At VIP VA, we LOVE sharing our wonderful Members’ stories and musings with a view to giving REAL insight into what it truly looks like to start, learn and then grow a VA business.  

Vicki Doudelle of VA Bee reflects on how far she has come and gives her view of the state of the industry – and perhaps where she sees it needing to go…

It was the day last week when I’d had an unfortunate run-in with a non-VA business owner in an online forum, who was casting the UK VA industry in a very bad light.  This business owner had a bad experience with an ‘expensive’ VA in the past, so now used a ‘cheaper’ alternative who was based overseas.  Fair enough I hear you say.  And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with doing this, should you wish – everyone works differently – I’ll come back to this shortly. 

However, I wasn’t angry by what was being said, I have seen and heard it time and time again, I was frustrated as I had replied trying to explain where average VA rates come from – we as business owners also have overheads to cover and hence we charge a higher (and fairer) rate than some VAs.  I was not being heard on this occasion and it saddened me that the comments began to become aggressive and patronising. 

If the VA industry was an official recognised body or if, in fact, we were another professional services industry, would we be seen in the same light? 

Part of the problem lies within another story I heard in recent days involving a conversation about a ‘stay at home mum’ who is just looking to make some pin money, that she’s great and she only charges £14 per hour – worth every penny.  I decided not to jump on this conversation as you can’t police everything that is perhaps wrong about the perceptions of the VA industry.

By the way, just in case you were unclear about what a VA is – we are not 1950’s secretaries and we are not office juniors or office temps – we are experts in our field, business support managers and business owners – but too many people still view us as if we were “just a secretary” and do not truly appreciate the value that we can bring to businesses.

Anyhow, I digress, so back to the point!  It’s up to each individual VA how much they charge, how professionally they choose to earn their money and run their business.  It is worrying how many people choose to outsource their own business requirements to people who may well cut it in skill-set, but don’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to running a legit business that is charged with looking after yours!! 

Don’t let that last point warrant too much headspace, but just for one minute imagine this scenario – imagine all went wrong and your VA made a mistake (we’re only human after all, and these things sometimes do happen) with catastrophic consequences for you and your client!  Your business wouldn’t be covered because the VA wasn’t insured and you didn’t sign a contract!  You would almost certainly lose the client concerned and the press coverage could potentially be awful – what a fine old mess you would have gotten yourself into – it would have a knock on effect on your business, your clients & your VA, just to save a few pounds!!! 

Why would you even risk it when there are professional VAs out there who are brilliant at what they do and are covered by insurance with systems and processes in place?!  Personally I wouldn’t want to be left thinking “If onlys”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was once an industry enemy, without even realising it!  I was one of those VAs, returning to work after having children, wanting to stay at home and earn some pin money, charging – dare I say it – £12 per hour.  In hindsight this was actually ridiculous, I used to try and reason with myself thinking things such as “Oh, I haven’t worked in nearly 4 years so need to get the experience first”, “I must charge lower than everyone else to be in with a chance of winning the clients” and “I don’t have a website, so can’t be taken seriously”.  If only I had the guidance, expertise & collaborations that I now have at my fingertips with my tribe, I would have been earning so much more from the word go and running a my business properly! 

It took me a good 18 months to realise I was doing it all wrong, and when a new client basically laughed at my rate, saying “I’d pay you at least double that, but if that’s your rate, then great” I knew it was time to change!  I was a career EA before having my children, working for a management consultancy, I was juggling so many balls at any one time and was darn good at what I did, but something kept telling me I needed to go back to basics to be successful as a VA!  How wrong was I – determination, processes, authenticity and self-belief was all I needed to add to an already strong set of skills cemented during my full-time working years.

I looked hard at what I was doing and started to research the top UK VAs.  It was then that I found Charlotte and VIP VA (I actually stumbled across them on Facebook).  I joined their Hub, read their website & mission in detail and decided I wanted in!  I tried to apply straight away but was turned down as I didn’t have the correct processes in place – all this did was drive me to up my game and several months later I tried again, and this time ‘bingo!’. 

I haven’t looked back since, and have recently renewed my Membership for a second year.  The VAs that are in the Members Club are my tribe, Charlotte has created something which is beyond awesome.  It’s my office away from the office, my team away from my team – when I need advice, they are there, likewise if I need to let off steam! Dare I say it, we even share a virtual wine once in a while and the recent EleVAte conference was like a Team Retreat!  Through this membership I now have the self-belief to charge three times my start-out rate, my business brand is more authentic than it’s ever been and I’m busier than ever before. 

So, for anyone who wants to scoff the VA industry average rate of £25 and are happy to have a cheap VA to outsource to –  you may well get a great service, but can you safely say that your VA has got your back?!  Can you confidently pass your VA confidential information without wondering if it were to fall into the wrong hands what might happen?  And if your VA fell ill tomorrow, would they have access to a group of equally awesome VAs to pick up the slack and keep you ticking over and growing until your cheaper, non insured, non-data protected VA gets back from sick leave?!

I shall leave this as your last thought “if you value your business, you really should value your VA, the awesome ones value yours in more ways than you think”.


You can find out more about Vicki and VA Bee HERE.