Remote employees are no longer a secret. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every employer got a crash course in managing a remote workforce, and nearly every employee got to discover what it was like to work without showing up to an office.
Some people hated it. Many more loved it. No commute, no office expense, more time with your family and your hobbies … remote work is here to stay.
For those of us in the digital entrepreneurship space, remote employees are nothing new. In fact, we’re used to really remote employees — US entrepreneurs hiring employees in countries with a skilled workforce and low labor costs, like India, Colombia, and the Philippines.
Not only can you get an employee for a bargain, but you don’t have to worry about payroll taxes and HR standards, because your employee is in another country.
But if you have never taken the plunge, it can be scary. How do you hire and depend on someone you may have never met, in a whole other country?
Don’t panic. Hiring a remote employee is something you can and should do. If your goal is to build a freedom business and travel the world, you will have to manage your employees remotely, because you will be off hiking in a Bali rainforest before you know it, tracking the progress of your business from a smartphone.
So let’s embrace the challenge. Feel free to poach these actionable techniques I use to hire great remote employees:
1. Source Candidates
This is the easy part. There are a few well-established international marketplaces for remote employees. Upwork is one of the best-known, and I have used it many times. Fiverr is better for finding one-off gig workers, but you can find long-term employees there.
Onlinejobs.ph is a robust marketplace for remote workers in the Philippines, currently one of the most popular countries to source remote workers. They charge a small monthly fee to contact applicants, but it could be well worth it.
2. Add a “Qualifying Question” to Your Application
Job-seekers who use online marketplaces often blaze through your job posting or don’t read it at all. They send template cover letters to every job posting they consider promising. I don’t like those candidates. I want applicants who think they are actually the right candidate for the job I need done.
One trick I use to screen out unserious applicants is to add a “qualifying question” to the job description. To be honest, this is just a bullshit question … for example, “What is your favorite color?”
Obviously I don’t care about the applicant’s favorite color. But I do care that they took the time to read the job description. If they reply with an answer to the “favorite color” question, I take that as a sign that they are a serious applicant. This can easily clear out 80–90% of the herd.
3. Don’t Go Cheap
Remote employees became a thing for US companies because you don’t have to pay them a US wage. If you can find a skilled worker in a country with a lower cost of living and lower average wages, you can reduce your payroll massively.
But this doesn’t mean you should join a race to the bottom of the barrel. Foreign employees are the same as American employees in one important way — you get what you pay for. If you pay their version of the “unskilled worker” rate, you will probably get just that — an unskilled worker.
Lots of entrepreneurs chase low labor costs right to disaster. They hire someone who talks a good game but can’t actually do the job. The cost to fire, replace, and rehabilitate the mistakes of a bad employee often far outpaces the cost to just hire the right person in the first place.
If they are from the United States, great! But at the end of the day their location should not be the determining factor. You should be looking for the very best to complete the task.
I always strive to pay somewhat above the market wage of the country I hire from. It’s worth it for me to get someone who can actually do the job and do it well.
4. Conduct a “Paid Interview”
This is a big one, the biggest trick to find the right remote employee. Lots of entrepreneurs refuse to do it because it requires you to risk some money and they try to do things on the cheap. But trust me, it’s the best money you will ever spend.
Here’s how to conduct a “paid interview” for your remote-employee applicants. Give every applicant an assignment. Tell them that you will pay them a fair fee for their work if they even attempt to complete the assignment.
You do this to incentivize the serious applicants, see what kind of work they do when some money is on the line, and find the people who will do good work for the salary you are willing to pay.
Yes, this means that if you have integrity, you will be sending payments to people you don’t intend to hire. Don’t stress about that. It’s a cost of doing business, and it’s well worth it.
You might be tempted to assign each applicant a different task in hopes of getting multiple assets for your money. Don’t. Assign them all the same task so you can compare apples to apples.
PRO TIP: Write the assignment instructions as best you can, and tell applicants that you will not answer clarifying questions. Just tell them to do the best they can. This will help you find applicants who can follow instructions and have good instincts. It will also preserve your sanity and provide your applicants with an early lesson that you trust them to exercise their judgment.
Here’s a practical example … I had 20 applicants for a copywriter position. Narrowed it down to the top 5 or so and gave them the same assignment and offered them whatever their requested rate was if they even attempted the assignment. They all submitted an attempt, so I owed each one of them $50 or so, for a total of $250. But one of them stood out, head-and-shoulders better than the rest.
So I paid the other four $50 each, thanked them for the attempt, and hired the guy who killed it. He’s still working for me, producing much more value for my company than the $200 I paid to the people I didn’t hire.
It’s hard to express just how important this is. In the above example its tough to guess if I would have hired the right person but after the test, there was no doubt in my mind who was the right choice.
5. Go With Your Gut
If you have several top applicants, jump on a video call with them and see what they are like. See if they are someone you feel like you could work with long-term.
If you have multiple candidates who have proven they can do the job, don’t be afraid to go with your gut. Who do you enjoy talking to? Who seems like they would be easy to work with? Who “gets it” the most and fits with your company culture?
Don’t get caught in analysis paralysis. Make the decision that feels right and commit to it. Every hire is a risk. Trust your process, and trust yourself. Take the plunge!
6. Keep Them Happy
An amazing remote employee is worth their weight in gold. It’s worth going the extra mile to keep them happy. Pay them as agreed, like clockwork, but go the extra mile.
Consider them for a raise every year if they add significant value to your company. Find out what local benefits they might enjoy if they chose a job in their own country.
In the Philippines, for example they have a standardized version of the Christmas bonus known as the “Thirteenth Month.” Essentially, they get an extra month’s salary as a bonus in December.
Not all US employers bother to pay the Thirteenth Month, but if you do, you will earn a great deal of loyalty from your Filipino employee. It will be the cheapest investment in the longevity of your workforce you will have ever made.
7. Double Up
Don’t ever let one person become the single point of failure in your business. This may be hard to swing for new-on-the-scene entrepreneurs, but as soon as humanly possible, double up on your workforce for key tasks.
If your business depends on the services of a video editor, you take a great risk by only hiring one video editor. I know, it sucks to double your payroll, but consider the disruption to your business if your one guy quits or disappears.
I always try to be at least two deep on crucial tasks. That way, if I lose a team member for whatever reason, my business doesn’t grind to a halt.
I don’t mean assigning the same tasks or jobs to two people and double up your work like with the “paid interview”. If you need that video editor and need 10 videos edited every month, split the work between two (or more) team members.
Even in a digital world, hiring a remote employee can seem like a heavy lift. But with the right strategy, you can get incredible deals on amazing employees, stacking your business with incredible competitive advantages and freeing your time up to truly enjoy life.