It can seem counter-intuitive to bring other VAs on board as associates – why would you let a so-called competitor in on trade secrets, your client list, or your carefully refined processes and procedures?
I’ll be honest – there was a time when I wasn’t entirely convinced about how well it could work.
But even if you’re not looking to expand your business, there are many reasons to build and collaborate with a network of other freelancers – as I discovered first-hand.
There are many advantages of working with an associate VA
Having associates on board, even for just a couple of hours at a time, isn’t always about business expansion, there are loads of other benefits too:
You can take a holiday
Freelancers have fewer days off than the average employee because of holiday worries dating back to our long-standing employee mindset:
- What will the clients say if they are without support for a week or more?
- What if emails stack up and I look inefficient due to delayed response times?
- I’m going to lose precious billable time if I’m away from the desk for more than a few days so what’s the point in taking time off?
Be honest, when was the last time you had a holiday, and you could switch off from work completely?
Having a trusted associate on board would make all the difference between you being in holiday mode both physically AND mentally.
You have cover when you’re sick
There’s a lot of responsibility as a business owner, and when there’s only you doing the doing, the workload doesn’t ease off when you’re feeling under the weather.
Having an associate waiting in the wings to pitch in during times like these means you can have a two-hour nap to recharge your batteries, and it also means you won’t let down a client because you can’t be on your A-game that day.
You can offer a greater range of services
Other freelancers have exceptional skills in areas that are complementary to your service offering, so the more alliances you create, the broader your service offering. This means you can widen your prospective client net and increase your earning potential.
Even when you need to align with a VA who’s a total pro in their field and the price of their expertise is more than your hourly rate, if your client needs this service, then it makes good business sense to outsource. That way, the task is taken care of by the pro – who can probably do the task more quickly and to a higher standard.
Here’s the scenario:
Your client gives you a task you’re pretty sure you could work out how to do with an element of trial and error. But this causes you worry and anxiety because you want to do a top job, BUT you also know you can’t afford to waste a whole load of unbillable time working out how to do it.
You either complete the task yourself but not feel confident about what you’re doing, make quite a few mistakes as you learn along the way (all time wasted as unbillable remember), and the whole thing eats up five hours of the client’s time and costs them £25 x 5 = £125.
OR you hire a pro.
They get the job done efficiently in just two hours, and the client pays for two hours at £35 x 2 = £70.
Even if you add on the time it took you to source the talent, the client STILL saves money because you outsourced a task you didn’t really know how to do, and you saved yourself a whole world of stress and anxiety.
Everyone’s a winner.
You become the expert and can supplement your income
If you’re a highly-skilled VA, you can support others as an associate and still receive your usual rate.
For instance, I freakin’ LOVE PowerPoint, and I have plugged the odd gap in billable hours by supporting another VA with her PowerPoint slides because she doesn’t like doing them.
Your earning potential is not limited by the hours you work
Having other people on your team means that the number of hours you work multiplied by your hourly rate is no longer the cap on how much you can earn.
The only way you will ever expand a service-based business proportionally and profitably is by offering packages or project rates and leveraging other people’s time.
This is called “scaling”, and there are two options:
- Your associate has direct contact with your client and completes tasks without you having to check or approve it first. Your profit margin is at its highest because your involvement is minimal.
- You step into a project management role and check and approve your associate’s work before you send the final version to your client. In this instance, you need to factor in your own time, so the profit margin isn’t as high.
With an associate on board, your capacity to complete billable work increases because you’re effectively leveraging someone else’s time and therefore buying yourself more time in the process.
Your existing clients are more likely to refer you
As much as your current clients love the value you add to their business, I bet some of them won’t consider referring you because they’re worried:
- You’ll become too busy to do their work
- They won’t be your favourite client anymore
- You won’t prioritise their work if you take on much more
- They’ll stop feeling important to you
- You’ll drop the ball because you have too much on
When clients are reassured that you have a back-up and that getting too busy for your Number One Client (’cause they’re ALL your Number One Client, right?!) is never going to happen, they’re much more likely to offer referrals.
You’ll stop procrastinating
I think we’re all guilty of procrastinating from time to time and we often do so for one of the following reasons:
- The task is mundane, boring and unenjoyable
- The task isn’t a good use of our time
- We don’t know how to do it
- Now isn’t the right time
- We don’t want to do it
- There isn’t enough time
- There’s plenty of time before the deadline
If you find yourself coming up with any of the above excuses, an associate is the solution because the job still gets done, just not by you!
You’ll appear more established
You might be keen to increase your brand’s presence but can’t justify taking on employee yet, so an associate is a perfect answer.
You can copy your team member in on emails which gives the impression of a larger team and update your marketing material to reflect the “we” that comes with having a team.
It’s a trial run
By working with associates, you learn about the hiring process and performance management before the big step of hiring an employee.
As you can see, there are many benefits to working with an associate, and it’s not all about business expansion or money.
When you sign up for this course you’ll discover:
- Your legal responsibilities, including contracts, insurance and GDPR
- How to assess your business to establish whether working with an associate is right for you
- How to find the right associate based on your business needs
- How to manage the hiring process and interviews (including templates)
- The importance of a proper virtual office set-up before onboarding
- How much to pay your associate
- How to work out your profit margins (profit calculator and spend tracker included)
- How to market your business a team
- How to manage a team of associates as well as your clients
- Common pitfalls and how to avoid them
To get the most out of this training, I need you to commit to reading the course in full before you start your hiring process.
You have exercises to complete in the following sections, and most need you to take the time to consider your next steps carefully, so do not rush this process.
Remember: hire slow, fire fast.
I believe that the content outlined in this course is the best way to go about the hiring process based on my own experience. However, it remains your responsibility to run your business and put into practice the guidance provided.
By following this training, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person for the role. However, I can’t predict, and I do not guarantee that you will attain any particular result. Results will vary for each individual, and there are no guarantees as far as specific outcomes or results you can expect from using the information you receive.
Please note that I am not qualified to provide professional advice on legal issues (contracts, GDPR, IR35 or insurance) tax, or human resources. Although I explain what you need to have in place, you should always seek expert legal and financial advice based on your requirements and relative to your location.
Okay, let’s get started!