To make this clear, my objective is to bring unity to the Virtual Industry. Unity for the client and the VA. I do this through blunt and honest conversations. I have the utmost respect for most online business and VA's. There's enough business to go around for us all. Let's support one another, and keep the industry honest and truthful. And of course, a little sprinkle of sass never hurts.
When I first began this business 11 years ago, I quickly separated myself from the "virtual assistant" branding and took the approach of an operations management agency, removing all wording and thinking of "virtual assistant" from my online type and even my mind.
The VA business is surrounded by an array of administrative assistants. Most very honest and hardworking individuals who have paved a path to support their families while living the life they dream of.
But there are also those who think they know how to run a business, but they really just want to a job so they can work from home. Therefore, back in the pre-covid days, there was a plethora of opinions on what a VA was, and what they did, what they should charge, how they should work, etc. Virtual Assistant associations were setting standards and rules, that although most were acceptable, some were just missing the mark. This led to a battle in the VA industry as to what end of the spectrum you landed on in terms of which association you followed, and which rules you wanted to adhere to. I'd get so tired of hearing people argue over this. It was mindless.
So I started my own path. I'm not one for drama and being told what to do with my personal business.
This was the beginning of the issues I had with the Virtual Assistant industry. They need rules to follow? You mean, they can't determine how to setup a business model, and manage and run their own administrative support business with the professional skills they've acquired with experience and the talents they have?
Oddly enough, some can't. Those who can, don't necessarily pertain to this conversation.
Now that it's post-covid world, everyone wants to work from home. Everyone thinks they can become a Virtual Assistant. This is flooding the market with some seriously unqualified Virtual Assistants who are just mucking the waters even more.
Most of which are just running their businesses (not really a business, they don't even have websites or professional emails) by throwing spaghetti at the wall and going with what sticks. Most of which just want a "job" and will take anything that offers them a chance to work from home and make some money.
In addition to that, they're all joining these VA groups to get advice and free training for starting up their businesses, and they're falling into the traps of gaining advice from those who aren't suited for running a business at all, let alone, supporting a client's business.
I see it everyday, all day, and I cringe!
One of the biggest attitudes I'm seeing is that the Virtual Assistant believes that they are in charge. What the client seeks or thinks doesn't matter to many. They therefore are lacking the mentality to securely structure their business so that it in turn protects their client's business and properties.
New Virtual Assistants coming on the market right now are thinking they can bill the same rates as someone else who has over 20 years corporate experience as well as 11 years of business experience. Then they cry and wonder why they can't get clients, and they go into these groups, and give us stories about how their husband has cancer and they can't pay their bills and they need work.
Here we go again. How is that professional? How is that our problem? How is this a business model for getting new clients? So you want us to hire your "business" just for pity?
What really chaps me though, is some of these Virtual Assistants truly believe they are in charge of your business once you get them onboarded. They have been seasoned to believe they can charge whatever they want, and set the rules and tone for your vision, and setup the systems in such a manner that makes it difficult for you to have 100% ownership.
I can partially understand why they may think they need to have this mindset, and it comes from those companies who want to hire a VA but approach the process like they're hiring an employee. To the client, it's an interview. But to the VA, it's a sales conversation. So there's certainly a disconnect there, and a level of insecurity for both sides.
Virtual Assistants own their own business and they are in charge of that much. They have to pay their own taxes, deal with their own overhead, pay their own severance packages, and they don't get medical, vacation or other benefits.
So certainly, they are in charge of this and they are in charge of how they run their business. But there's a difference between being in charge of your own terms and conditions, and then taking that mentality to a higher level that isn't conducive or professional for running the tasks and support of their client's business.
But at the end of the day, the Virtual Assistant is being brought into a company, that is NOT OWNED by them. They are being paid to do a job, to take direction from their client, to deliver services, deliver a bill, wash, rinse, and repeat. They are responsible for doing this in such a manner that protects the nature of the your business.
Many do need to check the egos at the door, and realize why you've really hired them.
They do not OWN your content, they do not own your vision, and they need to respect the fact that all the collateral and information they work with is solely yours to keep...and to own!
No questions asked. No surcharges applied. No off-boarding fees to get that information. It's yours and solely yours and they should be professional enough to respect this.
Bam. Done. It's a transaction of services.
I was reading through a VA forum the other day, and there was this thread running about how a gal who was let go from her client, with no notice, so she didn't have time to time to properly off-board the client. Now the client, of course, is asking for all their business items, and of course, the VA is refusing to do it because they're not being paid to do it. Uhm, well, yes they were. They were paid to do this from the beginning and it should've just been nature to the relationship to protect the access.
You see, many commenting on this thread believe they set the terms and the rules and if they don't want to hand over the items they currently possess, but that don't belong to them, then it's not their problem.
It's called nickle-and-dime'g your customers, VA's. You can't do that! It's called holding their information for ransom. How is that professional? How is that going to get you referrals and ongoing trust in the industry?
