Recently there was a discussion on a business group by a person who wanted to outsource work but was complaining that they had not been able to find anyone who could do what they wanted. Basically they wanted someone to be able to replace them – think like them, do what they wanted without their hands being held, basically understanding from the start what was needing to be done and… they didn’t want to pay much for that service. They complained that engaging a VA here in Australia was akin to paying corporate rates and they couldn’t see the value in that but was still struggling to find someone worthy to do what they needed.
My thoughts are these:
- VAs in any country need to be able to make a living. They must be able to charge rates that suit their cost of living and cover all their overheads which include not only software, hardware and furniture, but also insurances, taxes, WorkCover, Superannuation, holiday leave, sick leave, and continual training. Any VA worth their salt will have done their homework and have a good idea of what they need to be charging when providing services.
- Some services will have a higher rate than others because of the training and knowledge, and experience, that goes into the service being provided.
- Just because one or two VAs haven’t been the right choice it doesn’t mean all the others won’t be. It simply means that perhaps the client hasn’t given a sufficient brief to ensure they are attracting the right VA for their needs.
- NO VA will know exactly what you mean or want from the start. There will always be a settling in period where you are both getting to know one another and understand how each operates. It’s the same in the corporate world when breaking in new staff. Mistakes can be made because of assumptions by both or either party. Be prepared to spend time explaining clearly – and sometimes that will be more than once.
- Don’t go proudly boasting your six figure income in one breath and then complain that VAs charge too much in the next. What you need to do is work out what your hour is worth to you in your business and then do the sums. If you’re earning $100 per hour and you’re paying a VA $50 per hour then you’re still ahead. Better you can get on with your income producing work and leave the VA to get on with the admin or other needs you have.
- Make sure you engage a VA for the skillset required. There is no rule to say you have to have only one VA. In the corporate world you have PAs, receptionists, HR, IT, accounting, etc. It is quite possible some solopreneurs and small businesses need to have a similar mix of VAs supporting them.
- Finally – you also need to think carefully about your IP and your database. Who is having access to these things and are they covered by the laws of your own country? This should be an important part in the decision making of deciding where you are going to engage a VA from.
Remember you’re only paying for the hours they work – NOT for their tea breaks, lunch breaks, or giving them office space, furniture, etc, etc. When you think about it if you’re engaging employed staff even though their hourly rate might seem less, the reality is you are covering all the extras too. Think it through and you’ll find that engaging a VA makes good business sense – IF you have done the preparation to ensure you’re engaging the right person from the start. You might like to read this additional article written by friend and IT support of mine, Charly Leetham on a similar theme.
Finally, it has sometimes been suggested that we should be calling ourselves something else other than a VA. I disagree. The industry is known as Virtual Assistant and many VAs specialise in different things, i.e. social media, bookkeeping, website maintenance, HR, administration, broadcast emails, project management and so on. They may use different titles but they’re all still part of the same industry – providing a service to multiple business owners on a virtual basis. They’re providing virtual assistance. I am proud to be a VA and call myself that. The name is here to stay and it’s up to each of us, as VAs to help educate the general public on who we are and what we do.
Kathie is the owner of VA Directory and is former past President of the Australian VA Association. She founded the Virtual Assistant industry in Australia in the mid 90s, having already been operating a home-based secretarial service. Today the VA industry covers a multitude of office-based services for clients worldwide.