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.
Having virtual assistants working for you at low costs is effective and fun. However, there are some disadvantages of outsourcing work to foreign countries. If you are aware of those outsourcing disadvantages, your business will be that much more successful.
Language barrier between you and your virtual assistant
English is the most common language a must have skill for any kind of outsourcing work.
For example, if a virtual assistant only speaks Spanish , the majority of the employers will not be able to work with him.
Outsourcing is not effective if the freelancer
- can’t talk English properly
- can’t express or elaborate well in English
- can’t understand instructions
- and can’t give proper feedback about his work.
The minimal requirement to a freelancer is that he can speak, understand and communicate in English.
Notes to Virtual Assistants having trouble with English:
- If you can’t express yourself well in English, working satisfactory will be hard.
- English skills still can either be learned with free materials on the internet.
- Also, ask your boss to give you extremely clear instructions, so that you can learn one task at a time.
If you were to choose to outsource work to one provider today, I wish you three things:
- You treat your provider with respect.
- You don’t get screwed over.
- You a freelancer who knows English well and is bright.
Everything else is totally optional!
Exception: If you need a specialist
If you are looking for a specialist, perhaps a programmer , you cannot start with a newbie with only English skills. For this you will just have to pay more. There is always a price of high quality.
Look for the optimal freelancer for everything else:
But if you have a specific, private task, you only need a guy or a girl who
- knows English
- is quick with answering
- and honest
Then you can do anything.
Finding the right VA needs experience
One of the bigger disadvantages of outsourcing is that you have to learn it, just like any other skill. The tips on ideal-helper, which come from years of real-life experience from both the employer and freelancer points of view, will help you with that.
And if you want to make your life easier, be sure to choose the right outsourcing company for your needs. My choice lies with Odesk.
Outsourcing work costs you money
This is on of the disadvantages of outsourcing that goes without saying. Still, you should calculate your budget before starting to work with a freelancer. It would be frustrating for him, too, if you were to fire your assistant because you run out of funds.
Fortunately, if you know how to hire a virtual assistant at the right place, you can keep costs extremely low, down to 1$/hour.
What tasks can’t you outsource?
One of the smaller disadvantages of outsourcing is that even if you are hooked on the concept, there are things which your Indian personal assistant cannot do for you, even if he wanted to.
- Physical work
- A medical doctor can’t outsource the treatment of his patients.
- If you are an architect, you can’t hire a virtual worker to carry stones.
- If you are specialist, such as and scientist, you can’t outsource working e.g. with your expensive microscope.
- You should never outsource your tax matters.
You can outsource some of the above mentioned tasks if you write up a real contract to respectable outsourcing company. If you take care of all legalities set up an iron-clad NDA , you might be able to make an exception to some of the examples I listed above.
Managing your VA needs time
Before you start actually saving time by working together with your personal assistant, you need to invest some time training him and adjusting to each other.
Don’t be disillusioned if the first days you pass way more time writing emails and clarifying things when you just wanted to chill out at the beach while someone else works for you.
Here is my method to getting there faster:
Use screen recording software to show him exactly what you want. This goes way faster than writing emails and is actually better suited for training your virtual assistant.
You can’t simply fool around. You now have responsibility for your VA
When you have actually hired a person to work for you, you are in a working relationship. Take it as seriously as your employee takes the money he earns for giving his best for you, and think about some ethics in business basics.
You cannot just abuse the fact that your worker lives in a poor country and consider him a modern slave.
Having responsibility for another person, who probably is looking up to you, is one of the smaller disadvantages of outsourcing. Still, keep it in mind and never take the services of your worker for granted.
Those Outsourcing disadvantages are not much of a problem?
In reality, hiring virtual assistants is easy, fun and effective for almost everyone. Just that many people don’t even consider doing this.
The disadvantages of outsourcing listed on this page are there to help you profit the most from a freelancer when you do hire him. If you keep them in mind, as well as using your common sense, you will be fine.
How I define outsourcing when someone never has heard of the concept:
When I tell my friends that I have a website about real-life experiences of outsourcing to virtual assistants, many people don’t know what I am talking about.
