Let me tell you. I have worked “virtually” since before Google was a thing. Cross my heart! Though you probably can’t tell by my youthful, girlish looks, I was providing virtual assistance before it became an industry. Yes, I’m a dinosaur, but that’s exactly why you should listen to what I’m about to say.
This is not typically a subject I write about, but sadly, one trend I’ve noticed over the past few years is an extreme lack of professionalism among service providers – particularly in the Virtual Assistance industry. And, since that’s MY industry, I’d like to set the record straight.
It seems as though our beloved Internet has allowed for thousands of people looking to make a quick buck infiltrate what was once a very reputable industry.
Throughout my travels, I’ve been able to come up with quite a few dead giveaways that are a clear sign to me someone proclaiming to be a VA might not be all he/she appears to be, and may be difficult to work with. Of course you can Google the term “Virtual Assistance” to look at websites and read Facebook reviews about different businesses; but before you get too involved with a specific service provider, there are some things to watch out for to let you know whether or not this might be a person who really does know what they are doing and someone you want to work with. Here are just four of them.
How to spot a professional from fifty paces…
They have boundaries. Probably one of the easiest ways to tell if someone is serious about what they do is to see what boundaries they have in place. Whether it’s set business hours, not working on weekends, or the inability to drop everything at a moment’s notice to work on your “gotta have it now” project… some sort of rules around how they work is a good thing, and an excellent sign someone is taking their business seriously.
Their rates aren’t absurdly low. I keep seeing posts and articles about working with Virtual Assistants who charge $25-$30 an hour (sometimes even lower!)… and that’s just absurd. I realize those of us in our industry don’t have a ton of overhead, but as a business owner, we still have expenses, and if someone is charging such a low rate, it makes me wonder how they pay their expenses and make a profit at the same time – let alone stay in business. There is an industry average for almost everything, and you should never work with someone who is charging obscenely low amounts, unless you don’t really care about the results or whether or not you’re working with someone who really knows what they are doing. That’s all I’ll say about that. (Note: Our services are on the higher end of the scale, but we’re worth it.)
They ask questions. As an example, let’s say you hire a copywriter for your website content and they don’t ask you any questions about your background, your mission statement, target audience, services you provide… that should raise a big red flag. Someone serious about doing a great job for you will have clarifying questions to ensure they get it right. There is always a “getting to know you” period; and the best way to get to know your business is to ask questions.
They are responsive. You should never have to wait a week to receive a return phone call or email from a service provider of any kind. If you reach out and inquire about doing business with someone and don’t hear back within 24 hours (providing it is NOT a holiday or a weekend, because that’s different) it might be a good idea to try to find someone else. This is especially true AFTER you start working with someone. One of the things I try to impress upon my team is to be responsive to our clients. I’ve heard horror stories from others who say it’s a common occurrence to have to wait a week or more just to get something simple taken care of, which is totally unacceptable!
I’m sure there are many more signs or “indications” you’ve seen or heard of, but these are just a few things that stand out to me as differences between professionals and amateurs.