Virtual Assistant Break Up?

You hopefully read about my virtual assistant love… well, we’re at a weird point in our relationship.  I just receive the following from my beloved outsourced VA:

“Hope you are fine.I would like to know whether you have any work for me. I may be troubling you, but sorry to say that i am without any work and wasting time.  I have not taken any other buyer because i was engaged with your projects.  But now i am sitting idle and hours are wasted without any earnings. If you think, you cannot provide me with projects everyday, can i take other assignments and reduce the time i work with your project?  But if i take another buyer, i may not be able to commit many hours/day if anything urgent come up, though i will try to find time for your work if anything urgent come up from your side. Sorry if i sound harsh.But since last week i am sitting idle without much work wasting time”


I went through all 5 Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in about 58 seconds.    When I got to acceptance I realized she was right, I had been so busy with so much other stuff I hadn’t given her enough projects to keep her busy.  I needed to act fast to find a solution so I wouldn’t loose her.   Back to bargaining!!!

My proposal to her:

I did some more thinking and I’d like to propose something to you:  Would it be possible to reserve you one day a week for 4 hours of guaranteed work?   Here is what I propose:

  1. You choose a day of the week that you can always provide me with 4 hours of work.
  2. I will try to always have things for you to do.
  3. If I don’t have work for you to do, you can spend those 4 hours doing anything you want and you can still bill me for the time!
  4. You can still work with other buyers the rest of the time you have available.

Basically I am trying to find a way to keep her engaged with me until I had some solid work for her, but at the same time I wanted to be compelled to find work for her.   The thought of paying someone even if they didn’t work will hopefully be enough to keep me focused on finding important stuff for her to do.

So, to you my reader… help me discover work for my virtual assistant.   Breaking up is hard to do!!!

8 Replies to “Virtual Assistant Break Up?”

  1. It is amazing how what you are outsourcing and paying for keeps changing from what you wanted to outsource in the first place. If you need to outsource website work, research, database work, etc., why did you hire a college student who cannot do all this for you? In addition, why are you going to pay her for time that she is not actually doing work for you? This is when it becomes clear how you distinguish what a “real” virtual assistant is compared to someone who just calls themselves a virtual assistant. The consumer needs to be aware that anybody can call himself or herself anything they like and may not be qualified to do the job. All this does is give us “real” virtual assistants a bad reputation. You need to hire a virtual assistant who owns his or her own business and will not charge for hours that are not spent on doing work for you. We do not threaten our clients. Have you lost your mind????
    Sue Rogers, Owner, Rogers Executive Administrative Services, the Ease Your Workload Expert!

  2. Yes, I’m changing what I’m outsourcing based on cost restraints and the specific strengths of my outsourcing providers. Some providers are very technical but won’t touch data entry work while others are great at research and excel but don’t know a thing about web design.

    I now firmly believe that it is impossible for me to find one provider that can do everything I need for a few reasons:

    1) A single person who is capable of doing everything I need would be extremely expensive (relatively).

    2) Someone who can do web / graphic design won’t be willing to do much of the menial work I need done.

    I do agree that the term “Virtual Assistant” is becoming more and more broad. There need to be distinctions between all levels of outsourced assistant positions… everything from very high level executive assistants to lower level data entry assistants.

  3. You probably have many more tasks that a VA could do for you, but with your current situation, you can’t see the forest for the trees. Try noting every thing (both work related and non-work related) that you do for a week; note it in a notebook, pad of paper, BlackBerry, whatever. When the week’s up, go through your notes and highlight, circle, etc. the tasks that you hate doing, don’t want to do, etc. Then circle back with your VA, and ask her if she can handle any of them. Don’t automatically assume she can’t; ask her. If she can’t handle the stuff, then you may be headed for VA breakup.

