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“This story comes from a virtual assistant in the Philippines who used to work in a call center, and now works from home as a VA. When you hire Filipino virtual assistants, it’s amazing how both of your lives change.”

Hi! My name is B and I used to work for a call center. The call center industry is thriving here in the Philippines and there are plenty of jobs available. But what most people don’t tell you is that it can be a very stressful and demanding job. They don’t tell you that there are  times when you’ll have to work more than 8 hours a day (on average I work 10 hours, 6 days a week), you’re always tired because of the changing shift schedules, and you’re constantly on your toes because you can easily be fired over the slightest infraction.

This didn’t really bother me much before when I was still single and back when it was still just me and my wife. But when my wife got pregnant, the work started to take its toll. She had a difficult pregnancy, so it was stressful for me to be away from her, especially at night when I knew she could go into labor anytime. And after she gave birth, I was basically a zombie because I couldn’t get enough sleep. It got better as our baby got bigger but I wasn’t enjoying fatherhood as much as I wanted because I was always asleep whenever I’m home. I could only spend time with my daughter on the weekends. It bothered me but I accepted it because I thought that was my only option.

Then a few months ago, I lost my job when the call center I was working for lost our account. I immediately went to job hunting mode but I knew it would be a while before I got any calls (there weren’t a lot of openings in my position). Then my wife, who is a VA, suggested that I try working from home as a call center agent. It would be something that would keep me busy while waiting for job responses and to make up for the income lost in my previous job.
I tried it out, put on a profile at onlinejobs.ph and in less than 2 weeks I got a job as a home-based CSR.

To be quite honest, when I first started I thought I wouldn’t like it. But now I love my job. In fact, I like my job so much I’m reluctant to go back to a regular call center job. And here are the reasons why:

    • I have a really good employer. He doesn’t pay me as much as my old job but he pays me well for the work I’m doing. And when I did the math it turns out I’m taking home just a little less than what I used to take home after taxes now that I have fewer work-related expenses to deal with. So when you think about it moneywise, it’s not a bad deal.
    • It is not as physically taxing as a regular call center job. In a regular call center, my work schedule changed every week or so and because of that I got sick a lot. I still work the graveyard shift but the work schedule never changes, so my body was able to adapt better. And the best part is that my employer never asks me to work more than 8 hours a day or more than 5 days a week (unless I want to) so I’m able to really relax during the weekend.
    • It is much more comfortable working from home. I literally work from my couch! I can work lying down if I wanted. I can wear anything I want. I can eat in front of my computer and go to the restroom anytime I wanted (which is impossible to do in a call center).
    • I can take time off when needed without any problems. A few days ago my daughter got sick and she’s a daddy’ girl. She wouldn’t allow my wife to take care of her so I was the one who had to feed her, bathe her and keep her company until she fell asleep, which meant I didn’t get as much sleep as needed. Back in my old job, I wasn’t allowed to take any days off, even when I was sick. And when I was allowed to file a leave I had a lot of paperwork to deal with. With my current employer, all I needed to do was email him as soon as I could that I had to take a sick leave because I wasn’t able to able to sleep taking care of my daughter. And that was it, all I need to do is to email and I had my valid (paid) leave.
    • I have more time with my family now. I’m healthier now because I sleep more and have less stress.  I’m now able to spend more time with my family. I’m the one who gets my daughter ready for school. I take my daughter to school and pick her up after classes and we bond during our commutes. I do all that and still have time to get 7 hours of sleep before my shift starts. I’m now able to make plans to go on trips on the weekends like go to the beach or fly kites in the park, something we rarely got to do when I was still in the call center. I’m active in my church again because I don’t have to work on Sundays anymore.

 

It’s not all perfect. I miss socializing with co-workers. I have nice virtual co-workers but it’s really not the same as having someone to talk to at work. And it feels uncomfortable that some of my former co-workers pity me because they think I don’t have a real job and I don’t have the title.

But I also see how they envy me because I’ve lost weight. I have more pictures with my daughter now on my social media. I know they envy the fact that I now have time with my daughter to build playhouses made of cardboard boxes, harvest our mango tree, build Lego cars, or just walk around our subdivision and talk about nonsense.

I’m not saying I would never go back to a regular call center job. But it has to be a really good job to take me away from all of this. I’m earning well, I have my health, and I have my family. Really, what else can a man ask for?

To get started, you’ll need to learn to hire workers from the Philippines so you’ll know what to look for before you browse the database of Filipino virtual assistants and start hiring.

