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Why You Shouldn’t Hire Your Virtual Assistant on Guru.com

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.

6 Responses to Why You Shouldn’t Hire Your Virtual Assistant on Guru.com

  1. Great Article!

    Hiring a Virtual Assistant is kinda tricky. You have to have a strategy to be able to hire a great VA with a pay as low as $4 per hour. You could try to look for a VA on staff.com or odesk.com preferably from some country like the Philippines.

    If you’re lucky enough to get to hire the best virtual assistant possible, they can do lots of stuff. Like booking travel, making appointments, answering emails, web research, etc. One tip I could share with you is you should assign them a task that’s sort of a “busy work” thing, like promoting your site for your business. This is whenever they have down time, they still have something to do.

    There’s this blog that have additional tips on hiring a VA, you might find it interesting:

    http://www.staff.com/blog/hiring-a-virtual-assistant/

    :)

  2. I would say that you have a good point there. If I were a highly skilled virtual assistant I won’t stick to freelancing sites where my experience and expertise where not been valued. Virtual assistants cost depends on their experience and expertise and with bidding wars on freelancing site these would be useless. Another is what you pay is what you get. One way to hire a competent virtual assistant that won’t cost you too much is to hire from other countries like India and the Philippines. In the Philippines the cost of living is low compared to UK and US that is why you can hire virtual assistant for a low cost. Another is English is one of their universal languages and there will be no problem in terms of communicating with them. I recently hire virtual assistant in the Philippines( http://www.staff.com/blog/hiring-a-virtual-assistant/ ) and they work well. Hard working and with great work ethics.

    • While it’s true that there are highly trained people working as virtual assistants in places like India and the Philippines working at a lower rate due to the lower cost of living, there are still drawbacks and problems that arise and can cause a less than satisfactory experience for clients. Although they may speak English well, the fact that English is a second language often causes problems. Clients here in the US tend to use terms and phrases that aren’t always interpreted correctly. If a client is depending on a virtual assistant to take care of written correspondence it can often be very evident that the writer’s native language is not English due to grammatical errors, much like those in your comment. The time difference can also be a problem for clients looking for ‘real time’ access to their assistant. So although your points can be considered valid, people should be aware that a low cost still can spell problems regardless of the points you pointed out.

    •  @JethroRedd While it’s true that there are highly trained people working as virtual assistants in places like India and the Philippines working at a lower rate due to the lower cost of living, there are still drawbacks and problems that arise and can cause a less than satisfactory experience for clients. Although they may speak English well, the fact that English is a second language often causes problems. Clients here in the US tend to use terms and phrases that aren’t always interpreted correctly. If a client is depending on a virtual assistant to take care of written correspondence it can often be very evident that the writer’s native language is not English due to grammatical errors, much like those in your comment. The time difference can also be a problem for clients looking for ‘real time’ access to their assistant. So although your points can be considered valid, people should be aware that a low cost still can spell problems regardless of the points you pointed out.

  3. Can you tell me the best sites to visit as a virtual assaistant?
    I am english; retired Chartered Accountant but would like some work to keep me busy.
    I would like a realistic rate for a job but cannot compete with many asians who work for extremely low prices.
    I should be pleased for a reply to dhpercival@hotmail.com

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