Understanding Cultural Differences when Working with Filipino Virtual Assistants

by Chris C. Ducker · 54 comments

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When I was in the UK a few weeks ago, I published a post in regards to a new ‘How to Outsource…’ series I was going to be starting. I received so many great comments and emails when this went live – so, if you sent any suggestions in to me – thank you!

This basically came about because I get a lot of emails every week on the subject, and because replying to them all (which I always, always do!) was starting to suck a little more time out of my day as I was comfortable with. So, I decided to produce this new series of posts to enable me to build up a bit of an encyclopedia, so to speak, on the subject of outsourcing – this way, not only could I continue to answer everyones questions (especially in an in-depth way!), but also create some great content for the rest of the VBL readers and subscribers, too.

Today we kick-off with a video post on the subject of understanding cultural differences between westerners and filipinos, especially focusing on how to work with VA’s with these differences in mind. To make this a little more authentic (if thats the right word!), I asked my Virtual Staff Finder project manager, Stephanie, to join me in the video for two reasons.

Firstly, she’s a filipina (we use the term filipina when describing a female from the Philippines, not filipino), and secondly, because she knows an absolute ton about working with VA’s based here in the Philippines! :-)

Inside the video you’ll see us discussing:

  • How important salary and paying filipino VA’s on time is.
  • Why keeping your tasks relevant to their job description is so important.
  • Appreciating the fact that filipinos are quite shy in nature and don’t like confrontation.
  • Keeping in mind the difference of working hours and being flexible with home-based filipino staff.
  • Understanding the importance of awarding your VA, and why its such a massive motivator.
  • Much more!

As you can see, Stephanie is a prime example of the type of professional talent that there is out here. She speaks great english, is naturally motivated and organized and even agrees to be in my blog videos! Can’t ask for more than that, can you..??!

As I mentioned, this is the beginning of a brand new series at the blog. If you would like to be informed when the next post in the series will go live, just complete the sign-up form below and you’ll be added to the VBL Blog Update list. You’ll also get a copy of my FREE eBook & AudioBook companion “Saving the Day, the Virtual Way!”, which goes into much deeper detail on the subject of virtual assistants and filipino VA’s particularly.

If any of you have any stories, feedback or insights you’d like to add to todays content, that would be awesome. Also – feel free, as always, to ask as many questions as you like. I love answering them all…

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Simon Payne July 6, 2011 at 16:15

Hi Chris!
Just finished watching this video.
I really like it! Thanks for the very good insights there! It made me realize some things that I need to pay attention when I work with local people here in Philippines. Thanks for sharing it. Very helpful.

Cheers from Starbucks in Davao ;)


Chris C. Ducker July 6, 2011 at 17:12

Thanks, Simon.

Appreciated, buddy. Yes, the tips in the video can be used in real-time situations, as well – just conversing with Filipino’s, spending time with them, negotiating, etc.

Glad you enjoyed the clip, buddy.



Trent Dyrsmid July 14, 2011 at 03:02

Hey Chris,

Thanks so much for this! I have two PH VA’s now, so this is definitely useful stuff for me to know.


PS> I’m looking for my next podcast guest…so if that is something you are interested in, let me know.


Chris C. Ducker July 14, 2011 at 16:40

Hey Man

Sure, no problems… Would be a pleasure.

Email – chris @ virtualbusinesslifestyle . com and we’ll set it up.

Lookin’ forward to it.



Gen September 17, 2011 at 18:24

Hey Chris,

I hate to have to post on your comments this, but I feel you should be aware and have no other recourse… I really would like to take advantage of your VA service but I cannot get anyone to Answer the phone or return my calls. Also have sent a couple of emails. I have tried at least 5 times by phone and left message. This is ongoing for about 3 weeks now. I know you are not at the office a running things directly, but I figure you may want to let the person know who is running things that the staff is dropping the ball big time. Thanks

Also tried subscribing to your newsletter but link not working for me.


Chris C. Ducker September 17, 2011 at 20:07

Hi Gen

Thanks for the comment.

The phone line for Virtual Staff Finder is at voicemail all the time. If you’ve left a message a return call should be placed to you. Let me follow up with my team on Monday, and I will try and find out what’s happened. They are usually bang-on!!!

Thanks again for reaching out and we look forward to working with you.



Ian McConnell July 6, 2011 at 18:57

Wow, that was a great video and gave me a completely different perspective of working with people in the Philippines. I had no idea that a simple reward would have such a great effect…



Chris C. Ducker July 6, 2011 at 19:54

Hey Ian

Been a while since we’ve seen you on the blog – welcome back, mate.