My Definition of Outsourcing
“Sending simple and repetitive work that you’d rather not do in order to focus on more important tasks to a temporal coworker over the internet.”
Often, the coworker (virtual assistant) is based in countries where the cost of living is lower.
The coworker must be willing to do the work for you.
If you want to keep a good conscience while outsourcing, this also means
- you cannot coerce him into the work
- he does not work out of desperation (e.g. the whole family is starving)
How Wikipedia defines outsourcing
“Outsourcing is the process of contracting an existing business process which an organization previously performed internally to an independent organization, where the process is purchased as a service. (…)
An outsourcing deal may also involve transfer of the employees involved to the outsourcing business partner.”
What doesn’t, for us, fall under the definition of outsourcing?
- Outsourcing is not Offshoring
The concept of outsourcing is often connoted very negatively. People associate with it big companies firing perfectly good workers or giving them the choice to work in countries like India or China.
This is offshoring, a similar but different concept.
- Outsourcing is not the magic formula for free time – it’s not that simple
What also is not (realistic) outsourcing is to think that you can hire someone from Asia – and the rest of your life organizes itself, including you becoming rich overnight.
Wake up: having an assistant on your payroll does also take time.
But you can free up your schedule by outsourcing simple, repetitive and possible boring work. If you define outsourcing as “freeing yourself up from boring and tedious tasks”, then you are well on the way to success.
Companies and Outsourcing/Offshoring
Since outsourcing and offshoring are different – what is my opinion of big companies doing “outsourcing”?
If I could address big corporations directly, I would tell them this:
Don’t fire the workers you already have. Know that you might lose your secrets to people far away, possible outside the jurisdiction of your country. There is a price to rely on foreign forces too much.
As an entrepreneur and someone who enjoys the advantages of outsourcing to virtual assistants, I was very interested in watching the interview featured on Bloomberg TV from the CEO of TasksEveryDay, an outsourcing service, with its CEO Suvidh Marwaha.
Check it out in this video:
Did you watch it? Great.
Thoughts on this video
What was interesting to me, was that he mentioned two aspects on where any entrepreneur in today’s modern world can use the help of a virtual assistant:
- The task of building a website
- The setting up of an e-store
Both tasks can be set up rather easily with basic packages you can buy on the internet. Some solutions are also totally free, at first.
Setting up a website or an E-store successfully – as opposite to functionally – is a whole different ball-game.
Before you even think about the choice of creating a blog or a website, you have to understand how many complicated tasks are connected to building your online presence.
Not only building it, but maintaining it. That’s the hardest part. And that’s exactly where an experienced virtual assistant can come in very, very handy.
Why are VAs called “virtual”?
A different twist on the discussion – which is often ignored – is the term “virtual” when talking about personal assistants.
There is nothing virtual about the assistants themselves:
- They are not machines.
- They are living, breathing people with hopes and dreams.
Often, they are highly skilled professionals in their field, and have a much more entrepreneurial mind than the beginner website owner.
Therefore we have an extensive section about being ethical in the communication with your VAS.
It’s easy to start thinking of your VAs as some kind of super computer program. If you interact only with them via computer (emails, Skype), and perhaps get the results magically over night (due to time zone differences) – there is some “virtual” aspect there.
Take your assistants seriously. Then you will be able to tap into the full potential of their productivity
Business is not done with machines. Business is done with business partners. And partners need to be taken seriously.
If on the other hand you master the art of effective communication with your “virtual” assistants, you are in for massive success.
Your partner in business will go above and beyond to assure your success…
Challenges with Virtual Assistants
Another interesting aspect of the discussion with Suvidh Marwaha was that the biggest challenge you are likely to run into, is the communication.
There are lots of cultural barriers between you and your assistant, if you choose to hire someone from the other end of the globe.
That being said, Suvidh presents one of the best tools that will solve this issue.
Tools that make communication as effective as it could be, only beaten by face to face communication in front of a common computer.
And that tool is: Video recordings
When you record a video with voice and screen recording, you are
- visualizing exactly what you want,
- and slowly but surely building a relationship with your assistant: one video at a time.
