Case Study: Web Design VAs and Filipino Developers – Johannah Barton

Johannah Barton is the creator of Confetti Design, a web design and development company in Melbourne, Australia. Johannah has been using for the past ten years and has great wisdom to offer outsourcing entrepreneurs who are ready to hire their next Filipino VA. 

20210317 Confetti DesignTell us about your business

  • Confetti Design is a Digital agency in Australia. They offer web design and development services using WordPress and Shopify for online stores and small businesses.

How did you get started?

  • Johannah worked in corporate for 18 years. It was her husband’s idea to start the agency. They were so well-coordinated and advertised that within a week of opening the business they needed to hire staff.
  • They initially hired local developers but “they would go AWOL” and disappear on them.
  • Confetti wanted to offer an exceptional price point to their customers, so they decided to look for more dependable and affordable staff through outsourcing. Johannah’s husband had experience outsourcing to India but the time difference made working together difficult.
  • pexels-startup-stock-photos-7095So they hired a Filipino remote worker through an agency. They ended up paying the agency quite a bit and it was cutting into their margin. Then they found out that their remote worker was only getting half of the money they paid. The agency pocketed the rest! 
  • They knew they needed to try something different. They also wanted to manage direct staff without the agency as a middle man.
  • Then they found and up to this point they have hired 7 total staff over the past 10 years.

Johannah’s recruiting process

“I’m always really excited to see who applies.” If you’re hiring people, it means your business is growing and it’s really exciting. We’re going to hire someone who’s going to bring value to the business, help you bring better products to your customers and the business gets to profit from it as well. This is a profitable business model!

  • pexels-vanessa-garcia-6325981One of the things they’ve learned is that you can’t possibly expect everything from one employee. So Johannah recommends that employers zero in on one core skill that they want to hire and then work to develop their VAs in other areas. 
  • In web design it’s a bit easier because you can start out with someone who just has WordPress skills. Recently they’ve been serving a lot of ecommerce clients. So now when Johannah hires, she looks for someone who has Shopify skills as well.
  • They developed their own application form in google docs and they link to the form in the job post. In the google doc application, potential VAs can fill in information about who they are and they learn more about what they can expect from Confetti Design as an employee.
  • Johannah likes to use a broad description in the title of the job ad to attract as many qualified applicants as possible.
  • pexels-anna-shvets-4226122Great tip on how to narrow the field of applicants: In the job post, Johannah writes in bold DO NOT EMAIL ME. She gets all of the information she needs about applicants from the google doc form.  If people DO email Johannah, she automatically deletes their application because attention to detail is important to her and that particular applicant didn’t pay attention. “If you can’t read an instruction, you’re not going to be of any use to me.”
  • There’s often a misperception about remote workers that they’re a sort of “minion” and they don’t always receive the humanized and compassionate treatment that they deserve. So Johnannah is sure to be very clear about the terms, hours, expectations and compensation of the position she’s offering to help manage their expectations and show them they’ll be well-cared for as employees. She also uses the application to teach potential workers more about their team.
  • In the interview google doc, Johanna looks for very specific examples of their work history and asks the potential VAs to rank themselves in areas of skill. 
  • She’s recently found that the job description title plays a major role in the kind of applicants that apply.20210317 Pexel She suggests that if you’re not getting responses from the kind of skill-level and skill set that you’re looking for, tweak the ad title. Test different titles and see what works.
  • Keep the ad up for only 3-4 days. That way you’ll find the people who are actively looking for employment and are enthusiastic and ready to work.
  • Make sure you give back in an application form. Make your business and salary and benefits appealing when you describe the job to your potentials. Talk about bonuses, time off, and other conditions that may make them feel excited about working.
  • After 3-4 days, she reviews the google doc applications and identifies the short list of qualified people. Then she emails them for more information and more examples of their work. She asks them things like, what kind of work are you looking for, what are you doing currently, what’s your capacity, what is your ideal work scenario? How many jobs do you have? How much are you getting paid? How much would you like to be paid? How many hours do you want? Why are you looking for work? 
  • Great tip from Johannah – Ask them what they’re looking for, and if it lines up with what you want, then hire them!

Specifics on hiring a web developer

  • It’s easy to find a web developer who’s good. Ask them for 5 specific examples of their previous work in WordPress and/or Shopify and ask for the links…then go to those sites and navigate them. (Don’t judge the look – they’re not graphic designers, just check the technical parts). pexels-markus-spiske-1089440Ask yourself: is it fast loading, is the code clean (get one of your other developers to double check the code). Review the sites for overall smoothness and speed of function.
  • Only hire someone who’s been working 4 to 6+ years.
  • If there aren’t enough examples of work provided on the form, ask for more. They should have plenty after 4-6 years of experience. If they can’t provide more examples, check them off your list.