Like we said in the video – we ALL like to be rewarding when we do something great… Glad you liked the clip, and thanks for the kind words.

Don’t be a stranger, now! :-)



steve July 6, 2011 at 19:32

Hi Chris & Stephanie

Well only becaused you asked Chris :-) Yes lets have more insights from Stephanie on how we should manage a VA and best work practices. For example should it be part of the daily routine to Video Skype or is vdeo a bad idea ? Shy or they may not want to show there home etc?

and why not have just Stephanie next time ? only kidding.

Even though ive spent a lot of time in Asia (thailand) its still very usefull to hear first hand the things we should thing about when employing a VA

thanks a lot



Chris C. Ducker July 6, 2011 at 19:52

Hi Steve

Hahaha… I had a feeling that at least ONE person was going to say ‘Do more videos… but, without You, Chris!’. Thanks! :-)

Appreciate that you liked the video and thanks for the feedback, we’ll see what we can knock together.

Cheers, mate.



Yamile Yemoonyah July 6, 2011 at 19:44

Hi Chris, thanks for the great video. I’m hoping to hire my first VA by the end of the year, so this all new to me and really appreciate all the info on this site.


Chris C. Ducker July 6, 2011 at 19:51

Hi Yamile

So happy that you find the site useful, and that this video perhaps got you thinking more about utilizing the services of a VA and maybe even building a full-blown virtual team.

When you’re ready and if finances allow it, let me know, and we’ll hook you up with a great VA through our Virtual Staff Finder service!

All the best for now.



Mike Stankavich July 6, 2011 at 20:41

Chris, Stephanie, this video is spot on. I agree with everything you brought up, but if there’s any one point that I’d like to underline, it’s paying on time. If you haven’t been to the Philippines it’s hard to realize how close to the edge most people are living.

And if somebody is doing a good job for you, don’t be afraid to pay them a bit more. Even if you’re paying above market rate, it’s still an amazing bargain compared to onshore staff. Think about how long it would take you to find and train another VA. Any incremental increase will be far outweighed by that.

Stephanie, you did very well for your first video. Don’t be afraid – you’re a natural :) I’d really enjoy hearing from you again. Hey, it could be worse – Chris could be videoing you putting your shoes on (inside joke, ask Chris about that).


Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:39

Hi Mike

There’s nothing wrong with paying above market rate (and it doesnt have to be anymore than a little more!). Nobody will complain with that!

Now I have to go and explain to Stephanie that I don’t have a foot fetish! And that it was all in the duty of bringing entertainment to the blog – Thanks, Mike!!! (All will be revealed soon on the blog, everyone.)

Thanks for dropping by, bud.



Ella July 6, 2011 at 21:36

First off, Thank you Chris for again, lifting the Filipino VA community in this blog post. I will definitely share this with all of our clients and potential clients, this is really of big help.

I agree with Stephanie and Mike. I personally find it difficult explaining to some of the clients why it is important for them to send in their payments ontime. One thing that I would like to add is, we Filipinos are very much attached to our families. Most of us (if not all…) have extended families. Even after we get married, we still help our parents / siblings financially, that is why our payouts are already “pre-planned” on how we will spend it.

I think one of the reasons why home based Filipino VA’s have difficulty working through the graveyard shift is because it is really difficult to keep yourself awake throughout the night most esp if you are a mom of 2 and also maintain the whole house. However Filipinos are great with time management so that means that we can actually plan our schedule ahead of time to ensure a smooth operations with most of our homebased va business.

I think its actually a plus that we are in the exact opposite timezone of our US clients. That means, we can get things done by the time they wake up in the morning!

I will definitely watch out for the next post!


steve July 6, 2011 at 22:50

Hi Ella

Your last point is well made. for the vast majority of tasks and projects would it not be brilliant for most cube warriors to set their VA off on projects at the end of there working day to then come in first thing and all is done! its going to impress the hell out of their boss or clients:-)

Good business practice is to plan so why should we need a VA to always be jumping in reality i dont think we do.



Ella July 7, 2011 at 08:05

Thanks Steve!


Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:41

Hi Ella

Always a pleasure to see you here.

