You must think I’m nuts. Because I’m writing a blog about firing your virtual assistant. That goes against every sales and marketing text book out there.
Why would I - a virtual assistant - want to put that nugget of information into your head?
Because it’s important. Because it’s a fact of business when dealing with virtual assistants. Sometimes things just don’t work out and you need to know when it’s time to let someone go, even if that someone is me. (I hope it’s not me!)
In every Employer/VA relationship, there is a beautiful honeymoon that undoubtedly takes place. You, the employer, are desperate for help. The VA tells you all the wonderful things she can and will do for you. Life is going to be better just as soon as you send over the first payment.
Happiness! Joy! Relief!
Unfortunately, sometimes that happiness is short-lived. The honeymoon ends much too quickly. But you think that it’s just because it has only been a few weeks. Your VA is still learning your business. She’ll get better. She’s really busy and you know this. That’s why she’s not returning your message. You just haven’t trained her enough.
And in a matter of weeks, you tell yourself it’s you, and you need to do more, and things will change if only you…
No. Stop that thinking right now.
You get so desperate for help that you’re willing to keep moving down the wrong path with the wrong person. This doesn’t help you or your business in the long run. Deep down in your gut, you know this isn’t working out, but you just don’t want to go through this whole hiring process all over again. So you keep sticking to this person who is not helping you achieve your goals.
Okay, that’s a tough question. I won’t make you answer it, but think about it. What I want to show you are three red flags that will immediately tell you your VA and you are not going to work out.
NOTE: I’m not saying the VA you chose is bad, or that you’re awful to work with. The Employer/VA relationship is completely different than one you’d have at an office. Because you’re both miles apart (and it could be countries apart), the relationship has to be one of trust, understanding, and care. You’ll work more closely with your VA than anyone. She will be an amazing support system for you. She will know just as much about your business as you do.
That means the relationship has to be just perfect to work.
So let’s talk about those red flags that will help you know it’s time to break up before you invest too much time and effort into a VA.
She promised turn-around times - but doesn’t deliver
I think this one is a complete deal-breaker in any business. During the honeymoon, if you ask your VA to write blogs, and she tells you she will write and post one per week every Tuesday at 10am….and you see the blogs being posted once on Wednesday, then a week goes by with nothing…. RED FLAG.
An experienced VA is going to know how long things take to do (generally) and what her schedule is like so that she can accommodate your timetable properly. Failing to adhere to the delivery and turnaround times for work is a huge problem. Perhaps the VA just doesn’t have good time organizational skills. Perhaps she’s tried to take on more work than she’s able. Whatever the case, you cannot have a VA who turns in work to you “whenever.” That’s unacceptable.
She does not respond to your messages in a timely fashion
If you’re asking her a question Monday morning and she doesn’t respond until Wednesday… RED FLAG. Now, for me personally, if I’m receiving emails and phone calls outside of business hours, yes, I probably will not respond until I’m officially in the office again. Because we all have to have the boundaries of work hours and personal hours in order to maintain our happiness. (You don’t want your customers calling you at home on a Saturday night at 10pm, do you?)
But during business hours, your VA should respond within a reasonable amount of time. Even if it’s just to say - hey, I got your message but I’m on the phone. I’ll respond as soon as I’m off.
Acknowledgement is key to a great Employer/VA relationship.
She told you she could do what you asked - but she can’t
The worst offense between any two people is a lie. When you ask a quality VA if she is able to do a task, she should tell you the truth. If you were to ask me if I can design a website for you, I’m going to flat out say NO. I am not a web designer. Can I use platforms like Wix or Weebly or other drag and drop sites? Sure. But anything coding - that’s right out.
If you have key tasks that need to be done by someone who has experience, you need to make sure they have that experience. Plenty of people (not just virtual) will say they are able to do something just to make themselves look better in the interview process. But, when it comes time to shine, they can’t perform. And you don’t need someone reading through help files and “For Dummies” pages in order to solve your problems.
Of course, the best remedy even prior to having those red flags flying is to take your time before you hire. Feel free to check out our previous posts on the whole hiring process.
We are all consumers. And as consumers, we are all looking for the best that we can have. (At least, the best that we can have with the income that we currently have!) We want to make sure we’re eating the best food, getting the best medical care, having our children go to the best schools. And we, as business owners, want to hire the best workers for our business.
But are we really getting the best?
Decades ago, when I was just a youthful college student, I got a job working at a now-defunct warehouse club. And during my training, they talked to us about the products they were selling. They had plenty of name-brand labels, but they also had the store brand alternatives.
For most people, the best of those products was the name-brand label. Because that’s what advertising has told us is the best. Most people wouldn’t even think of buying of store brand. But the fact is, the food that was in the warehouse club’s packing was the same food that was in the name-brand that they were selling. Back at the name-brand factory, they just switch out the containers from Name Brand to Warehouse Club, and continue the filling process.
So, we don’t always know what the best is going to be. But we are definitely led to believe what the best is. And the same thing happens when you look at hiring a virtual assistant. (Pretty cool how I switched from food to virtual assistants, huh?)
If you do a search online for hiring a virtual assistant, or, let’s say we want to be more local and search hire a US virtual assistant, you are going to get a pages upon pages of companies, solo workers, and articles which all talk about the best.
We are the best for you because….
We are better than anyone else because….
We’re so great, we’re featured in….
