Posted on November 18, 2012
Building your own website is great – you learn skills, build your confidence, and end up with a beautiful result at the end of the day.
But it can also be time consuming and challenge and if you’re not in a place in your life where you have the time or mental energy to take it on, you might want to consider hiring a virtual assistant.
“What is a virtual assistant?”
A virtual assistant is someone just like a personal assistant, except instead of sitting outside your office taking your calls and screening your visitors, they’re in another country doing all the tasks you don’t have the time or energy to do.
You hire them online, you communicate online, they work online, and you pay them online.
It’s simple as that.
“Should I use a Virtual Assistant (VA) or should I do the work myself?”
I get asked this all the time by people who’re interested in setting up their own websites
The honest answer is: I can’t tell you.
But there is a quick calculation you can do to work out if this is the right path for you.
If you went out and got a menial, average, no-real-qualifications-necessary, kind of job, how much could you make an hour?
Great. Is that more or less than you’d pay a VA to set up your websites for you?
If it’s more, then by going out and getting a job whilst you pay a VA to set up your sites you’re actually making money.
Think about it like this:
The average VA from the Philippines costs between $3-$5/hour.
Setting up a website will take about 10 hours and so if you pay someone else to do it, you’re looking at $33.30.
You could set it up yourself and save that $33.30, but… You’re not actually saving yourself anything. If you set up your own sites when you could be working in a job that pays you $15/hour, you’re actually costing yourself $116.70.
If you’d gone out and got a menial job, worked for that same 10 hours @ $15/hour, and got your VA to set up the site, you could have earned $150 (10 x $15) whilst only paying out $33.30.
That means that getting a job and paying someone to do your work would have left you $116.70 in front.
What sounds better to you? $0 or $116.70?
Not a hard choice, is it?
Now, obviously, this whole equation is based off a whole lot of assumptions:
1. You can get another job
2. You can get a job that pays significantly higher wages than what you would pay a VA
3. That a VA can set up the site as fast as you can
4. That you don’t have to train or manage the VA
5. That you actually have money to pay a VA with
If you’re not in a position to hire a VA to set up your website, that’s fine. You’re just going to have to put in some extra work to get things rolling.
But if you can, then I HIGHLY recommend you do.
“So how do I find a good VA?”
That’s a very good question.
As I write this post, there are 410,000 Virtual Assistants listed on oDesk.
So who are you going to choose? And more importantly, how are you going to find the right one? After all, not all VA’s are created equal.
There are some VA’s who are organised, focussed, punctual, and independent thinkers. Then, there are the dependent, lazy, undisciplined, VA’s who rush through jobs without checking details.
If you’re going to create an incredible webstie, you need to sort the wheat from the chaff.
If you don’t, you’re going to spend more time fixing mistakes and managing ineptitude than throwing fistfuls of cash at your playboy bunny pool cleaner.
After posting hundreds of jobs and wasting thousands of dollars on the wrong kind of VA’s, here are the lessons I’ve learned to get top quality help from the other side of the world.
NOTE 1: I’ve broken this down in the two major stages of getting great VA’s: Writing the hob posting and finding great employees.
NOTE 2: I exclusively use oDesk for all my outsourcing needs. oDesk has a fantastic tracking system that takes screen shots of your VA’s monitor at random intervals in a 15 minute period whilst they’re working and it also logs how much activity has been going on in that period.
It just means that everything is above board and you don’t have to worry about getting swindled.
Part 1: Writing Your Job Posting
The first step in getting great contractors is writing a great job posting. So lets start there.
1. Get specific about what you’re looking for
If you put a vague and nondescript job posting up, you’re going to get hundreds of unsuitable applicants. You need to be specific and you need to be clear.
Don’t say ‘I’m looking for someone to build a website…’, specifically state what kind of website you want built (WordPress, HTML, Flash, etc…).
If you don’t know the specifics, ask someone who does. If you don’t know anyone who can translate your mindless ramblings into coherent english, hire someone on oDesk and pay them for 1 hour of Skype consultation to tell you what you need.