This industry is smaller and tighter than you might think. Word gets around. Plus those who hire VA's are in that very same forum, and they're putting a red tag by your profile. You can write off getting referrals and jobs from that group!
This situation shouldn't even be a thing! If you setup your systems right from the start, you won't have to deal with this. But a VA holding your business hostage is BAD! It's bad business, and it's just simply wrong.
But I see it all the time. I was just coaching a client last week who has given all her business applications over to a VA in Thailand. Her banking, her merchants, her CRM, etc. I about fell out of my chair. Why would you trust EVERYTHING you've created and done, to one person, who is on the other side of the world. She didn't have her logins, nothing.
AGH! This kind of mentality sets my hair on fire. And it's a REAL PROBLEM in the industry.
I can't tell you the number of clients I coach, or manage services for, and they are locked out of systems, and can't move their business forward because a past VA or subcontractor won't give them they keys to their castle.
Heck, the other day I discovered that some of the platforms in our industry, such as Kartra, actually offer an "agency" model that allows a subcontractor or Virtual Assistant to "own" the entire application. They even bolster about how they can force clients out of their applications if they have a disagreement, nonpayment of services, etc.
STOP! Like seriously. How is this a thing and how are businesses allowing this to continue?
And yet so many business owners fall into this trap.
Don't put yourself in this position! When you signup a Virtual Assistant, you need to have your own processes/systems in place so you're protected and they can't just walk off with your business. This business of yours is your baby. Heck, it's your livelihood. Why would you ever want to let someone just walk off with it and take ownership of your important assets?
Protect yourself from the start.
Here are a few things to watch for when hiring a Virtual Assistant:
- Watch rates. Depending on their experience, time in business, and skillsets/services, you can expect to pay from $15-$25 USD per hour for an entry level admin. Higher experience and higher level VA's can run upwards of $45-$65/hour. Check their experience and if they're not a techie VA, they should be under the $30/hour mark.
- Watch for hidden fees. I occasionally need help in my business. I used to have a team of employees, but today, I prefer to run with contractors. However, I find it ever so frustrating when I'm trying to hire one because they feel like they make all the rules, and therefore have tacked on hidden fees or ridiculous deposits. "If you cancel you are charged $150 off-boarding fee" - or "You must pay all of this up front" - or - "there's a one time deposit of $250 to start" etc. No. No.
- Have your systems ready before you hire them. Seeking support from a coach who can assist you in getting your systems secured PRIOR to hiring your VA is a better source of your spending, than going right into hiring. You don't want them "owning" a single thing that belongs to your business, so ensuring the emails, document storage, project management, passwords, etc are setup properly for them to access is vital.
- Keep to your own systems. Never let them use their own systems. Whether it be project management portals, help desks, CRMs, Google Drives, personal emails, social media management apps, etc. Use your apps and only your apps. If you break up - you kick them out. Bam. No begging for your logins or ownership of your social media and other assets.
- Understand how to hire. Understanding how to hire a Virtual Assistant is important. To you it's an interview process. To them, it's a sales conversation. Don't ask for resumes. This is a business-to-business transaction, not an employee transaction. If they're offering you a resume and they say they don't have a website, then they're not legit and are likely a fly-by night person. Hiring a coach and operations agency (like me!) can also help you with the hiring process and can weed through the candidates.
- Understand what's a project verse a retainer task. Sometimes you just need a one-off thing done. Maybe it's a graphic, or a website, or some quick administrative assistance on a project. Other times, as you grow and scale, you'll need to hire someone more long-term that can grow into your business and become a team member. Don't hire the long-term team members off places like UpWork or other freelance sites. There are too many terms and conditions with these freelance sites that makes it hard to work them into your systems. For example, all communications have to be done on UpWork, and all files are shared via UpWork, etc. You'll lose ownership quickly.
- Have an out. Never start a relationship without an out. We make this easy for our clients. We offer a monthly retainer, but with weekly payments. No contracts required. Cancel anytime. But we don't provide refunds. That no refunds is what protects us from a client taking advantage of us, but the weekly retainer payments allows our clients to have less risk and know they can walk away at anytime and not have spent money they'll never see again.
- Are they legit? Do they have a professional website? Do they have a professional domain-based email? Or are they throwing a resume or PDF your way that's like hanging a spray-painted shingle at the driveway offering eggs for sale?
- Can they backup their success or services? Do they have testimonials? I know some may be new and perhaps that's why they don't have testimonials. That's cool. Just note that. But if they've been in business for even 90-days, they should have at least one testimonial to share. If they don't, then this is a sign they aren't keeping promises.
I could go on for quite some time with this, but I'll leave it here for now. I believe in you having the keys to your castle at all times. We could work together for 5-years, and have the worst breakup ever, but the keys were always yours. We work with people who want to work with us, rather than working with people because they feel stuck with us because we have everything in our hands.
Do you have any questions? Do you need helping growing your team? Are your systems ready for it?