Becoming a VA – Beware

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I get lots and lots and LOTS of enquiries from ladies – and some men – wanting to become a VA and asking for advice on how to get started. I’m happy to help and point them in the direction of where they can get useful start-up information (including my podcast). I know other long-standing VAs who have the same experience.

Of late I’ve become aware of organisations out there who purport to be virtual assistant networks or organisations who will help you get started and give you all the training you need, etc etc.

Like everything else – buyer BEWARE! Do your due diligence. Make enquiries. Be sure to check out the owner of the site and their credentials. Recently it has come to light that there is one owner of a business who charges quite a bit for membership of her network (more than 10 times two of the other networks in Australia) and offers advice and mentoring for $150/hour – but in her own words doesn’t work as a VA. I question then how she can mentor newbies in being a VA.

It is important to know exactly WHAT a VA is – and primarily a VA is an independent business owner – working as a sole operator or in partnership or as a multi-VA practice. I stress the word ‘independent‘. If you are paying someone a percentage of what you earn from client referrals then you are working for an agency – you’re not an independent business owner. If they are raising the invoices to the client and deducting the commission before you’re paid, again you’re working for an agency.  If you’re happy to do this then that’s fine of course, but understand you are an agency employee – not an independent contractor VA. As such, under current legislation you are entitled to superannuation from this agency and if they are not paying you super they’re breaking the law. If you sign a contract saying they are not obliged to pay super this is not binding under current law.

You should never EVER have to  re-assign your domain name to a particular network and if they offer hosting you should not have to give ownership of your domain to them. This is what keeps you independent! Your domain name is your intellectual property and you should never assign it to someone else. You should never be asked to do so by networks you join and if you are asked, think twice about joining.

There are three legitimate, established networks in Australia should you require support, collegiality and learning opportunities from like-minded business owners:

A Claytons Secretary

AVBN

Virtually Yours

These three networks offer a range of services to newbie VAs including email discussion groups. Of course they also offer support to established VA practices. And you won’t have to take out a second mortgage to join.

You will find lots of overseas networks too.

Please, do your homework. Be sure that whoever you get your training, support and mentoring from actually knows not only about the industry but has a track record working as a VA themselves. And don’t rely on asking them. Do some research at other networks. Ask around. See if there is any objective information on the owner.

There’s no need to spend loads of money getting the advice and support you need to start up your business – expect to spend something of course but you have options – and research, research research!

©Lyn Prowse-Bishop – www.execstress.com

10 comments

  1. Debra Barber says:

    Lyn, this is such a great post. There are so many ‘options’ out there but in recent times many have jumped on the bandwagon (often seeing the money to be made) without having any industry knowledge at all. In my experience, the best help and advice I have received is from two of the three VA networks you mentioned in your post. I have found these invaluable and would highly recommend these networks to any prospective VAs reading this post. Learning from those who are highly experienced within the industry is the only way to go! Thanks again.

  2. Great post Lyn – I am a member of all 3 of the networks you mentioned and believe those networks all played a part in the success of my business today :)

  3. execva says:

    Thanks Debra and Alicia for your valuable comments! It’s just so important for newbies in particular – but all VAs really – to ensure they research who is providing not only training but network opportunities. If they have no understanding of the industry, how are they going to be of benefit to you IMHO.

  4. Nicole Burnard says:

    Your energy and commitment to providing practical advice at no cost is fantastic. It sets a very professional tone for the industry and credibility is what it’s all about. Thank you! Nicole

  5. execva says:

    Wow – thanks Nicole! I’m glad you find the info of use.

  6. Sue Gross says:

    Research, research, research! It’s so important and I think I spent about six months reading, learning, absorbing, checking, double-checking… everything I thought I needed to know before I opened my doors as a VA practice. I still had a lot of learning to do and we should always continue to learn but this is very wise advice indeed. It’s so easy to set yourself up and hang a shingle as an ‘expert’ when dealing with businesses online. However, some checking and research will always reveal the answers you seek. Good, bad or ugly. The three networks mentioned are awesome and completely professional – these women really walk the talk.

  7. execva says:

    Thanks Sue. I was dismayed to learn the other day that a newbie VA had gone to an organisation that ‘said’ they were a VA organisation and when she said how she wanted to run her business (ie the way we ALL do as independent business owners) she was told by the organisation owner that she “Didn’t get it”. Unfortunately, the owner of the organisation clearly didn’t get it herself and this newbie VA did precisely the right thing and ran in the opposite direction as fast as she could and straight to another network that could support her in her desire for independent business ownership. But how many haven’t and just assumed this was the only way?

  8. Tina Litte says:

    Yes, Lyn is correct – the story she tells above was me. 12 months ago excited about the prospect of starting my own VA business I sought help – besides having advanced admin skills I had no idea how to start a business. You would think a VA organisation would be helpful with this. I was made to feel small and useless when I asked a few questions as to how it all worked. I didn’t give up on my dream and kept searching until I came across A Claytons Secretary. I have never looked back! I did Kathie’s VA Course and to this day she has always had the time to answer any ‘silly’ question I have had. I am so pleased with how my business is going and a lot of the thanks goes to Kathie. I have personally met Lyn and Rosie from the AVBN and Virtually Yours at the AVAC Conference earlier this year and highly respect and look up to them as well. Lyn, I was upset for you to read your post on LInkedIn however, was also relieved to know I was not the only one who had had this type of experience. There are so many of us out there genuinely trying to do the right thing and help each other. Well done Lyn for standing up for what is right.

  9. execva says:

    I didn’t actually know it was you when I posted this Tina … but thank you for being willing to step up. So, so pleased to know that you managed to rise above the misinformation you were given Tina and go on to great things!

  10. Tina Litte says:

    me too! Thanks Lyn

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