2. Specify skills, not reasons
All the contractor needs to know is about the skills necessary to complete the job and some vague details about how much time they will need to commit. You don’t need to tell them all the intimate details about your vision and why you’re looking for the contractor, just what they need to know.
If you include too much detail, you’re just going to confuse and overload them and waste a whole bunch of their precious time.
If you expect them to value your time, value theirs.
Things like ‘Must know how to upload and setup WordPress’ is great. Things like ‘Look, I’m thinking about starting a website about flowers because when I was in the third grade, this really cute boy gave…’
Sorry, but no-one cares. Just stick to the skills required. You can fill them in on the details later.
Most of my job postings include a section that goes something like this:
You tasks will include:
– Task 1
– Task 2
– Task 3
It’s pretty basic stuff but it needed to be said.
3. Clearly state what you want in your application
If you’re not clear about what you want to see in the contractors application, you’l never get it. Be very clear about the kind of application you want the contractor to submit and you’ll get (some) applications that are set out the way you want it.
If you’re not, you won’t.
All my job postings have a section that reads like:
In your application, please address the following criteria in order:
1. Criteria 1
2. Criteria 2
3. Criteria 3
4. You get the picture
Once again, it’s pretty standard stuff but something you need to keep in mind.
4. Easter Eggs
Not, not the chocolate ones. Surprises an instructions hidden within your job description.
Always include specific instructions within your job posting.
This ensures two things:
1. The applicants have actually read through the posting and have written a thorough applications
2. The applicants can follow instructions
These don’t have to be complex instructions. All they need to be is simple and straight forward instructions to weed out the automated responses from the actual responses.
The two instructions I always include are:
1. Please include the word ‘BONUS’ at the top of your application
2. Please attach a screen shot of your internet connection speed (Thanks for that tip Mogzy)
If an application turns up without the word ‘BOUNS’ at the top of it (which you can see without even opening the application) and without an attached screen shot, you automatically know that that contractor isn’t for you.
Part 2: Finding Great Employees
Now that you’ve written an eloquent and effective job posting, it’s time to find people to fill it.
1. Make your job postings private
Always make your job postings private when you first put them up. Always.
If you leave them public, you’re just going to end up wasting hours of your life sifting through with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of spammy applications, trying to find the one or two applications from qualified people who’ve actually taken the time to read your job posting.
2. Narrow down your choices
Making your job posting private means that the only people who will see it are the ones that you invite. That means you need to start inviting people.
But with 410,000 possible VA’s, where do you start?
The easiest way is to use the adjustable search criteria on the right hand side of the contractor page.
I always use the same settings when looking for VA’s:
a. Must have 4.5-5 star rating
b. Hourly rate must be between $0 – $5 ($3 an hour is a decent wage in the Philippines)
c. Must be have 100+ hours (if there’s enough available VA’s, I will set this to ‘Must have over 1,000+ hours)
d. Must be in the top 10% in relevant tests (English spelling and grammar for article writers, WordPress for Designers, etc…)
e. Must be from east Asia (oDesk classifies the Philippines as being in east Asia)
This should narrow your selection choices down from 410,000 to around 100.
3. Jack of all trades, master of none
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to through them.
The first step is scanning through the contractor profiles and finding people with suitable skills. You can do this by looking at the key words on their profile. When you find someone with suitable skills, right click on their profile and open it up.
When you’re scanning through, make sure you only select people with a limited amount of skills on their profile. If someone has WordPress design, Translation, Accounting, SEO, and VOIP listed as their skills, there’s a good chance they won’t be great at any of them.
4. Work History
Once you’ve gone through your list and opened up any candidates with suitable skills, it’s time to dig deeper.
Just because someone has a skill listed on their profile and has worked 100+ hours with a 5 star rating, it doesn’t mean they’re actually any good at what that particular skill.