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Wage is a very hot button topic because of the on-going debate on whether or not the minimum wage should be raised in the United States. And when people hear how I built my business by paying my Filipino workers less than minimum wage, they paint me as some sort of monster.

NYC Rally to raise the minimum wage. Image courtesy of Flickr member The All-Nite Images

How could I stomach paying these people slave wages, after all they’ve done for me? After all the money they made for me? And why oh why do I take advantage of people so desperate for work that I pay them a lot less of what they’re worth?

Let me make it clear that once and for all that I am not paying minimum wage. In fact, I pay a lot more than minimum wage and I give my workers raises on a regular basis. You can barely survive on $300/month in the US. But in the Philippines, you can buy a lot with a starting salary of $300.

The standard of living here is completely different from the standard living in the Philippines. Everything there is cheaper and it’s easier for them to get more for less. For example, the starting salary of a public school teacher, call center agent, and most office workers in the Philippines is P12,000 which is roughly equivalent to $300. So for an entry level position, $300 is more than fair; in fact, it’s expected.

Minimum Wage In The Philippines

Unlike the US, the Philippines has to raise their minimum wage every few years. They also have different wage rates depending on what industry they work in and where they work. If you hire a Filipino worker from Manila where the standard of living is much higher, then you’re expected to give a higher wage. If you hire someone from the provinces, the minimum wage there is lower.

Speaking of gifts, one time we treated our entire staff to an all-expense paid vacation. They also get paid holidays and sick days, 13th month, and bonuses. That’s a lot more than what they would normally get from a Filipino employer.

Another thing I want to point out is I don’t keep my guys on “minimum” wage for long. In fact, we encourage our clients to raise salaries as soon as the worker has proven their work, as soon as they can afford to. We encourage employers to give 13th month bonuses, performance bonuses, gifts, paid leaves, etc. The only thing we don’t encourage is pre-paid work and I explainedthat in detail here.

If you just look at the numbers, you would think outsourcing is cruel to Filipinos. But when you dig deeper and look at the context, you’ll see how much outsourcing has improved the lives of a lot of people. Outsourcing to the Philippines to help make your business grow may look selfish at first, but when you look at how many people you can hire and help, how can you not give it a try?

If you want to learn more on how to outsource to the Philippines ethically, we have resources to help you with that at Replacemyself.com. Visit us today and start outsourcing your business to efficient, trustworthy and hard working Filipino workers.

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You can achieve a lot of things with hard work. Ask anyone successful and they will tell you that one of the foundations of success is hard work.

People love this advice because it makes sense; the harder you work, the bigger the reward. There’s a sense of justice to it, when you know that at the end of the day everyone gets what they deserve based on how hard they’ve worked.

I’ve tried that route and it is true. There was a time when I dedicated most of my day to working on my business. There’s no bigger satisfaction than seeing your business grow from the sweat of your brow. I loved working on my business because it provided for my family and gave me purpose.

Then, my wife had a difficult pregnancy and everything changed. That experience made me realize what mattered the most. I had to work less in order to take care of my family.

And in the process it made me realize what I should be doing as a business owner. I was so busy working on my business I didn’t have time to do anything else. That was when I realized that in order to get what I really wanted, time for my family and a thriving business, I had to work smarter, not harder.

In short, I had to outsource.

I had to outsource my business

    • In order to spend more time with my family. With 5 kids, 10 to 12 hour workdays just doesn’t cut it.
    • Because there was so much more that I needed to do and I couldn’t do it all alone. I have a ton of sites running and software development on the side. I don’t want to lose my businesses simply because I don’t have the time for all of them.
    • Because I know what my skill sets are. It’s more cost-efficient to just outsource the stuff that I don’t want to do it to people who do want to do it and can do it better than I can.

I’ve said it time and time again how the 4 hour work week by Tim Feriss has changed my life. It resonated with me because it made me realize that working less isn’t about being lazy. If you can do certain jobs a lot faster, and better, than anyone else that doesn’t diminish the value of the work that you do. In fact, it makes you more valuable. And doing anything that’s not worth your time just diminishes the value of you time.

Be The Boss

Dan and I went to Philippines a few years ago and treated our Filipino staff to vacation in Boracay Island. I wouldn’t have been able to live the life I have now without them.

Being a business owner, being the boss and CEO of your own company, your time is better spent running your business than working in your business. This means making important decisions about operations, marketing, customer service, etc. It’s your responsibility as a CEO to focus on making your business grow. That means you have to focus on running your business from above where you can see everything and not in the trenches working.

