I am no longer actively blogging on this website.
This blog post is a review of Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker
Chris is known as a ‘Virtual CEO‘, which means he manages his business interests not by working in an office but working remotely (or ‘virtually’) with a team out outsource workers. As my plan is to follow Chris this year, it made sense for me to read this book.
The book spoon-feeds the reader an idiot-proof guide to finding, hiring, training, motivating and managing Virtual Assistants
Pro’s – It simplifies the process of working with virtual staff and should provide some ideas for many small business owners and internet entrepreneurs to improve their efficiency and free up time
Con’s – While the book will probably be very valuable to a lot of people, I personally didn’t find anything game-changing in it. It also feels needlessly over-hyped and is, at times, a bit too idiot-proof
Before I open a book I always read the front and back covers, followed by any preface. Virtual Freedom has a quote on the front and 3 quotes on the back singing it’s praises, which is to be expected, then you read the preface…
The preface contains a further 39 quotes.
Now, I’m a big fan of Chris, he has achieved a tremendous amount in his life, in his business and with his personal brand. I genuinely find him inspiring. However, once I’ve paid for a book, I don’t need to read praise from 43 people about how great it is before I get started on the actual content. This for me was over the top, as was some of the praise, for example:
“Think about the most useful book you’ve ever read. It will now become the second most useful”
That’s quite a statement.
That being said, the book was easily digestible with chapters set out as follows:
One of the first things Chris talks about is what he calls ‘Superhero Syndrome’. This is when a small business owner will try and do everything themselves, only to burn out, as Chris did in his business. I have done this myself. I suffered from stress because I was doing too much – and I don’t mean the sort of stress where you need to take a couple of days out of the office – I mean the real deal, requiring significant time off, medication and therapy. So I could relate to this. My solution at the time was to get more resource – I immediately employed a General Manager, a Marketing Manager and a Copywriter. These extra hands improved my life tremendously. Virtual Freedom is essentially a guide to implementing extra resource, albeit a resource which isn’t working on-site every day.
Chris does provide useful tips throughout the book covering every aspect of working with virtual staff. Everything from what questions to ask in an interview, what software to use to train them, where the best locations are to source virtual staff and how to work with them on an ongoing basis. He provides frameworks for everything he suggests, from managing workloads to effective communication with one or more VA’s. These are great, especially if you haven’t worked with virtual staff before.
I have worked with virtual staff before. I have experience of advertising on freelance websites, using software like Skype and Google Docs to communicate and manage workloads with people who work off-site. Obviously I didn’t start with a clear strategy of how to work and I am sure I would have been in a better position if I read this book earlier but I did my best at the time and so far it’s worked out pretty well. I’ve also suffered from ‘Superhero Syndrome’, so I know how to diffuse a repeat of this as soon as it creeps back. And this is my issue with the book. For many people it will probably be quite useful but personally I didn’t identify a need for any major changes in the way I already operate.
An example of something really useful in Virtual Freedom are the roles which Chris suggests you consider outsourcing, namely:
Chris discusses at various points throughout the book the salaries you might expect to pay virtual staff in these positions, how to manage people working in such positions and how to make the transition from part-time roles to full-time roles. This is valuable information. For anyone who isn’t familiar working with virtual staff it gives you ideas about the kind of things you might be able to outsource, what methods and software you can adopt to work with them and the sort of costs involved.
An example of something which I didn’t find valuable was the chapter on “Managing Your Virtual Staff”. Chris points out some incredibly basic aspects of employment which I would sincerely hope anyone who manages staff would consider as a matter of course, for example, the section on Paying and Motivating Your Virtual Staff where he describes in detail the need to:
With utmost respect to Chris, this sort of information is more Management For Dummies than “the most useful book I’ve ever read”. It’s clearly aimed at someone with little to no management experience.
Which made me realise I’m not the target audience for the book.
I do genuinely think Virtual Freedom is good but I wouldn’t consider it to be great unless you have relatively little experience of working with Virtual Assistants and you have a business which could benefit from using them.
And I guess this is the sticking point for me – I’ve read the book cover to cover and while there is some useful advice in there, there wasn’t anything game-changing. Maybe it’s because I’m further ahead in my entrepreneurial journey than most people – I already have a successful business, a clear personal brand and a team of people, some of whom do not work on site.
I don’t want to under-sell it though so I would give Virtual Freedom 4 stars out of 5 for the ‘average’ business owner. For myself personally I would only give it 3 stars. It is worth a read and it is very good if you fit the intended audience. Unfortunately I don’t. If I was starting out again a Virtual Assistant would be very helpful but only if I went back in time to when I was doing everything myself and nowadays I’m just not.
One last tip to anyone who might be on the fence about reading this book. Rather than invest the necessary hours required to read it, I suggest you spend 18 minutes watching this video where Chris gives a brief overview of working with Virtual Assistants. If, after watching this, you are considering working with a VA then I definitely recommend the book.
The video above is part of a series of videos by Chris called his New Business Bootcamp. You can see the rest of them by signing up at chrisducker.com