Disadvantages of Outsourcing
Hiring an assistant is easy; firing one is a big challenge. Whenever you run into the situation that you need to fire your virtual assistant, because
- He performed poorly
- Your budget is running out
- The project is not successful
- Life gets in the way of handling an assistant
- You lose interest…
…then you have a hard decision to make.
Honestly, it’s hard to let your virtual assistant go because you
- took time to actively build trust and rapport with them
- invested time and money into their training
- have to think about how you would feel if you were let go from your own job
In the end, you paying a virtual assistant is your own business decision. After a fair time of notice you must be able to save your expenses. At any time of working with an assistant, you must be in the position to control your finances.
In other words: without the agreed work load from your assistant, he is not entitled to your money with no strings attached.
When you notify your assistant, dependent on how closely you know each other, explain your reasons. However, you don’t need to “negotiate your way out”. Don’t put them off your assignment from one day to the other, of course. Let them know beforehand so that they can look for another project on their own.
Ideally, phase out the time they work for you gradually over a few weeks.
Hire assistants to boost your online business or personal projects. But don’t burn money more than you want and feel comfortable. Always stay in control.
A practical example – Ending the contract with a personal assistant when it did not work out well
I have worked with a full time VA and delayed firing him even though I knew he was not doing a good job. That has cost me around €3000. Recently, I have hired a personal assistant and was not about to repeat past mistakes.
Firing a VA the right way = minimize your losses
Make no mistake: firing a Virtual Assistant always a loss of your money or your time. But if you manage it right, you can minimize the losses. Here is how I kept my losses at 30€ for a personal assistant.
- Followed best practices when hiring him (limited hours he can bill for, test task, good preparation)
- Kept close supervision on him (you can do that myself, in this case I have relied on my experienced hiring manager
- Tried encouraging, motivating and clarifying confusion before pulling the plug – you never know if it doesn’t work out well after all
By the time he has stopped responding, you can bet he has already given up inside on my project.
When I was sure it was not working out, we reached out a last time. After that, we removed shared assets and accesses, and ended the contract with him.
Take away lessons when you need to fire your virtual assistant
Learn from it, make it better next time, don’t let it pull you down
In my interview with Eric, we also touch on the emotional side of firing an assistant from a business owner’s perspective. Key lessons to take away are:
- Don’t feel you need to continue paying due to emotional attachment, if the results are not good.
- Clearly communicate to your assistant what will get them fired, or when you are not happy.
- Manage expectations and try to keep an objective perspective about your work relationship with the virtual assistant.
(Sep 10, 2014)
For a long time, managing my main virtual assistant who is working close to 30 hours a week was just fine from the aspect of investing time for instructions versus him working. Now that Jomvie, my full time virtual assistant from the Philippines, has joined the team, I feel from time to time a little bit overwhelmed.
Factors that can overwhelm an employer.
At first sight, this is counter-intuitive. Having more virtual assistants should mean saving more time, right? Not immediately and not always. As an employer, you have to worry about training your virtual assistant, answering his questions, motivating your VA, improving his work habits, optimizing his results and all of that on a regular basis.
If you start out, don’t start outsourcing to a team of full-time workers right from the start. You will definitively not be able to draw the most off your virtual assistants’ team. And therefore, effectively be losing money.
If you have a lot of free time on your hand, for example, you have taken a sabbatical and a long time off then it’s possible. If you are working full-time at your day job and outsourcing in your free time, like I am doing, then this can get challenging.
Managing your free time
When I come home after work, I often feel tired or without energy. With the time remaining of my day, I need to balance between time for:
- time for recreation,
- reading books,
- Time for social contacts – girlfriend, friends, family,
- Time for my business,
- Writing articles myself,
- Researching new ideas,
- And time for managing my virtual assistant staff.
As you can see this list is rather long with the time that is free in the evening being rather short. And during all that time I didn’t even cook myself dinner.
How to optimize the time so that the instructions for your VA take as little time as possible?
There are few approaches how to make the most of your time to instruct the virtual assistants without sacrificing too much of your valuable free time.
- First, try to use short breaks within the day to record small snippets of audio instructions. I do this with my mobile phone and then share to the Dropbox. The files are synchronized the next time I get wireless LAN.
- Second, avoid instructions via email or in writing. Use video instructions instead. Those are proven tools that are most liked and well-received by virtual assistants and most time saving for you, the employer. There are even many free methods and software for video instructions.
- Schedule work far ahead when you have time, for example, on the weekend.
- Take time off from making instructions in order to keep your creativity and inspirational energy.
That last item is a tricky one. The best relationship with your virtual assistant is, without any doubt, when you keep up with giving feedback and communicating on a very regular basis.
On the other hand, it is good practice to have a short break or vacation from your business or your virtual assistants from time to time. This distance will give your brain enough room to come up with new great ideas and conserve your creativity in the long run. Stress or the feeling of being overwhelmed is the death of your creative energies.
What can your virtual assistants do when they have no instructions?
