Step-by-Step Tips for Hiring An Amazon FBA Virtual Assistant

April 29th, 2016

Today’s post is an answer to a question submitted to me about hiring an Amazon virtual assistant in the Online Selling Experiment facebook group by David.  The question is “How do you teach a new VA to source products for you?”

I have hired several Amazon FBA virtual assistants in my business over the past few years.  In the past few months I have hired an amazon seller virtual assistant to exclusively help me source online arbitrage finds on Amazon.  This has been a great way to add a steady flow of deals to my Amazon business.  I am not claiming to be an expert at hiring online arbitrage virtual assistants, but this post will outline my process for hiring and getting a new Amazon virtual assistant started sourcing for you.  

Where to Hire Amazon FBA Virtual Assistants

The first step is to decide where you would like to hire your Amazon virtual assistant.  The 2 main options are upwork and onlinejobs.ph.  Upwork is free to get a posting up on, and then they make their money by taking a 10% fee out of the amount that you pay your virtual assistants.  Onlinejob.ph has a monthly fee (I’m on the quarterly plan currently) and then they don’t mark up the wages you pay.

For an online arbitrage virtual assistant, my preference is onlinejob.ph.  English is one of the official languages of the Philippines, and my experience so far has been that the applicants from the Phillipines are extremely easy to communicate with.  

I have had a couple of pieces of software built specifically for my business, and these I have better luck through upwork.  That could just be me, but there seems to be a larger pool of developers on upwork from my experience.  

Overall, onlinejobs.ph is my preference for online arbitrage virtual assistants, but you really can’t go wrong with either if you hire properly.   

Create Your Job Posting

No matter which site you choose this will be an important part in the process.  My recommendation is to include some general ideas of what you are looking for in your posting.  I would not include specifically that they will be looking for items that can be sold for a profit on Amazon.  The primary reason for this is that there are some individuals who I know that have had issues with the same virtual assistants working for multiple people at the same time. Effectively they would be sending multiple clients the same product finds.  Strictly due to this, I recommend keeping it vague at the beginning.

I also include in the posting that there will be a task test required.  This lets them know that they will have to put in a little bit of effort to get the job.  I put a task test together that will take approximately 30 minutes to complete.            

One other tip that has worked very well for me is to put something in the job posting to make sure that they have read the full posting.  I generally ask them to put their favorite color, or favorite day of the week in the subject of their application.  This makes it extremely easy to see if they have read the posting.

Take a look below, the ones with a color read the posting, and the ones without a color didn’t:

favorite color

With the volume of applicants you get, this is an easy way to weed out some applicants.  Essentially I don’t even look at the applications unless they followed the instructions in the application.  

As you create your postings you will have options for what level of English applicants speak, how their previous jobs have gone, what verification they have gone through with the site, among other qualifications.  I recommend selecting exactly what you are looking for when you set these qualifications.  There are generally a large volume of applicants for this type of position, so I recommend setting the requirements that you want.  I am making my job posting template available for download.  It’s in word doc format so you can copy/paste as a template to create your own job posting.  Download that below: 

Click Here download my template for job postings & virtual assistant task tests

Evaluate Candidates

After you have created your job posting, you probably won’t have to wait very long to have applications start rolling in.  I have had as many as 100 in the first 24 hours some of my postings have been live.  

The first thing I look at when evaluating candidates is to see if they followed the details outlined in the job posting.  Essentially I am looking for them to answer the random question in the subject line of their application, and ask to be sent the sample job task.   

Assuming they meet those requirements, then I will take a quick look at their profile to see if anything jumps out at me (past reviews, profile doesn’t look real, etc.), and see what they are looking for in terms of wage. If nothing jumps out at me and they aren’t looking for more than a normal wage for the position then I will send them the task test.  I expect to pay between $300-$500 per month for a full time Amazon virtual assistant working in this type of position. As long as their asking rate is in this range, then I have no issue.  In reality, it should be pretty easy to generate a sizeable ROI on virtual assistants wages, so it’s more about finding someone who will be productive and is easy to work with as opposed to getting the lowest possible price.  

A quick side note here: due to different markets, currency exchanges, etc, this is actually a very competitive wage in countries like the Philippines.  Essentially we shouldn’t be comparing it to US wages as it’s not an apples to apples comparison.  Whenever people get concerned about this wage that appears very low, I always ask them: if you were to visit the Philippines and you could rent an apartment for $125 per month, would you insist on paying whatever rent you pay in the US or would you pay $125? I’m willing to bet you’d pay the market rate there.   

Now, back to the evaluation.  I send the task test to all applicants that followed the process I was looking for in the job posting.  The primary way that I evaluate applicants is through the task test.  

I generally have applicants collect information from one website, find the matching product on Amazon, and then collect some other random information as well.  I will make the exact template I use for a task test when hiring online sourcing virtual assistants available here in this post.  Download it here: 

Click Here download my template for job postings & virtual assistant task tests

I go through each applicant’s task test in detail.  I will be very picky in this step.  I am looking for a virtual assistant that did exactly what my instructions said.  With the hires I made so far, I’ve had several to pick from who followed my instructions exactly. Ultimately,  I go through and find the one that I believe is the best fit, and then I will offer that person a job.  

Hiring a Candidate

Prior to hiring you will want to make sure that you agree on all terms related to the employment with your virtual assistant. These include: wages, when they will start working, how many hours per week the virtual assistant will be working, what hours during the day the virtual assistant will be working, how time off works, what dates they will be paid, and any other details you want them to know up front.  After you and the virtual assistant agree on these terms, the actual process of hiring a candidate is a pretty simple process.  Essentially you will just mark them as hired within the online portal for the site you are using.  

