Online Employee Selection: Cost vs Reliability

The aim of this guide is to help employers manage their expectations when selecting members of their remote team.

What every employer must know BEFORE deciding whether to hire a particular Virtual Assistant candidate is what matters most to their online business.

That’s crucial to figure out because your initial choice is bound to make a considerable impact on your business in the future.

Ignoring the issue can cost you time, sales, and nerves. It’s always better to prevent than cure, isn’t it?

That’s why this short guide is going to give you the truth, i.e. unbiased advice and clear facts about the criteria you should consider when searching for the right employee for your online store.

You’re also going to find out what you can expect depending on your choice.

Basic criteria for choosing your Virtual Assistant: cost vs reliability

Here’s a surefire way to avoid possible problems with hiring Virtual Assistants who may not live up to your expectations.

BEFORE offering a job to your Virtual Assistant, set the fundamental criteria and realise what EXACTLY you want and expect from your employee.

Every employer needs to consider which is of greater importance to their online business – cost or reliability.

So, what matters more to YOU when choosing a Virtual Assistant: cost or reliability?

Think thoroughly about it.

That is a starting point, which will then help you set further realistic expectations and arrive at a sensible final decision.

However, before you decide, let’s point out how what you get can be affected by the path you choose to take.

What to expect if you choose to cut the costs

A home-based VA will cost you around $695 per month.

What may be the problem with these employees?

They usually come from developing countries such as the Philippines or India. Also, they’re often work-at-home mothers, so they obviously work from home and have small children.

Employers are often concerned that they won’t be available whenever their professional support is necessary.

Of course, a young woman with a baby cannot work perfectly and be readily available at any time her employer wants. Children get sick, need picking up from school, and occasionally have concerts and sports events at school.

That’s what you’re getting when you’re accepting to hire a mother. It’s the reality everyone should be aware of.

If that doesn’t suit you and your business, then you don’t have to hire such an employee. But, that’s their ‘package deal’ and you know that upfront. So, you can take it or leave it.

Imagine you hire a work-at-home mum from the Philippines to work the USA hours.

What can you expect?

She probably won’t be clocking in and clocking out at the exact time each day as you’ll be fitting in with her home life. You’ll usually find that she ends up working productively around 32 to 36 hours per week and might start half an hour later or finish an hour after the shift.

She works from home in the corner of her house on a tiny desk with a computer that’s immensely valuable to her as is her job.

You’re paying less because she’s not in a shiny office with a shift manager.

Sometimes the baby will be unwell due to the living conditions in her country. She’ll need to pop out and take the baby to a doctor appointment but the queue will be longer than expected.

For instance, the child will be diagnosed with pneumonia or some other lung complaint. That’s very common in the Philippines because their air is dirty and she might live next to a busy road with a lot of diesel fumes being pumped out each day.

Being a family-oriented culture, she’ll need to take good care of her baby FIRST.

But… You’re paying her $695/month instead of paying someone $1,800 who works in an air-filtered glass building and who has a nanny at home.

If you want your VA to have the nanny to take the baby to the doctor, then you’ll need to increase her wage so she can afford that.

That’s not all…

Sometimes in the Philippines, there are scheduled brownouts. The Internet and electricity go down. On her $5/hour she won’t be able to afford a backup generator or to have a secondary satellite Internet connection.

Instead, she’ll sit there and absolutely freak out that she’s not available for you and her income is in jeopardy because you’ll be disappointed.

The way out is to hire someone who works in a building with a diesel backup generator (which basically serves for running a light, not a laptop or a phone line). They’ll cost you more, but at least the brownouts won’t affect your business.

Yes, people with small children can struggle to fulfil your expectations. On the other hand, they are incredibly affordable and flexible.

You CANNOT expect to pay less and get more.

The upshot is that when you hire a Virtual Assistant on $3-$5/hour, you’re most likely hiring a mother, with a baby, who works from home and is available approximately during the hours that you need her (e.g. for a graveyard shift). You know that.

Always remember that your expectations need to match the amount you’re paying.

You are NOT hiring a high-end professional in a shiny building with a backup generator and a shift manager. But, let’s consider that scenario, too.

What to expect if you choose reliability over saving money

If you prefer absolute reliability, you’ll want to hire someone who can guarantee that:

  • they’ll be able to work at 100%+ productivity
  • on an 8-hour shift (e.g. starting strictly at 9 a.m. and finishing at 5 p.m.)
  • during your timezone operating hours (e.g. the USA time or any other that’s different from your employee’s timezone).

In this case, the catch is that you’ll need to pay A LOT more.

Why is that so?

Because they’ll probably be a part of a BPO Customer Service team (Telesales or any other similar offshore business process outsourcing team) or you’ll hire them via an agency.

They’ll have:

  • a shift manager who clocks them in and clocks them out,
  • 100% reliable high-speed Internet connection that never goes fuzzy,
  • a backup diesel generator, nice electricity and lights,
  • excellent headsets, computers and the other necessary equipment, and
  • whatever else it takes to ensure a smooth workflow.

Someone who can perfectly meet your expectations will cost you around $1,800 to $2,500 per month. Perhaps even more if you want graveyard shift.

Time for you to decide

As a professional, you should carefully think through all the aspects discussed above, so that you can reach the best possible decision for yourself.

You certainly do NOT want to waste your precious time and money, or greatly hinder your business progress.

If your online business needs an extremely reliable remote team member, hiring a work-at-home mum for $3/hour just to save money won’t be your top priority.

If your remote employee is a time-critical, vital member of your team and it’s crucial for you that they have a super fast, reliable, and backup Internet connection, you will either pay for it or turn to an outsourcing agency.

For instance, if a Copywriter doesn’t write an article in a day but in three days, your whole business won’t stop. It’s not the end of the world.

On the other hand, if your online store’s payment system or website’s gone down and your overseas Web Developer can’t put it back online because of their intermittent Internet connection, that stops you from making money and your business suffers. That’s why your Web Dev needs to have an incredible Internet connection.

Similarly, if it’s more important for you to pay less and cut your costs, you’ll opt for a home-based Virtual Assistant who won’t cost you more than $500-$700/month, which is OK.

However, in that case, make sure you’re ready to accept that e.g. there needs to be some flexibility in your employee’s working hours or that they’ll sometimes completely disappear from the Internet because their systems have gone down.

It’s crucial that you keep your expectations realistic.

It’s significant for your business that you know when and where you can seek a compromise and when you require a perfect solution.

Focus on what matters more to YOU and YOUR business, NOT any business in general. That will help you decide between cost and reliability.

Unfortunately, you CANNOT have both.

Still, you can choose whether it’s more important to you to pay less or to get an extremely reliable remote team member who can give you a cast-iron guarantee that your business workflow will never get disrupted and your business will never grind to a halt.

The decision whether to hire someone or not is yours only, as are the consequences. We hope these guidelines and insights can help you resolve the cost vs reliability dilemma.