One of my members wanted to know if there are legitimate companies that help you find clients.
She’d seen many companies that say they employ people to do administrative work, but didn’t know who meant well, who was legit, who wasn’t and so on.
It’s a perfectly good question. I mean, on the surface, who wouldn’t want an easier way to find clients to work with, right?
Unfortunately, as with most things “too good to be true,” it’s not as simple as that.
Here’s the advise I shared with her…
I’ll be honest with you, those sites really ruffle my feathers.
That’s because anyone who works for herself is by definition a business owner. They are not temps or telecommuters (those are people who are employed by others and are paid a wage; companies who employ them must adhere to employment laws, like any other employer).
If an agency “employs” virtual workers, they are a virtual staffing firm, not a VA practice. By coopting our terminology they have created a great deal of confusion in our marketplace to the point that virtual assistance now means anyone doing anything virtually — and that was never what it was meant to stand for. (But it was a poor choice of a term to adopt in the first place for this very reason so it’s no great loss).
The other problem I have with them is that they are very exploitive of the people doing the work.
Many exert a great deal of control over the workers’ schedules and how the work is performed, yet illegally classify them as contractors instead of employees thus cheating them out of rightful employment benefits such as Social Security, Medicare, etc.
They count on these people to be ignorant of the laws that govern these legal distinctions so they can keep getting away with taking advantage of them.
On top of that, they pay very little. No one is going to get rich, much less make any kind of living, working for one of those places.
I have kept tabs on that industry for about five years now, talked to close to 100 people who have worked for virtual staffing agencies and the like, and all of them essentially report the same thing: the work is very sporadic and pays very little (like $10-15/hr on average).
You have to bear in mind that anyone they pay has to be cheaper than what they are charging the client in order to make it profitable for them to outsource the work.
The less they charge the client, the less they are going to pay the worker.
And of course, the less they pay the worker, regardless of what the client pays, the better their profit margin. Their incentive is to pay you as little as possible. They are out to make themselves money, not you.
People who have worked for these kind of agencies also frequently report problems getting paid.
Workers are typically paid after the fact, not upfront. If a client pays the agency late, most of these agencies make the worker wait for payment as well (which is unethical and possibly illegal; these people should be paid on time regardless of when the client pays as they are working for the agency, not the client).
If the client disappears entirely, these workers again will not get paid most of the time because these agencies simply are not big enough to have a margin that will allow them to pay workers regardless of who skips out or not. So those people just worked for free.
I know it can be tough financially in the beginning stages of your practice when you are still trying to find clients and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Just know the facts going in if you consider going down that road.
My advice: Don’t confuse working for other companies with building your own practice as they are two completely separate things.
When you work for someone else, you are building their brand, not yours.
These are not referral companies. They aren’t in business to find you clients. Any clients you work with belong to the agency, not you.
Be conscious about the fact that the time you expend building someone else’s business is time taken away from your own business-building efforts, where you could be working with your own clients, calling your own shots, making far more money and being paid on your terms, not anyone else’s.