My tough love approach (heavy on the love) focuses on bringing order to chaos, and creating solid (and straightforward) strategic plans. I take surveys for fun, never met a process I didn’t like, and am a big believer in personal growth as a keystone to business growth.
Have you ever heard the expression, “A jack of all trades?”
Well, you might not know that there’s a second part to it: “A jack of all trades, and a master of none.”
There’s a reason why this saying pops into my head every time I see a Virtual Assistant market themselves online as a one-stop shop for all your business needs. These VAs say that they can write all of your copy, design all of your graphics, build your website, put up your ads, and even keep your accounting books. Sounds too good to be true, right? In my experience, it usually is.
Not wanting to keep your own books is something that I completely understand. Bookkeeping and accounting can be time-consuming and, to put it mildly, tedious. (Unless, of course, you love data entry, reconciling accounts, and interpreting vague tax law. In which case, have fun!)
If you don’t want to keep your own books, my suggestion would be to look for a bookkeeper or accountant. I would NOT suggest looking for a VA who says they can handle all of your accounting needs.
Accountants and bookkeepers are specialists. They know what can be claimed, what can’t be claimed, how much can be claimed… More importantly, they know the differences in laws state-by-state, province-by-province, or even country-by country. What you can claim in San Francisco, California might not be claimable in Toronto, Ontario.
This is the kind of knowledge that an “accountant” VA rarely has. When you’re hiring a VA to balance the books, you’re essentially paying for second-class data entry and a smattering of accounting knowledge. To me, that sounds like a recipe for an audit!
If you’re going to be paying for data entry anyway, hire a professional to do it right from the start. Getting an accountant or bookkeeper to handle your finances not only results in substantial time savings and stress relief, but it might also save you money if they find little-known deductions.
Ad managers are a bit like accountants, in that they need to have a ton of knowledge at their fingertips if they’re going to do the job properly. The world of ad marketing is continually changing, especially today in the digital realm. An ad manager needs to keep on top of all of these new rules and adapt their clients’ advertisements to be as effective as possible. It’s a very specialized job.
And once again, it’s a job that a VA is ill-suited for. Even if a Virtual Assistant has some experience writing and posting ads for their clients, it’s almost impossible for them to adequately keep up with the rapidly-evolving advertising field. Their knowledge could be woefully out of date, definitely something you don’t want in an ad manager.
Moreover, many ad manager VAs seem to think that all the various marketing platforms play by the same rules. Not even close! Facebook and Google AdWords are two very different beasts! If you want your ads to make an impact, avoid hiring a VA to do them and instead hire an actual ad manager.
There are so few great writers out there. Writing is more than just being able to string a few words together. It’s a uniquely creative skill. For copywriting to be truly effective, it needs to be emotionally loaded but simply written. It needs to be packed with information, but easy to read and absorb. In other words, it requires a super-high level of creativity and, I’m sorry to say, the vast majority of VAs just don’t have that spark.
A VA who markets themselves as a copywriter might, technically speaking, be a pretty good writer. They could have decent grammar skills and sentence structure. They may even be able to come up with some decent content, from time to time. But nine times out of ten, they’ll lack that something special that makes effective copy shine. That’s why you should always go with a professional copywriter over an amateur copywriting VA for anything you’re expecting a return on investment from.
Everything I said about copywriting? That goes double for designers!
There’s a very fine line between a gorgeous graphic and a shoddy “homemade” looking graphic that you can’t always put your finger on, but boy can you tell the difference!
When you hire a graphic designer, you’re choosing someone who will be responsible for the entire visual “language” of your business. Everything from the colour scheme to the font style to the polish of the graphics will be in their hands. To balance all of these aspects of design, they need specialized training and experience. And that’s something that most VA designers lack.
Yes, a VA designer might have talent! But because they’re a VA who specializes in everything, they lack the focus that a professional designer would bring to your business. Since these visuals will be making up a considerable part of your brand, hiring someone who will focus solely on them is money well spent.
Some people say that web development is where copywriting and graphic design meet. I think that’s fair. For a website to be effective, it not only needs to work flawlessly, with a logical and well-designed layout of pages, but it also needs to look attractive and be full of engaging webcopy.
Then why not hire a VA that does it all? Hmm…
Excellent web design and development are not easy. It requires some specialized programming knowledge and experience.
Sure, a general VA might be able to throw together something that looks good in WordPress or Squarespace, but that website is going to lack the polish that should separate you from your competitors. When it comes to web development, you want someone who knows what they’re doing from the code level, all the way to the SEO.
Trust me, a specialist web developer makes all the difference.
So, why do so many Virtual Assistants advertise themselves as specialists in these areas?
It might be that they’re still learning about what they’re really good at or they don’t quite know how to market to their strengths.
Or they may just not have the confidence to say they are a specialist in the area.
In some cases, it may even be that they’re just desperate for work. They know what they like to do and what they’re good at but struggle finding clients for that service so they tack “VA” onto the end of their title in order to open more doors. (A terrible strategy by the way – that just keeps them on the bottom rung of the ladder).
If you need someone to do a specific task, whether it be copywriting, graphic design, or bookkeeping, then hire someone who does that and only that. You’ll get a better product because their attention will be focused on a single thing, rather than trying to handle an entire array of services.
The bottom line: go for the pros because they’ll rarely disappoint. The difference you’ll feel is instantaneous!
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