Virtual Assistant: Cheap Labor or Valuable Team Member?

Sutton Creative Studios is growing our team, and along with growing our team we need to make sure there is a steady supply of work for the team to work on. I enjoy scrolling through proposal requests, so this is one of the tasks I perform (cough cough, despite the fact that I would tell all of you to hire a team member responsible for client development and marketing). Scrolling through the administrative sections on sites like oDesk and Elance it is obvious that there are two ways people view a virtual assistant: cheap labor or valuable team member.

I want to make one thing clear – Sutton Creative Studios does NOT contract out cheap labor. If that is what you are looking for… Go somewhere else. 

Virtual AssistantThe overall Sutton Creative Studios team consists of smaller teams – The virtual assistant team, graphic design team and web design team are just three of our teams. In order to earn a spot on one of our teams the contractor must prove his/her worth by performing internal work for us. Whether working on our social media graphics, performing research for an upcoming webinar series, or working on our website, we do not assign our contractors to client work until we are confident about their work quality. Period.

With that said, we are not looking to build our virtual assistant team with individuals who have a limited skill set or can not contribute intelligently to a conversation with a client – or with us. Want to know what project management software your virtual assistant recommends? Want to know how to set up formulas on your Excel worksheet? Ask your Sutton Creative Studios virtual assistant! You are NOT going to hear, “Let me ask Kim if it’s okay to answer that question.”

Our team members are just that – TEAM MEMBERS. They want to see themselves grow as much as they want to see their clients’ businesses grow.

If you want to gain the most you possibly can from your virtual assistant, you need a virtual assistant who will…

Ask questions – your virtual assistant should want to know more about you, your business, and your goals – both personal and business.

Contribute ideas and suggestions – If you are looking to grow your business with the help of a virtual assistant, you should encourage and welcome their suggestions and feedback.  And if your virtual assistant is interacting with YOUR clients, you should encourage their contributions with your clients as well. If YOUR clients see that you are building a team of intelligent individuals they will be more willing to recommend you to others. Personally, I can’t imagine why any business person with an eye towards growth and further success would want to contract with a non-contributor.

Work Efficiently – Wouldn’t you love to have a virtual assistant who says, “Already done” or “Already sent” when you request a task or email? Yea, the virtual assistants at Sutton Creative Studios are good at that. Our team performs the assigned task(s) efficiently and expertly, and when complete looks ahead on our shared calendar to see what deadlines are approaching for you and your business. You shouldn’t be stressing about deadlines. Your virtual assistant should have the work completed with time to spare.

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OVERSEAS VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

Virtual AssistantI understand that overseas virtual assistants have different financial requirements and expectations than those in the west. While paying $3 or $4/hour may be appealing, it is important to remember the following:

Less income = Less development. In a recent thread in a Facebook virtual assistant group I encountered a woman overseas who had three clients she was managing social media for. She wanted to know how to streamline her work, and she had never heard of programs like Hootsuite or Buffer. Introduced to these programs she got all excited until she found out they cost $10/month or more. She is charging her clients $.50-$.90/hour and one of these programs would require 10-20 hours a month just to pay for it. If a $10/month program is cost prohibitive, what about programs like Salesforce, Basecamp, Quickbooks or Infusionsoft?

Sutton Creative Studios has used or is currently using all programs we state we are proficient in FOR OUR BUSINESS.

Language Barrier. Your overseas virtual assistant may have impeccable written English, however that doesn’t always mean he/she understands the requirements and/or parameters of your project. Case in point, I decided to try out an overseas VA and asked her to review the Sutton Creative Studios blog. I asked her to develop 2-5 tweets from each article and told her each article should take no more than 5 minutes. If she found it was taking her longer than 5 minutes she was to let me know.

Simple enough, right?

Apparently not…

I received an invoice for 40 (yes, FORTY) hours of work from which I received 20 (TWENTY!!!) Tweets. Ummmmmm…. 1/2 hour to develop a tweet?!? I don’t think so!!! Clearly she missed the part where I said they should take no more than 5 minutes per article (which meant 2-5 Tweets) AND that she was to contact me.

This was/is a major problem. If one of our virtual assistants can’t understand OUR directions, how can we expect them to follow yours?

Conflicting Time Zones. Yes, the thought of having someone working while you’re sleeping is nice. But what happens when a question arises and the contractor is unable to proceed? I’ve seen this happen a LOT with overseas IT teams. My client thinks the work on their website will be completed when they wake in the morning, however instead they begin work at 9am and find an email that was sent at 2am asking for further direction. And now the contractor’s work day is done and a day has been lost.

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Are you looking to add a valuable team member and contributor to your business? If so, our Virtual Assistance team is a great place to start your search! Our are invited to fill out this webform with we will get back to you within 2 business days with more information about our team and how we may be able to help you!

With your success in mind,

Kim Sutton

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Kim SuttonKim Sutton is the Managing Partner and Chief Everything Officer of The Sutton Companies, including Sutton Strategic Solutions and Sutton Creative Studios.  She is a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Architecture.

An avid reader and passionate learner, Kim is constantly researching, studying and developing business improvement strategies. When it comes to client work, Kim especially enjoys helping her clients develop innovative marketing strategies and sales funnels, particularly when they are using Infusionsoft to automate all the heavy lifting. To find out how you can further develop your company’s marketing and automation strategies schedule a 1-hour Business Boost Strategy Session by clicking here.

In her free-time, Kim cherishes the time she gets to spend with her husband, Dave (her business partner), and five children. She also enjoys reading, knitting, writing and playing video games.

Get a copy of Kim’s FREE guide, “10 Top Tools for Small Businesses” by clicking here.

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About Kim Sutton

Kim is the CEO of The Sutton Companies, including Sutton Strategic Solutions and Sutton Creative Studios. She is married to her best friend and soul mate, Dave, and together they have six children.
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