If you want your business to grow, if you want to earn more with each hour you work, you have to let go of the things that diminish the value of your work. The only way to do that is by getting others to do the work for you.  This can either be local employees or outsourced workers…it doesn’t really matter which one. Working 17 hours a week doesn’t make you lazy? it just shows that you’re smart enough to focus on running your business and working less is just one of the rewards.

We can show you how outsourcing to the Philippines can help you achieve the 17 hour work week by watching our free webinar at Replacemyself.com. There we’ll show you where to hire, how to track your employees, how to make them stay, and so much more.

 

Start living the 17 hour work week today!

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A couple of years ago I had a series of blog posts from my Filipino staff. I’ve gotten some flak for that because some people think that the posts are biased. They’re my employees, after all. As my employees, they’re terrified of me and they’re just writing stuff they know I want to hear, things they know would please me.

I admit I did ask them to write that guest post. But that part where they’re so terrified of me that they’re written those things just to kiss my ass is just wrong.

My guys and I disagree on a LOT of things. They won’t say bad things about me in public out of loyalty but if you could see some of the emails I exchange with them, you’ll see a lot of:

    • I don’t think it’s a good idea
    • I don’t think I can do [task]
    • I don’t want to do [task]
    • I think it would be better is we do this or that…

ageedisagree

I know disagreeing with your Filipino staff isn’t something a lot of people would want to hear but this is a good thing. Once you’ve established respect, trust and communication with your team, disagreements are bound to come up. The key is having disagreements about work without letting it affect their work and your business

It all boils down to communication, respect, and trust.

Communicating With Your Filipino Staff

communication globe

Use any and all means necessary to communicate with your Filipino staff

I tell my guys time and time again that they have nothing to fear about their jobs. As long they do their jobs and they act in a professional manner when they do want to talk to me about the things we don’t agree on, they should feel free to talk to me about anything, even have a few disagreements.

I do this until now because it’s important for me that they have a work environment that allows them to be creative and keeps them motivated to work. I want them to be comfortable enough to talk to me about anything, even about problems at work, so we can communicate and work better with one another.

I know that if my guys are afraid of me, most of them would probably just disappear. And those that would stay probably wouldn’t be able to tell me of work challenges until they turn into big problems that could cost me my businesses.

These are people I trust my business with. If they feel like they can’t talk to me, then what’s the point in me outsourcing. If I can’t deal with disagreements and bad news, I might as well do everything myself.

Respecting Your Filipino Staff

handshake-respectThey respect the fact that I’m the boss and my final say is what gets done. But I also respect the fact that my Filipino virtual assistants are smart guys. I’ve given them training and until now they go out and continue to learn new things on their own. So if they say something, I listen to them and take their opinions and suggestions seriously.

When running a business, it has to be about the business. Your Filipino virtual assistant isn’t there to stroke your ego. He or she is there to do a job and you have to give them every opportunity to do that job and do that job well.

I know that I don’t know everything. I don’t have the time to study everything and know everything. I don’t want to do that. That’s why I outsource a lot of my business. That’s why they get the training for the things that they do. They’re bound to be better at a lot of things than me. And if they can tell me why their idea is better than mine, I have no problems with conceding to their better judgement.

Trusting You Filipino Virtual Assistant

Teamwork

Trust makes teamwork possible.

At some point, when you’re outsourcing, you have to let go of certain fears in order to move on to bigger things. You have to let go of your fear of your VA not working, of them leaving you, of things going wrong when you’re not there to watch over them. If they’ve worked for you for a long time and they’ve proven to be trustworthy, don’t you think it’s about time to really trust them?

Replacemyself.com is all about replacing yourself in your business by having someone you’ve trained enough to do all the work you need to do to run your business. But training is only one aspect. To achieve the 4 hour work week and financial freedom, you have to teach your Filipino VA to make some decisions himself. You have to trust that fact that your VA is looking out for your business, for your welfare.

If you won’t trust your VA, if you can’t trust your VA, you will never experience that kind of freedom. If you keep fixating on the small things, you’ll never see the big picture.

Letting My Filipino VAs Take Care of Me

When you think about it, friends and family fight when because they want what’s best for one another. I’ve seen how dedicated my guys are to my business and I know that we sometimes disagree with one another because we’re just looking for one another. This is why I can afford to work only 17 hours a week, because I can know they’re there in the background watching over my business.

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Typhoon Yolanda was a big wake up call for business owners who have virtual assistants in the Philippines. Filipino virtual assistants are great workers but the 20 typhoons that hit their country every year can make anyone nervous.

