8 Steps When Starting Work With a New VA

Finding and recruiting the best online Filipino specialist can be a challenging process. Once you find the right candidate, you’re pretty much on your way to success.

BUT, you have to make sure that you and your OFS are primed for success. Getting the first day right can influence how well your working relationship is going to be in the future.

How do you ensure this? Let me share what I do whenever I hire a new virtual assistant from the Philippines.

1. Hire one Filipino VA
1 Hire one Filipino VA
I’ve seen business owners hire multiple VAs right off the bat because they wanted to get a lot of things done right away. This is a mistake.

Managing several employees is difficult enough. Now imagine having to teach, train and manage a handful of workers on the other side of the world. And if you’ve never outsourced before, it’s going to be a real challenge.

You’re much better off starting with one VA and letting that person learn everything they can about your business. Focus on building a good relationship with that person first. Once the VA proves more than capable of handling the tasks you assign, you’ll be ready for another VA.

Once you get used to the process, you’ll have several VAs working for you. Just don’t hire an entire team from the very beginning. Start off slow and ease into it.

2. Discuss your policies and make sure your VA understands them
2  Discuss your policies and make sure your VA understands them
Never keep your VA guessing. From the moment they are hired, spell out the policies and guidelines of your business and working relationship.

Along with your specific policies, there are some general policies I like to point out to all of my workers. Some of these include the following:

Are they full-time or part-employees?

I recommend hiring full-time workers. But part-time help is fine if that’s all you need. Full-time employees are expected to work eight hours a day, five days a week. Part-time employees work one to four hours a day, five days a week.

Monitoring time and schedule.

I don’t use a time-tracking system to monitor my VAs. I’ve found that Filipinos resent being watched every minute of the day. They lose a lot of motivation when every little thing they do is scrutinized.

But it’s important to emphasize to your VA that they should work a full day (or half a day if they’re hired part-time). Even without time tracking, you’ll be able to tell if your OFS is productive and working through their daily reports.

If you really need to monitor their time, I recommend using TimeProof. It’s free with your Onlinejobs.ph account.

Pay will be computed and sent weekly for the first couple of months. Then monthly after that.

To establish trust with your Filipino worker, I suggest paying them weekly, at least in the beginning, like for a couple of months. They are so afraid of being scammed into working without pay that there’s this built-in mistrust now. And this happens more often than you think. We regularly receive complaints from workers who did 1-2 months worth of work who never got paid because their employer ghosted them.

Paying them weekly for the first couple of months lets your OFS know that you’re serious about working with them. Once you guys trust each other, you can work on a monthly payment schedule.

The best payment method we have right now is EasyPay.

Paid time off.

I don’t expect all of my VAs to work on holidays. My customer support team has a schedule they have to follow. I pay them on Philippine holidays and it works for me. If this isn’t something you want to do, you need to work this out with them.

Allow your VA vacation time and sick leave.

You should give your VA paid vacation and paid sick leave every year. It’s up to you how many days/hours are appropriate. And you can set policies like having your VA request any time off as advance as possible.

Here at Onlinejobs.ph though, we don’t give a set amount of sick days or vacation days. We just ask our workers to tell us when they want time off ahead of time. If they’re sick, we just ask them to let us know they’re sick so we know why they didn’t work.

Don’t forget the 13th month.

Companies in the Philippines are legally required after one year of a person’s employment to give one-twelfth of the year’s pay in December. The pay is pro-rated if the worker has been with the company less than a year, as long as it is at least 22 days.

You’re not required to do this but it’s best if you honor the practice. It’s something Filipinos look for in job posts and it’s a nice gesture that keeps them motivated. Discuss this with your VA when you hire them, and ask your VA to remind you about this extra pay.

Yearly raises are based on performance.

How much you decide to raise your VA’s salary is up to you, but increases usually range from $0 to $50. The raise amount will be based on attendance and how well they have done throughout the year. However, you are not required to give an annual raise if your VA performs poorly. Or, if they’re great, on occasion we’ve doubled a VA’s salary.

Your VA shouldn’t be working for anyone else.