Go through each profile and look at the previously completed jobs on the contractors profile. If you’re looking for a WordPress designer, the contractor has WordPress in their profile, but has only worked 1 job as a designer with every other job being data entry, there’s a good chance that they’re not good a great designer.
5. Find VA’s with lots of contracts from the same employer
A 5 star rating doesn’t mean the contractor was some kind of rockstar and blew the employers head off with their performance. It means that the contractor did a decent job and met all the objectives they were supposed to.
The way you tell is a contractor is really good is if they’ve been rehired by the same employer over and over again.
This is really easy to check in oDesk. All you need to do is look through the completed jobs listed on the contractors profiles and see who they were working for.
If they’re continually working for the same person, then it means that that employer believes that the contractors skills are good enough to rehire.
That’s a +1 in my books.
If you follow all these tips, you should be able to narrow down the amount of available candidates and find high quality VA’s without too much drama.
Posted on July 28, 2012
You’ve got your domain, your hosting is set up, your nameservers are in place, and WordPress is up and running.
Your website is getting close! There’s just one more step before your site will be ready to go: Installing a wordpress theme
(If you want to skip all the info, just head down to the ‘My Recommendations’ section).
What is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is a ‘skin’ that goes over the top of WordPress that makes it look a certain way. It’s a simple and fast way to change the look of your website without knowing anything about coding.
The website you’re reading now is a WordPress website with the theme Not For Profit by Organic Themes.
They’re all still using WordPress, but just with a different theme installed on them.
This means that to change the appearance of your site, you don’t need to learn programming. All you need to do is install a new theme!
The 2 Kinds Of WordPress Themes
There are many different variations of WordPress Theme’s available but they all fit into two board categories: free and paid.
Each has it’s benefits and downsides so I’ll quickly run you through them before telling you which one I believe you should use.
#1 Free WordPress Themes
Free WordPress theme’s are great because, as their name suggests, they’re free. You don’t have to pay a cent. You can change your mind every few minutes and upload a different theme every second day without having to pay a single red cent.
But, the fact that they’re free does leave a lot of downsides.
a. They look like a free WordPress them
If a theme is well designed and the designer thinks they can get money for it, they’ll usually sell it. This means that the free WordPress theme’s that are available are usually the ones no-one would pay money for.
b. They don’t get updated
WordPress is a constantly evolving monster. The great people at WordPress are constantly updating their structure and coding to make it stronger, faster, safer, and more stable. As they make changes, theme’s need to be updated to make sure they comply with the latest functions of WordPress.
The people who design free theme’s often have other jobs and other focuses so don’t always update their theme’s to keep up with WordPress updates. If they don’t update them but you update your WordPress installation, the theme won’t work and you’ll have to start from scratch again.
c. No support
Typically, free WordPress themes don’t have a support forum you can go to or people you can talk to when things go wrong. If you know nothing about website coding or design, this is a big problem.
#2 Paid WordPress Themes
Paid WordPress themes are great because they eliminate all the problems associated with free WordPress themes.
a. They look like a paid theme
If a paid WordPress theme doesn’t look good, no-one will buy it. If no-one buys it, the designer will have to find a new job and won’t be making more themes. Therefore, paid WordPress themes look good. Not all of them, but the majority of them do. One thing is for certain though, they all look better than the free ones.
b. Constant updates
If you buy a theme from a reputable company, they will update their theme’s constantly to take advantage of the new WordPress features. Why? Because if they don’t, no-one will be able to use their themes. It’s simple as that.
When you buy a paid theme, you get the support of a company to help you iron out the bugs, problems, and stuff ups. This means that you don’t have to run off to coding school to work out why your sidebar isn’t showing and your header is three times the size of normal.
Every single WordPress site I run uses a paid theme. Why? Because I want a good looking site that works. That’s it.
Can you get good looking free WordPress themes that work? Sure you can… For a while. But there’s no support and no guarantee. For the $69 you might pay, the peace of mind knowing that your site is going to work properly, every time someone visits it, is WELL worth it.
If you checked out the examples at the top of this page, you will have noticed that all the sites I run use Organic Themes WordPress Themes.
