Rant: I’m Not Your Employee

Just saw some idiotic tweet on Twitter. Nothing irritates me more than reading any variation of the ridiculous phrase “…manage your Virtual Assistant…”

Exxxxcuuuuuuuuuuse me?!

Virtual Assistants are not “managed.” A Virtual Assistant is not an employee. Do clients “manage” their attorney? Their accountant? Their doctor? Their mechanic? Their plumber?

Why on earth do they have this insulting notion that they are going to manage us?

Why? Because Virtual Assistants themselves insist on allowing themselves to be led around by the nose by clients like a bunch of schmucks.

They don’t have the balls to come out and say “no” to clients, to say no to being “managed;” to correct clients when it’s clear they don’t have the proper understanding of the nature of the relationship.

They’re so freaking afraid of losing the client. What hostages! I can’t imagine living life like that.

It’s both sad and maddening at the same time.

To Would-Be Clients: I run my own business, thank you very much. I am not your employee. I am your Administrative Consultant. You’re not going to manage me anymore than I am going to manage you. I expect you to talk to me and about me with the same professional respect you would have for any other kind of professional you expect to help you in business. Otherwise, we have no business together.

9 Responses

  1. Nancy Boyd says:

    Tell it! You’ve really nailed something that’s long needed to be addressed and you did it very well 🙂

    I’ve worked with virtual consultants for many years and the ONLY way it’s worked is that I’ve respected their time and the fact that they too are business owners; I’m very aware that I’ve hired their expertise at an agreed rate, and that this doesn’t “entitle” me to abuse.

    Furthermore, I need to pay attention to their advice. After all, THEY are the specialists, not me.

    The other side of the coin is that one really does need to find a good match so that we can all be “on the same page” — the business owner needs to be clear about what they want, and the VA needs to be clear about their limits. Hopefully there will be a happy meeting place in the middle where it gets done to everyone’s standards and satisfaction. Most of the time it does.

    Good for you to tell it like it is. I agree. And I’m not a VA — just an appreciative hirer of them 🙂

  2. You said it! I get so tired of people devaluing the work that VAs do. You keep telling it like it is!

  3. Thank you so much for commenting from the client perspective, Nancy. 🙂

    Clients like you are a dream to work with because there is mutual respect and admiration. And you are absolutely right–the fit definitely needs to be there as well as a professional level of skill and competence on the Virtual Assistant’s part.

  4. Right on as always Danielle! Thank you for standing up for those who can’t / won’t.

    You are my hero!

  5. Patricia says:

    To mirror Nancy’s ‘other side of the coin’. I worked with 2 VA’s before finding the best fit for my business needs. It’s not about managing another person; it’s about managing expectations. To manage expectations, the client has the responsibility to express his/her expectations clearly and the VA has the responsibility to assess his/her ability and capability of meeting (or exceeding) the client’s expectations. The client/VA relationship that works best for me is one in which I can trust the VA to accurately assess and communicate her/his ability and capability. When any business person does not deliver because of over-promising (skill & expertise), the relationship will break down. Unfortunately, the ensuing conversation is very difficult for both parties. Unfortunately, I had one experience with a VA who promised expertise to provide a specific deliverable within an agreed timeframe for a set fee. She was unable to deliver and unwilling to take responsibility for broken promises for delivery; additional charges; NO results at all – just wasted time, energy, and money. The VA ‘bullied’ me and accused me of abuse when I finally insisted on clarification of expertise and deliverables. Until then, I had tip-toed around her in efforts to maintain the partnership relationship. I left the relationship down several hundred dollars, not results, missed project deadline, and wondering ‘who’s the client here’. I now have a VA who is very clear about what she is able to deliver and communicates honestly so that we can manage expectations and avoid those uncomfortable conversations. As with any professional service, there are competent providers and then there are the providers who negatively affect the reputation of their profession.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing, Patricia! This particular post isn’t for clients like yourself. If you read through my blog, you’ll see that setting proper/realistic expectations is a common theme of my education to Virtual Assistants.

    I very much hear you and this is definitely a problem in our industry. We’ve got so many VAs who say “yes” to everything (including things they really don’t have any professional level skill or expertise to be providing) or make unrealistic promises they simply can’t deliver on and it backfires every time.

    It’s part of the dynamic I call the misalignment of education and expectations. One the one side, VAs need to be better educated from a business standpoint. On the other side, clients need to be better educated about how to choose the kind of VAs who can deliver. In your considered opinion, what could VAs be doing or informing you of to better educate you as the client and set proper/realistic expectations? How could we go about better teaching VAs how to do that?

  7. Patricia says:

    Danielle. First, I would like to say that good VAs are the backbone of the business for many professionals.

    My feedback is intended to help VAs improve the quality of their services. As I response to your question about what VAs could do to avoid the pitfalls in meeting client expectations, I am wearing two hats: one as a client and one as a ‘quality’ consultant/coach.

    As the VA profession is evolving, expectations are growing beyond virtual administration. Many VAs are enabling unreasonable expectations by claiming to be and branding themselves as the #1 goto resource and ‘experts’ in areas in which they are still ‘learning’.

    Consultants and coaches such as myself are encouraged (by our advisors) to use VAs for all things virtual and online which require top-notch technical skills that we may not have and that many VAs do not have either.

    Unfortunately, hungry for business, some VAs claim to have skills that they don’t have. Then they expect to be paid for their learning curve. Or, worse, they sub-contract the work without being up front with the client. This further encourages the perception that they can do anything and everything or that they have all these ’employees’ working for them. Problems escalate when the VA has not qualified the sub-contractor (example: web designer.) Lacking business management experience, these VAs do not understand that qualifying sub-contractors and project management including monitoring quality and delivery of their work is a critical requirement for maintaining quality and meeting client expectations.

    VAs would be wise to pass up work that they cannot do themselves and refer (not sub-contract) the business to someone who is qualified. Even with referrals, VAs need to do their due-diligence.

    Bottom line is know what you can provide; know your limitations; and don’t take on work unless you have the qualified resources. This will raise the value, trust, and respect within the VA profession.

  8. Thanks so much for that feedback, Patricia. You have hit things right on the head.

    Another problem in our industry is that it has allowed those outside of our profession to define/brand what we are and what we do. The term “Virtual Assistant” doesn’t mean anything anymore because the masses are using to denote doing anything and everything. The problem with that is when a term doesn’t stand for anything with any clarity, it creates confusion and leaves it open for the marketplace and others to interpret things for themselves. This, in turn, causes misalignment of interests, expectations and understandings.

    In a lot of cases—not all, mind you—what ends up happening is that clients turn to VAs as the catch-all industry (which could mean anything and everything) to do things outside of the scope of their profession when they should really be looking toward the right profession.

    For example, why would a client turn to a VA for copywriting? Copywrighting (just like web design and bookkeeping, etc.) is a field unto itself that requires a separate set of skills, talent, experience and education/training. And I have to be candid here—a lot of times it’s because they think they can get a VA to do it cheaper than a real copywriter would charge.

    Now that’s not to say that a VA can’t or shouldn’t do copywriting if they are qualified to do so. But that doesn’t make it the same thing as administrative support. It just means they are someone who provides Virtual Assistancce (one thing) AND copywriting (a separate thing). We Virtual Assistants create the problem for ourselves when we allow our marketplace to view that work as one and the same as Virtual Assistance and we don’t provide clear, explicit definition of what our industry is.

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