I recently read an article by Ryan Lee called “The REALITY of Outsourcing and Virtual Assistants”. He makes a great point about waiting until your business is ready for a virtual assistant rather than simply getting one because some ‘guru’ tells you to in their book(s). But he also included a few items that I felt the need to comment on, both on his post and now here in this post.
The first thing that concerned me was all the talk of hiring a virtual assistant. While technically I suppose using the word to describe finding a virtual assistant is correct usage, I feel it can cause incorrect expectations in the client/virtual assistant relationship. Why? Many business people ‘hire’ with the expectation that the virtual assistant is an employee rather than an independent contractor. I’ve written here before about the differences between an employee and independent contractor and how important it is to not blur the lines. And sadly many virtual assistants aren’t very good at pointing out where that line is or at reminding clients why that line exists. I feel part of my service is to make sure that my clients don’t have to worry about the IRS accusing them of being my employer. And although I’m sure I’ve lost a few potential clients because of it, part of my introduction packet explains my business policies to remind them that they are collaborating with another business professional, not employing me as part of their own business.
The second item that grabbed my attention were the sites that were given as places to find a virtual assistant. Places like Craigslist, Guru.com and Elance. While all of the places Mr. Lee mentions do have an abundance of virtual assistants looking for jobs, they aren’t necessarily good places to find the right VA for your business. Sites like Guru and Elance are bidding wars, plain and simple. This means that yes, you’ll find really cheap hourly rates there, what you may not find is reliability, experience and expertise. That’s because most highly skilled virtual assistants abandoned those sites long ago. Regardless of what those 4-hour work week ‘gurus’ may preach, $2 an hour (or even $10 an hour) is more likely to get you headaches than a reliable assistant. As with anything, you get what you pay for. And seriously, getting the job done right the first time, quickly and painlessly will end up costing a lot less than having a $2 assistant do the project incorrectly, make corrections or possibly make a mistake that costs you your reputation.
So Mr. Lee was correct in advising that you make sure you’re ready before looking for a virtual assistant. But rather than chance it on one of the sites he mentions or going into it thinking that you’re getting an employee without taxes and benefits, take the time to check out the How to Work with a Virtual Assistant Successfully series here on this blog. Still need some tips, pointers and help building a virtual success squad for your business? Contact me for help in eliminating the trial and error method.