Collaboration Not Competition

Collaboration not competitionAs an industry we have a wonderful ethos of “Collaboration not competition” – I think that’s one of the most special things about the VA industry.  The other special thing is the wonderful range of VA businesses who operate under the term “Virtual Assistant”.  That’s a good thing and it means there is enough work to go round for everyone.  That’s as true today as it was when I first started back in 2004.

But recently I’ve heard grumblings:

“You’re not a virtual assistant if you charge less than £35 an hour”

“Some people shouldn’t be calling themselves a virtual assistant”

“You’re not a virtual assistant unless you do XYZ” 

I hate this. And it has to stop – here’s why:

Anyone can call themselves a Virtual Assistant

The term virtual assistant is not a protected term – anyone can call themselves a VA.  Client knowledge of how a VA should work is still reasonably basic.  They are being asked to assess a VA at £10 an hour with another at £35 an hour, and they have no idea what the difference is, other than price.  Whether you like it or not, you are seen as being the same as VAs working without backup, without insurance, without even a website.

The minute you start putting payment barriers up it’s an excuse for these people not to engage with the rest of the industry and to carry on oblivious.  Over the years at SVA, we’ve always had a free membership available so there’s no excuse for not knowing what you should be doing.  It’s about being welcoming and inclusive as an industry to everyone, not just those who can afford to pay for training.

The numbers don’t add up

We keep on being moaned at for not instigating a blanket rule about what VAs should charge – frankly I have no desire to get involved with the Monopolies Commission, setting minimum pricing as an industry is illegal!

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UK VA SurveyBut aside from that, we did some number crunching on the latest figures from the UK VA Survey

  • Did we find that VAs charging more earned more overall? No.  Only 54% of VAs charging £35+ per hour were earning over £20k.  The average rate that SuperVAs (what we call those earning a replacement salary of £20k+) was just £27.95 per hour.
  • Did we find that VAs who charged more stayed in business longer? No. The average rate for Experienced VAs with more than 5 years in business was £26.85 per hour.
  • Did MultiVAs (those who outsource more than 50% of their workload) pay a minimum of £20?  No – in fact I was pretty surprised by how low it was… And I have long suspected it wasn’t that high based on having worked as a MultiVA myself for over 10 years.

I would love to say that every VA in the UK is earning £30+ an hour – of course I would, but that’s not reality.  It’s unfair to tell people that it is what happens, when it’s simply untrue.  It sets people up for failure, makes them doubt their skills, encourages them to make unwise financial decisions based on zero data.  I want VAs to start up and stay in business!

There is enough work for everyone…

Just like there are lots of different car dealers, there are lots of different VAs.  A client of a Mercedes dealership is not going to be looking for a car in Ron’s Cheap Wheels…  The industry serves all levels of client, it includes all kinds of VAs.  Some VAs only want to work part-time.  Some only want to do audio typing.  Others don’t want to have lots of client demands.

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There are a hundred different models of how to run your VA business.  I’ve seen some really innovative ways in the last 18 months, they are delighting clients and providing fantastic value for money.

Added to that, several award-winning VA businesses will happily tell you they charge well under the industry’s average VA rate, because it’s what their target market will bear and how they make money.

That’s what we need to focus on – delighting clients.

Let’s share more, not less!

We named our VA Heroes in the latest UK VA Survey:

My own special mentions go out to: John Palmer of BeMyVA and the VA Conference and Awards; Angela Dawson, Nicola Burt Skinner, Debby Marcy, Louisa Stewart & Joanne Hawkins who all run affordable VA regional events.  Let’s get sharing!!!

Collaboration not competition

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