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How to hire virtual assistants in the Philippines

How to hire virtual assistants in the Philippines

This article is a submission. It was originally published on Prialto’s website.

The virtual executive assistant market went through a major growth spurt in 2020. Demand has grown so much that Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), a global advisor on staffing and workforce solutions, launched its first-ever assessment of virtual executive assistant services as a mainstream staffing model for U.S. businesses.

The report, “The Virtual Assistant Landscape: An Emerging Part of the Workforce Solutions Ecosystem,” was released in 2021.

“The virtual assistant market was in robust health before the onset of the global pandemic,” the report said. “As COVID-19 swept across the world in Q1 2020, VA firms took an initial hit to demand, especially among SME customers, but growth for many is now back to pre-COVID levels, if not higher.”

Why the Philippines?

The Philippines has emerged as a top source of high-quality virtual assistants. A 98% literacy rate, widespread English, a strong work ethic, and free college education make the country a destination for many business process outsourcing (BPO) organizations. 

The Philippines is among the top 10 Digital Nations in the Tholons Services Globalization Index, and the BPO industry in the Philippines has grown to $27 billion with 1.3 million jobs. 

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“The most popular offshore destinations are the same as those countries that attract large-scale enterprise BPO customers such as India and the Philippines,” SIA said.

“Given cultural and historical ties, the Philippines tends to be a popular destination for US VA firms while India features more prominently among British ones. Other popular offshore locations include South Africa and the Caribbean.”

Google “virtual assistant Philippines” and you will find pages of businesses that provide access to VAs in the country. There are a few different business models to choose from as far as how to hire a VA.

Finding the right VA from the right virtual assistant firm in the Philippines will depend on what you need and how much time and money you want to invest in the process. 

How to hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines directly

There are multiple job boards where you can select and hire virtual assistants in the Philippines. Job boards work much like gig platforms like Upwork. You scan profiles of VAs offering their services, pick the one you think will work for you, and get started. Sounds easy. 

But as with any direct hire of a freelancer, there are risks:

  • They may not be as skilled as they present themselves to be.
  • Some VAs over-promise their availability and have many other clients.
  • You will have to provide them with tools and training on your systems.
  • Performance management and quality control are up to you.
  • If the VA does not work out, you start over.
  • The VA is using their own home office and computer, which may be a security concern.

A direct hire will likely provide you with the lowest cost VAs as they compete with one another for your business. This model also requires the most lift on your part. Still, it can work if your needs are very well-defined and you find a skilled, accountable, and motivated VA who is already fluent with your tools and processes.

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Other things to know:

  • Payment: You will likely pay by the hour through the job board or currency exchange portal.
  • Time zone: You will need to agree on what time zone the VAs can cover. Some claim to be available 24/7 for whatever you need.
  • Examples of job boards: OnlineJobs.ph. VirtualStaff.ph
  • Model works best for: Executives that know exactly what they want the VA to do, how to qualify candidates, and are willing to take on the onboarding, management, and quality control.
How to hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines directly

How it works: OnlineJobs

OnlineJobs.ph bills itself as the leading job board for virtual workers in the Philippines, with 1 million resumes of individuals available for hire. 

For $69 per month, you can post three jobs and contact up to 75 workers. For $99 per month, you can post 10 jobs, contact 500 workers, and get background checks. 

OnlineJobs offers all kinds of services and does not specialize in virtual assistants, so you will need to know what you are looking for and how to set and manage expectations. You put your job description out to bid and interview, hire, negotiate terms, and pay through the company’s payment portal. The company provides no further support.

  • Pricing: Starts at $69 per month for the job board; salaries are negotiated with VA.
  • Minimum monthly hours: Negotiated with VA.

How it works: VirtualStaff

VirtualStaff is nearly identical to OnlineJobs except for its pricing structure. For $120 per year, you can post as many jobs as you like and hire as many VAs as you need. 

VirtualStaff also offers an enterprise package that offers recruiting and more curated hiring, as well as payroll, benefits, and time tracking, but you must hire full-time workers. As with most job boards in the Philippines, VirtualStaff offers many different job functions and does not specialize in virtual assistants.

  • Pricing: $120/month subscription; salaries negotiated with VA.
  • Minimum monthly hours: Negotiated with VA.

How to hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines through a contractor agency

You can also hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines through a VA agency, usually based in the U.S. The agency model is like a job board with more filtered candidates. 

An agency will provide a shortlist of VAs based on your requirements, and the candidates are usually vetted to reduce the risk of a mismatch. 

The risks with a VA agency are like those with a direct hire:

  • There may be a skills gap.
  • A contractor may have other clients.
  • Training and performance management are up to you.
  • If the VA does not work out, you repeat the hiring process.
  • Most work from a home office and computer, which can be a security concern.