If they’re working for you full-time, your VA should give you their full attention and their best effort. This is why we discourage part-time work. Part-time workers will always work for someone else. Their attention and time is always going to be divided between you and someone else.

Reassure them that they can come to you if they have problems or concerns.

Filipinos have a hard time with this one because they are easily embarrassed. They think if they’ve messed up that you’ll be upset and will want to fire them. Tell them that it’s OK to ask for help if they get stuck. Promise them that you are available anytime to resolve issues or answer questions.

Tell them that they can’t disappear.

One of the biggest challenges in outsourcing work is that the worker will sometimes simply disappear when things aren’t going well. Rather than express concerns or admit mistakes, the worker will stop sending daily emails, will cut off all communication, and then you’ll never hear from them again.

You can’t let it happen. Emphasize that disappearing isn’t an option. Work on building their trust so when they have a problem, they’ll come to you.

3. Give your VA a first task.
3 Give your VA a first task_
Once your VA begins working for you, don’t waste any time getting them started on a task. Your VA’s first task is an important one. It will show you what they are capable of and set the tone for your relationship.

I am often asked what is best: an easy first task or a difficult one.

A simple first task might be a good way to ease your VA into his or her work.

But a challenging one will:

  • push the worker,
  • reveal how committed they are,
  • how well they follow directions and
  • whether they’ll ask for help when it’s needed.

The decision whether to assign an easy task or a hard one will depend on you and what your worker’s job is going to be. Personally, I give them a tough assignment to start. But I do things a little differently.

When I give them an assignment, I acknowledge that the task I’m giving them is challenging but I want to see them try figuring things out. I also emphasize that they need to come to me for help when they get stuck—because I know they’ll get stuck at some point.

If they figure things out, that’s good. It means they’re not afraid of pressure and I can assign them more challenging tasks.

If they come to me because they need help, that’s good too. That means they’re comfortable with asking for help and they won’t disappear at the first sign of trouble.

The task should be something they were hired to do, not something totally unrelated just for the sake of being difficult or obscure. Give direction and feedback. Make sure your VA gets off to a good start. By giving your VA a hand on the assignment from the beginning until the end, you instill the worker with much-needed confidence.

4. Set the right expectations

From the moment your VA starts working for you, they need to have a crystal-clear picture of what you need them to do and how they’re going to do it.

If you expect your VA to be good, be the best boss possible. Provide adequate training and give consistent feedback. Your VA will appreciate this. And you’ll get out of this what you put in it.

Filipinos often believe they are not good enough to do the work you’ve asked for or that they’re not qualified. If you don’t set the right expectations with your VA, they’ll want to do everything perfectly. When they can’t, they’ll get embarrassed and will simply stop talking to you. Make sure you explain clearly:

  • what you want done,
  • how you want it done,
  • how often you want it done and
  • when you want it done.

By doing this, you’ll avoid many problems and frustrations.

Once your VA completes their task and you’re comfortable with their abilities, train them to add to their responsibilities. Eventually, your VA will know everything about your business.

With that in mind, before assigning projects, consider asking your VA things like, “Can you do this?” or “Would you feel comfortable with this?”. Give them challenging, yet manageable tasks. Let them know you have the confidence they’ll be able to accomplish whatever you ask of them.

5. The daily email: a vital part of their job

Of all the things I teach about outsourcing to the Philippines, few things are as important as this one. Once you hire a new VA, emphasize the non-negotiable daily email. It is vital to your VA’s success.
Each day, your VA should send you an email where they address at least three things:
1- what they did that day;
2- what problems they ran into; and
3- what you can do to help.

The daily email is a simple yet vital step that keeps you and your VA connected.

It encourages accountability and ownership because they know they have to tell you what they worked. It helps build the habit of communication. It also frees you from micromanagement. You don’t have to constantly think about what they’re doing. This lets you focus on more important aspects in your business.

If your VA starts to miss sending a daily email, contact them to see what’s going on. Several missed daily emails could be a sign of trouble that things aren’t going well or that the VA has disappeared.

