How to Find the Correct Virtual Assistant for Your Real Estate Marketing Needs

by | BiggerPockets.com

Virtual assistants—or VAs for short—are one of the most important resources of the information age. That might sound like hyperbole, but if it’s not literally true, it’s by a very slim margin. Ever since cultural monolith Tim Ferris published his seminal book The 4-Hour Workweek, in which he demonstrated his real-life experience outsourcing everything from scheduling work projects to writing apology letters to his wife to a VA, Americans have been developing every conceivable potential of Internet-based aides. Landlords are no exception, and marketing properties is one of the VA’s many potential applications.

The 3 Types of VA

Before we go any further, however, we should mention that not all VAs are created equal. Some VAs are the equivalent of Amazon’s “mechanical Turks”—folks who are very willing to do quite menial or repetitive tasks if given very clear explicit instructions, but lack some quality that would allow them to be self-directed workers.

Related: Landlords: Make Life Easier by Enlisting Your Virtual Assistant’s Help on These 10 Tasks!

Others are akin to office assistants, capable of doing all kinds of clerical and administrative tasks, including handling calls and making moderately important decisions—but lacking the cultural and linguistic skills to craft an advertisement or other marketing piece. Then on the high end (of both value and price), you have VAs who have put in the time to learn how to sell in a second language.

All three of these “levels” of VA can be put to good use, though some obviously more than others. Let’s break down the tasks that a property-marketing VA can be put to by level.

cash-flow-rental

Mechanical Turks

The lowest level of VA can still do a goodly number of marketing tasks, including:

  • Fetching property data from MLS listings, Tax Assessors’ websites, and other online resources and organizing it into a format that makes it easy for someone else to write an advertisement using the data,
  • Receiving marketing pictures or other information about a property and correctly organizing them into the company’s file storage system in preparation for future advertising,
  • Receiving an advertisement and posting it on a number of different websites,
  • Retrieving marketing data from those websites that track it (i.e. views, inquiries, favorites, flags, and so on),
  • Feeding that data into a spreadsheet and calculating important metrics (i.e. inquiries per week, views per inquiry, and so on),
  • Using that spreadsheet to create a report and sending the report out to a property owner,
  • Receiving a blog post or article and posting it up online,
  • And any other task that can be explained completely in a step-by-step format with a sufficiently detailed text document.

Office Assistants

The “next level” of VA can do all of those tasks, as well as:

  • Finding resources online that can potentially be used as inspiration for new content such as blog posts,
  • Deciding which of many marketing pictures are best for use in an ad, editing them for basic aesthetic functionality, and adding watermarks in a way that doesn’t interfere with their market-worthiness,
  • Receiving calls or emails from potential applicants, answering basic questions about the property, recording information about the inquirer, and scheduling showings for an agent,
  • Communicating with the agent regarding commentary the applicants gave during showings and recording them onto a company resource (for use in communicating with the owner about potential price changes or work orders that would improve rentability down the road),
  • Examining the aforementioned “important statistics” document for signs that a particular advertisement is failing and calling attention to that failure,
  • Creating instructions for the lower-level VAs to follow,
  • And other tasks that require discernment and executive function but not necessarily high-end language use.

mint-investors

Related: 3 Tips to Help Maximize Your Virtual Assistant’s Efficiency & Productivity

The Best VAs

Finally, you have the top-of-the line virtual assistant who is fluent enough in both language and culture to be able to comprehend and produce effective advertisements. A VA of this level adds several more potential tasks to their list, including:

  • Writing property advertisements, blog posts, and other content,
  • Adding audio commentary to a marketing video, such as a “virtual tour,”
  • Examining the “important statistics” document for signs that an advertisement is failing and diagnosing the likely reason why the advertisement is failing,
  • Receiving calls or emails from owners and answer their questions about the marketing process,
  • And almost anything else!

In fact, just about the only marketing tasks that a top-shelf VA can’t perform are the ones that would require them to be on-scene or the ones that would require legitimate managerial skill:

  • Taking marketing videos or pictures,
  • Showing houses,
  • Spearheading a new initiative within the marketing department,
  • Managing lower-level VAs,
  • And so on.

Of course, the different tiers of VAs are going to cost you different amounts—and to be frank, top-shelf VAs are hard to find! But almost universally, a VA is going to cost less than a direct hire to get the same tasks done. Learning to manage VAs is a skill in and of itself, but if you can master the skill, you can outsource the vast majority of your marketing efforts and save a significant amount of money in the process.

What has your experience working with VAs been like? Do you agree with these levels of expertise?

Leave your comments below!

About Author

Drew Sygit

Drew is the manager of Royal Rose Property Management, a fairly high-tech solution for Detroit Metro area property owners & investors.

17 Comments

    • Drew Sygit

      @MANNY PICHARDO: like everything else, it’s only hard if you don’t know what you’re doing! We made many mistakes when we first started hiring VA’s. The biggest challenge – finding ones that care enough to learn what you’re really trying to accomplish and not ones that just “push buttons” for pay.

  1. Jessica Hawkins

    Do you usually go with a company to hire? How do you find someone like an office assistant? I ask because I might be interested in a job as one. I am transition careers in the next year and I have a lot of customer service experience, I know I would enjoy doing this type of work. Thought I would see where investors would start looking for one.

    Thanks for the article Drew and pointing out the different levels of expertise.

    • Drew Sygit

      @JESSICA HAWKINS: We didn’t have a good experience hiring a contracting firm in the Philippines. We went through a lot of VA’s and then found out they were only paying them 25% of what they were charging us (and they still got no other benefits!). So, we’ve gone direct after that.

      Your challenge will be getting on all Upworks and other sites to advertise your skills. Be as specific as possible as that’s one thing we struggle with when reviewing resumes/CV’s — people are trying to be so broad with their published skills just to get work that they don’t appear to be really good at anything. Trying to be “everything to everybody” is actually counter-productive. Also, do some research on your USA-based competition – see how much they are charging. Don’t worry about foreign VA’s undercutting you. You won’t be able to compete with them on price, so focus on better service. There are plenty or hirers that will pay more for a VA they won’t have language barrier or time zone challenges with:)

  2. james mcgowan

    Great article and info. We’ve looked into VAs in the past but never actually hired. Looking again to do so. Any rec’s on truly good and reliable VA companies or individuals that are worth their $$ and actually add value? Thanks for input and suggestions.

    • Drew Sygit

      @JAMES MCGOWAN : see our response above to Shawn Crawley.

      The challenge is training them. You either have to be very specific on what you want them to do OR invest a bit more to make them virtual employees.

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