Should You Buy A Laptop For Your Virtual Assistant?

One of the issues surrounding outsourcing to the Philippines is providing equipment for your virtual assistant. As you interview candidates, some of them might say they don’t have a computer or internet connection. That raises the question, should you shoulder the cost?

We get this question a lot at Onlinejobs.ph and I think it’s about time for us to make our opinion known about this issue.

I know this request seems “odd”. After all, if you were outsourcing the same task in your country, the expectation is that the contract workers are fully equipped. They have the up-to-date hardware and special software required to render their services.

Jasmine, a long-term full-time social media marketer with Onlinejobs.ph, puts it this way:

“At the earliest stages of the relationship, I don’t think an employer is obligated to provide for a laptop. Your virtual Filipino workers should at least have their own computer or internet connection. This is because in a sense they are solopreneurs. A laptop and a stable internet connection is part of their business investment”.

But if there’s a situation that you need something done that would require your VA to purchase software or more equipment, then the employer should provide for it or reimburse the VA for that expense”.

“No Equipment” as a Red Flag

If the applicants you are interviewing tell you they don’t have a laptop or computer, you should treat that as a red flag. It could be a scam. After they receive their laptop they could disappear.

Or, they’re still thinking like employees. But if they are putting themselves on the market for contract assignments, then a prerequisite is that they invest for the tools they need to do for the job.

Now that online work is fairly common, this shouldn’t be much of an issue anymore. Most Filipinos workers who want to work from home are resourceful enough to work for local businesses first in order to afford a computer before setting themselves up as contract workers.

No Equipment as Red Flag

Some would make arrangements to work in internet cafes while saving for a computer. Some borrow a laptop from friends or family. This is a lot better than workers who ask for a new computer outright because it shows initiative and principle. They looked for solutions to their problem and they’re willing to pay their own way. It’s not ideal. Working in an internet café or with borrowed equipment is a security risk. In this case, if the VA proves himself, I would give bonuses to that worker to help him earn that computer money.

Another consideration why you shouldn’t buy a computer for your VA early in your working relationship is the possibility that things may not pan out. Let’s say you got your VA a laptop as soon as you hired her. Then a few weeks down the line, for whatever reason, the relationship just isn’t working. Maybe you have different expectations or both of you just don’t communicate well together.

Yet, you have paid for their laptop. It is not likely you will ever be compensated for that or have the equipment returned to you. Shipping costs between the Philippines and the U.S. are high. For example, shipping two laptops costs about $300.00.

Once Relationships Develop

As you and your Filipino assistants establish your work relationship, you all find that it is a good match. Quality work is getting done. Trust has been building on both sides.

Once Relationships Develop

But then, you realize your VA might get more work done if they have better equipment. Laptops are expensive in the Philippines. Most Filipinos would rather have their laptop repaired over and over again than buy a new one because they’re too expensive. But there’s only so much a laptop technician can do. They can fix laptops, but they can’t make it run faster or have more memory unless they buy new parts.

At that point, you should consider purchasing equipment for your Filipino VA as an investment. Because better tools will make them work faster, work better, and do more.

Insider Perspective on Equipment Purchases

To address this development in your work relationship we ask “insider” Joven to share his perspective. Born and educated in the Philippines, Joven joined Onlinejobs.ph several years ago. He does a variety of tasks, mostly using his laptop in his home office.

Here are Joven’s recommendations:

If the virtual employees already have established trust with the small business which contracts with them, then the employer can now buy them computers and other necessary items that can make them more productive in their tasks”.

Investment Equipment

If those employees are very good at their work, then the employer can invest even more to make those employees more productive. For example, those employees might be top-notch designers. But they need better editing equipment than they have. Certainly, that could be a sound investment. Another solid investment could be a headset for those doing call-center tasks. That has a direct productivity and quality outcome for the employer”.

The Logistics of Purchasing and Shipping

Once you decide to buy a computer for your VA, you need to consider the logistics.

To purchase a new, mid-tier laptop in the Philippines could cost $900. The significant mark-up of the price is due to shipping cost to the Philippines. Looking at the price alone, buying new may not look like a good option. But trust me, it might be your only option.

Buying a new or 2nd hand computer here and having it shipped to the Philippines seems like an option. But shipping a computer to the Philippines is really expensive. Shipping cost alone might end up costing more than the laptop itself. And our workers at Onlinejobs.ph were unanimous in their recommendation against using the Philippine post office. There’s a big possibility the equipment could be damaged, or worse, stolen. Even if the package does arrive, the receiver would be taxed or asked for bribes. If you really want to send a computer, they recommend using FedEx, UPS, or DHL instead.

You could ask your VA to look for used computers. But the 2nd hand market for computers and laptops in the Philippines isn’t as good as those here in the US. And the problem with 2nd stuff is you can’t get any warranties for them when they break down.