If you prefer, you can also do phone calls, instant messages or a project management system. Pick what makes most sense for you. What’s important is that some sort of daily communication is taking place.

It’s also really important that you respond to their daily emails with feedback. If you don’t have anything to say, just respond with a “Thank You”. Filipinos need to know you’re there and listening to what they’re saying.

6. Make the first few weeks count

The first few weeks of your VA’s time with you are critically important.

Getting your VA off to a good start could be the difference between a long-term, productive relationship and missed opportunities and expectations.

Keep these few things in mind in working with your VA during the first 14 to 21 days:

Keep them busy.
4 Keep them busy
You don’t want to overwhelm your VA, but you should get them going at a good pace. Make sure they have plenty to do. This way, you don’t have to:

  • worry about them running out of things to do,
  • they won’t get used to too much downtime, and
  • they’ll develop and maintain a good work ethic.

Always have the next project ready to go.

Make sure you’ve got a project or two on deck for your VA to work. Once they complete a task, you don’t have to scramble and think of what to do next.

One time a friend of mine sent a project to his new worker expecting the worker to spend a few days on it. 30 minutes later the VA sent him a Skype message saying “I’m done! What do you want me to do next?” Be prepared to give assignments.

Be liberal with compliments.

Showing appreciation for what your VA does will give them motivation and will build their morale—especially during the first few weeks. When they do something well, let them know about it. Praise them for their hard work and recognize their efforts. This goes a long way towards creating a rock star VA.

7. Talk about pay

This is one of the first things you need to discuss with your worker, even before you hire them. I recommend you should start them off on the lower end and then quickly raise the pay after a few months (that is, if they’re doing a good job). Pay them weekly for the first two months and then every month afterward. Remind your VA to send invoices on time if they want to be paid on time.

8. Expect some turnover
5 Expect some turnover
Don’t get discouraged if you hire a VA or two that just doesn’t work out. This happens. In the 10-plus years I’ve been outsourcing to the Philippines, I’ve had about an 80 percent success rate in hiring Filipino workers.

Why do you lose some VAs? There are a number of reasons. But one of the biggest causes of high turnover is the employer not being patient and expecting perfection right off the bat.

Another reason is the learning curve can be pretty tough—for the VA but more likely for you. Working with someone new can be difficult, even with local employees in the states. It’s even more challenging when dealing with someone remotely on the other side of the world. Remember, your VA has probably never worked for someone in the U.S. before. It’s a new experience for them.

It can also be because your VA disappeared. This happens when you don’t give your workers the option to talk to you when they run into problems.

Whatever the reason, it’s easy to get discouraged when your first hire doesn’t work out. This happens to everyone. Just try again and avoid the mistakes you made the first time. Eventually you’ll find someone perfect for your business. The great thing about Filipino workers is that once you find the right worker, they’ll almost never leave.


Working with Filipinos can be a great experience for you personally and for your business. I’ve met wonderful, talented, hard-working individuals during my 10-plus years of outsourcing to the Philippines. Don’t let the hiring process scare you. While it can be daunting, using these eight tips will help ease the anxiety and put you and your VA on a path to a long-lasting business relationship.

240px Jonasheadshot

About John Jonas

John Jonas is a long-time outsourcing expert and the creator of OnlineJobs.ph.

Since 2005, John has taught hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs how to profitably delegate to VAs in the Philippines (and get their lives back in the process).

With help from his own VAs based in the Philippines, John has created an outsourcing empire that allows him to work 17 hours/week and to spend most of his time with his wife and 5 kids.

Find John at JohnJonas.com and Facebook.

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  1. Maria says

    Great article (and many others I have seen), it really helps us to get the most of a VA and help the process. Although I would like to comment on hiring a VA for less than part-time. For people like me just starting a business and where we can’t afford and don’t really need a full time or even a part time VA. At the moment a need someone to help me out with my website maintenance and support (of course would be great to have a VA that could address many other areas of the buz but realistically not possible) but don’t think I need more than a few hours a month, obviously my VA will have to have other jobs and be supporting other entrepreneurs. Thanks for your advice on this.

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