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Understanding the VA Mindset – for clients…

DSC_0021Guest blogger Rachel Brett explains the difference between hiring a VA and hiring an employee.

There are really few things that really annoy me as a Virtual Assistant, but those that do, really annoy me.

No one likes to feel devalued. I remember feeling like that after I had been made redundant and was working as a temp. I went for a job interview for “a two week data entry assignment!” only to be told that I was too experienced and I would get bored, and the rate was for a pittance – and it was that behaviour which decided me to become a VA.

And then I finally made the leap from employee to business woman, both mentally and physically (mentally takes much longer), then I have to admit feeling very happy at running my own business (and I wish I had done it a lot sooner).

So when I see “job adverts” asking for VA’s I do wonder what the “employer” is thinking. I do think they are confused as to what they want. I received a couple of these lately and it made me really cross, as they treat the VA as an employee.

Let me give an example:

“I need a VA to make several calls for on behalf of my business and they need to be able to find out more about the client, and persuade them to buy our products and services.

This is a temporary home-based assignment, with the intention of going permanent

The skills needed are – blah, blah, blah

The successful candidate will need to be tenacious, etc., etc.

Full training will be provided.”

Now what is wrong with that you ask – The writer wants help to build their business and you have the skills? But it screams at me “job ad”!

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If the person really wanted a Virtual Assistant who runs their own business, they would have understood that it is about collaboration and being provided with a service as opposed to managing staff.

So instead of a job advert, the request would be more like:

  • An explanation as to how they would want the project to be run, what their goals were, timeframes, etc.,
  • What they were trying to attain and
  • How they would like the project managed
  • They would understand that there would be contracted period, – not temp to perm,
  • Have a structure that would enable the VA to work with, not work for the company.

And if they wanted a long term support with the VA, then this would develop over time should the working relationship be successful.

Let me make this plain, there is nothing wrong with being an employee, in fact there are several good reasons for choosing employees as opposed to freelancers, but taking advantage of a VA who saves you tax, NI, holiday pay, additional insurance and office space is not only insulting and quite frankly annoying. So please be clear as to what you want – employee or VA, because the two are not one or the same.

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DSC_0021Rachel Brett of ArborVS, highly qualified and experienced administrator who runs her own virtual services business supporting those companies who need administrative support, specialising in digital transcription and administrative systems and soon to be added new skill of social media.Very opinionated and definitely not an EMPLOYEE!

How do you know the difference between choosing a VA and an Employee

Decided whether you want an employee or whether you would like to contract a freelancer like a VA is something business owners struggle with.

So below are the advantages of both put before you and then you can decide whether as a company.

Employee VA
Job Role and Description Type of Project
You determine the role and expectations You agree what type of assistance you require and have clear goals as to what you want to achieve and how.
You control how often you get feedback You agree timescales and feedback
You manage the time and the project You agree timescales
You decide when you go to the next step You advise and agree how best to approach the next step
You control how long and how much you pay for the time You agree by contract fees in advance and are provided with timesheets to justify cost
You provide all the equipment and materials and office space where the employee has to work VA provides equipment and skill set.   Specialist software and equipment may be provided
You may need to coach and train the employee You rely on the expertise of the VA and provide guidance where necessary
Communication is more direct and if on site, easier to manage Communication has to be managed with clear direction on both sides as to what is expected to be achieved.
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What is clear here is the main difference between an employee and a contractor is that an employee will be closer to the source and tend to follow the ethos of the employer. A contractor will look at the skills required, and methodology required and advice how best to implement to achieve a goal. Two different approaches, two very different ways of thinking and it really depends on you the purchaser to know exactly what you want and how to achieve it.


  1. Carole Meyrick on 10 July, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    My sentiments exactly. Well done for putting them down, Rachel!

  2. Steph on 13 July, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Wow! I totally feel your pain, you’re certainly not alone, however, I feel that we have a role, and a duty as VAs to educate our clients, prospects and fellow business owners around how to successfully work with a VA. Don’t forget that whilst the industry is growing, there are still many people out there who have never worked with a VA or indeed know how to do so. Getting cross at them won’t fix the problem or make them more likely to embrace this new way of working and and I really do think it would be better for all of us to share this message as you have done in your article, but perhaps in a constructive way that that doesn’t make the customer feel stupid for not having understood the service they thought they were looking for.

    Very often, this is new experience for the customer, and a big decision. handing over the reins to part of your company is not a decision to be taken lightly. When we speak to people who don’t seem to understand the difference between a VA and an employed PA, I find it much more effective to clearly explain the difference with reasons why and highlight the benefits this will have, and I have also created a free guide that I hand out to 1st time VA users which clearly explains the differences, and demonstrates to them the best way to hire a VA and work with one. We have found that by explaining in this way, they are far more likely to share the information with their fellow business colleagues which increases general awareness about what VA really does, and can only be better for all of us in the long run.

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