Unlike a job board, a VA agency provides a layer of talent curation and protection against bad actions. That layer can add to the cost of the service. Pricing schemes vary.

Other things to know:

  • Payment: Most agencies sell their services in bundles of hours per week or month, and you pay the agency—in dollars if in the U.S.
  • Time zones: Most cover U.S. time zones.
  • Examples of platforms: Virtual Coworker, OVA Virtual
  • Model works best for: Executives that know what they want a VA to do, want a curated shortlist of candidates, and are willing to take on the training, management, and quality control.
How to hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines through a contractor agency

How it works: Virtual Coworker

With Virtual Coworker, you send your job description to the agency and receive the resumes of the most qualified candidates. Once you select your VA, you get set up on Virtual Coworker’s payment system, and you pay the agency directly via credit card. 

The VAs use a time tracker, and you get daily reports of work done during the day. Like OnlineJobs, Virtual Coworker offers workers in multiple fields and does not provide onboarding and performance management.

  • Pricing: Starts at $6/hour for a junior VA.
  • Minimum monthly hours: Not stated.

How it works: OVA Virtual

OVA Virtual provides VAs from the Philippines with a twist—they are an all-woman organization. While many Filipino virtual assistants are female, OVA is unique in only offering one gender. 

You supply a job description, and the OVA staff match you with a vetted VA. OVA provides HR onboarding, a project manager, and time tracking. It offers other types of work including sales and marketing, accounting, and project management, so you may need to do some qualifying yourself if the staff aren’t specialists in virtual assistants.

  • Pricing: $7.25/hour, though the company says the actual pricing will depend on the work and experience level needed.
  • Minimum monthly hours: 80

Managed virtual assistant service provider

A managed VA service provider hires, trains, and manages the virtual assistant on your behalf, employing the VAs as full-time employees. 

The upside of this model is that you outline your requirements, and you get a VA that is onboarded on your tools and systems on day one with the help of an account manager. You give feedback to the account manager, which makes it easier to give constructive criticism. 

The VA team does performance management and coaching. Most offer fully trained backups that can fill in if the primary VA is unavailable or for some reason does not work out, so you have continuity. 

Risks include:

  • Turnover—BPO businesses have a 50% turnover. Ask about a provider’s turnover rate.
  • Nights and weekends—because service providers are employers in their territories, the VAs are typically limited to working hours on weekdays.
  • Time allocation—managed services typically offer set hours per month based on their experience of what works best for VAs and customers.

Managed is the keyword in managed VA services. You hire a team that takes on your admin work tasks by task with little lift on your part.

Other things to know:

  • Payment: Flat monthly fee in U.S. dollars.
  • Time zones: Most cover U.S. time zones.
  • Examples of providers: Prialto, ClearDesk
  • Model works best for: Executives that want to offload their admin work to an expert team that will take it on, make it work, and continually improve it.
Managed virtual assistant service provider

How it works: Prialto

Prialto offers a fully managed virtual assistant service that recruits, trains, and drives the performance of VAs in the Philippines and Guatemala. 

Managers document your tasks, processes, and preferences and find the right primary VA for you. You get a primary VA and two backups onboarded onto your tools and systems. Managers overseeing the work identify more tasks to take on as they get to know you and your business. 

VAs undergo background checks and use secure company computers and networks in a secure office. Prialto’s sole focus is virtual assistants, and it has a dialed-in process for getting VAs up to speed and staying on task. It is not the cheapest option, but the high-touch, white-glove service is worth it for many busy executives.

  • Pricing: A flat fee of $1,350 for 55 hours per month (about $25 per hour).
  • Minimum monthly hours: 55

How it works: ClearDesk

ClearDesk provides virtual assistants from the Philippines for startups, realtors, small businesses, and sales teams. You supply your job description, and ClearDesk provides a qualified VA. 

ClearDesk trains and pays its VAs, though it does not offer account managers, backup VAs, or background checks. ClearDesk VAs work from home offices.

  • Pricing: Starts with a flat fee of $1,500 for 80 hours per month.
  • Minimum monthly hours: 80

Finding the right virtual assistants in the Philippines for you

There are too many virtual assistant companies in the Philippines to list, but the article has broken down the different approaches most businesses take.

  • Job board—for executives who know what they want and are comfortable vetting, hiring, training, and managing a VA; the lowest cost option.
  • Contract agencies—for executives willing to pay extra for help finding the right assistant and are comfortable hiring, training, and managing the VA.
  • Managed service—for executives willing to pay extra for an expert team that will take on the admin work and run with it immediately and who do not want to recruit, hire, train, and manage the VA.

Which one is right for you? As is the case with most business decisions, selecting the right virtual assistant from the Philippines depends on your needs, budget, and how much time you want to invest in training and managing a VA. 

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