    If you and your VA need to end the relationship, part amicably and look for another VA. This time, go to the VA organizations (I can give you a list, if you want) that are on the Internet and submit an RFP or post a query on one of their forums. I know that one of the reasons you went with a “work auction site” (that’s what I call those work for the lowest bidder sites) was that you wanted cheap, but going the cheap route can backfire on you for many reasons; one of which is a freelance site provider submits a low bid just to get his/her foot in your door. On the other hand, someone who works for somewhere between cheap and expensive probably gets more done in the same amount of time as the cheap worker, and increased productivity is a savings.

    Some advice for your VA; she shouldn’t be putting her eggs all in your basket. That just doesn’t make good business sense. She should be expanding her client base, and she doesn’t have to end her relationship with you to do that. I’m guessing, but I bet that she could keep you as a client and take on other clients too.

    =>Donna, Owner
    ExtraOrdinary Assistance

  4. Donna,

    Excellent points and suggestions! A daily journal of activities is a great idea. An additional thought would be to break out my “Jack of all trades” tasks into groups: Admin Assistant, Programmer, Graphic Designer, etc. With these groups I could approach the appropriate people with the appropriate tasks.

    Yes, I hope my VA is cheating on me and getting work from other buyers. We’ve come to the understanding that she’ll continue to work on my email management and additional projects as they arise.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just the exercise of going through the VA process has been very educational and is providing a foundation for the time when I’ll be ready to fully leverage multiple Virtual Assistants!

  5. Is your VA an employee? I would hope not. Virtual Assistants are independent business owner/operators providing admin and secretarial support to their clients. I’ve been a VA for almost 14 years and do not have just one client, but several. Nor am I expectant or dependent on one client providing me all my work – I don’t sit idle waiting for their work to come to me. I book in work and organise my working week accordingly, and so do all the VAs I know. I manage a team of them in 16 countries.

    VAs are NOT college graduates either – they are experienced former PAs and other office workers who have brought their skills back home to work, using today’s technologies. For my own particular clients I provide these services: wordprocessing, formatting of documentation, Powerpoint presentations, data entry and maintenance of database programs, manage/maintain websites and shopping carts, as well as online databases, prepare and send out ezines and broadcast emails, organise bookings for events and much more.

    Tell me where/how a college graduate could possibly know how to do these things without the required experience and background?

  6. I’m glad to see so many experienced VA’s commenting on this thread. While I believe a lot of the points mentioned above are valid I think some of the perspective is a bit skewed.

    For example, in my opinion a VA can absolutely be a college graduate… or even a high school graduate. I’m not aware of an industry wide definitions or requirements for someone to call themselves a “virtual assistant”. If I need transcription work done I bet there are plenty of high school grads that would do an excellent job. Are these not virtual assistants?

    From Wikipedia: “A Virtual Assistant (or simply VA), is an independent contractor providing administrative, technical, or sometimes creative assistance to clients”

    The International Virtual Assistants Association has almost the exact same description: “A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services.”

    So, based on the above I can absolutely call my geographically differentiated independent contractor a Virtual Assistant.

    Regarding time: oDesk (where I found this provider) is an hourly based system where you actually “hire” providers for a specific number of hours per week. I had “hired” my virtual assistant for 20 hours a week but wasn’t able to fulfill that time with projects which is why I received the email above.

  7. There is an international steering committee for the Virtual Assistant industry that has been working on the criteria and standards for Virtual Assistants entering the industry.

    Much like any other professional entering a particular industry, there is criteria to meet. You’ll find that the majority of Virtual Assistant organisations require VAs to have a minimum 5 years’ experience in admin/secretarial or similar backgrounds.

    Wikipedia is written by anyone who wants to contribute to it – if you do the research I think you’ll find the definition relating to VAs has been changed many, many times at Wikipedia, depending on who wants to contribute to it. It really cannot be taken as the definitive authority on the industry.

    The industry itself has been defined as an industry since around 1996 and the first certification programs began to surface a few years later. Today there are many coaching and training programs relating to the industry which is proof itself that VAs need training. Too many people think they can just set up with a computer and internet connection and voila! they’re a VA. There are also a number of organisations that have set up to create a pool of VAs (as you’ve discovered) but again, the definition of a VA is that they are independent contractors (not employees) providing administrative and other services via remote or virtual means.

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