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3 Most Common Reasons Why Hiring a VA Failed for Me or You

Have you tried to hire and work with a VA in the past only to have it fail? I have many times! Here are the main reasons that working with a virtual team member fails, at least from my experience.

Based on talking with other people I believe others have struggled with similar problems.

Many of my emails for my contest post had similar themes about why the VA didn’t work out. Here is the contest post (if you applied don’t worry the contest has not been awarded yet)

3 Most Common Reasons Why Hiring a VA Fails

1 – Waiting Too Long To Fire Someone

This is a big one, typically people will try working with a poorly performing team member before firing them. Instead of ending the contract right away they will work with the team member and try and improve their performance. I believe your time is far better spent taking a good team member and making them great instead of trying to take a poor performer and make them mediocre.

Tip to Make it Easier – To make ending a contract easier reduce your sunk costs (time you have spent finding, interviewing and coaching a team member). Don’t interview! I know this goes against what pretty much everyone says but the cost of not interviewing and then giving a simple test assignment to the people you hire is much much lower than the cost of your time setting up and interviewing candidates. By reducing the “cost” (both time and money) of hiring people it makes it easier to fire people that aren’t performing!


2 – Don’t Get Status Updates Often Enough

The old saying of what gets measured gets improved/done is very true when it comes to working with a remote team member.

The biggest lever I believe you have to influence the behaviours of your team members  is the tasks you ask them to report on and the format of that reporting.

When I create a reporting structure I want to make sure there are a few basic parts communicated about the task…

  1. Objective – What is the purpose of the task they are completing
  2. Frequency – How often should they be reporting
  3. Standard – What standard are they working to
  4. Quantity/Deadline – How many of the task are you looking for them to complete or when should they be finished the task.
  5. What Gets Reported – What are you interested in quantity or quality?
  6. How – How are they reporting (email, spreadsheet or other?)

Tip to Get Started – One of the best reporting methods I have ever used is also one of the simplest.  Daily Emails! Simply having your team member(s) sending you a daily email stating what they did today, what they plan to do tomorrow and what problem/questions they have run into. Getting this basic information everyday is easy to do and makes the status of work very transparent. This is still my favourite reporting method for my key team members. Although I have more complex Google documents tracking progress the daily email goes a level below the numbers and keeps the progress in front of me.

3 – Don’t provide enough detail to your team member

Finally, the third reason that working with VA’s often fails is due to the tasks not meeting one of 3 basic criteria…

  1. Reasonable task – Is what you are asking this person to do within their capabilities? Are you asking someone with “ok” English to write 10 – 500 word articles?
  2. Reasonable deadline – Is the deadline you have assigned not too short or too long? Either one is bad and can result in a failed team member.
  3. Reasonable clarity – Is there a standard that you have given to your VA that you are asking them to complete a task against?  It is important in order to get a predictable result to have training and a standard for your team to follow.

If we assign a task that fails to meet any one of the 3 requirements above we are doomed to fail.


Final Thoughts

I am not an outsourcing “guru” or “expert”, my business has simply had to run on the backs of my team members for the last few years as I spend a lot of my time at both my day job.


In all I have had over 37,493 hours of team members working and spent $50,000 on Odesk. Without this team my business would not be able to deliver the results it can.

About the Author Jon

I am a 36 year old husband, father of 3, engineer and a huge fan of developing systems to build useful and profitable websites. The reason I build online businesses is to provide financial independence for my family and yours AND so I can spend time outside skiing and biking with my family.
Jon Gillham, Online Entrepreneur

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