May it be that you make a comment or ask for the well being of your assistant while a webpage loads that you want to show him in the video.
Or that you give mild criticism, rendered productive by showing your assistant the better alternative right away.
Anyways, using video for communicating and training your VA is pure genius.
A long distance business relationship – can you do it via internet?
Since the contact to your VA is crucial, will you be able to do it?
Since this topic was so central, we discussed this extensively in one of my interview series.
- Make sure you are understanding about cultural differences.
- Be friendly but keep control when handling your assistants (don’t let them dupe you either).
- A friendly word or a well-earned money bonus from time to time does wonders. So do Christmas wishes, especially with VAs from the Philippines.
- Be sure to praise them when they do things right.
- Don’t scold them when they do things wrong, but offer constructive criticism in a soft and friendly way.
Learn and improve your instruction giving skills over time. Each assistant is different.
Armed with this advice, half of the battle is won. By learning from mistakes (or any other honest entrepreneur having worked with virtual assistants) have made, you can prevent yourself from making them yourself
Which means: you can save a lot of money by
- Not making expensive mistakes
- Getting an assistant on your own, without a service, to save lots of money long term
How much should a Virtual Assistant cost?
From the TasksEveryday pricing, Suvidh Marwaha talks about having 1100$/month cost for one full time virtual assistant.
While this is lower than the price you will pay for most professional VA’s from the US (40-70$ an hour!), I feel this is still doable for less.
If you use a full service like TasksEveryday, you profit from
- existing structure
- pre-screened candidates
- some guarantee for getting started right
But I believe you can setup yourself with an assistant yourself, if you do it right.
All the stuff you need to know on this subject is available, for free on the many pages of Ideal-Helper.
For free directed coaching (the amount of information can get overwhelming), feel free to sign up for the free email coaching…
Conclusion & Suvidh Marwaha on Twitter
I wholeheartedly agree with Suvidh Marwaha’s statement when he says:
Virtual Assistant – or Virtual employee/staff in simpler terms- is going to change the way america does business. I call it Business 2.0
— Suvidh Marwaha (@suvidh) February 21, 2009
The faster you recognize this, the more edge you will get over your competition.
Virtual assistance is not some hip trend or underground secret any more. It’s one of the most effective business building tools you can have.
Now it’s your turn! Was this useful to you?
- Yes? What did you learn?
- No? What were you missing?
You should have a say in this discussion too. Feel free to jump in and use the comment section at the bottom of this post!
If you consider hiring a virtual assistant, you carefully have to weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing.
Like many things in life, there are
- arguments that support outsourcing
- and others that make outsourcing look much less attractive.
The Pros of Outsourcing
This website is about learning how to efficiently hire and work with a virtual assistant. We obviously strongly believe in the process of personal outsourcing.
This doesn’t stop us from thinking and being open to critical opinions, too.
But first, let’s list what positive aspects outsourcing can bring to your life.
Outsourcing Your Work – Free up Your Time
Time is of infinite value:
The main reason you would invest effort and money into outsourcing your work to a virtual assistant is to save precious time.
Every one of us has a limited amount of time. That is the one thing you can never get more of.
So, everything that frees up your time that is affordable to you is good game.
Personally, I discovered outsourcing when I was in a really busy time in college. I was interested in doing many projects but just didn’t have the time.
To get more free time I got started with outsourcing.
Until now, outsourcing has saved me about at least 2000 hours. Or – in other words – let’s just say it saved me a year.
How much would you pay to get an extra year in your life?
Another positive aspect of saving time with outsourcing:
If you re-invest the saved time into the same project your virtual assistant is working on – you double your working speed.
How much is working at double speed worth to you?
An Advantage of Outsourcing: Your Projects and Businesses Can Grow That Much Faster
A direct consequence of saving time with outsourcing is to leverage that time to accelerate or make possible a new project in your life.
It doesn’t have to be to start an online business. You can just as well use the saved time to:
- Spend quality time with your family
- Start a new hobby
- Regenerate your body
- Take care of your health
- Or to take up new sports
The list is endless. How would you profit from more free time?
