However, whether you're planning to hire a full-time employee, a part-time remote worker, or just someone to do a few online jobs for you, you may have a lot more options than you realize.
It's 10 years since I hired my first online assistant. We now have employees and part-time online assistants in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Over the years, we've experimented with quite a lot of different methods of hiring people. Some methods have worked brilliantly, some not so well.
Here are nine ways we've hired employees and online workers, and one method we haven't tried…
1. Through a computer club. That's how I hired our forum moderator, Wally. I asked the president of the local computer club if he knew anyone in the club who might be suitable and want a part-time online job. When one promising candidate eventually turned down the job, the president himself said he'd give it a go. That was back in 1998, and ever since he's been working part-time for us, seven days a week, hardly ever taking a vacation.
2. Through a local employment agency. They hunted through their files and found a few suitable people and encouraged them to apply. I hired my first full-time employee this way in 1999. Nathan worked in my home with me for a few months for training and after that from his own home.
3. Placing an advertisement in a city newspaper. We've done this several times and it has worked remarkably well. To help screen applicants, I put an email address in the ad and set up an autoresponder to give applicants more details of the position.
Many applicants get only as far as reading the full job description. That initial screening will save you a lot of time.
The quality of the job applicants found this way has varied widely. I've hired top quality online assistants through newspaper job ads, including two students who were studying computer programming. They both worked from home for me until they completed their computer programming degrees.
My longtime virtual assistant, Glennys, was hired this way several years ago.
4. Placing advertisements where students will see them. For example, New Zealand has a Student Job Search system that can help you with all the arrangements, including suggesting hourly pay rates and screening applicants. When we used it one summer, all my wife, Joanna, did was phone a local phone number (you can find them on the website) to ask for advice and dictate our advertisement, which Student Job Search posted on a university noticeboard. Things may have changed, but at that time there was no fee for employers. Ads are now posted online.
5. Through our affiliate forum. After we became friends through our affiliate forum, I hired a contractor to manage some of our websites in return for a percentage of the commissions earned. This worked brilliantly. It's really helpful if you can get to know someone, see the quality of their writing and learn to trust them before you hire them. I have a friend who has hired many of his employees after first being impressed by the quality of their posts on his forum.
6. Our newsletter. Two or three times I've advertised online job vacancies in our Associate Programs Newsletter. When we did this recently, we sent people to a web page that gave more information about the jobs we were creating. The quality of the applicants found this way has varied hugely. I've attracted some very good people but also some time-wasters using this method.
7. Rentacoder and Elance. We've hired people through places such as Rentacoder and Elance. How to do this effectively would be a good topic for a whole book. In fact, Gary Antosh has done just that. He's written a book called How to Create Website Content Fast in which he describes how to hire website content writers and manage them. If you want to hire a web content writer, this is the book you need.
8. Journalists. I hired a journalist to write a dozen articles because I'd seen her articles in a weekly newspaper and liked her chatty, friendly style. The payment we negotiated was expensive but the articles were well written and they eventually paid for themselves several times over.
9. Online job sites. We recently hired three new employees after advertising on the online jobs site Seek. (It's very popular in Australia.) After this experience, I'm keen on posting job vacancies on online job sites because your job ads attract people who are already familiar with the Internet and comfortable with using it.
The quality of the applicants we attracted this way was so high we had a really tough task chooosing the successful applicants.
There are now thousands of online job sites. Two big ones are Monster and CareerBuilder.
10. Here's one method we have NOT tried… Simply do a search in Google for “virtual secretary” or “virtual assistant”. You'll find lots of services ready to help. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this method – I just don't have first-hand experience with it.
Other popular sites are Getafreelancer, where you can find programmers, web designers and copywriters, ScriptLance, which is mainly for programmers, and oDesk, where you can hire programmers, web designers, writers, etc.
A another good, very fast growing option is Freelancer Network.
Don't make the job sound too easy
Here's a tip I've learned from my brother-in-law, Graham, who's in charge of an office and has been hiring people for a long time: Don't make your online job sound too attractive. If it involves hard work, repetitive work etc, say so. Otherwise, you'll be swamped with applicants who may be disappointed when they find out the details of the work you expect them to do. If you get no applicants, just re-advertise with a new job description.
He says that if you receive more than three applicants, you've made the job sound too easy. We received DOZENS of applicants last time we advertised! We must have made the jobs sound too good.
How to keep track of assistants' tasks
Basecamp is a superb web-based tool for setting assignments and keeping track of which tasks your employees or virtual assistants have done, or not done. You can choose which parts of Basecamp various workers have access to. You can also set up “Writeboards” for brainstorming sessions. It's an integral part of our business. There's a monthly fee, but we've found that Basecamp pays for itself many times over by making us more efficient.
Guide to outsourcing
Brandon Tanner has written a comprehensive instruction manual on outsourcing, The Internet Marketer's Guide To Outsourcing. In 62 pages, it takes you through the entire outsourcing process, from deciding what to outsource, to project testing. Whether you're outsourcing software creation, website building, website maintenance or writing projects, you'll find them all covered. This is a VERY comprehensive, no-fluff book. Highly recommended.