Whatever service you need, it’s always appealing to choose the cheapest option. When you’re working on a tight budget, in particular, you would think it makes sense to find any way you can save money for your company. Startups and small business owners may even argue that the cheapest option is all they can afford. This also goes for virtual assistants.
The virtual assistant industry has exploded in recent years. There is now a huge number of VAs, based all over the world, charging a wide variety of rates. This means it’s easier than ever to find cheap virtual assistants. However, cheap virtual assistants can come with some significant hidden costs and other problems.
1. Mostly Basic Admin Tasks
Virtual assistants can carry out a wide range of tasks. In addition to general virtual assistants, there are specialist VAs who offer services like business management, graphic design, and sales.
The cheapest virtual assistants of all, though, only offer basic administrative tasks, such as data entry, correspondence, online purchases, and scheduling. This may be a useful start, but if you want to make a significant difference to your workload, you’ll need to be able to delegate a wider range of tasks.
Plus, a virtual assistant who only helps with basic administrative tasks won’t be able to provide you with support for any activities that fall outside your area of expertise. If you still need to outsource these tasks to an expert, the cost savings from your VA will be minimal.
2. Low-Quality Work
The biggest danger with hiring cheap virtual assistants is the quality of work you’ll receive. Those who provide high-quality services are in great demand and charge more. Only VAs who lack experience charge low rates.
To put this into context, let’s consider how the low quality of some services you can receive may negatively impact your business.
Social Media Management
Since almost everyone and their dog has a social media account, it may seem like managing an account for someone else should be straightforward. As social media management is one of the most time-consuming items on your schedule, this is an obvious choice to outsource to a VA. Many cheap virtual assistants offer to take on the work, believing they’re capable due to their experience using platforms with their personal profiles.
However, managing business accounts requires completely different skills. If you make a few boring posts on your personal account, your friends will likely continue to follow you — not so with a business account. Every post needs to be expertly tailored to your audience to keep users engaged. You also need to post at the right time and respond to comments appropriately.
If your virtual assistant does any of this wrong, your number of followers and engagement may actually drop.
When you read about the basics of SEO, it sounds simple. In fact, it was simple at one time, but that was many years ago. Today, effective SEO requires expert knowledge — and this comes at a cost.
It’s useless to pay for SEO services if they result in you rarely (if ever) reaching the first page of the search results. In fact, a virtual assistant offering cheap SEO may rely on tactics that could ultimately harm your website’s reputation. These effects can be difficult to overcome, even if hiring a genuine SEO expert in the future.
Another way to ruin your website is with cheap web design and development services.
First, there’s the technical side. Your site may have errors like failed redirects or it could be slow to load — two things that can impact SEO. It could also lack proper security, which puts you at risk of a data breach or hack. Your site could even go down completely.
Second, there’s the usability side. If users don’t enjoy interacting with your website, they’ll go elsewhere. This means you could lose out on leads or even customers.
If you’ve ever experienced poor customer service, you should already know how frustrating this can be as a client. Cheap virtual assistants have no knowledge of customer service best practices. They struggle to resolve issues and have no idea how to go the extra mile to please customers.
In contrast, if you find a VA who offers exceptional customer service, you can build a loyal customer base.
Even basic tasks can be low quality:
Correspondence may have grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. In either case, you’ll need to read everything yourself before you can send it.
Data entry may be incorrect, which is difficult to notice. It could lead you to work from inaccurate information, potentially with serious implications.
Your calendar may not be realistic. An experienced VA will know how to organize your schedule according to your working style and taking all your commitments into account, not just work. Cheap virtual assistants are prone to making rookie mistakes, like scheduling appointments that overlap or not considering how long it will take to get from one place to another.
3. Slow Delivery
There’s always the chance that you can find a virtual assistant who charges a low rate but who does offer high quality. The catch is that the VA will be in high demand, meaning you’ll have to wait a long time for your work. Whereas waiting several weeks for some tasks may not be an issue, you won’t be able to use your VA for anything urgent.
4. Communication Difficulties
One of the most common places to find cheap virtual assistants is on massive job platforms. These companies act as a go-between for the client and virtual assistants. The problem is that you often are allowed limited (or even no) direct communication with your VA, which can lead to misunderstandings. You’ll know if you come across such a job platform, as they tend to want to keep their virtual assistants’ identities secret.
Another way you may suffer from communication problems is if you work with cheap virtual assistants overseas. There are plenty of excellent virtual assistants based abroad — but they’re not cheap. Those who charge a very low rate tend to have limited English skills, which can make communication difficult.
5. Poor Image
If your virtual assistant is responsible for any contact between you and your coworkers, clients, or suppliers, mistakes or poor communication could ruin your image. The last thing you want is to appear unprofessional to those who matter most. Again, this is particularly a problem if you work with cheap virtual assistants overseas.
The same applies for if your virtual assistant will be producing work that prospects or customers will see, such as posts for social media or ads. A subpar job could ruin your branding efforts. For instance, if the content fails to speak to your audience, users may feel like you’re addressing someone other than them. Alternatively, prospects may make unfavorable snap judgements about your business.
6. Frequent Turnover
You may decide that a good strategy could be to search through cheap virtual assistants until you find someone who’s the right fit for you. After all, when you add together all the virtual assistants working on different platforms and various agencies, there are likely hundreds charging a low rate. You may reason that one of them has to be a good match.
The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to know if a cheap VA will work out until after you’ve hired the worker. This involves contacting various virtual assistants, perhaps interviewing them, and then onboarding your top choice. Every time it doesn’t work out (and this will probably be often), you’ll have to start the process all over again.
7. Low Rates for a Limited Time
When you do finally find a VA you like working with, the virtual assistant’s rate will likely not remain low for long. VAs without experience tend to start out charging a low rate just to get their foot in the door. As soon as they’ve accumulated a small portfolio or gathered some positive reviews from clients, they start charging more.
8. Wasted Time
Constantly contracting new VAs is only one way you’ll waste your time when working with cheap virtual assistants: you’ll also need to check work for errors. If you end up making many corrections, having a VA is barely better than doing the work yourself. In other cases, though, you’ll need to send the work back to the VA to fix. The VA will charge you for this time — meaning the service isn’t so cheap after all.
The whole process of working with cheap virtual assistants will leave you feeling frustrated and disheartened. Working with a VA should actually be liberating. It should free up your time, allowing you to focus on more important work and find a work–life balance, rather than forcing you to micromanage and feel like you’re working harder than ever before. None of this is possible if you try to work with the cheapest virtual assistants you find.
A better option than a cheap VA is an affordable one. This means a competitive rate for services — nothing so low that you’ll only inexperienced VAs with a limited skill set. Whereas it may be tempting to give cheap virtual assistants charging just $5 (or less!) a chance, it’s best to stick to those whose rate is at least $20 to avoid unnecessary risks.