Logistics of Buying a laptop

The best option is to shop around online. Use sites that have shops or distributors in the Philippines. That gives you complete control on what’s purchased, you’re reassured that they will receive the laptop AND they can get warranty. You can use the popular e-commerce stores like Lazada and Shopee.ph, or other deal Philippine computer store websites like PCExpress or Octagon.

You can also order directly from brands like Apple, Asus, Acer, etc through their Philippine pages. Just make sure they offer door-to-door delivery service to save on international shipping costs.

The Loyalty Payoff

If you look at it as an investment, it’s not much. But the payoff in terms of employee loyalty would be exponential. Filipino workers are grateful to employers who provide the upgrades necessary to do their jobs. Also, they view this investment as a vote of confidence in their expertise.

The Loyalty Payoff

In return you’ll get a productive and motivated employee who will bring your enterprise to the next level.

What if you don’t need to buy your VA a computer? There are other ways to motivate your VA to be more productive. And if you are considering getting a laptop for your virtual assistant, check out our latest buying guide.


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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Comments

  1. Rick Hyne says

    As I continually read these posts or articles on these types of issues I tend to get pissed. I have comment elsewhere in this issue, so will comment here.

    I thought I was on a roll with hitting it out of the park with a very talented VA, bookkeeper with a major in finance. She had the title Business Support Specialist and her own corporate 0365 account and access to the latest MS software. I brought two more on board and had my Specialist take on the roll as team leader.

    Through-out my three months with her it was one constant problem after another. Sickness. Injury. Laptop problems. Pay advances. Needed new equipment and the list went on.

    Either I was naïve or she was very persuasive, but I was getting to the point that I was going to buy a new computer on top of the monitor and printer that she already got from me.

    I got so overwhelmed running both a remote team and my regular employees that I suspended the two recent hires until my primary hire got it together.

    After three months and numerous issues, I cut my losses and released my first hire.

    I am now thinking the whole hiring from the Phillipine issue. I am also looking at putting many more tools like Time Doctor in place, having a better plan and job descriptions, and will look at hiring a team again in January, but this time, no non-sense.

    If you have mission critical tasks such as bookkeeping, budgeting or customer service, I think it would be better to hire someone more established for more money with the right equipment and home setup in the first place.

    I agree that they will do whatever it takes from pawning goods to asking for advances to support other family members. But, we are in business. The wages are only a small part. The constant disruptions, poor internet connections and unreliable equipment is what is really costly in increased supervision, evaluating (not knowing what is going on) and the lost productivity. My person was full time, but I was lucky if she really worked 20 hours per week.

    Note to the promoter. The Filipino workers who use this site are representing the BPO industry. Perhaps you can educating them about the seriousness of placing themselves on the market.

    For me, I want a dependable, reliable and dedicated person. If he or she performs well for my company, I would have no problem buying a new computer for them to use.

    • says

      Rick – I feel your frustration.
      This is why we don’t suggest buying stuff in the beginning. We have always said if someone asks for a laptop in the beginning of a working relationship (or for other goods, or for up-front pay), walk away and find someone else.
      We try to educate people. However, we have over 200,000 Filipino resumes and thousands more join every month. There’s no way (right now) for us to educate and ensure all of them are good. We’re trying…we’re just not there yet.

      I would suggest you try it again. Pay a little more for someone who is established.
      I can tell you we have 14 people in the Philippines who work for us. About 12 of them are rock-solid dependable. I can trust them with my business needs and problems.

      I suggest 2 things:
      1. spend a little more time in the recruiting process. Ask more questions. Let them know you’re looking for a long-term worker and that you’ll treat them well.
      2. If you see problems early, be clear in what you need/want in the relationship. Be involved with them. They really want the personal contact and approval of you, their foreign boss.

      John

    • Therese says

      Hi Rick,

      That’s very unfortunate to hear. I’ve been a VA since 2015 and never have I asked my employer to provide for me. Please don’t let this experience give you a bad impression/stereotype for Filipino VAs. One advice I would give you is to always be observant of your VA applicants and listen to your guts. Plus, balance out your authoritative side and your kind side. How I wish I had applied to your job posting so you wouldn’t have to experience this. But anyways, good luck and keep trying. You’ll find the right VA soon :)

  2. Laarni Unito says

    I do feel the concern of employer in here.
    Kinda hard to invest for something that your not sure of, like a person, or hiring someone in remote areas. Yes, most probably applicants in this site lacks the equipment to be used as a requirement of the employer. But I do hope that what they are doing will not reflect to the entire Filipinos who are trying to work at home, hence, in my case I am a single mom, and working at home is the most convenient way to earn. you are earning at the same time you are sure whats happening to your kid at home.

    We are indeed in need to earn, but then again in a right manner, and honest way.
    It’s because what you do to an employer, you will not do the job or want easy money, its kinda a no way. Its not just your name will be placed on harm, but to all the names of applicants here in Philippines, and might be a tag in our country.

    Want a clean name, work clean as well.

    so to speak..

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