I was having a chat to someone recently about places to seek Virtual Assistant support and elance.com and guru.com were mentioned. I immediately thought ‘oh, oh’ and waited for him to finish speaking before I tackled this aspect of our conversation.
Earlier in the week I’d had another business operator contact me looking for support for their business and because they know I have a network of Virtual Assistants in 15 countries he wanted to know which was the lowest cost country he could get support from.
I get concerned when people start looking in the wrong places or thinking about price only when seeking the support of a VA. First, it is important that clients realise that Virtual Assistants provide specialised support and they are not just (untrained) people sitting at home with a computer and internet connection. It goes much deeper than that.
Many VAs have well over 5 years corporate experience in admin/support areas and lots have more than 20 years’ experience. They are not going to compete price-wise with someone from Elance or Guru who quotes only $5 an hour and their finished work will produce something that is far above the standards of those who do not have the skills for this role.
I’m not saying that there aren’t quality people at Elance or Guru – there are. I sourced an excellent graphic artist to do my book cover through Guru recently and I’ll be using his services again. But I can tell you also that I did not pay bottom dollar for the job. I was amazed at some of the bid responses I got to the project I posted. Some did not provide portfolios or examples of their work – they just told me what they could do. Others obviously did not understand what my project was about and so they were dismissed immediately.
I’d not had experience with posting a project before so was curious as to whether my experience would be successful and it was. However, I’ve heard so many stories about people seeking a Virtual Assistant via this same process and then ending up with people who were not literate with the English language, who had poor typing, spelling and grammatical skills, let alone no knowledge on how to format a document so that it presented well. This then meant they had to pay for someone else to format the document and make it presentable for their business.
I was thinking about this and it occurred to me that no-one would seek an Accountant or similar through Guru or Elance would they? I actually did a search and found there are Accountants listed there, however I honestly could not see myself seeking one via that process – at least not the business people I know. And the list of those there and their earnings seem to indicate that few others do too. So why seek a Virtual Assistant there?
Virtual Assistants are best sourced through the various VA networks that exist online. These networks provide a screening process in most cases and also continued education and certification for the industry. Searching through Google will bring up thousands of references to VAs and you can visit their websites, or their listings via the networks, and get a good idea of their skillset and experience. And have confidence that they could produce the quality work you’re seeking.
Their rates are going to differ – considerably, for many reasons.
- First, there is no legislation for this industry so there are no ‘set prices’ for different services being provided.
- Second, cost of living has to come into it – where the VA lives will have a bearing on the rates they set for the services they provide.
- Third, no two VAs are alike – we all have different background experience and abilities. Some will specialise in one area and others in another. We will all have our own preferences to the type of work we’d like to do, and the types of clients we service. Because of this the rates will also depend on their speed, knowledge, experience, etc. If, for example, you wanted a document typed, someone who types faster will most likely have a higher charge rate, than someone who types slower.
You need to do the sums – will someone typing a document in 2 hours @ 95wpm be cheaper in the long run than someone who does it in 4 hours @ 65wpm? In many cases they will be. And yet often people will only look at the $$ per hour rate assuming that is their best option for the dollars they have to spend.
I want to encourage you to look beyond what might seem to be the ‘cheap’ option and instead look at the professionalism of our industry and seek support from the right places. It will save you time and dollars in the long run. KMT