So what exactly does a VA do?

Late last year I added VA services to my range of offerings, because people kept telling me I should and because I’d done a couple of jobs for people that qualified as such.

For a long time, I resisted this because it seemed to me to devalue the work I do in digital marketing and because I couldn’t see how my new offerings would differ from what I already delivered.

After some trial and error, I came up with what I thought was a good (for me) definition of general admin work, keeping it separate from the specialist digital marketing work I was already providing my clients and started calling myself a VA.

However, calling myself a VA and promoting this new service and the associated hourly rate, led potential clients to believe that they could now get my specialist services for this new lower rate. I got questions like “How many Facebook posts can you do in an hour?”, completely discounting the specialist nature of social media management, which I still charged at my old rates.

I began questioning the specialisation required to provide some of these services, after all, we do live in a new digital age where WordPress and Mailchimp skills should be derigeur for any VA.

Except they’re not. I’ve spoken to many VAs, who know nothing about the online world and to others who specialise in it. The two types charge very differently. And I knew I was on the right track.

How much should you pay for a VA?

Despite my research, I still think that many business owners hold the view that a VA is basically cheap labour, who should do any task assigned to them for the same low rate. They discount the specialist skills required for some of these tasks and bemoan the expensive rates of Australian VAs when compared against VAs from the Philipines or Malaysia. But is that what you should really be comparing?

Instead, compare your own hourly rate against that of your VA. Also, don’t forget that your VA is most likely way more efficient with their time than you are, because their skills are more developed. What could take you an hour, might very well take them 5 or 10 minutes.

Choosing a VA from a non-English speaking country and asking them to post on social media for you has its own risks. Will you be constantly monitoring and correcting their posts? Will they know how to respond to messages and comments? How will they go writing your blog posts? I’ve heard some horror stories, believe me.

So, let’s try this experiment – making changes to your WordPress website might take you 8 hours with your distant WordPress knowledge and experience, and let’s say your normal hourly rate is $300. That’s $2400 worth of your time. Even if you were to pay a VA $120 per hour to make those same changes to your site, they might take 2 hours and charge you $240. That’s 10% of the cost. Is it worth it? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time working with clients, earning money, or even relaxing with your family?

So instead of wondering where you can find the cheapest VA, think about finding one that can do the best job for you in the shortest time.

By the way, I stopped calling myself a VA a few weeks ago, because I feel that the word seriously devalues the work done by many VAs, who are specialist service providers. I am now an Online Business Manager, which, I believe covers all my services, from content creation to website development to business management. I still do general admin work and call this “VA services” for ease of communication with clients, but I’m also very clear about what is included in that definition.

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