Use Cheap VA’s to Save TONS of Time

When Nickycakes makes Facebook ads, he generally test about 100 images each round of split testing.  This could be every day, or every week, depending on volume or how well the campaign is doing.  This takes a LOT of time.  Even if you get really good at photoshop and get a good workflow going for creating ads, it takes a while.

Several months ago, Nicky was talking with his friend Vince Wong from Project 1%, who has a lot of experience with outsourcing, being from the 4 hour workweek crowd.  The problem was exactly this: How can a repetitive task, such as making and posting 100 ads to facebook every day be outsourced for cheap?

Vince turned the Cakes onto a pretty awesome site called Odesk, which is kinda like a marketplace for outsourcing work online.  It lets you post job listings, choose who to interview for the job, and handles payments to them as well.  It’s a pretty neat service, but unless you’ve already used it or have someone explain some things to you, you can get screwed.

Hiring people on Odesk has some drawbacks.  The major one seems to be quality.  The vast majority of the people looking for work on Odesk are from pretty poor countries (mostly India and Philippines) which can be both good and bad.  The bad: A lot of them just really suck at doing what you hire them for, so you have to weed out those people.  The good: Really. Cheap.

So how do you get past the quality problem?  First you have to create a job listing in order to hire people.  The job listing is pretty much useless to you, since you don’t want the employees contacting you looking for jobs, you want to weed them out.  But it’s a requirement, so you just make one as generic sounding as possible and post it.  In this case, Nicky made one that said something similar to, “Looking for someone to do various graphic design tasks.”

After you’ve done that, you go into the job listings, where you can search and narrow down your candidates.  For this job, Nickycakes searched using “Photoshop” and went from there.  Important things to use to narrow the search:

  • Hourly Rate: Dropped this to $10 and under
  • Location:  YMMV, but Vince recommended East Asia
  • Tests: Here you can choose who to filter based on how they scored on various Odesk tests such as English skills, software proficiency, etc.

Once you have it narrowed down a bit, you can begin choosing some candidates.  Find 5-10 of them that look like they aren’t total idiots and don’t have any horribly bad feedback, and invite them to your job listing.

Here is the key part.  Once they respond, TEST THEM.  Get them on skype first of all, and tell them you want them to do a simple test to see how they do before hiring.  Give them very specific instructions.  In Nicky’s case, the test was: Go find any 5 images of an iPad, resize them to 110×80, save them in png24 format, put them in a zip file, and email them to my email address with the subject “Your iPad Images”.

You would be REALLY surprised at the difference in quality between the candidates.  One girl took 2 hours, several followed very few of the directions properly, etc.  But most of them did a decent job.  The best one had it done in about 10 minutes perfectly and was only charging about $3 an hour.  Score.

So now, anytime Nicky needs 100 images of whatever for facebook, he just fires up skype and asks, and it’s done in about 2 hours and about $6, leaving that time to focus on stuff that’s not as mind-numbing.

Taking it Even Further:

Depending on how technically adept you are, you could take this one step further, and actually have your employees submitting your ads for you.  If you know anything about some of the bigger self-serve ad platforms, you know that you can get banned if you are logging into your ads account from weird ip’s (you know, like 3rd world countries), so you’d have to set up a cheap computer at home with remote desktop that they could log into and submit ads from.  This would obviously require that you train them a bit and, again, give them VERY specific instructions.  You might even grab a copy of that facebook ad submitter tool people are using, which can batch upload from a folder of images.

Other Uses

There are tons of other things you can use these cheap virtual assistants for.  Nicky recently needed some translation done, and there are tons of really really good translators available, like people who have been living in the US for 10 years but grew up in another non-english speaking country.  You can get that for about $10 an hour or a bit more, and the quality is amazing.  That makes it easy to go back to the same person for translating new ads, landers, whatever, and since you have them on skype, you can get it done really quickly.

Another idea (that Nickycakes hasn’t personally tried) might be like link spam for SEO.  There are several sections just for SEO, actually.  What if every landing page you made, you got some cheap dude off Odesk to build 100 backlinks to with some decent buying keyword.

Anyway, the more of your daily work that you can hire robots to do, the more time you have for other stuff.

Keep it real.

Peanut Gallery

  • This is a really good post. Everyone has been talking about VA’s on oDesk, elance, et al for years but you won’t increase your productivity without finding the right one. There’s no point in saving money by finding someone online @ $3/hr if the opportunity cost of my time they waste with poor communication is higher than the savings.

    I could Google search right now and find thousands of tricks on interviewing full time employees. Until now there was nothing about applying that same hustle to the affiliate marketer’s first employee–an oDesk VA.

  • I love oDesk also – one other benefit that you didn't mention is the screen captures and keyword/mouse recording… so you know you're only paying for real hours worked.

    The biggest problem that I have with oDesk (aside from their new interface) is the fact that it's hard to keep full time employees long-term on there (piecemeal work isn't such a problem).

    It happens something like this: I hire a great cheap contractor for their first job on oDesk. I give them a couple small raises, a couple good reviews, and then they start catching the eye of other employers. Before long, my employees are being distracted regularly by job offers from other employers who are offering much more than I'm willing to pay. This makes it hard to keep contractors long-term on oDesk, in my experience. Do you have any solution to that problem?

    Good to see you posting again.

    • Oh man, yeah. The screenshots are really cool. Kinda feel like I’m spying on them haha. I haven’t left any feedback for any of them yet and my facebook ads girl keeps asking me if i have more work, even a couple months in. Hopefully she doesn’t disappear on me.

  • Hmmmm. Was this post really from the Cakes or a VA?

  • Yes, I’ve heard more than a few people talking about the same problem Justin had, or worse, they just disappear and you don’t realize it till your deadlines hit you in the face. It would be good to find reputable outsourcing!

  • A good way to quickly weed out the time wasters is to include in your listing a qualifying task that they must complete in order to be considered. Example: find 3 images of some kind and edit them to the correct dimensions.

    Out of 80 applications, you'll maybe get 15-20 who actually do the task. Out of those, you may get 8-10 who do it correctly. Those are the only people you need to consider.

    • Also, there’s no reason to limit yourself to East Asia. I’ve gotten amazing work from Romania, Russia, Jamaica, Argentina, etc.

    • Yeah, as I mentioned in the article, I make the listing as vague as possible and don’t let people apply unless I invite them. If they accept, I give them a small test like that myself, but your method might help weed idiots out before that. I think my way might be quicker though, as I end up with someone suitable in a couple hours.

  • Another good outsourcing site is vWorker (formerly Rentacoder).

  • Awesome thread on outsourcing. More affiliates need to outsource their tasks instead of trying to do it all. Odesk is perfect snce you can monitor activity and pay by the hour.


  • If you’re a cool guy you set up a web proxy on your system and have them use whatever ad platform from that. Any idiot can use a web proxy and you don’t have buy another PC and set up a remote desktop or some other shit LOL

  • Actually didn’t see this earlier, but I’ve met and spoken to Vince on more than one occasion. Super stand up guy and stellar business man. It’s really a small world. Going to give you a shout one of these days, Nicky.


  • I am using odesk now. My first VA before being officially hired was super on top of emailing me quickly etc. As soon as he was officially hired he basically attempted to scam me. I ended his temporary contract immediately. I hired him for only 15 hours at a cheap rate. Sometimes you have to take calculated risks. I fired him and am interviewing new people. Hope this works out better this time around.


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