Do You Want it Done, or Do You Want it DONE RIGHT?
Search one of the many online article directories for the keyword ‘virtual assistant’ and you’ll be inundated by choices. Some of the articles in your search results will have been authored by professional virtual assistants who are truly partners and party to the success of their clients; sincerely invested in the businesses they support. The articles submitted by these VAs will be well-written, concise, informative, and generally presented with correct spelling and grammar. These are the articles worth reading, but they are few and far between. You’ll have to work to find the ‘good articles’ because they are sandwiched among a mudslide of poorly developed, keyword-stuffed pieces written and submitted by various virtual assistant ‘factories’ (for lack of a better word…). These offshore ‘service centers’ (and they’re almost always offshore, even if they’re backed by a U.S. based CEO or corporation, even if they’re fronted with a U.S. address and phone) don’t follow the same business model as a professional virtual assistant, and they don’t provide the same level of service, but they operate under the title ‘virtual assistant’.
The differences between professional virtual assistants and the offshore virtual service centers are vast, and it’s important to point out at least a few of the more glaring ones:
Professional virtual assistants are generally experienced as administrative experts and consultants, some specialize in fields they worked at in the brick-and-mortar business world for years or even decades. Professional virtual assistants are usually solopreneurs, or members of small firms or teams, delivering high-end services to clients whose businesses they are interested in supporting for the long term. A professional VA is going to work with you for the sole purpose of driving your success and supporting your goals. While a professional VA may be happy to schedule your appointments and handle data entry for you, they are equipped and skilled to lend so much more than that to your business. And because a professional virtual assistant is also a business owner, they are equally as committed to their own success as yours. Given that your bottom line reflects the quality of the work they do, they’re all the more motivated to deliver at 110% every time.
Virtual service centers or call centers have tens or even hundreds of employees manning phones and email – employees who may or may not have the real-world administrative or business experience you need to be able to rely on to see your business grow and flourish. The operator who answers and handles your service request today is no more invested in the success of your business than the operator who sits across from him (amid rows of other ‘virtual assistants’) and will answer your call tomorrow. And the stark reality is that the education systems in most of the countries that host these virtual service centers hardly prepare the agents working there to put together your marketing materials, execute your most important business communications and customer service interactions, or articulately draft your blog posts, much less further your business as a whole. These ‘VAs’ only fit the definition of virtual assistant in that they’re located quite some distance from you. The similarity ends there.
Offshoring your business administration tasks to one of these service centers appears, at first glance, to be much less expensive than partnering with a professional virtual assistant. Do the math and no one can argue that $4 or $7 per hour is much cheaper than the market rate $35 hourly most established, skilled virtual assistants bill at. But factor that equation a bit further and your $4 an hour ‘investment’ will very likely end up costing you much, much more in wasted time, poorly executed results, unfinished requests and projects that require ‘fixing’.
Cheap and fast is not always cheap, or fast
It can cost quite a lot to revisit a project you thought was completed on deadline, only to have to fix mistakes, track down missing information, edit misspellings, rewrite unreadable turns of phrase, and more. It will ultimately cost you more time, and more money babysitting your $4 an hour “virtual assistant” than it will to hand off a project to an established, professional VA who knows what they’re doing (and charges accordingly). It’s not just a cautionary tale – you really do get exactly what you pay for.
Think about your own business, you don’t position yourself as the cheapest option in town – and why should you? You’re a professional, you’re good at what you do, and you charge accordingly. Why would you sacrifice the level of prestige, professionalism and quality you’ve worked to build around your business by outsourcing even the most mundane business tasks to an untrained call center employee for $4 per hour?
When you’re ready to make an investment in the growth and success of your business it’s time to hire a professional virtual assistant.