RE: The VA Industry

Nell Taliercio responded to my post about current issues in the VA industry with 7 Tips for Working With a Virtual Assistant. (You'll find my original post here)

Actually, it turned out to be somewhat of a hot topic and sparked several interesting discussions across the blogosphere. Here are a few, for example:

I have to admit, it helps to know that I am not alone with these issues in regards to the VA industry - or to outsourcing in general. All of the experts say that we must outsource in order to grow our business...

I have experienced the positive results of quality partners and assistants firsthand. As I said in the earlier post, productivity shoots through the roof with great assistant behind you!

(Finding that great assistant being the hard part, of course)

Nell asked: "Have you outsourced as much as you would like and if not, are the issues we’ve been discussing been the reasons why or is there something else holding you back?"

Good question. There have been brief phases of time over the last 11 years that I didnt have help and was running solo with my ventures. But for the most part I have had someone on contract, on call or on the clock.

This discussion has brought up one very interesting point throughout all of the threads though, in regards to outsourcing. When I need "help", I try to find the best possible person to fill that position and then pay them for their time or services.

It turns out, they all go by different titles - and apparently those titles are much more important than I think I realized before we had this conversation. It left me wondering what I am really looking for: an employee, an independent contractor, a Virtual Assistant or a freelancer?

I’m still trying to determine the exact differences between them all. I have a general idea of course - but obviously (after this discussion) I was not spot-on about VA’s (or at least not how they see themselves)…

The main problem that I seem to have, which I mentioned before, is becoming dependent on a personal assistant or VA. When you rely on one or two personal assistants too heavily - you end up in a world of hurt when they quit or otherwise become unavailable to you.

Once you make the desired lifestyle change, you find yourself in a royal bind if they bail on you. Worst case scenario, you end up with some serious juggling while you find a replacement (which is exactly where I've been lately).

After much thought, and much research, I have decided that I probably need one of each: an employee, an independent contractor (or two or three) and a Virtual Assistant.

Managing it all really doesnt appeal to me, though.

This whole discussion started because I knew I wasnt the only one seeing major issues in the VA industry. But outsourcing in general has its drawbacks.

I hire a housekeeper, pay for yardwork, outsource plugin & script installations, hire freelancers for odd jobs like audio transcription, etc.

The thing is... here lately the results were not up to par. My kitchen floor was still sticky ($40), my lawn furniture was left out of place ($40). And the document was sent unformatted and not exactly matching the words from the audio file ($66) - I spent as much time formatting & editing as I would have transcribing it myself.

The plugin is great though ($35), and was well worth the money... 🙂

My point being that I really dont like paying someone to do something, and then having to redo it, or clean up the mess they left behind. That pretty much defeats the purpose.

I recently hired someone local to come in and finish my wallpaper. She showed up once, for 2 whole hours, and I havent seen her since. That was over a week ago. So add chasing someone down, or having to outsource the same damn job to 3 different people just to get it done, to my list of complaints.

Ideally, I would like to have a Personal Assistant. A right-hand woman, if you will. Someone that has no desire to "become me", and is perfectly happy working with me. Flexible hours, a fun boss and good pay - 😀 - that candidate shouldnt be so difficult to find, you would think.

I need someone who can keep up with my pace, manage all of the independent contractors (or freelancers, or telecommuters, or VA's, or whatever they want to call themselves) that I need to keep in motion, handle the administrative tasks and basic daily & monthly account management ...and even keep ME on task sometimes.

I had that perfect assistant one time, and her name was Sam (short for Samantha). She was an on-site employee, and she would do just about anything to fill a full-time workweek (40 hours). She eventually made a life change and moved to the other end of the state... and I miss her terribly!

Until I replace her, which may be never (unless she moves back to town), I will continue to search - and continue to outsource individual tasks - to keep things moving forward.

And I have to admit, it would be impossible to continue moving forward without all of the people that I hire. Even a half-a** job that gets done, is better than a job that doesnt get done at all...

Oh, and by the way Nell - I took you up on your recommendation and contacted Tishia. She is doing transcriptions for me as we speak - so THANK YOU. I have a feeling I am going to be very pleased with her 😉 .


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  1. I agree with you Lynn! There is just no such thing as customer service anymore. Not in retail, not with the home and yard services. I think before you can call yourself a VA you need to have a plan in place on how you will focus on the CLIENT rather than how much money you will make. Word of mouth is very powerful and can help as well as hurt your reputation very quickly. This is a great conversation!

  2. I agree Christina...

    This conversation has actually been going on behind the scenes for *weeks*... and Nell and I decided to come forward with it and open the topic for public discussion. It turns out that we (the small group in our combined inner circles) werent the only ones with these issues and/or feelings...

    Glad to see everyone speaking up and adding thoughts - from both sides of the situation!

  3. Nell Taliercio says

    It's so difficult to find good help these days. No matter what rate they are paid, or what they call themselves.

    I've have worked with more than 10 writers, VA;s, and graphics designers in my time and I only count 3 of those 10 as excellent assistants.

    There are great ones out there, but they are often hard to find. I guess we (as clients) just have to keep digging until we find our perfect Mel (in my case) or Sam (in your case).

    Thanks for bringing this topic to the's been interesting keeping up with the other threads on this topic.

    And thanks for the cross blog conversation!

  4. I have learned so much from you and my favorite part is you need concentrate on your client not the money you are making.

  5. I'm glad you found the posts about the VA Industry here on ClickNewz both interesting & helpful. I figured you would. I've enjoyed getting to know you over at the SSWT Forum and look forward to hearing more from you as you launch your business in the New Year!

  6. thanks for that nice topic... I learned a lot..You all have the good point..finding VA is quiet difficult...

  7. Danielle Keister says

    Hi, Lynn,

    I wanted to help you with one area where you admit you aren't understanding. You mention, "After much thought, and much research, I have decided that I probably need one of each: an employee, an independent contractor (or two or three) and a Virtual Assistant."

    You list three types here which indicates you aren't understanding the legal classifications. Someone is either an employee or they are a business. "Independent contractor" is merely another term for a business owner; they're simply a self-employed business owner. They are not a third classification and they are not an employee.

    There are only two classifications in the world of business--you are either an employee or you are a business, one or the other. There is no third classification, which is what many folks are confused about when they use the term "independent contractor." An independent contractor is simply another term for someone who is self-employed. But they are still a business. It's very important to understand the distinction between the two because it absolutely affects how you work together and what you may expect. Employees are folks you have full leeway to dictate their hours, how they do the work, where they do the work, how much they will be paid, etc. But when you work with a business (e.g., Virtual Assistant, independent contractor), you may not dictate those things whatsoever. You only have a say about what you'd like done and what results you expect to receive. And you have to understand that when you are working with a business, whether that's a big company or a small independent provider, there cannot work with you as if they were your employee. There are necessarily going to be differences in how and when you work together.

    When either the client or even the VA doesn't understand these things, it introduces a whole host of misunderstandings and wrong expectations to the mix that make it difficult to work together and cause problems that keep the relationship from being successful and productive.

  8. Danielle Keister says

    By the way, you may find this video helpful:

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