Using’s Background Check

  • “Before I do anything else, I go and use because it’s got this amazing tool and facility that gives you the background check.” She didn’t know what the background check was until a friend who also uses told her about it. In Johannah’s opinion, it was worth upgrading to the Premium Account to be able to access background check feature and have more peace of mind about the people she was interviewing/hiring.

The Skype Interview

  • Once she’s done the background check, she invites 3-4 finalists to have a skype interview. She likes to be able to see  and get to know potential VAs, especially on camera. During the call, she’s very clear about repeating her offer and job expectations. 20210317 PexelIf they impress her in the interview, she offers them a paid trial. 
  • In the interview she also explains that she pays hourly instead of on salary. She likes the transparency that comes with hourly wages. She expects 40 hrs a week and their rate doesn’t change (so it’s kind of like salary, John notes).
  • More on paying hourly vs salary – the company has clearly defined how much time certain tasks will take and what the expectations are surrounding a task, that way they are able to project and control how much is paid for certain tasks. Johannah prefers for the entire team to work at the same time, together. And since Johannah is on a similar time zone in Australia, she can also be on a chat with her team during work hours and create cohesiveness and monitor productivity that way.
  • Why John prefers to pay salary: there is so much temporary and part time work in the Philippines that it’s become an issue. VAs will know the job is stable and it becomes more affordable to pay salary vs hourly. Almost everyone he asks prefers salary to hourly wages. John doesn’t worry about being cheated out of hours – if you’re properly managing your workers and you’re aware of their status, you’re also very aware when someone isn’t working their hours (they’re not communicating or making progress in their projects).

The Paid Trial

  • When Johannah first hires a new VA, they start out on a paid trial. Depending on the position, she measures the trial in two ways – a four-week trial or the duration of a single project. pexels-canva-studio-3194519She recommends that during the interview you agree on the length and conditions of the trial.
  • She pays her workers weekly during a trial period.
  • During the trial, the new VA will have access to the team, daily communication with Johannah and a project to work on. 
  • She provides trial VAs with milestones that they’re expected to meet within certain time windows and their progress is monitored. 
  • Then Johannah has her experienced workers check the new employee’s progress while they’re working and report back to her. 
  • Specific trial for developers: on-trial developers work in three stages – she gives them a psd that they have to turn into an html, then the next stage is that they have to make the html responsive and then she has her workers check their work for them. 

What do your VAs do?

20210317 Pexel

  • One person who does WordPress, Shopify and can manage a membership platform. 
  • Two people who do WordPress, Shopify and API
  • One Webdesigner 
  • One who works QA (quality assurance)
  • She’s currently getting ready to promote their QA person to digital manager and hire an additional QA specialist to replace them.

Don’t expect one VA to do everything

  • Johannah had a client who wanted to hire a VA to do social media management, so she helped her client navigate the hiring process. In the beginning, her client wanted a VA who could do EVERYTHING. Johannah knew that it wasn’t realistic and that her client wouldn’t find anyone in the whole world to do all of the things they were expecting from a VA.
  • ”You’ve got to be realistic…Look for the one [skill] that’s the non-negotiable, then help them to grow in the other [skills] that you want. I think that’s really, really important.”

Other advice for outsourcing business owners:

  • pexels-fauxels-3182834Really appreciate your VAs and give them good feedback. Let them know when they’re doing a great job. VAs need to be valued as a collection of people who allow business owners to have good quality work for a great price, which then allows the business to offer great prices to their market, which translates into profit for the business. VAs are extremely talented and educated. Say thank you. Tell them they’ve done well. Recognize and appreciate their work!
  • Firing workers – if you take the time and care into hiring the right person in the first place, and if you hire an adequate amount of people to get jobs done (you can’t load three people’s worth of work onto one worker!), then you’ll have success. You won’t need to fire them! It’s just like any other country. Opportunity cost of hiring, training etc… will be lost if you fire. So hire right the first time.
  • “If you need two people to do the job, get two people to do the job… and use to do it!”

You can check out other stories from Thomas and his coaching business, FastTrack FBA & JR Fisher on Business and Outsourcing by signing up for an account

You can also learn more about how to get started on hiring Rockstar Virtual Assistants.


About Shelane Tuttle

Shelane Tuttle has worked in content development with John Jonas and the team since 2010. She’s a mother of four, book devourer, beach bum, wannabe music and art connoisseur and she thrives on learning/teaching others about new things, like outsourcing.

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