First of all, they should let you know in advance when they are running out of instructions. Then you, as an employer, can make the decision if they should:
- Research stuff for you;
- Pause their work for a certain amount of time; or,
- Train themselves by reviewing all the video instructions or researching better ways to do what they are already doing.
Virtual assistants training themselves: Does this work?
In principle as an employer, I could give my virtual assistants the instructions to just look for training on their own when I’m not giving them any instructions. This would only work for virtual assistants that are self-motivated.
From the different personalities that your virtual assistants may have, not everyone is cut out to be as self-reliant as to look for their own training. Especially for a newbie virtual assistant, this is too much to ask.
Conclusion: Find the balance
Find the right amount of training materials that your virtual assistant can review when instructions run out. Share a few chosen eBooks with your virtual assistant stuff about skills they need to polish.
Allow for a certain amount of time for research with “How To” videos on YouTube.
Set up strict rules after which amount of inactivity you need to consider pausing the work for your virtual assistants. Keep in mind that the virtual assistants need the work in order to earn the money with which they are planning for their life.
As an employer, you do have a responsibility for your virtual assistant staff. As a virtual assistant, it is important that you keep in mind that your employer also needs breaks and/or can use any support you can deliver to him from your own initiative.
As always, feel free to join the discussion in the comments and share whatever opinion you have about this topic. Be it from the perspective of a virtual assistant or from the perspective of an employer or someone who wants to be one.
(March 19, 2013)
The biggest financial outsourcing risk is when you lose your virtual assistant. If for whatever reason your VA leaves you, you will lose money in one way or another.
Let me explain.
If you hire a VA and a few days later the working relationship does not work out, you lose money.
Hiring the right way takes time. Time is money.
You could have done something else with your business in that time.
So, it makes sense to invest time into hiring one right person. Then keep that person, hopefully, for a long term.
If you have worked together with a virtual or personal assistant for many years and the cooperation has been great and then for some reason your virtual assistant leaves you, you also lose money.
You invested time and money to train your virtual assistant.
Some of his paid work time has been for training purposes exclusively. When the virtual assistant leaves you, you risk losing the money you invested into his training.
How to Prevent These Financial Outsourcing Risks
In the first case, do your best to establish a good working relationship.
One of the most important tactics to do that is to have good business ethics. This will make sure both sides of the cooperation are happy and will keep the relationship going.
In the second case, sometimes you cannot avoid that a virtual assistant leaves you.
For example, his life situation might have changed. He might have found a completely new job direction and that is not your fault.
Or, after some time, the communication has deteriorated.
That is within your power to keep in track.
However, to minimize financial losses from training in one virtual assistant, it makes sense to keep notes of how and what your virtual assistant has learned to work with you.
When you hire the next assistant, you will know on which skills to focus on.
Even better, ask your virtual assistant to write down the lessons he has learned as he learns them.
Even if this takes time. This will build a manual for you as well as for any potential, additional or replacing virtual assistant.
You have to be aware that the time invested in to your virtual assistant’s training is priceless.
Comments for Financial Outsourcing Risks
(March 04, 2013)
Do you sometimes have these moments where in your actual day job, you receive so much work that you wish you could give it to a virtual assistant?
Since I’m working with one on an almost day to day basis, this thought has crossed my mind more than once. How easy would it be for me to send him some data from my work, let him work on it for me and then save lots of boring time. Especially, if it involves working with huge excel files and data analysis.
Unfortunately, this is not something I would recommend or do for that matter.
Reasons why you should never outsource your day job chores to your VA:
- It can get you fired. How is that for a reason?
- It’s not safe. If your VA makes a mistake even without meaning bad, it’s you who are responsible for your day work results.
- You will get caught! Sooner or later. Retributions can come even much in the future.
The only time when you can safely outsource your own day job is when you are a self-employed entrepreneur. Then, you are only responsible to yourself. This is more than a reason to strongly consider becoming your own boss.
How do you feel about outsourcing your real job?
Is it fair…? Is it cool? Should it be allowed?
by Virtual Assistant
(December 21, 2012)
Some days ago, I and Francis have hired a provider, ‘M.A’ (Original name not disclosed). As you are already aware of, we have hired multiple providers for Francis’ outsourced job research project.
First we have hired a provider from Bangladesh, ‘Roman’:
- I set up initial communication between Francis and Roman,
- interviewed him via Skype,
- then opened a contract
- and hired him for this project.
Although I have already told him that this would be a time-sensitive project and he had to start working for us right away, we did not hear anything from him after hiring him.
Why doesn’t Roman write back after being hired?
As this was not a new experience for both me and Francis, I didn’t close the job opening. Instead, I reviewed and short listed another contractor who was also from the same country I belong to.
We were looking for someone to research Chemistry related organizations and companies in Munich, Germany within a specified radius. This new person wrote in his cover letter that he is not only a Chemistry student, but also has some German language knowledge.
Found the perfect research assistant…?