I am happy you enjoyed the video. You never know… Perhaps we can do one with YOU in the future… I’ll bring my camera next time I am in Manila..!!! :-)



steve July 6, 2011 at 22:53

Hi chris

a question that came up from the video is “If yo think of a typical niche site say something like yours how many different VA’s would I need to hire to encompass the various skills?” Assume i have enough sites to keep them busy full time.

From what stepahine and you were saying I could not expect one VA to have all the skills required. Please exclude any software developement from this equation



Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:45

Hi Steve

If you want to be totally hands-off then you’ll need the following:

Part-Time (Project) – Web Developer
Full-Time – Content Writer, SEO

Of course if you intend to have several niche sites going, and continue building more, then a Full-Time Web Developer is also a good idea. You’ll also need to no doubt hire additional writers and SEO folks, too!

Hope that helps, buddy.



steve July 7, 2011 at 17:55


It does :-)

Do you have such things as job specs that one could use? or maybe a job spec that one could modify. I take Stepahines point about agreeing up front what you want but some times you dont know what you want until you dont have it!

Also what does the erb developer do?



Burt - Everything Cebu July 6, 2011 at 23:37

I just wanted to add some additional perspective on the Filipino culture and why paying on time is important. I would say maybe 80% of the young Filipinos working today, are usually financially supporting their parents and or siblings.

Unlike in the U.S. where most people leave their parents houses from 18 and on, it’s not like that here in the Philippines. You basically live with your parents until you get married. And until then, their income goes to support others, leaving a small amount for themselves. And like Chris says, they’ve already spent that money in their minds.

And that leads to the additional point of giving some small additional incentive or just a reward for doing a good job. A gift certificate for a pizza lunch, or a certificate to Bo’s Cafe/Starbucks, goes a long way simply because it’s something specifically for them. It’s simply another way to say thanks for everything you do.



Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:37

Hi Burt

Great insights. Love the way you mention the facts on living with parents, and supporting siblings and extended families, etc. I alway say that with 250+ employees that we (as a company) are actually supporting 500-odd families…! Which is just awesome.

Thanks for dropping by.



Tracy Baker July 6, 2011 at 23:55

Hey Stephanie you did great !!

Chris fantastic insight into the world of Filipino VA’s and some fantastic points for business owners and entrepreneurs to bear in mind when using a VA. I think the point regarding being specific with tasks and once comfortable adding in more tasks with an allowance of training is relevant to VA’s worldwide.

Thanks for sharing Chris, looking forward to the next post already ;-)



Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:35

Thanks, Tracy.

Glad you enjoyed the video – and yes, Steph is great, isnt she! :-)

I hope all is going well, and that your business is growing nicely, too – so happy for you that its up and running! Busy as a bee, I hope… :-)



Stuart Bell July 7, 2011 at 02:44

Chris & Stephanie, Fantastic insights. It’s disappointing to think that people are being let down by employers when payment should be them most basic of tasks for us to get right. I hope we raise our game.

Would be interesting in your views (or those of Burt, Ella etc) on any of the following:
1) I’ve had situations in the past where VA’s have become unresponsive. Emails/Msg asking if I can help with anything haven’t helped. Is there a trick I’m missing, or as in the ‘real world’ is it just the individuals sometimes?
2) Any tips for out of country employers looking to arrange rewards? What is popular (& can be arranged from overseas)?
3) Paypal doesn’t seem to be a popular as I initially expected, Western Union is expensive (relatively) & Xoom is only available from the US. Any thoughts on payment methods.

Looking forward to the next instalment.



Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:32

Hi Stuart

Will will be doing something based around your questions pretty soon, but in the meantime… Filipinos generally dont like to disappoint. They would rather go silent a lot of the time, than admit to needing help. I have gotten around this before in the past by simply ‘suggesting’ they check something out – as an example, if they are designing a logo for you, you might write in an email:

“I like the green hat on top of the man, but, maybe you should try turning the hat into a lightbulb above his head, instead – it might look cooler…”

I believe I have answered the ‘how to send a reward’ in another comment here on the post.

You really are stuck with those three. I certainly haven’t used any others. Xoom is good because the cash can be collected EVERYWHERE. When I drive around town the logos can be seen all over the place, but generally, I use PayPal.

Hope all thats helps, buddy – and thanks for the great questions.



Stuart Bell July 7, 2011 at 15:55

Thanks for the follow up Chris. Great as always.


Corbett Barr July 7, 2011 at 03:41

I love when I’m watching a random video and my name comes up in the middle ;)

Chris & Steph – this is very helpful and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series. Thanks so much for putting this together, I know it’s going to help me work more effectively with my VA.



Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:26

Hi Corbett

Happy that you popped by and checked out the video, bud. I was gonna email/tweet that you got a mention, but it escaped by mind with all this ‘Niche Site Project’ madness. Wow!

Anyway, glad it was helpful, and again, it was a pleasure to help you find you your, personal, VA, too.

Hope all is good, and lets catch up soon!



Mtn Jim Fisher July 7, 2011 at 05:45

great video Chris! thanks for those tips on working with people like Stephanie…:-)

I work with a couple filipina CNA’s in my night job as an RN, and they are very conscientous, hard workers.

What do you think about asking them if they have any computer literate friends or relatives back in the Philippines who’d be interested in some work?

Mtn Jim


Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:19

Hi Jim

I think that if you haven’t already done it, you need to buck your ideas up!!! :-)

But, seriously… Yes, absolutely – I guarantee they have at least a couple of friends that have either worked from home already on something, or would certainly like to – just make sure they have the skill set, otherwise you might be chasing your tail a little…

Good luck, and thanks for the comment, buddy!



Diane Thomas July 7, 2011 at 06:30

Hi Chris and Stephanie, Thank you both for a very informative video and for giving us such a great insight into life for these amazing people in the Philippians. Can you pls help us in other country’s as to best way to send rewards as in itunes card lunch out etc from where we are eg Im in Australia Thanks again and i look forward to the next video Cheers Diane


Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:17

Hi Diane

A lot of the ‘awards’ stuff can now be done online… However, I will say that if you are going to be actually sending anything physical to the Philippines… Make sure you do it via a courier such as Fedex (the best), or DHL, etc.

The regular postal service in the Philippines is not so fantastic, and you might end up waiting months to recieve something – or, might NEVER get it at all..!!!

You could also call up local flower shops in the Philippines and ask if they can help you deliver other things, too, like gift certificates, etc – you’ll find that for a small fee most things can be considered within local areas. :-)

I like the way you’re considering this very simple little thing. It makes a big difference to the VA, trust me!



Adam July 7, 2011 at 09:15

Having worked with a VA that I got hooked up with through Virtual Staff Finder in Feb, I can vouch for everything Chris and Steph are saying.

If you’re serious about making the business relationship work, I highly suggest two things:

1) All of the VAs they send your way can do the tasks you have specified you need done. So, make your decision based on the personality fit. Spend the time talking to them, have a bunch of questions laid out in advance… I knew I found my guy when I hadn’t even made it through all my questions and he had answered all of them just through our conversation.

2) Don’t be a Dick!: Treat them with respect and understanding like you would want to be treated. I have seen some of the horrible emails other business owners have sent my guy… talking down to him, belittling him for asking for a decent wage, etc. We’ve all had a-hole bosses; don’t be that person…

To all of you who are on the fence about getting a VA through Chris’ Virtual Staff Finder service; it is the single, high-handedly best thing I have done for my business. I was lucky enough to get my VA through VSF in February when Chris still included an hour consultation with the service, but if I had to do it again I would pony up the extra $$ for his advice and time once more!

It set me on the right path and has enabled me to grow my business around my VA instead of just having a time card drone. He’s not a worker to me, he’s the guy I’m training to replace me completely one day.

Keep the series coming Chris…


Chris C. Ducker July 7, 2011 at 13:14

Wow. Adam. Thank you for such an awesome comment! (Everyone: Which was NOT a paid for commercial for VSF!)

You are so, so right on the ‘not being a dick’, I have mentioned this to several of our clients before (sensing that they might be dicks on a consultation, etc. – yourself excluded, Adam, of course!), and stressed the importance, that because you work at a distance, its even more important to be understanding and flexible.

I really appreciate the kind words you said about Virtual Staff Finder, mate. Seriously – its feedback like this that makes us all smile here at the VSF HQ! Thanks again.



Derek Jensen July 8, 2011 at 06:15

Hey Chris!

FYI.. all the audio is on the left.

Seeing how much these VA’s are benefiting their families and own lives I feel bad for not utilizing them. But, I will admit that I’m a control freak and if I want someone’s help I’d rather go after someone that I’ve connected with so I get their feel and personality.

Tell Stephanie hi and that she does matter! And I will say that Virtual Staff Finder will be the place I go to when I find that I just need to get a VA that I trust and have connected with.

As you probably know (by your invoices/paperwork) I’m not a user of Virtual Staff Finder because of what I previously said but its good to know what kind of VA’s you employ.