The devastation after Haiyan. Taken by one of our jobseekers from Leyte

The devastation after Haiyan. Taken by one of our jobseekers from Leyte

The good news is that most of the Philippines are prepared in dealing with these disasters. But in the event of another super typhoon, there are ways to disaster proof the work your Filipino worker has done. Disaster proofing your VA and their work would help protect your business (and their job) so they can focus on saving themselves and they have a job they can come back to once the dust settles.

Here are 5 Things That Can Help

 

1. Hire from places that are better prepared and less likely to be affected by typhoons. There are reasons why companies flock in places like Manila, Cebu, Baguio and Davao. In addition to having the infrastructure and work force needed; these areas, historically, are less affected by typhoons. In a lot of ways, they are also more prepared for natural calamities than smaller towns and cities.

 

2. Insist on workers having laptops and portable hard drives. If ever your VA’s home gets flooded, a laptop is definitely easier to carry and save than a desktop. But if your Filipino worker uses a desktop, (most developers and designers would probably use a desktop for work), then insist that they have portable hard drives where they can back up their work on a regular basis.

 

3. Invest in cloud storage. Another way to ensure that none of the work your virtual assistant gets lost to natural disasters is to invest in cloud storage. Having most of their work stored in it would also make it easier to pass on that work to someone else in the event that your VA is unable to come back to work.

 

4. Get their emergency contacts to ensure continued communication. Ask your Filipino virtual assistant for emergency contacts that you can call in the event that they’ve been affected by a natural disaster. Ideally, this should be a relative or friend that doesn’t live in the same place but has the resources to find or contact your VA. This is especially helpful in the event that your VA can’t go online or can’t get to a phone.

 

5. Have an emergency protocol and enforce this in your employment contract. One of the biggest things Filipino workers worry about is if they have a job waiting for them after a disaster. You, on the other hand, want assurance that your VA can get back to work as soon as they have recovered. You can help allay these fears and protect your business in the process by setting an emergency protocol and putting this in your employment contract.  Emergency protocols vary on how much detail you want to put in it but these protocols should contain the following information:

  • How soon should they contact you after a natural disaster so you’ll know whether they’ve been affected or not? (When they don’t contact you right away, this is where #4 would come in handy)
  • How much time you’ll be giving them to get back on their feet? (This can be set beforehand or change depending on the situation).
  • How much help you would be willing to give? (a month’s salary in advance? A loan? Relief fund?)
  • References and recommendations if ever they are unable to come back to work.


Protecting your business is not selfish, especially if it can help give more jobs to people who need them. Disaster proofing your Filipino VA allows you to protect your business and protect those who work for you, allowing you to continue providing for them at the time they need it the most.

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Behind the devastating headlines, what most people don’t know about is the silver lining of how jobs outsourced to the Philippines have helped hundreds on online workers in the affected areas rebuild their lives.

haiyanphoto01

 

Tacloban City, one of the most affected places by Typhoon Haiyan, is also home to roughly a thousand online workers and relatives of Filipino online workers. Though they may have lost their homes, these workers have still something to look forward to because they know they have jobs waiting for them as soon as they recover. And even before that, employers of Filipino workers from all over the world have been looking for ways to help the Philippines, even if their workers were not directly affected by the tragedy.

From Paul Woodall of PaulWoodall.com

I told my first Philippine employee that she was hired the day before the Typhoon hit on the 8th of November.  I told her she would start on the 11th of November (a Monday).  Obviously that was impossible after the storm hit, not only because of the lack of resources (power, water, etc.), but also because of missing family members (later located) and just because of the massive devastation that was caused.  So we postponed her start date until the 18th to give her time to recover (somewhat) from the storm.

I was told that some of her family had lost shelter and income because of the storm.  It was not said in a pleading way, but because I had asked how she and her family had fared.  Turns out they did better than a lot of people, but her Grandfather lost his home (and was missing for a while).  This is not intended to be a long story, but some background was necessary.

My wife and I decided we wanted to help and thought the best way to do that was to backdate our young lady’s start date to the 1st of November.  We paid her half a months salary on the 15th, even though she had not actually started to work, and we were blown away by the grateful response we got.  She and her whole family were (and still are) extremely grateful.   We felt like it was just the right thing to do.  It was not a lot of money to us, but to them it meant a great deal.

