Virtual Done Well

The 5 Things They Don’t Tell You

Before You Hire A Virtual Assistant!

Virtual Assistant Risks You Need to Know

Virtual Assistant Risks You Need to Know

Introduction

There are traps to watch out for in the virtual assistant (VA) industry. I know, because I’ve fallen into them! So let me share these five essential things I learned the hard way. You need to know and understand these, to make your business life and the achievement of your goals so much easier.

Savvy small-business owners and entrepreneurs around the world have been supported by virtual assistants for decades.

VAs are professional remote workers, often based in countries with much lower income bands than their first-world counterparts. Their professional cost-effective support has allowed them to grow their businesses and reduce their working hours. But this guide is not about the benefits VAs gain from plying their trade. No, it’s about how, you can transform your business and personal life with the right virtual support.

Contents

  1. 1 Home Based or Office Based? The Difference Affects Your Time and Money.
  2. 2 Dedicated or Shared? Your VA May Have Multiple Clients and Conflicting Priorities.
  3. 3 Business Ownership? Who Owns the VA Company and Where Do The Profits Go?
  4. 4 Staff Benefits? Will Your VA Be Compensated Well and Receive Benefits Like Annual Leave and Health Insurance?
  5. 5 Where Are They Based and Why Does it Matter

01. Home Based or Office Based? The Difference Affects Your Time and Money.

In your search for a great VA to support you, you’ll find them all over the world. Some will be independent and home based (freelancers) and others will be office based in a business process outsourcing (BPO) company. You need to understand the difference this makes.

Supervision and Support: The homebased VA is totally independent and lacks any of the normal supervision and support features of a company VA. They may suffer from power, Internet, or other infrastructure outages, or merely not know how to do a task and ‘ghost’ you for fear of losing face.

A reputable VA company will provide all the professional support you would expect from any service enterprise. HR, IT, training, support with task execution, and even multiple internet providers and backup generators to keep your business covered under any circumstances.

Productivity: Home-based VAs are typically self-managed, rarely benefitting from any form of backup or support. If they are sick, their service to you is interrupted. They have no holiday cover, so they probably can’t take breaks from work—and you will often have no idea of their ‘real’ working hours. I found out that my home-based VA was working nights as she was trying to work two jobs, and my work suffered as a result.

Staff Changes: People do move on—often due to changed personal circumstances or better opportunities. In the case of a home-based VA, that means you’ll have to start from scratch all over again. That could be really hard if the VA has worked with you for a long time. On the other hand, a competent BPO can guarantee that, in the unlikely event of your VA leaving, a suitable replacement is hired, trained and supported through a smooth job handover process.

The one benefit of a home-based VA is that the cost will usually be less. So if you are struggling to afford VA support, this can be an option. Nevertheless, it’s one that often returns a lower satisfaction rate for the client, which is understandable as the VA is working in isolation without any local support.

“Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.”

– Lou Holtz

02. Dedicated or Shared? Your VA May Have Multiple Clients and Conflicting Priorities.

I typically recommend dedicated full-time VAs for most people. That way they become an integral part of your business team and don’t have to worry about juggling priorities, as you control their time.

You Might Not Even Know! My very first VA, from a well-known BPO, actually had to look after two clients during our first three months working together. What’s more, she was not allowed to tell me! As you can probably imagine, I was furious when I found out. So whether you are hiring a VA dedicated solely to you, or a part-time VA, or access to a team, make sure you understand how their time will be allocated to you. This is a common trap.

Productivity: Home-based VAs are typically self-managed, rarely benefitting from any form of backup or support. If they are sick, their service to you is interrupted. They have no holiday cover, so they probably can’t take breaks from work—and you will often have no idea of their ‘real’ working hours. I found out that my home-based VA was working nights as she was trying to work two jobs, and my work suffered as a result.

Staff Changes: People do move on—often due to changed personal circumstances or better opportunities. In the case of a home-based VA, that means you’ll have to start from scratch all over again. That could be really hard if the VA has worked with you for a long time. On the other hand, a competent BPO can guarantee that, in the unlikely event of your VA leaving, a suitable replacement is hired, trained and supported through a smooth job handover process.

The one benefit of a home-based VA is that the cost will usually be less. So if you are struggling to afford VA support, this can be an option. Nevertheless, it’s one that often returns a lower satisfaction rate for the client, which is understandable as the VA is working in isolation without any local support.

But I Don’t Need a Full Time VA: I hear this a lot—and then a couple of months later the client is upset, because the part-time VA they hired is not available to support them full-time. Almost invariably after trying VA services, clients want their assistant to support them on a full-time basis. So I suggest you hire a full-time, dedicated VA right from the outset. You’ll soon find lots of things to delegate, and anyway, who wants to ‘share’ a key member of their team?

Access to a Team: Some BPOs provide clients with access to a team of VAs, all managed through a team leader. That can seem attractive at first. However, the lack of direct communication with those doing the work generally leads to a much lower quality outcome for you, the client.

BPOs do this to exploit their staff time more cost-effectively and boost profits. Quite simply, a digital marketing team of five VAs for example, might be servicing 12 clients. You can do the math. So unless the tasks you need completing specifically require a team, I always suggest full-time, dedicated support. It’s all about building a good relationship with your VA.

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

– Patrick Lencioni

03. Business Ownership? Who Owns the VA Company and Where Do the Profits Go?

You may wonder why I raise this as an issue, and why it matters.