I’m keeping Virtual Staff Finder in the back of my mind. ;)


Justin July 11, 2011 at 18:00

Chris – Good job in getting your PM Stephanie on the video…I’m sure she was nervous!

Really valid points here about working with Filipinos and the cultural differences…especially as they relate to pay. We have an outsourcing company in Davao and we emailed back and forth a bit around a year ago. I just recently found a few of your sites as recommendations from others in the IM niche and realized who it was building this brand…congratulations! Anyway, really impressed with what you’re doing.

We’ve been working on a bit of branding in the IM niche and have built a group of like-minded people building niche sites. Our problem is that our outsourcing company primarily provides support to mid-sized businesses at this point and don’t have the system in place to provide smaller packages to people. Will email you about some ideas I had…


Chris C. Ducker July 11, 2011 at 18:45

Hi Justin

Glad you enjoyed the video, bud.

Yes, I remember us conversing… Did the BPAP thing work out okay?

Anyway, look forward to hearing from you.



Adam Stanecki July 12, 2011 at 13:49


Thank you Stephanie & Chris.

A lot of common sense in there but easy to see how it can get missed. Common sense ain’t all that common sometimes. :o)

My approach is – as always – simple: be honest, be genuine and be fair.

Cheers, Adam.


Chris C. Ducker July 12, 2011 at 14:24

Hi Adam

Thanks for the comment, mate – all good feedback from you, as always! :-)

Glad you liked the video. There was, I believe a slight issue on the audio, but it hasn’t spoilt it for the true-blue outsourcing fans, thats for sure!!!



steve July 12, 2011 at 18:48

@Adam thats very cool aproach



Timo Kiander July 13, 2011 at 20:23


Thanks for posting this video!

It is important to understand the cultural backgrounds, because it makes working with a VA much easier.

Showing them courtesy and working as agreed when you made the contract creates a solid foundation between you and your VA.



Chris C. Ducker July 13, 2011 at 21:09

Hi Timo

Hole in one, my man. Glad you enjoyed the video – there are lots more planned.

We’re also taking VSF on the road again with another free VA seminar (this time in Manila) soon, and I’ll be doing video of that event, too. Should be cool. Last time we had over 100 VA’s…..!!! :-)

Thanks for the comment and support, as always.



Eihdra July 19, 2011 at 22:47

Gee, first time to see Stephanie, she was the one who gave me my first client.

Anyway, thanks Chris for this video because it will help foreign clients to at least understand a bit of us Filipinos. And you hit the target right on,lol.. It’s not that we are taking advantage of our clients, but an occasional “reward” would be highly appreciated. True, that it somehow motivates us to work even better because our clients appreciate all the hard work we do.

Again, thank you and more power to the company!


Chris C. Ducker July 19, 2011 at 23:19

Hey Eihdra

Glad you enjoyed the video, meeting Steph and appreciated the content we put together.

Everyone deserves a pat on the back from time to time…! Maybe VA’s can do it to their VB’s (Virtual Bosses), too! :-)

Thanks for dropping by.



Ilpo Ryynänen August 6, 2011 at 18:55

Hi Chris!

This is awesomely great video. I really want to understand the workers who I hire. I hope there will be more posts about understanding the cultural differences.

My experience is that filippinos/filippinas are very courteous comparing to other.

Thanks for the post.



Chris C. Ducker August 8, 2011 at 15:26

Hi Ilpo

Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed, and yes, there is more in the ‘How to Outsource’ series coming soon…



John Paul Grant August 30, 2011 at 09:34

Yeah I want more of Stephanie … much easier on the eyes ;)


Chris C. Ducker August 30, 2011 at 16:18

Ah, yes… I thought you might say that!




jerry September 22, 2011 at 07:24

how do i use Outsource in my real estate investing business just need some help with that and maybe use Outsourcing for my real estate blog thanks.


Stuart Bell September 22, 2011 at 10:12

Hi Jerry
I’d look to see what you can break down into repeatable tasks that you can document & outsource.
The emyth revisited – Michael Greber, is a great resource for thinking about your business in this way.
Hope that helps


Chris C. Ducker September 22, 2011 at 17:59

Thanks for the great answer to Jerry’s question, Stuart!

I love having such a smart, savvy tribe!!! :-)

Jerry – go and do likewise, my friend…



Fiona March 21, 2012 at 08:16

Awesome video Chris!

Will share this one with my community as I think it will provide huge benefit….



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