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When I launched my first niche site back several years ago, the thought of scaling never even crossed my mind. I was completely happy publishing 1-2 posts per week, all by myself.
Fast forward to a few short years ago, and scaling the business became the biggest challenge. Sure, we had a system that we knew would work, but how could we take that system and increase the output to hit bigger numbers faster?
That’s about the time when my two-person team quickly turned into a three, then four-person team. That’s also the time where our business quickly went from about $2,000/month to $40,000+/month.
Now don’t get me wrong, a big part of this transition did involve outsourcing the writing, but that’s where the outsourcing stopped for us. Everything else, to this day, is handled by me and my business partners.
This is where we part paths with the vast majority of the big online publishers out there. Almost all of them insist of hiring virtual assistants (VAs), and many are firmly against partnerships, saying it’s a huge mistake.
I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that without teaming up, we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today. If each of us would have gone solo, the collective traffic and revenue would have absolutely fallen short of the totals that we’ve been able to achieve as a team.
In this post, I’ll share my experiences with a partnership and go over a few of the reasons why I think it’s a valid alternative to outsourcing when trying to scale niche sites.
That’s not to say that hiring VAs is a bad idea, but instead, I want to show you some of the benefits that only come from working with others that earn an income based on the success of your business.
First, let’s start with one of the biggest drivers of success when you find the right partner or partners. That driver is an aligned motive to succeed.
Think of it this way. When you’re flying solo with a niche site, you’ll do anything and everything you can to get to that next level. Afterall, the amount of effort you put into your business directly impacts the return that you get.
Now, add a partner or two that also see a bigger return based on their efforts (more articles produced leads to more traffic and revenue, etc.), and now, you have multiple versions of yourself all working together to get to that next level.
This is something you simply will not get with VAs. If you’re paying your VAs based on completing tasks or working a certain number of hours, the motivation to go above and beyond will simply never be there.
That’s a big reason why so many people don’t go above and beyond with a typical day job. Money is the key driver for most people, and you’re simply not going to get the same level of motivation out of someone when their paycheck isn’t tied to their output.
A lot of the other benefits that I’ll cover below all come back to the alignment of motivations. When motives are aligned, everyone wants to do whatever it takes to succeed.
Anyone who outsources their writing like we do knows that quality control is a big deal. Not only do you have to carefully double-check the work of any new writer, but even existing writers sometimes regress as time goes by.
Unfortunately, quality issues don’t end with writers. The same issues will arise with just about any task or service that you outsource.
Let’s say you hire and train an editor to your liking. They might be doing well, but again, their pay isn’t increasing as the revenue from your business goes up. If that was the case, you wouldn’t have outsourced the work in the first place.
Instead, they’re likely to see the same flat pay for quite a while, maybe with the occasional small bump in pay. While you might get lucky and find someone who’s okay with this, in reality, this person will likely lose interest at some point in time and start to take shortcuts.
If you’re not regularly checking this person’s work, you might not even notice it for weeks or even months, which means you’ll be doubling back to fix anything they didn’t take care of.
Once you figure it out, you might be able to have a conversation with that person, but there’s also the possibility that you have to move on. Moving on means going back through the hiring and training process, which can be a big headache if you’re managing multiple VAs.
With a partnership, the quality issues are less present. Because everyone has the same goals, they know that taking shortcuts will only hurt them, individually and collectively.
This means that the level of quality stays consistent across all tasks, and you don’t have to worry about constantly double-checking someone’s work.
Of course, a big key to this (and most of the points in this article) depend on finding the right partners. That can be tricky and is probably better suited for a different post.
Desire to Improve
One of the biggest benefits that we’ve found from working as a team is the constant conversations that lead to improvements in our overall strategy. Because we all want our business to succeed, each of us is on the lookout for potential ways to improve our processes.
If one of us reads an article or watches a video and gets something out of it that we believe can help us grow, we bring it to the team. Do you think a VA will ever do that for you? Very unlikely.
What typically happens in these scenarios is that the person who brought the idea to the table runs with it on their own. That person basically runs their own experiment for a couple of months or so, then reports back so we can decide whether or not to implement it at a greater scale.
If the idea is a no-brainer, we put a system in place to implement it immediately.
This constant exchange of ideas has led to a ton of breakthroughs, which is a big part of why our traffic and revenue have climbed to the levels that they have.
Because of the Passive Income Unlocked blog and YouTube channel, Ben and I have been fortunate enough to meet quite a few of the biggest online publishers out there (including some that stay behind the scenes).
All of these people have their own systems that work well for them, but one common struggle that I’ve noticed almost universally between them is the complexity of finding and managing their virtual assistants.
Most of the conversations in these various groups are related to finding the right people, training them, retaining them, managing their level of quality, keeping them motivated, increasing their output, handling payments, etc.
On top of that, these people aren’t hiring one or two VAs to help them out. They’re managing teams of VAs, with various levels of structures of VAs managing other VAs.
Like I said, they all have their own systems, and they’re all very successful. I respect that they’ve been able to figure it out, but for me, I like to keep things as simple as possible.
The last thing I’d want to do is to leave a typical job with a levels upon levels of management, only to replicate it with my own business. For an online business, I prefer to keep things simple with a flat structure where everyone’s on the same playing field with no one above or below anyone else.
It All Boils Down to Money
I just mentioned that all of these systems of VAs managing VAs that the big online publishers have can be very complex, but why would they even go down that road in the first place? Obviously, it all comes down to money.
While saving money is the most obvious benefit when comparing hiring VAs to a partnership, I don’t think the difference is as big as it might seem on the surface.
This really boils down to the complexity of the system put in place, but many of the systems I’ve seen out there are complex to the point that it’s likely much more costly than it seems on the surface.
If you outsource the writing, that’s one cost, and that’s the only outsourcing cost we currently have. If you then hire an editor, that’s another cost, likely an hourly one.
You might also have someone adding images or links. Again, that’s another cost. You might also have a team-lead managing these people, which is yet another cost.
I’ll stop here with the layers for this example, but some of the real-world systems I’ve seen are much, much more complex than this.
You also have to consider the soft costs: your time (hiring, handling payments/taxes, keeping people engaged, etc.), inconsistent quality (degrading performance, multiple VAs over multiple tasks, etc.), and so on.
At the end of the day, I’d assume that most publishers using a team of VAs are saving money overall, but that’s not to say there aren’t tradeoffs.
You Can’t Know Everything
The last point I’ll make about partnerships vs. outsourcing is that you as an individual likely don’t have all the answers. I know that I definitely don’t.
With a partnership, not only do you get the expertise of each partner (who all have different backgrounds and perspectives), but you get the collective expertise that only comes from working with someone else.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a conversation with someone on my team about something I thought I understood, only to see them connect the dots that I missed, or vice versa.
As simple as this business is on the surface, there are a lot of complexities to it. Sometimes, you have one piece of the puzzle while someone else has another. Neither one of you will figure it out on your own, but when you get together and have a conversation, a lightbulb goes off.
Again, if you’re paying VAs either by the task or by the hour, they’re very unlikely to bring ideas to the table that will help grow your business. When your motivations are aligned, everyone on the team is always pushing themselves to learn and grow, and when you put your heads together, it can lead to some big breakthroughs.
While this post likely came across as a hatred for virtual assistants, that’s truly not the case. There are plenty of people that have become very successful using VAs, and I absolutely think it’s a valid business model.
With that being said, I don’t think a partnership should be discounted or viewed as a lesser alternative. When done the right way and with the right people, a partnership can help to take your business to new heights.
Scaling a business is always going to require bringing in some help. It’s up to you to decide what type of help will provide you with the best return.