Cheap Versus Quality and Consistency

You’ve set your rates as a virtual assistant and then are contacted by a prospect who wonders if you’ll work for $4-$10 per hour. You know there is no way you can cover your costs for such a low hourly rate. But how can you explain to a prospect why your rate is so much more and why they still may want to use your services?
I’ve talked with quite a few clients and prospects who tried the $4-$10 per hour services and then decided to use a professional virtual assistant instead. The two main reasons they chose to use a professional virtual assistant instead are quality and consistency.
The cheaper service providers don’t usually offer the same quality of service that a professional virtual assistant can provide. Small business people are looking for someone who not only can do the tasks assigned, but that can also add value. A professional virtual assistant can do this by doing additional research and making recommendations.
One client said, “My only previous experience is with assistants that just did what I told them to, but contributed very little input and really didn’t add any value.”
That client needed an email marketing tool and had just signed up with one of the email management services. Before we got started on the project I spoke with the client and asked enough questions to find out that the particular service he had signed up for was not going to meet his needs. I offered to do some research and make recommendations on what would work best for his needs.
After we found the right service for his business, this same client said, “I just love having an assistant that is knowledgeable and gives thoughtful consideration to our projects.”
The other complaint business people had about the cheaper services was consistency. They didn’t feel they always were working with the same person or getting the same level of service from each person. The availability of the service was inconsistent.
Now there may be times when using the cheaper services is right. Each person will need to make their own determination on that. I thought of something in my life to use as an example. Have you ever been to one of those stores where everything is only $1? I have too. In fact, there are many times when buying something there really cheap is just what I need. For example, I homeschool my five-year old. At these stores I can buy all kinds of workbooks, stickers, pencils, glue, etc. for my five-year old to use in school projects. These projects aren’t going to be saved in the Smithsonian. It also doesn’t really matter if one week I go there and buy a pack of consruction paper but the next week they don’t have any. It seems that these stores are cheap but they don’t necessarily have a consistent stock of items.
But let’s say I need a quality gift. I could spend $5 at the cheap store and pick up several little gifts that might be fun to give to my five-year old. But would I buy a quality gift there to give to my friend as a going away present? No! I would go to a store where I could find something of quality, though I would expect to pay more, of course.
Then there’s the inconsistency at these cheaper stores. I may be able to find the construction paper I want for a school project one week and then it’s not there the next week. So if I really needed construction paper on a weekly basis, I’d be less inclined to go to the cheaper store because I wouldn’t be sure I could always find it. I’d be more inclined to go to the local office supply store where they always have the paper I need.
So perhaps there is a time where using a cheaper service is the right choice. For the most part, though, business persons have found that paying a higher rate for a professional virtual assistant is the right choice because they get the quality and consistency they need.

You’ve set your rates as a virtual assistant and then are contacted by a prospect who wonders if you’ll work for $4-$10 per hour. You know there is no way you can cover your costs for such a low hourly rate. But how can you explain to a prospect why your rate is so much more and why they still may want to use your services?

I’ve talked with quite a few clients and prospects who tried the $4-$10 per hour services and then decided to use a professional virtual assistant instead. The two main reasons they chose to use a professional virtual assistant instead are quality and consistency.

The cheaper service providers don’t usually offer the same quality of service that a professional virtual assistant can provide. Small business people are looking for someone who not only can do the tasks assigned, but that can also add value. A professional virtual assistant can do this by doing additional research and making recommendations.

One client said, “My only previous experience is with assistants that just did what I told them to, but contributed very little input and really didn’t add any value.”

That client needed an email marketing tool and had just signed up with one of the email management services. Before we got started on the project I spoke with the client and asked enough questions to find out that the particular service he had signed up for was not going to meet his needs. I offered to do some research and make recommendations on what would work best for his needs.

After we found the right service for his business, this same client said, “I just love having an assistant that is knowledgeable and gives thoughtful consideration to our projects.”

The other complaint business people had about the cheaper services was consistency. They didn’t feel they always were working with the same person or getting the same level of service from each person. The availability of the service was inconsistent.

Now there may be times when using the cheaper services is right. Each person will need to make their own determination on that. I thought of something in my life to use as an example. Have you ever been to one of those stores where everything is only $1? I have too. In fact, there are many times when buying something there really cheap is just what I need. For example, I homeschool my five-year old. At these stores I can buy all kinds of workbooks, stickers, pencils, glue, etc. for my five-year old to use in school projects. These projects aren’t going to be saved in the Smithsonian. It also doesn’t really matter if one week I go there and buy a pack of consruction paper but the next week they don’t have any. It seems that these stores are cheap but they don’t necessarily have a consistent stock of items.

But let’s say I need a quality gift. I could spend $5 at the cheap store and pick up several little gifts that might be fun to give to my five-year old. But would I buy a quality gift there to give to my friend as a going away present? No! I would go to a store where I could find something of quality, though I would expect to pay more, of course.

Then there’s the inconsistency at these cheaper stores. I may be able to find the construction paper I want for a school project one week and then it’s not there the next week. So if I really needed construction paper on a weekly basis, I’d be less inclined to go to the cheaper store because I wouldn’t be sure I could always find it. I’d be more inclined to go to the local office supply store where they always have the paper I need.

So perhaps there is a time where using a cheaper service is the right choice. For the most part, though, business persons have found that paying a higher rate for a professional virtual assistant is the right choice because they get the quality and consistency they need.

8 thoughts on “Cheap Versus Quality and Consistency

    1. Kimberly, this is such an important part of our marketing message (for all VAs.) When business just becomes about money, or even primarily about money, something’s gonna break.

  1. Sue, I couldn’t agree more. Since the economic crisis began we’ve seen a steady increase in enquiries from clients wanting to pay low rates that we just can’t offer. Clients who need a quality VA service are far better off investing in a VA that can become a long term partner for their business. A resourceful and dedicated VA will save the client money in the long term.

    1. Howdy, Sam!

      I’ve discovered that, if the first thing someone asks me is cost, we’re probably not going to work together. What’s the saying? Penny-wise, pound foolish.

      Folks make the mistake of thinking of a VA as a clerical employee instead of an entrepreneurial partner. As you say, a good VA adds value, and dollars or euros to the bottom line.

      joel

  2. What I’ve had to explain several times is that a professional, good quality VA is the efficient and convenient option to hiring an employee, not the cheap option. People often don’t realize how they don’t really save money by hiring a lower priced VA because it usually means more time has to either be invested by the client to manage the VA or the VA isn’t as experienced and may take twice as long to complete a task or do it with errors. I’ve heard from some that finding a *reliable* mid-range VA is difficult…which isn’t a surprise to me.

  3. I recently outsourced some graphic design work to a very cheap provider on Elance because my client wanted it as cheap as possible. The Indian provider did a nice graphics job, but all descriptions/labels were incorrect because it seems the person doing the job didn’t speak English. I had to make so many spelling corrections. When it came back again, there were even more mistakes.

    I do understand that it’s hard to write in a foreign language, but it’s making it really hard to use services from cheap labor in lower priced countries. To hire a service like this for any tasks that require input, provactive thinking and proper assistance is ludicrous. It is vital that the service provider can speak English and is trained in online marketing to understand the big picture of the business they support.

    Hiring a service provider who understands the online business world, comes from a similar culture and understands the language perfectly is a necessity, otherwise you are in for a lot of headache and corrections.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience with us Heike. Even in the English speaking world there can be other factors to consider. A prospect from the UK decided to go with a VA based in the UK because they wanted someone who understood that particular industry and how it worked in the UK since it was different from how things worked in the US.

What do you think?