From Richard Mathias, President and CEO of Rich Mathias Enterprises, LLC

I have three guys working for me and they were pretty close to the hit zone in Tanjay City.  While they sustained wind and water damage, they are all ok.  As part of our effort to bring some hope to the survivors, I gave my three guys a week paid time off to organize relief missions to the hardest hit small islands where they delivered food, water, and medical supplies.  It was a great way for us to do a little something for folks who were really just totally decimated.  The island they helped the most was home to 300 families and the storm took out all but 2 buildings.  The entire island population was essentially left homeless.  Here is a link to the Facebook Page that my manager made of the relief missions.   https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.321434181331305.1073741825.168526866622038&type=1&l=c7cb23da22

The experience brought us closer together and allowed them to realize that although virtual in miles apart, we are spiritually connected closely as one.

haiyanphoto02

 

The other side of this amazing story is how dedicated these Filipino workers can be despite of tragedy. JR, a worker from Leyte, saved his hard drive with his loved ones, to make sure that the tasks he has done for his employer is saved and can be retrieved once they have access to electricity.

CJ MacDaniel of Adazing Design

I have a worker in Tacloban that I found through onlinejobs.ph. While at the same time worrying about him I have been rushing around trying to meet deadlines by recreating projects that took him 2 months to build. As I saw the pictures online I had resigned myself to the fact that I had probably lost months of work of client’s projects and was hoping that everyone was safe. After a week of reading the horror stories and wondering if my worker and friend were alive, I finally received an email. He described that first week as bittersweet since all of his family are safe but a close friend had died. He recounted fleeing the city with his wife and two daughters on a C130 with nothing but an extra shirt and the computer hard drive with my work files on it. He told me that he had been worried that he wouldn’t have a job waiting for him when finally got back online. He was super grateful that I had paid him for the week he couldn’t work plus some extra for urgent needs. He said that I would never be able to understand how much it meant to him to still have employment because of the long road ahead of him to begin rebuilding their life. He and his extended family about 25 people are all at his brothers small apartment in Cebu. He doesn’t yet have access to a work station where he can plug-in the hard drive but it is a major relief to know that we won’t be rebuilding 6 months worth of client projects.

Donna, a virtual assistant from Tacloban, was one of the lucky ones to be first relocated to Metro Manila. Her first concern as soon as she had internet access, was to email her employer that she’s okay and that she can go back to work in a week, after she has her family settled in.

haiyanphoto03

In light of criticism of how outsourcing to developing countries like the Philippines, stories like these show that these jobs have been lifesavers for Filipinos. They may not have the same pay as their Western counterparts, but they are earning well enough that would allow them to rebuild.

If you’re looking to help the victims of typhoon Haiyan (or looking to hire staff members from the Philippines), try www.onlinejobs.ph which has the largest database of online Filipino workers.

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Yes, absolutely.

Because hiring Filipino online workers still makes a lot of business sense.

I know with Typhoon Yolanda a lot of people have become hesitant about hiring Filipino workers. The recent disaster raised a lot of questions that nobody wants to bring up because they’re afraid of sounding selfish or uncaring. I’m going to absolve you guys of all guilt by putting these questions out there, questions like:

Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • What if my programmer happens to live in the affected area, what would happen to my business?
  • My Filipino designer lost his laptop in the flood, now all the work we did together is lost. What do I do?
  • How long will I have to wait for my VA to come back? Or should I even wait?
  • How much help should I give to my link builder? And for how long?
  • Would it be okay if I hire someone while waiting for my VA to come back?
  • I can’t afford to hire more people to cover the work while my designer is away

Let Me Tell You This Outsourcing, in general, carries certain risks. Even big companies that outsource to countries like China, India, or the Philippines have facilities that get affected by natural calamities. We just don’t hear those stories often in the news because it’s bad press.

Drugchu County Flooded, Image courtesy of Flicker member SFTHQ

The last typhoon did cause a lot of damage to the affected areas but the Philippines does experience around 20 typhoons per year. These typhoons pass through different areas of the country and vary in intensity. Most of the Philippines are prepared for these typhoons; it’s just that the last one was really a super typhoon and it was unlikely that anyone could have gone through that unscathed.

There’s More To The Philippines

I also want to point out that this country has roughly 7,000 islands. There are ways to significantly reduce the risk of having workers that are often affected by natural calamities. Most Filipinos were not in the areas affected by the typhoon. There are a lot of places in the Philippines that aren’t hit by disasters as often as Leyte, for example.  There are a lot of places in the Philippines that are better prepared to deal with disasters than Tacloban. Hiring Filipino workers from areas that are less affected and better prepared for natural disasters would help ensure that you get continuous work all year round.

Hiring Filipino workers for charitable reasons is admirable. But that shouldn’t be the only reason for you to hire them. Despite everything you see on the news, the Philippines is still a great place to hire good workers. Filipino workers are still some of the best workers in the world. Don’t let the headlines stop you from finding talented, reliable, and cost-efficient workers for your business. If you want your business to grow, the Philippines IS STILL the place to go.

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