They’re easily the best looking, best designed WordPress themes I’ve found.
I’ve searched for nearly 2 years over hundreds of sites and they’re the best.
If you want a nice looking, functional website that comes with full support, I HIGHLY recommend check out Organic Themes
You can see their full range here: Organic Themes
Yes, they’re a little more expensive than others but you get what you pay for.
Whilst these themes are good and solid, they’re not in the same ballpark as Organic Themes.
Installing Your WordPress Theme
Once you’ve purchased your WordPress theme, it’s time to install it.
This is a very simple process that just requires a few simple steps.
#1 Download your WordPress theme
When you purchase your WordPress theme, you’ll be given a download link. Download that file and store it somewhere safe because you’re about to use it.
#2 Log Into Your WordPress Dashboard
Just go to http://www.YourWebsiteName.com/wp-admin (obviously replacing YourWebsiteName.com with your actual website domain name) and enter the login details you created when you installed WordPress.
#3 Go to the ‘Upload Theme’ page
Once you log into your dashboard, first click on ‘Appearance’ (in the left hand menu bar), then ‘Themes’ (underneath it), then ‘Install Theme’ (in the top menu bar), then ‘Upload’ (just below ‘Install Theme’).
#4 Upload and Activate your WordPress Theme
Click on browse and find the location of your .zip WordPress theme file that you downloaded in step #1. When you find it, double click on it and then click ‘Install Now’. Once the installation is complete, click on ‘Activate’ so that WordPress knows to use that theme instead of your old one.
#5 Customise Your Theme
This is where things begin to get a little more complicated.
You don’t have to use the WordPress theme as it’s designed. Every theme can be used in a number of different ways. You need to work out how you want to use your theme and then design it to work that way.
I would liek to give you a step by step instruction on this but unfortunately, I can’t. Every theme has it’s own functions and own setup so this is something you’ll have to talk to the support people about. Glad you have a paid theme now? I thought so.
You have just built your very first website from the ground up. You have your domain name, hosting, content management system, and your own sexy design.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to release a whole raft of articles detailing in specific fashion exactly how you can turn your brand new website int a visitor (and money) magnet.
Until then, good luck with your brand new website!
Posted on July 28, 2012
Getting a domain name is very important. But just because you have a domain name, doesn’t mean you can start your new website.
You still need to get storage space to store everything you want to put on your website. This is called hosting.
Here are the 4 steps you need to follow to get the best website hosting for brand new sites.
#1 Go to HostGator.com
HostGator are the hosting company that I use for all my websites.
Here are the 5 reasons I host my sites with them:
a.99.9% uptime guarantee
From time to time, your website might not be accessible because your hosting if offline. This is normal and just part of life when running oyur own website. The great thing about Host Gator is they guarantee that your website will be up and running 99.9% of the time. That’s as high as anyone in the industry.
b. 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 365 day of the year customer support
If you ever need to know what’s going on, why your website is down, or just have a general question, you can contact thier support team by phone, live chat, or email, whenever you want. If you want to know the uptime ratio of your site at 4am on Christmas day, someone will be there to answer your questions.
c. Super fast customer service response time
There’s no point in having 24/7/365 support if you take 2 hours to respond. In the 2 years and 30 odd customer service requests I’ve made, I’ve never waited more than 3 minutes to talk to a customer service representative.
Because they’re one of the largest hosting providers in the world and have their own data centers all over the world, they can afford to give you the best prices possible. With unlimited plans starting at less that $4 / month, you can’t go wrong.
e. Discount coupons
Not only can you get your hosting for less than $4 / month, you can also save money on your first invoice. Just scroll down to the bottom of the host Gator page and click on the link in the footer that says ‘Hostgator Coupons’. It’s at the top of the second row from the right.
#2 Choose Your Website Hosting Package
Once you’ve landed on Host Gator, it’s time to choose the package that best suits your needs.
