In my opinion, every VA needs a great associate VA in their life!
For those who don’t know, an associate VA is essentially a freelance member of your team, helping you to take care of your clients by carrying out work on your behalf. In the majority of cases, the end-user (the customer) is invoiced directly by the primary VA, who usually takes a small portion of the hourly rate/project fee to cover their involvement in overseeing/managing the project and landing the customer in the first place!
Generally, a VA’s ‘associate rate’ is lower than their direct rate, but I know a number of established and successful VAs who still carry out associate work so that they have multiple income streams to rely on. Neat huh?
Now, I’ve been lucky to work with a number of fantastic VAs over the past few years, and can honestly say that my business wouldn’t be the same without them – they’ve helped me put on events, evaluate data, manage aspects of my business and have always been there to keep an eye on things if I’ve been away on holiday or am taking care of my family.
Admittedly, it was hard at first trusting an ‘outsider’ with the business that I have grown and invested so much in, so I did a little research, asked around and built positive working relationships with my associates before throwing them in at the deep end with my customers!
If you are considering working with an associate VA, there are a few key questions to ask yourself first:
- Are they a responsible business owner? Do they have appropriate insurance in place? If they handle and/or process data, are they registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office? Whatever you have in place to protect your customers (and you!), your associate VA needs to have in place too. It’s also worth investing in an ‘Associate Agreement’ document so that both you and your associate understand what is required and expected in this new professional relationship.
- Do they share your values? If you’re conscientious, quality-focused and rank ‘customer care’ high up on your list of priorities, an associate who is fast but inaccurate and hates the general public might not be a great fit in your business! Remember, your associate is representing your business, so you need the work that they complete to be of a good standard to maintain your reputation and credibility.
- Do they have the capacity and availability? It’s all very well finding the PERFECT associate, but do they have time available (either for a one-off project or ongoing) to help you support your clients? If not, and you’re going to be left holding the fort on a regular basis, you’re not going to be able to work more productively or efficiently with their (occasional) help…
- Are they skilled in the areas you need them to be? If you need an associate who can hit the ground running with customers, you need to ensure that they have appropriate skills and experience; talk to them, ask them questions about their experience, and potentially give them a trial task to complete. Again, it’s imperative that your team members can provide the same high-quality service that your customers are used to, so make sure that they can practice what they preach! Alternatively, if you’ve found a great associate that you want to work with and have the time to train them up in certain tasks, go for it! Just make sure that you are satisfied that they have the knowledge and confidence to perform specific tasks before you drop them in their in-tray!
Trust me, once you’ve found the perfect associate it’s so much easier to relax when you’re on holiday, to feel (relatively!) guilt-free if you’re feeling a little under the weather and need a duvet day with a trash-TV boxset, or if you just want to focus on a different aspect of your business…
Associate VAs really can help to make you work more productively, effectively and efficiently, and can help you grow your business in ways that it is virtually impossible to do as a lone, remote worker.