VAs and Webmasters

Many VAs fancy themselves web designers. Or they promote themselves as being able to do work on websites.

I don’t have any problem with that – I have many friends who are VAs who also work on websites.  But I do have a problem with clients who hire a webmaster, and then hire a VA, who does not know how to work on the kind of site they actually have.

We’ve run into this a lot lately. Primarily with coaching clients. Coaches hire VAs. Many VAs specialize in working with coaches. A coach will hire a VA, asking them only if they know how to work on websites, the VA will assure them they do. If they ask about the specific type of site they have, the VA may express a willingness to learn it.

Unfortunately, once the working relationship begins, the VA admits they haven’t a clue how to work on the kind of site the coach has. The Webmaster will advise one thing, the VA will insist on another, the client gets caught in the middle. We can usually predict what will happen…

Eventually the VA insists that they know better than the webmaster, they cry that their way is faster, cheaper, better, and there is no need to hire a webmaster at all, and the coach soon finds themselves paying all over to have another website set up. A very costly enterprise.

Unfortunately, the client will continue to pay. Because while the site may seem cheaper to operate, it is rarely equivalent. A good webmaster is a specialist in all things related to websites. A good VA may be a specialist in keeping up with the routine tasks, but they are rarely a diversified expert in technical issues, they often recommend things that have hidden costs, or hidden risks that the VA is completely unaware of (many VAs use insecure forms, simplified structures that won’t grow with a business, or still recommend HTML websites, and most are not familiar with basic security issues, ecommerce legal or regulatory issues). Such has been our experience recently in working with several VAs who dug in their heels and insisted that the client work their way or none (we were actually shocked when one client allowed the VA to bully them and dictate to them, sort of wondered who was hiring whom).

This really isn’t a rant. Just a caution… If you are going to hire a webmaster, and then hire a VA, you need to make sure that the VA really does know how to work with the website system that your webmaster has helped you establish. Because if they don’t know how, they are likely to be resistant to learning.

Now most VAs will swear that they are perfectly willing to learn something new. But in fact, most are not. Website structures require layers of learning, and after someone (webmaster OR VA) has learned one, they often feel they simply do not want to have to learn another. They will accept huge complexities in something familiar, while refusing to learn a simpler way just because it is unfamiliar. That is human nature.

If your VA really wants to use one thing, and your webmaster has recommended something else as being more suited to the long term growth of your business, a conflict may arise that ends up costing YOU money. Some understanding as you are hiring help, to ensure that you hire people who CAN work together, and who can smoothly advise you in ways that take you forward, rather than muddling along with one person recommending one thing, another insisting on another, will save you a good deal of grief, and money, in the long term.

On the other hand, when you get a good VA, who actually CAN work with your webmaster, the situation is hard to beat. You gain the technical expertise, a second marketing perspective, and the advantages of having a website specialist, along with the advantages of having an experienced assistant to handle site updating and other administrative tasks. This arrangement can actually SAVE you money when you get the right VA, who actually CAN work successfully with a webmaster and your site structure.

Perhaps the best way to GET a good VA, is to ask your webmaster for a recommendation. Most will have a list of people whom they regularly work with, and whom they know are skilled at working with the systems they regularly use.

Good communication is essential. Keep your webmaster in the loop, and let them know if you are seeking a VA. It may save you a good deal of money, and hassle.

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