Pick any site. You’ll see all the claims. But, let’s face it. Everyone can’t be the best. It reminds me of a quote by Syndrome from the movie The Incredibles:
“When everyone’s super, no one will be.”
So, what are you supposed to do?
My research will always start with the website. A website can tell A LOT about someone, long before you speak with them. Are there spelling errors? Are there coding/design errors? Does the website look professional to you? If you’re hiring a web designer and their website is a free Wix site - that tells you A LOT.
Another part of a website I review deeply is the “As Seen In” section. So many people say, look at us, we were in USA Today, or CBS.com. Okay - prove it. There should be a link that connects you to the article on this other site. Otherwise, we could all say, we’re so great, we were featured on the front page of the NY Times. Prove it!
I also like to check out the review or testimonial section, if available. Are there reviews? And if so, are the reviews from credible, named sources? Do they all tout this virtual assistant as the absolute best?
You deserve the best team member for your company. Not just someone that tells you they’re the best. Take the time to do your research and find the virtual assistant that works out the best for you.
If you’re wondering if Your Gal Friday is the best virtual assistant for you, please contact us here at Your Gal Friday and we’ll talk about it!
There are a lot of virtual workers out there from many different countries. If you’re a US business, you’ll find that your in-country VAs can charge anywhere from minimum wage up to $25 per hour or more. The “offshore” worker will charge you $1-$3 per hour. If it was all a numbers game, you know who you’d choose. But I’m here to tell you there’s a lot more than numbers at stake.
I bought a roll of plastic wrap while out grocery shopping. I had a million different choices in wrap, but I decided to buy the cheap one that happened to also be on sale. As soon as that roll made it to my kitchen, I knew I had made the wrong choice.
My husband opened the box…which didn’t really open. It bent. It tore. And then he struggled getting the plastic out to pull. And it never really pulled. It stuck together. And when you finally got a decent length to cover up some leftover food, it would become bound and mangled on the cheap metal teeth (that were bent along with the box). So you had a stretched out wad of plastic instead of a nice sheet. The worst part was that you had to tear the plastic up toward you, instead of down, like I was always used to.
Day after day, we’d grumble each time we’d have to wrap something up. I got the idea to take the plastic roll out and put it in another box (my wax paper no longer has a home). That sort of worked, but it never really fit well into the box, and it doesn’t pull out the way it should.
So the last time I was in the kitchen fighting with this plastic wrap, it occurred to me that plastic wrap and virtual workers are a lot alike. (I make some of the weirdest connections of things!) There are a lot of choices out there when you’re shopping around. And it’s easy to go with the cheapest offer, because who doesn’t want to save money? But what happens when you do? You get stuck with something that’s not quite up to par. It’s not what you wanted. It’s not what you expected. But you’ve already bought it, so you’ll struggle through to try and make it work.
And then eventually, you’ll just go out and buy the expensive plastic wrap that does exactly what you need it to do. Which means you’ve paid twice for something you just needed once.
You need someone that will understand your language, your business nuances (business functions differently in different parts of the world) and will “get” all the little idiosyncrasies that make up you and your business.
It doesn’t necessarily pay to be cheap. I’m not talking about a couple of leftover chicken legs. I’m talking about your business.
Even before you hire your freelancer, you should have asked him what his bandwidth is for being able to help you. How many hours each week can he devote to your business? Of course, there are many freelancers out there that will commit and tell you exactly what you want to hear because they want your business.
Unfortunately, not all of them can deliver on their promises. But, you don’t have to go too far into the work relationship before you discover if your freelancer was honest or not. Make the first project something simple, but with a definite turnaround time. Did they commit to that time and follow through? Was it an hour late? Several hours late? A day late?
Also, connect with them via phone or chat or email. How quickly do you get a response back? Now, I understand that if you’re in California and it’s 10pm and you’re sending an email, your New York freelancer is fast asleep. But during the normal business hours, you should be able to get in contact with your help.
You should be first in your freelancer’s life, even if he has twenty other clients he’s working with. For me, that is an important aspect of this business. If I was physically working at your office, you could walk right up to my desk and talk with me. You should still be able to do it virtually.
If you’re not getting quick responses and agreed-upon turnaround for your projects, your freelancer has taken on too much responsibility and it’s probably time to start looking for someone new.
A few weeks after I had been working with a new client, and he had given various secure information, we were chatting on the phone and he jokingly said “and please don’t steal my credit card” well after I had already been given access to it.
Trust seems to be an afterthought with many people. I think you just get so busy, and you’re so glad to have someone to help you that you just start throwing out instructions and information and you don’t stop to think about the information that you’re sharing with your freelancer.
Depending on the type of work you are doling out, it is quite possible that you will be sharing usernames, passwords, credit card info and more with your virtual help. Before you do, there are a couple of things you can request of your freelancer. The first is easy – ask them to submit to a background check.
Background checks are a good idea. They don’t cost much, and that can save you a lot. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for one. You’re trying to protect yourself and your business. And if you want the background check and the freelancer balks at the idea – walk away.
The second thing you can do is have your freelancer tell you about her home office setup. If she’s using Wi-Fi, is it secure? How is critical information stored on her computer? If paperwork is printed off, is it being shredded?
Trust between you and your freelancer will come gradually. You’ll begin to understand each other, how you work, how you communicate. But before that happens, use a few preventative measures to protect your information.
25+ years of business experience. 12+ years of virtual experience.