As your business grows, you’ll naturally reach a “ceiling” where you can’t take on any more clients or earn any more money. There are a couple of ways round this:
• You could increase your hourly rate
• You could charge on a per-project basis
• You can outsource the work to a trusted subcontractor
But it’s not quite so easy as just firing the task over to another VA – there’s a multitude of things to consider. First, and this goes without saying, have a concrete contract in place with the subcontract VA before giving them any info on the client or the task.
Secondly, you need to check their skills are up to scratch. In fact, we do this before even allowing them to see our contract because there’s no point in spending time on preparing this unless they are suitable. Set a typical task which you can mark objectively. So for example, we have a really nasty spelling and grammar test we ask VAs to do before working with us and it only has a 10% pass rate, but separates the wheat from the chaff very effectively since there’s no arguing with the Oxford English dictionary. That means I can forward the results to the potential VA and they know why they have been rejected so it’s not a rejection for spurious reasons.
Finally, you need to ask yourself tough questions like:
- Are you a control freak?
- What is your motivation for doing this?
- How will you feel if the subcontractor VA screws a job up or better than you at servicing the clients?
- Do you really want to be a “traffic controller” instead of a VA?
- Are you paid as a pure “cost” to the business, or do you still earn income from clients?
- Do you have time to properly manage tasks and other VAs?
It’s tough – because you’re responsible for the work that those VAs do in your name. And, short of inventing cloning, I don’t have an army of mini-mes to service the clients so I need to trust them to be reasonably competent as my lead times don’t allow for me to re-type a whole document or re-do a whole spreadsheet because they haven’t laid it out right.
Good resources for beginning to outsource:
This is a book which should really be handed out with your self-employed tax return. Because it reassures you that it’s not about working harder or longer, but working smarter and developing systems in your business. No one wants to create a faceless service, but this allows you to inject your personality into the important bits by freeing your time from the mundane tasks that suck your time away.
This one is by Michelle Jamieson and is very useful in asking those difficult questions of you. It does have a subcontract in it, but contains some clauses which probably wouldn’t stand up in a UK court so beware of using this.
SVA’s “fill in the blanks” agreement for VAs and subcontractors covering: fees, payment terms, description of work, confidentiality and non-compete clauses. The UK has very different “restraint of trade” laws than the US, so make sure yours is watertight.
Everyone and their wife thinks they can be a VA, because they fondly imagine it’s simply a matter of having a computer and knowing your way round Microsoft Office. Oh, if only it was that easy! Even amongst the VAs who apply to us at Virtually Sorted, we have only a 10% pass rate of our very basic grammar test – and these are supposedly professional VAs.
Before you waste time training your new partners, lay out your expectations and test their skills. Sounds daft, but you would be surprised by how many people can talk the talk but then not walk the walk – I’ve spent many late nights and early mornings re-doing substandard work as a result and now test before even talking to them.