You need to know who your VA is employed by, and the purpose behind that business. My first VAs (I hired three) worked for a well-known BPO owned by a US entrepreneur. Sadly, he was out of touch with what was happening ‘on the ground’ as he was too busy travelling the world selling the services of the business.

I found out later from staff who worked there, that the whole office would be dressed up and signs changed every time he visited—and the working conditions were nothing like the clients imagined.

Who Owns the Business? You can normally gain this information from the company website. Foreign ownership can be fine, but I always like to see how the business is structured and who actually manages things day-to-day. If possible I suggest you also try to talk to some existing clients to get feedback about the company.

Where Does the Money Go? In the example I mentioned above, it all went offshore back to the United States. In the interests of full disclosure, I own a BPO in the Philippines, called Virtual Done Well. My reasons for establishing that business were never to do with personal profit. Virtual Done Well is a social enterprise, and all its profits are ploughed back into the business and local community. I make plenty from my other business interests.

Local Support: Most BPOs operate out of lower cost countries like India and the Philippines. The best ones have programs that support the local community, which gives a great sense of purpose to the staff working there. Take a look on a few BPO websites—you’ll see what I mean.

So I’m not saying that either local or foreign ownership is better, but I do recommend that you check out who actually owns the business, and what its core values are. Do they align with yours?

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”

– Moliere

04. Staff Benefits? Will Your VA Be Compensated Well and Receive Benefits Like Annual Leave and Health Insurance?

I have been blatantly lied to by BPO companies in relation to staff benefits. As a result I have made sure these are all addressed at Virtual Done Well.

Here are some awkward questions to ask, before hiring a VA from a BPO Company?

Paid Leave? Ask how many days leave the VA will get annually, if that leave is paid and how many public holidays are granted. Ten days paid annual leave and about seven public holidays should be the norm. Do you really want an important member of your team burning out because they cannot take a break?

Sickness: Ask how many days paid sick leave your VA is granted under the company’s employment contract. Ten days would be normal. How about Health Insurance? There may be government and/or private health insurance schemes.

Bonuses: Ask if you are able to pay bonuses to your VA and how you can ensure they are received by him/her. Many VAs will be on quite low salaries compared to your country, and a small bonus for work well done is always greatly appreciated.

These things are important to ask as they form an important foundation for the wellbeing of your VA. I found out that one BPO I used many years ago withheld bonuses for three months! Even worse, leave that I had been told was paid, turned out to be unpaid. It’s a sad fact that these companies get the industry a bad name. They also suffer from very high staff turnover.

“There is little success where there is little laughter.”

– Andrew Carnegie
(Entrepreneur)

05. Where Are They Based and Why Does it Matter?

It’s important to know your VA’s location. It’s often obvious so maybe doesn’t fall under “The 5 things they don’t tell you before you hire a Virtual Assistant”. Still, it’s an important consideration so I’ll share some thoughts.

Language: What language do you want your VA to use at work? My native language is English, so like many VA clients I have a preference for assistants based in the Philippines. India is another popular source country, and there are also many excellent home-based VAs in Eastern Europe.

Culture: It’s beneficial to have a VA who is a good cultural fit with your business and its clients. So again, for me the Philippines works really well. My PA, for example, is calling my clients on a daily basis. Because of her fluency in English and neutral accent, they only know that she is based in the Philippines when I tell them!

Cost: This can be a touchy subject. In the US and UK, for example, there is a growing local VA industry with costs in the region of $30-40 (USD) per hour. That’s a full-time ‘salary’ equivalent of $4,800 – $6,400 per month. Compare that to a full-time dedicated VA in the Philippines, working in a professional BPO, where the cost might be only $1,000-$1,200 per month.

Is that exploitation? Not at all! It’s just reflective of how salary bands differ from region to region.

So have a think about what nationalities would be a good fit for you and your business and start to look at those countries for reputable VA service providers.

“Shaping your culture is more than half done when you hire your team.”

– Jessica Herrin
(Founder, Stella & Dot)

Final Thoughts

I hope that these tips have helped you, or at least opened your eyes to some of the traps to avoid when sourcing virtual assistants, and, I wish you every success on your business journey.

Hiring a virtual support team for my business was without doubt the best thing I ever did. I started with one, and now have 15. Yes it’s that good!

Friends became jealous, and asked how I was finding these awesome virtual assistants—so I revealed my secrets. I started my own BPO in the Philippines, just to provide back office support for my group of businesses based in Australia.

It was the only way I was going to be confident that the staff were not only high quality but also working in a great environment, with decent compensation and benefits. And hey! We could do some good in the local community.

So eight years ago, I started providing virtual assistant support to a few selected businesses around the world. We have no plans to be a huge BPO. We are a close knit ‘family’ with some great clients, and as we find VAs to join our team or gain new customers to delight, we slowly grow.

And through it all we are always happy to share our experience and insights.

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Would it work for you?

If you found these eBook useful, but have more questions about how VA support for your business might work or even if your business is suited to it, talk to us.

One of our senior client advisors will be happy to listen and give you a 100% honest opinion about whether this type of support is a good fit for you and your business.

Hey! You might even get me allocated to your call. I hope so! So, if you’d like to have that chat, with absolutely no obligation, it’s easy—just click on the following link.

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