If you use onlinejob.ph, you will also send an invitation to use timeproof, which is the tracking system that allows you to track your virtual assistant’s hours, and see what they are working on. 

Once you have those pieces setup, then it’s time to get your Amazon FBA virtual assistant their first task.   

Monitoring Output / Managing

Both onlinejobs.ph and upwork have a monitoring system to make sure that your virtual assistants are actually working.  Their systems are called timeproof and work diary, respectively.  These are both software program that record your virtual assistants screen at certain intervals.  You are then able to review the screenshots at any time to make sure that they are working on what you ask them to.  These systems will also track the amount of time your virtual assistants works each day.  This makes it very easy to know how much to pay your virtual assistants, as well as to be confident they are working diligently on their projects.   

How to Pay Amazon Virtual Assistants

I use paypal with virtual assistants on my team through onlinejobs.ph.  I have them send me invoices directly through paypal and then I am able to pay them with a credit card.  I prefer to use a credit card to pay them as that way I earn rewards points.  Make sure that the card you are using does not have foreign transaction fees if you do elect to use a credit card to pay.  

If you use Upwork, you are able to pay directly through their system. It allows for payments via paypal, credit card, or a bank account.   

Personally, I pay my virtual assistants on the 15th, and the last day of the month.  You can pay just about any frequency you want, just make sure it’s agreed upon upfront with your virtual assistants.  Paying your virtual assistants should be a pretty simple process overall.   

Other Tips for Success with Amazon FBA Assistants

  1. Be sure to be very clear in your instructions.  Just as you would with any other team member it’s important to spell out all of the details of each task.
  2. Google docs is a great tool for working with virtual assistants.  It’s very easy to share documents back and forth and either party can make updates.   
  3. Teach your virtual assistants how to use tools can help them with the process.  I am in the process of getting one of my virtual assistants using OAXray, and have another testing out the Textbook Arbitrage google chrome extension.  Essentially any tool you use for online arbitrage, give them the opportunity to use as well.   

Conclusion

Those are the vast majority of the details of the process that I use to hire an online sourcing virtual assistants.  Done properly it can be a great addition to your business.  I’ve been having the virtual assistants on my team work on tasks outside of online sourcing and getting involved in other areas of my business.  The possibilities are endless.

Hopefully this post helps to give you a good idea of how the process goes.  If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing via one of the buttons below.  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments section!

  

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10 responses to “Step-by-Step Tips for Hiring An Amazon FBA Virtual Assistant”

  1. Kent C says:

    I have to say Ryan, you are very generous in taking the time to explain your processes. I certainly appreciate it. A VA sounds like a great idea. I have heard other bloggers talk about having one or more and they find it indispensable, not just for sourcing, but all other types of tasks.

    A few months ago I had made a comment asking if you had used OAXray. I believe you mentioned it was something on your radar. Sounds like it is working for you. I might make the jump now and try it. I suppose one other thing about using a VA out of the country besides the comparative low wages is the fact you haven’t hired someone who can reasonably compete directly against you in the US marketplace at least. Hiring someone in the US and teaching them your sourcing secrets seems like an eventual invitation for competition, worse yet, them buying products for themselves at the same places you taught them to source.

    • Ryan Grant says:

      You are welcome Kent.

      I do remember your comment awhile back about OAxray. I just got started with it recently, but I’m impressed with the features, and believe it can significantly aid my VAs in their online sourcing. I agree as well, when it’s someone overseas that does take away some of the risks of adding to your own competition.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  2. Diane says:

    Thanks for this awesome post. I just placed an ad and was a reviewing the applicants. Lots of great info to better select the right candidate. THANKS!

  3. Andrew says:

    Hi Ryan,
    Interesting article, definitely got my wheels turning on this one. I got a prep center setup to handle my OA stuff, but I have found that I actually hate OA. This seems a good way to handle this issue. Not asking you to give away state secrets here or anything, but how much do you give your VA to spend each day/week/whatever, and how do you let them pay for products? The idea of turning someone loose with my credit card freaks me out a bit. Am I worrying for nothing?

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Glad to hear it got the wheels spinning. I don’t actually have my VAs make my purchases for me. They put the finds in a spreadsheet that fit my requirements, and then I do a quick evaluation and make any necessary purchases. Over time I may let them make purchases for me, but for now I am the one making the final call.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  4. Geoff Wilson says:

    Great post Ryan, although another great way to find VA’s for your specific tasks and probably the cheapest way is through Fiverr.

    Now, I don’t mean endlessly browsing the marketplace wading through thousands of Gigs, but instead, you can take full advantage of the new “Buyer Requests” feature at Fiverr. This allows me to post a specific request for what I need and within minutes of posting a request I’ll start to receive “offers” from prospective sellers, each essentially selling themselves to you.

    Now, what I do is ignore the offers themselves but use the “ask a question” feature to initiate contact with the seller and to tell them a little more about your project and your requirements. I basically vet each one by asking them to undertake a quick simple project related task for me, to show me what they can do. Then, I’ll only shortlist the quickest to respond.

    The last thing I would ever want in a VA is a slow communicator, so ensuring only to work with those who communicate with you quickly along with those who are able to competently complete the tasks you require is key to finding a successfull candidate for your project.

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