So apparently this person seemed to be the perfect candidate for this position, but in actual that was not the case. I have closely reviewed his profile and found out that he was currently working in a well-reputed firm and I evaluated that if his provided information is correct, he would be earning at least $1000 PM, which is a very handsome pay in my country (Pakistan).
On the flip side, he applied for $1.11/hr including oDesk fee for our job. So that was the only reason I really don’t want to hire him: for me he was over qualified.
I and Francis had a detailed discussion over this and finally agreed on the point that we will hire him for a limited contract of 5 hours per week and if he performs well, we will increase his quota.
Discussions via Skype took a long time
Before hiring him, I asked him to come online via Skype and discussed some important terms and conditions with him. He was totally new on oDesk and during this chat I came to know that his computer skills and literacy were very, very low and he even didn’t know about some of the basics of oDesk Team Room Application.
I experienced two really funny experiences with this provider:
His Internet connection was so slow due to…
As I realized that he has very low computer knowledge and skills, but still we were interested in his chemistry and German language skills, so I moved a step ahead and told him each and everything about the project. But his internet connection was so slow that it took hours to download the provided training videos.
In fact I told him to download these videos and then we will discuss it tomorrow.
The show begins…
The next day I didn’t hear anything from him and sent him a chat about the videos, after some time he replied that he was still waiting for videos to be downloaded. I asked him why it’s taking so long to download these videos and also asked the speed and details of his internet connection, but everything was good.
After an hour or two he told me that there is a notification in his icon-bar that the internet is out of coverage.
I asked him where wifi router of his internet connection is placed, and he replied ‘Downstairs’.
So that was the reason why he was not getting complete internet signal and was unable to download the training videos 😉
He was unable to click to the bookmark icons on Google maps because…
In fact, he was able to click those bookmarks on Google Maps but apparently they weren’t popping out their addresses.
Let me take you into the situation from an earlier time frame.
After he downloaded and watched all the training materials, as expected he was not sure what to do. So I tried to train him little more. I made helpful screen captures with text annotations with the help of free screen recording software ‘Jing’ and sent him so that he can understand what we want from him.
I wanted him to follow along my step by step instructions and implement them in real-time. Out of these many screen captures, one has a screenshot of Google maps showing some bookmark balloons and places.
I asked him to do the same practice I did in the screen capture, but there was a serious problem with him, he was not able to click and open these bookmarked balloons. I stayed with him for at least 30 good minutes and explained him different solutions, but all in vain.
After 30 to 40 minutes of intense efforts, I realized that this person was not browsing Google maps on his browser. In fact he was clicking at my screenshot and was trying to open bookmarked locations over there.
Finally it’s time to work on the project and deliver results
After I explained him each and every step of this project in detail and asked him to start his work for this project, he disappeared.
Those days I was also absent due to some domestic reasons, but I asked him two or three times about the project which he never replied.
After around 10 days I saw some activity within his work diary and noticed that he has worked on our project, as I told him that I would be away he reported directly to Francis instead me.
I was really not happy with his performance and especially with his work attitude so I recommend Francis to rate him low, but still he was more generous and gave him a rating more than I recommended.
2 weeks after ending his contract, I got an email from him that he was busy due to some PhD thesis, that’s why he couldn’t work. I didn’t reply back because I think he should have let us know about this especially when we have already told him that this was a time sensitive project.
So in my opinion if you don’t have a professional attitude towards your work, it doesn’t matter how skilled you are. In any field of life your attitude comes first and everything else comes after that.
I would love to hear your comments about my failed but interesting experience.
Comments for Working with a Provider with Very Low Computer Knowledge and Skills
(October 21, 2012)
You lose the experience from learning by doing and doing experiments.
One possible disadvantage you’ll have to face when you get involved with outsourcing is that when you delegate all your work to someone else, you lose the benefit of learning by doing.
Many tasks and a lot of experience you gain are gained by actually doing the tasks.
If you delegate everything that you should do to your virtual assistant, it is him and not you who will gain knowledge and skills. You’ll have to find a fine line of balance between delegating your work and learning by doing it yourself.
The best method of delegating your work to an outsourced virtual assistant, in my opinion, is to do the following:
- Do the task yourself. No matter how simple it is. No matter how long it takes. Do it yourself so often that you can do it easily.
- Record how you do all the steps either via video or audio.
- Give your step by step work instructions to your virtual assistants.
- Have your virtual assistant do a test run, duplicating your efforts.
- Evaluate how well your virtual assistant did. If he didn’t do well, fine tune your instructions until your virtual assistant gets it right.
Finally, enjoy your work getting done by a virtual assistant while you got to learn the skills in the process. That’s how I do it and that’s how I think everyone who hires a virtual assistant should do it.
You can read more about training your Virtual Assistant with purpose and a strategy in mind in this post.
- If you don’t learn the process you wanted to outsource thoroughly yourself, then you have two problems.
- You will not be able to find a replacement for your VA quickly if you need to rehire.
And you’ll need to have the newly hired VA figure out the whole process a second time, needlessly costing you time and money.