Making good use of your additional free time is one of the biggest lessons you can take away from these pros and cons of outsourcing.
Hiring an Assistant Gives You Access to Skills You Might Not Have
- If you hire a programmer, you get programming work done, even if you don’t know how to program even one line of code yourself.
- If you hire a professional designer, he can create something beautiful that you’d never been able to do.
Let me tell you an example from my past.
When I outsourced some complex data entry job to an assistant in India called Shailesh, he surprised me not only by his great perseverance and concentration, but also with the skill set of extreme knowledge of Microsoft Office.
In general, most virtual assistants that I worked with, especially from the area of India, were real Microsoft office wizards…!
They used functions I’ve even seen before.
So, even if you are not a professional website creator, you still will profit from the PowerPoint, Excel and data analysis skills most VAs have.
Thinking about the Cons of Outsourcing
If you’ve watched the video at the start of this post, you are also aware of some disadvantages of outsourcing.
But even if done privately, there are disadvantages with outsourcing.
It can be Expensive
Hiring a virtual assistant from a country where the cost of living is much lower than your own can be affordable, on the short term.
However, if you hire a person full-time over several months, the money will add up.
Personally, I estimate that I have spent about $4000 at least into doing outsourcing.
If you follow modern opinion in the media or the newspaper, then there is a heated discussions going on about American jobs being outsourced.
This is not what I am going to talk about.
What I am talking about is personal outsourcing with private projects
- that you want to do
- but don’t have the time to do,
- and can afford to outsource to a VA for yourself.
This does not mean you have to expect spending that amount of money.
I got involved into many projects and hired a multitude of different assistants over the years. Still, this is money that I’ve spent and there is no talking around it.
The good news:
You don’t have to spend as much money.
Hopefully, you will follow along my tips, tricks and details about how I work with my virtual assistant.
I am being completely open on this website. Just by following along you can learn a lot and avoid a lot of costly mistakes that I made in the past.
Outsourcing Can Take a Lot of Time
Now this is a concept that is difficult to understand, but think about it.
You start outsourcing and you are very new about it. You already have an assistant hired and ready to work for you.
But you cannot just expect him to take over your work without of any instructions. So you need to give your virtual assistant some training.
Luckily, there are tools that can make your life easier.
Video instructions especially are a tool that in my opinion saves a lot of time. But even then you will have time losses by managing your virtual assistant.
Personally, I take either
- about 10 minutes a day
- or on the weekend a chunk of one or two hours a week
to manage my virtual assistant.
Managing can also mean giving him new work. So it is not so much time lost than time invested.
Not Every One Will Understand It If You Get Involved in Private Outsourcing
There are strong opinions about the topic of outsourcing. People will not be understanding and might even criticize you for it.
I’ve had discussions where others tried to convince me how bad it was of me to hire someone from a country poorer than mine.
One especially intense debate let to the creation of a whole sub-section of this website about ethical outsourcing.
But even if you apply all the lessons there, you might make yourself not popular with all of your friends if you tell them you have a virtual assistant.
This is something you have to be prepared for.
On the other hand, working with a virtual assistant might not be compatible with your own style. I think of myself as a relatively flexible and innovative thinker that likes to think outside of the box.
If the concept of giving a person that you cannot even meet face-to-face is giving you a headache, then perhaps outsourcing is not the right thing for you.
But you will never know until unless you try it.
Bottom Line – Make It a Win-Win Situation for Everyone
There are many pros and cons of outsourcing. Everyone has to make a personal choice about what is right for them.
Personally, I’ve made the choice for myself. My virtual assistant has also made the choice for himself and stuck around with me for over two years now.
We both try our best to keep the business partner happy on a long term basis.
And that’s how you should think about your virtual assistant:
- He is not your “slave”.
- He is your business partner… your equal.
You need the work of your virtual assistant. And your virtual assistant enjoys the money he gets for that.
Think of the situation as a win-win situation for everyone.
That’s what you should aim for. Then you can make outsourcing work for you.