If you’re just going to host one domain, start with the Hatchling Plan. It’ll give you enough space to be able to upload all your photo’s, articles, and movies whilst not having to worry about running out of storage space of bandwidth.
If you plan on hosting more than one domain, sign up for the Baby Plan. It’ll allow you to put as many websites up as you want in the future whilst still having all the space you need to store all your information.
If you’re unsure whether you’re going to stick with one site or add more in the future, I recommend the Baby Plan because once you see how easy it is to build you own website, you’re bound to start adding more.
How long should you get your hosting for? Well, only you can say. But with long term hosting being almost half the price of month-by-month, I know which one I would choose. Also, if you get longer hosting, it’s going to make you more committed to making your first website.
#3 Follow the Simple Website Hosting Registration Steps
Now that you know what you want
a. Enter your domain name
Enter the domain name you just registered at GoDaddy under the ‘I currently have a domain name’ heading.
b. Enter billing information
I don’t think I need to explain this one to you…
#4 Set Your Nameservers
Now that you have your domain name and hosting, you need to link them together. The way you do this is through ‘Name Servers’. These are simple website URL’s that join your hosting with your domain name.
When you sign up for your hosting, you’ll be sent an email with your name servers. They’ll typically look something like: http://some-code.some-obscure-doman-name.com and there will be at least 2 of them.
Keep these aside for a second and follow these steps:
a. Log into your domain name account
This is the account you set up wen you registered your domain name. GoDaddy will have emailed you your login details.
b. Access your domain
Once inside your account, click on ‘Domains’ and then click the ‘launch’ button that appears opposite your domain name.
c. Select ‘Set Nameservers’
This is a small button in the middle of the page, under the heading ‘Nameservers’
d. Enter the nameservers
First of all, select the box ‘I have specific nameservers for my domains’. Then go back to your hosting account and find your name servers and enter them into the first two fields provided (in red below).
You’ve just set up your website hosting and you’ve linked your domain name to your name servers. Now, any time someone tries to visit your site, your domain registrar (GoDaddy) will know exactly where to point them to find the information they want.
Now, it’s onto the next step: Install WordPress on your new website
Posted on July 14, 2012
Getting your first domain name is simple.
Here are the 4 steps you need to follow to take the first step in making your first website: getting a domain name.
#1. Go to GoDaddy.com
Godaddy makes it the simplest and easiest to select a domain name with their domain name search features so if you have trouble getting the right name for you, they’re the best to use.
#2. Enter the domain name you want
It’s nice and easy, right on the front page.
Leave it set as .com for now because these are the most recognizable domain names
#3. Buy it if it’s available
If you get the big, green light to go ahead, click on ‘add’ and you’re away.
#4. If it’s not available, look for alternatives
If you end up with the dreaded (and not all that uncommon) ‘…is already taken’ then the best piece of advice I can give you is to move on and find another name. You can go down the lengthy (and potentially VERY costly) path of trying to purchase the name off it’s owner, but unless you’ve got $xx,xxx up your sleeve, it’s better to just find an alternative. This is where GoDaddy really comes into it’s own.
Not only does GoDaddy.com show you whether or not you domain name is available, but it also gives you a list of what other tld’s (the three letters after the domain name eg. .com, .net, .org) are available and other potential domain names that are similer.
Check out the picture below:
You can scroll through their suggestions and see if there’s anything you like. If you can’t find the perfect name, just get a close as possible. There are over 200,000,000 registered domain names already and there’s a good chance that someone already has the one you want.
If your website starts to go really well and you start to make some decent money, you can always buy the one you really want and then redirect your current site to that name. It’s nice and simple.
Try and stick with a .com but if all you can get is a .net or .org, then that’s fine as well.
I HIGHLY recommend staying right away from .info, .biz, or .us because they just look really cheap.
Head to GoDaddy.com now and register your first domain name. As soon as you’re finished with that, I’ll show you how to get storage space for your website so you can upload all your articles and pictures.
If you’re ready, you can check out the How To Make A Brand New Website hosting guide here: