Will Large, Cheap Virtual Assistant Firms Put YOU Out Of Business?

By October 21, 2009 General 17 Comments

In recent times, numerous Virtual Assistant companies have been springing up all over the place, promising fast, efficient service for very low rates (think $5 per hour in some cases), with large teams of VAs behind the scenes. Most of these firms are based in countries such as India, the Philippines and China.

So, if you are a one-man operation based in a Western country with a higher cost of living such as the US, UK, Australia or Canada, charging somewhat more than $5 per hour, are these firms going to put you out of business? How can you possibly compete with them?

The answer is, you don’t strive to ‘compete’ with them. What you are providing is a very different service.

Let’s take a step back and look at these large VA firms which have been made popular by books such as the Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. I have come across people who have actually tried a range of large VA firms, with poor results. It sounds appealing to have access to a big team of cheap VAs behind the scenes but often this causes problems in that you don’t know exactly who is going to be helping you out at any one time.

‘Bigger’ can mean more impersonal, less attention to detail, more scope for misunderstandings and standards of service and work which leave much to be desired. Clients complain of being treated like a number, just another entity on the conveyor belt. They complain of having their time wasted delegating a whole pile of work that just doesn’t get done to any reasonable quality, and they have to start all over again, looking for a good, reliable VA.

If you’re a one-man Virtual Assistant operation or a small operation based in the Western world, you will be charging more than $5 per hour. You may be ‘smaller’ and more ‘expensive’, however remember that you are bringing the following to the table:

- personalised service
- better command of the English language
- pride in delivering a quality end result
- transparency as in who is actually completing the work
- full accountability as to meeting deadlines (no potential to pass the buck to anonymous colleagues)

Make sure your marketing materials reflect who you really are. If you’re a one-man show, that’s fine. If you have a small team of trusted VAs that you subcontract to, that’s fine as well. There’s no need to pretend you’re larger than you really are, and there’s definitely no need to be intimidated by the plethora of mammoth, cheap VA firms.

There are lots of clients out there who are looking for EXACTLY your kind of personal service. Not everyone is looking for the $5 per hour VA firm (especially not when they dig deeper and discover what kind of service this really is!)

Be transparent, put a photo of yourself on your website and so on. Write an interesting, engaging bio, describing your background, your story, a little about your personal interests. Let your prospective clients feel they know you. If you launch your business with this attitude, you are on the way to success.

What are your questions, thoughts and comments about the above blog post? Have any of your clients tried some of the large VA firms? Feel free to share any stories or experiences you have!


  • Stephanie Arnold says:

    Any organizational tips would help. I have a memory disorder and have just purchased Outlook 7 to help me get it all together. Any suggestions?

  • Hi Lisa

    Love the Blog, it was very encouraging, thanks so much. As my Virtual Business is called Helping Others Association, Inc. I charge a flat affordable rate for my services, so we will see how it goes.


  • Karmen says:

    Thanks Lisa ! Great Advice ! I think people are willing to pay more if they can really see the value in what you are offering!!

  • Lisa Taliga says:

    Hi Stephanie

    I use a free application called Evernote to organise my thoughts and any resources I come across. You might also want to check out an application called OneNote by Microsoft.

  • Angela says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Love the blog. It’s interesting, because this topic came up in a conference I was in with a client. And before coming to me he experienced difficulties with a larger Va business. This was definitely interesting to read.


  • Jane Hill says:

    Hi Lisa

    I wholeheartedly agree with you! Be transparent, don’t be afraid to show you’re only a one-man band (if that’s the case) and concentrate on emphasising the positive points your clients get from working with you.

    The question of whether to let people know you’re only one person was raised in another network I participate in and was met with probably an even split of responses. I believe the split could also have been extrapolated into info about how long each person had been in business … those who had been working longer were not afraid to let people know it was only them behind the name!

    Great blog Lisa, I really enjoy reading it.


  • Hi Lisa,

    I think this is really good advice and a lot of clients would prefer to know who’s doing the work and that they’re going to get a personal service.

    Also, I’ve only just started up but I do let people know that it’s only me in the business – I haven’t had any negative comments so far.

    It’s also interesting about price as well – having just attended a marketing seminar, it was said that people will pay a higher price if they are confident about the service being offered. Apparently people don’t buy on price but on emotion, so if you can engage with the client and let them know what benefits you’re going to bring to their business, then they’ll be prepared to pay the money!

    I’ll wait and see!


  • stew says:

    Hi Lisa,
    Yes, outsourcing is not the panacea many businesses think it is. I just hope more of the horror stories get out so people are aware that hiring an “in country” virtual assistant is the smarter way to go.

  • Naomi Rose says:


    This was a very timely post. I enjoy reading your material it is very insightful and helpful. I agree, if you are specialized there is nothing compared to marketing the strengths of your business against the larger organizations.

    We do have an advantage and have to be confident that our services are needed. Most companies depend upon reliability.

    Thanks for your post

  • Thanks Lisa,

    Enjoyed your blog. I plan to incorporate some of your ideas in my website.


  • Lynne says:

    Hi Lisa! I can’t agree more. From paying my bills over the phone to calling a help desk for an accounting program I utilize, I am completely frustrated when I am transferred to someone from India! Almost all big companies are now outsourcing their call centers to India, etc. because – you guessed it – it’s cheaper. However, as you stated in your blog, cheaper isn’t always better. You know the saying, “You get what you pay for…” well it certainly applies to this situation. I worked as a legal secretary for over 20 years and for the last four years have been developing my virtual assistant business. I have quite an executive administrative background and stress that point (among others) to potential new clients. We have to stand behind ourselves and not be discouraged because some big VA company is trying to take over the market. I truly believe that, in the end, companies will pay more for quality work. They’ll actually end up wasting more money at $5 an hour than had they just hired a more qualified VA at a higher rate because the work will more than likely need to be redone.

    Thanks for your support,

    Lynne J

  • Mary says:

    Great topic, Lisa. It’s so frustrating to see all these sub-quality workers trying to undercut the world. Figured it would eventually come down to this…wonder what they’ll target next? :-)

    Keep up the good work, I love your blogs and articles!


  • Barbara Ling says:

    Excellent motivational and inspirational blog. Short, sweet and to the point! I like it!

  • Susan Dagg says:

    Hi Lisa

    It`s funny you mention this i had a business coach ask me if i knew what i was charging was right! The audacity of it! As far as i am concerned i am worth every penny as i promote there business while i work with a client at every opportunity and give them my all, above and beyond. A big VA business cannot do this as you said very true. People always try to uncut you thinking they can get customers, but they can`t once you have built a good customer rapport they rarely leave.
    I keep coming up with innovative ideas to help there business and this keeps them coming.

    As you can tell i have a real bee in my bonnet about this one!
    Keep in touch.

  • Jerri says:

    Lisa, I enjoy reading your blogs they are very informative and help me to build my VA business. Thank you

  • miles says:

    Your post was interesting to read. I can say that I have learned a lot from this post and appreciate that you took the time to write it.

    Thanks a lot.

  • Frohnie Cagalitan says:

    Liza, so kind of you to share your knowledge! i will concentrate on this VA services only after NN/NSV Medical mission. I’m still busy with the preparation plus other things. Thanks Liza! Frohnie

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