Over the weekend I stumbled across a video on YouTube entitled “How to Train Your Virtual Assistant” posted by a virtual assistant service company. Just the title alone set all kinds of alarm bells off in my head. I’ve mentioned before that although you may need to give direction and communicate clearly, there should be no need to literally train a virtual assistant. If you’ve done your homework and found the virtual assistant that fits your needs, they’ll already know how to do the tasks you require. But out of curiosity I found myself watching the entire video.
What I saw and heard concerned me, not because I felt it misrepresented virtual assistance, but because the message that was being given could land a lot of people in hot water if they follow the advice given.
We’ve talked about keeping the line between Independent Contractor(IC) and employee clear here before. Many clients or prospective clients have the mistaken belief that if a contract is signed stating that the virtual assistant is an IC that they are in the clear when it comes to being responsible for taxes. This isn’t the case. It doesn’t matter if there is a contract or not, if you fail the IRS test for an IC/ client relationship, they will still hold you responsible for the taxes for that virtual assistant. That’s why it’s so crucial that both the client and the virtual assistant understand where the lines should be drawn and make sure they aren’t crossed.
The video I watched crossed those lines. Big Time.
Let’s start with the word ‘train’. Employers train their employees, so simply using that term should throw up a red flag. But even bigger red flags start flying when the presenter in the video starts talking about dictating how and when tasks are to be done. That’s how you deal with an employee, not an IC. The speaker mentions making lists of what needs to be done when, what to do when those tasks are done, etc. If the IRS views one of these ‘lists’ chances are they are also going to be telling you that you’re responsible for that individuals taxes too.
You might be thinking, “Why in the world would a virtual assistant service give me information that puts me at risk like that?” Two reasons.
1. They are a broker service, not actual virtual assistants themselves, and as such aren’t responsible for making sure those rules are followed. They see that as your responsibility. and
2. Chances are they are setting you up with virtual assistants in other countries. You know the famous $4 an hour type? They may assume that because the assistant is not based in the U.S. that the U.S. rules regarding employee status don’t apply. This may or may not be the case. There’s been lots of new legislation aimed at stopping the outflow of work from the U.S. to foreign countries in an attempt to get U.S. unemployed back to work. It may depend on the nature of the services, the nature of your business, etc. This broker company isn’t going to do that homework for you.
The moral of this story is this. If you’re interested in learning more about finding and working with a virtual assistant, be careful where you’re getting your information from. Your best bet is to find a virtual assistant that, like me, knows the rules and constantly strives to make sure that both they and the client abide by them.
[stextbox id=”info”]I’ve been teaching solo attorneys how to work with virtual paralegals and virtual assistants for several years at Solo Practice University. Now I’m offering similar information to other businesses. If you’re interested in learning how to find and work with a virtual assistant or other virtual professional you’ll want to check out my Success Squad Coaching. [/stextbox]