way, the amount of stuff you can get done for $5 is amazing) but this was my first venture into hiring a full time VA.

For those who don’t know what a VA is, here an excerpt from Wikipedia:

A virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is an entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office. Because virtual assistants are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits. Clients also avoid the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies.

Task list

Firstly I made a task list. I outlined all the things I knew I had to do on a regular basis and that I do not enjoy doing.  When choosing the tasks you want to outsource there are a few things you should consider. The first thing should be what you dislike the most. The more you dislike the task, the more you should want to outsource it. The second is how much it will cost to outsource. You may hate copywriting, but if you don’t want to fork out tens of thousands to get your sales material written, then you’re probably going to do it yourself.

For me, the things I outsourced for my first VA were:

  1. Article Writing. I don’t mind writing (although I do dislike editing) but I can’t stand writing about the same topic over and over, rewriting articles and writing spun articles. And this is something that needs to be done over and over. So this was high on my list.
  2. Creating profiles and submitting stuff. From articles to ebooks to software to slides. Submitting stuff is very time consuming and drives me nuts.
  3. Social media profile building. Again, not hard just monotonous and time-consuming.

There is more than enough work there for a full-time employee, and tasks like article writing can easily be expanded. There is never enough articles you are writing.

Finding staff

To find resumes I looking around the few of the job boards, but I found to be the best, [UPDATE: Another new one to check out is Outsourcely]. For my search criteria, all I did was type in “article writer” and sort by date so that the newer resumes came up first.

When assessing the skills that your worker needs, always make sure you target the skill that will be the hardest to train in. For me, it’s going to be much harder to teach someone how to write well than it will be to teach them how to submit to a certain site or use a certain social network so writing was the key metric I was looking for. If you are hiring a programmer, it would be their core language skill (PHP, Java) etc…

Contacting Staff

Before I started searching, I wrote up a quick email. Here it is below:

Subject: Article Writing and SEO Position for Australian Company


I saw your resume on and I’m looking for a person who can do the following:

Job Description

  • Article and Blog Post Research
  • Article Writing
  • Article Submission
  • Web 2.0 website creation
  • Ebook creation
  • Directory Submission
  • WordPress Blog Updating
  • Other Traffic Generation Strategies

I am looking for someone to work a full time position, working 9am-6pm 5 days a week, your local time.

Salary starts at $250 USD per month and goes up depending on performance

I am wondering if you are interested?

If you are, please provide the following:

  • A full copy of your resume
  • Examples of work you have done (Articles or Blog Posts)
  • Your current availability

Points included:

  • Job description
  • Working hours
  • Salary expectations
  • Request for more information

I sent this email to ~20 people.

This is the start of the screening process. Basically, you are trying to see how well they take instructions. I have already given some instructions here, and if they do not answer the above three questions correctly, they are instantly disqualified.

Some people responded asking me questions, or with just weird answers, they were instantly disqualified. A few (about 7) responded with the correct information. Those that did, I moved on to the next step.


To screen my staff, I gave them a task to complete. Again, I got this idea from Tyrone’s Mass Outsource (no longer being sold) and I am SO glad I did this step. I wouldn’t have thought of this myself, even though as a recruiter I have been extensively exposed to this method, I just didn’t think people would do it for me seeing how I’m not a big company with a solid reputation. But it was the best thing I could have done.

Here is the task I gave them:


Thank you for your response.

To make sure you are suitable for the position, I would first like you to complete a task for me.

Please send me an email at the point you start the task, and at final email. This way I will know how long it took for you to complete the task.

Below are the instructions:

  1. Write an article of 400-500 words on the keywordEcommerce Strategies
  2. Use the following in the resource box: Finally, if you want to build an e-commerce store, you should watch the free video course on how to build an online store at eshopwiz. This will take you through the exact steps you need to build your own online store.
  3. Submit the article to the top 3 article directories
  4. Create necessary article and email accounts
  5. Forward me the directories and logins so I can check the task has been completed.


It is not necessary for the articles to be approved yet, I just want to be able to read them and see that they have been submitted correctly.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,


This is what separated the superstars from the super******* people that looked good on paper that said they had all this experience doing exactly what I wanted either didn’t respond to the task or came back with very silly questions. Only two completed the task and one was exceptionally better than the other.

The idea is to give them detailed instructions, but not too detailed. I would give more details than this in a real project such as what directories to submit to, what secondary keywords to focus on etc… but for this task you want to see what they are capable of on their own.

At this point, I had 1 candidate left. So I was pretty comfortable. But for the final step, I got on the phone with her. If I had two or three left I would have done the same, but I think getting it down to three is the target I will have in the future.

The Phone Call

I have done phone screenings thousands of times as a recruiter so this wasn’t really anything new to me. What I really wanted to get a feel for was her living situation and her motivation for taking the job. Plus I wanted to weave out gaps in her resume. Without going into too much detail, green lights are things like ‘family’ and ‘long term’ with good reasons that they left their previous jobs. Red lights are ‘need money’, ‘no family’ and ‘first time’ as these show lack of stability and experience.

After she ticked lots of green light boxes, I offered her the position on the phone and she started the next day. The whole process happened over 3 days. And so far she has been great! Hiring an outsourcer is something I recommend anyone who is in a position to do, do. It drastically increases your productivity, lifts your mood and adds more structure to your business.