Offshore VAs & Pricing


#1

Really useful podcast on pricing and offshore VAs - it’s Australian but I found it pretty relevant:
http://virtualbizshow.com.au/ep-39-should-cost-of-living-count/
(NB: Australian dollars are about half UK £)

Every time the subject of offshore VAs comes up, people get rather…erm,…passionate! But this is an interesting view from Lyn - bit more measured than you’d usually get and also encompasses the regional rates issue too.

She’s spot on: You charge for the value you are providing to the client.
Now, having worked with a few offshore VAs (and done a bit of consultancy for them too!) I’m fairly confident that it’s not an issue. Reasons why:

  • Different time zones mean a simple job can take 3 days to complete. E.g. I brief a task Mon AM, the VA picks it up overnight Mon but comes across some small issue which they need guidance on, I pick that up Tues AM, and they finally complete the work during Tues night, so I don’t get it till Weds AM. UK based VA would have completed it on Monday.
  • Language barriers - even good English skills sometimes suffer from being lost in translation. You need to brief tasks in a very specific way to get good results.
  • Cultural norms - I know how long it takes Royal Mail to deliver the post. I also know you can’t do more than 3 meetings a day in London in different locations because of the time it takes to travel in between different places. Without that sort of knowledge, being a PA is really difficult.
  • Legal Differences - A friend of mine used some Chinese web developers recently and discovered none of the pictures they’d used were cleared of copyright! We frequently see problems with US drafted VA contracts because they are classed under UK law as being employment contracts. And both the clients and you must comply with GDPR, which is super tricky when your VA works from a Hotmail account in the Philippines!

I challenge anyone who is bothered about offshore competition to take £50 and go test it out. It’s not the same service as a professional UK based VA. A bit like saying that someone in the market for a luxury Mercedes would go directly to “Bob’s Bangers” second hand car dealership - they wouldn’t, they’d go for the approved dealership. That’s not to say there isn’t a market for second hand cars: there is! But it’s about positioning and targeting the right people to work with.


#2

I actually listened to most of her podcasts and have joined her mailing list.

She is very interesting though she gave me a few sleepless nights about my £25ph base rate (which I might still change :roll_eyes:).

My fear is Brexit really will make us all run for the cheapest rates possible … I caught a Trade Unionist being interviewed on R4 (I believe) after the Toyota announcement. He was making the point that the UK needs to upskill rather than offer the cheapest deals in Europe … but how easy is that?

@adrienneOPEXS (who I follow on LinkedIn) liked a good post (on that very platform) which I copy here:


The question the CEO of the company poses - “what do we do if we don’t invest in upskilling and our employees stay” - speaks volumes … as does Dyson’s decision to move its HQ to Singapore. So, how many are prepared to invest in education and development?

The point Lyn made, is that our overseas competitors do have a lot of expenses but in order to have more trade, prefer to undercharge. She adds that as an industry we should be trying to convince them to charge what they are worth rather than the lowest possible fee. But how realistic is that?

Upwork, mentioned in a recent post, provides a platform to test your skills so as to demonstrate your ability … but their questions are often very prescriptive and “standardised” and do not really give the feel for what is arguably the greatest skill, which is lateral thinking and dealing with difficult situations.

Could we, as an industry do something to try to regulate our trade? … should we?
I know this has been a heated debate which found no real conclusion, but I wonder whether we should start it again at some point, especially in the light of the current climate?

Sorry for another long post.


#3

It’s an interesting one - and I’m aware my views on it aren’t widely held.

But if you offer value to your clients, you can charge whatever you like - that bit is undoubtedly true.
Where I struggle is that a lot of VAs aren’t offering anything better than a VA charging £5/£10(£20???) less than them an hour… And for some clients they are only asking for basic admin to be done, so if they can get it done to the same standard but cheaper, that’s what they go for.

e.g. If I charge my clients £1500 a month, for 50 odd hours a month, they can easily get a full time admin assistant for that. Why should they pay more for me?

In fact one of my clients recently did exactly that, employed an admin assistant for the boring stuff and we get to do the slightly more interesting stuff (which kinda suits me TBH!)

It’s relatively easy to get a few hours here and there at high levels, because you wouldn’t employ someone to do those few hours, it’s not economical. However when you get to 40+ hours a month, you suddenly do compete with on site employees.

So it depends very much on how you see your business developing, who you work with, what their needs are, how many hours you work, what you need to earn.


#4

I often work with offshore VAs for my clients, as I often manage teams in the roles I hold as a VA. I never really see them as the best choice, but if my client is really looking for basic support and wants to go that route then I facilitate that as much as possible. I personally would much rather work with a UK or US VA on a team than not. I have found that the quality of work can be perfect but not comparative in reasoning and interpretation, and the time difference, training, working with queries, always makes a large difference.

Before becoming a VA I managed quite large offshore teams so had a clear perspective from the beginning that even the best and brightest offshore support staff do not compare when it comes down to translation and cultural understanding. To be brutally frank think of the last time you called customer service and it went to an offshore support staff. You are very aware of the difference in the help you are going to get from someone based in the UK or US as opposed to elsewhere. Therefore I have never seen them as competition to my work. Of course, it is what prospective clients see that matters, and I bow down gracefully to what matters to them the most. But if price is a driver for a prospective client, then that is not the client for me.

My words may sound quite confident, but I do and have struggled often about maintaining that mindset. LOL