Bidding Wars of Virtual Assistants

I came across an interesting blog earlier about the disadvantages of getting an offshore Virtual Assistant. I can’t help but disagree! There are a lot of criticism thrown on offshore virtual assistants like me and I am compelled to react.

Language Barrier – Yes, I agree that English is my second language. In fact, I still feel more comfortable in speaking Filipino however, this doesn’t mean that we are not competitive enough to comprehend or communicate using other languages. If this is the case, then I guess the call center industry here in the Philippines wouldn’t be as successful as it is now if not for our good communication skills. Not all offshore virtual assistants have poor communication skills. Let’s not generalize.

Interest in the client’s business – I can’t seem to understand why offshore virtual assistants are being criticized for not having vested interest in our client’s business. I believe that this has nothing to do with geographical location. As a virtual assistant, your main goal is to protect and help your clients business achieve targets and increase sales. Loyalty and integrity is not based on geographical location of a person.

Internet access – yes, I agree that as virtual assistants, we rely on the internet. It is difficult or maybe impossible to work for a client without it. India’s internet outage is an isolated case and shouldn’t be taken against us.

The industry of Virtual Assistants is now becoming more and more competitive. Bidding wars between offshore and onshore providers continue to heat up at oDesk, iFreelance, etc…Business wouldn’t be fun without competition, right?

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15 thoughts on “Bidding Wars of Virtual Assistants

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Jennifer Lancey

  2. You are absolutely the best English speaking overseas Virtual Assistant I’ve ever encountered and yes, generalizations are just that, generalizations. However, there are distinct disadvantages in doing business across several time zones. Don’t get me wrong, it has its advantages but, when it comes to the world of Virtual Assistance, being close to the same time zone and speaking the same language is important. And, I don’t mean just speaking English. I mean knowing things such as, what the term ‘fixin to’ means. The number of overseas virtuals that know what that means are few and far between, and there are many similiar things that make up the conversation between an American business person and his or her VA. Unfortunately, this puts you at a disadvantage even though you don’t deserve it. Just so you know, we know you are good and wish you all the best.

  3. The disadvantages of doing business with overseas VAs are disappearing rapidly. We Americans are under the false impression that we are the best at everything. We have lost our edge in matters of commerce thanks to our terrible education system and our overconfidence. Savvy business people are eventually going to see the overwhelming value of hiring overseas VAs and the American VAs will have to offer something better than just language skills and a preferable time zone if they want to compete.

  4. You didn’t addressed the issue of offshore virtual assistants being able to charge low rates compared to onshore virtual assistants. We can’t afford to charge what you charge because of our cost of living.

  5. First, I would like to thank everyone who posted their comments on this article. In fact I am really overwhelmed with the responses that I got. (keep it coming please!)

    Jennifer – Thanks for subscribing to my RSS Feeds and thanks for the compliment. I really appreciate your support.

    Lean Thinker – Thanks for your compliment. I do agree that there are advantages of hiring a VA with the same time zone. This is something we, offshore VA’s cannot compete with (unless we relocate, of course). But I believe that time zones and indifference will culture will not hinder a good VA from providing excellent customer service to our clients. I just want to give credit to offshore VA’s who work hard, and even work outside their comfort zones, like working on a graveyard shift to provide services to their clients. I really appreciate your comment because it opened my eyes to the pros and cons of offshore and onshore VA’s.

    Dinzer99 – Your comment was very well written. I’m really happy that more and more businessmen sees the benefits of outsourcing. If there is one good thing about the silent war between outsourcing, is that it will open the eyes of everyone to improve on what they do, and excel on it.

    Rita – Yes, you are right, I didn’t mention anything about low rates. For one, as you mentioned, the cost of living in the US is higher than the cost of living here in the Philippines and in India. This I believe works on our advantage, however, this doesn’t necessarily imply that cheaper rates mean poor services. I believe there are tons of offshore VA’s out there who maintain happy and satisfied clients.

    Thanks for all of your comments guys! Keep it coming!

  6. I guess it depends on what country the client is in as to whether the VA is considered offshore. I’m in Australia so to those in the US I’m offshore and once upon a time the dollar ratio difference made us a lot ‘cheaper’ than our US VA colleagues. But the Aussie dollar has almost caught up in value so our rates are now very similar to that of US VAs. And yes we are therefore offshore – at least to clients outside of our own country. To those in the UK, our rates are still considerably less as the UK pound is about double our dollar.

    I think the main ‘discussion or argument’ has been mainly the push to send work offshore because it’s a lot cheaper and many just don’t look into the other advantages or disadvantages as a result. If a VA needs to understand the local customs and layout of the land, then the VA should be in the same country. But if those things are not required then looking further afield and perhaps time differences can be a distinct advantage.

    Ella, I run a VA network in Australia with members in 16 countries. We don’t, as yet, have any members from your country and I invite you to come check us out!

  7. Pingback: Two Sides To Every Story « RJ’s Virtual Assistant Services

  8. “And, I don’t mean just speaking English. I mean knowing things such as, what the term ‘fixin to’ means. ”

    Why on Earth would you use regional English speaking to somebody for whom American English isn’t a native language? Are you saying that American business persons are unable to speak standard English? I just don’t understand.

  9. Wow! You made your point. I’m also a virtual assistant in an outsourcing company here in the Philippines. In fact, we are on the same page, I’ve also came up reading this blog that talks about the disadvantages of getting an offshore virtual assistant. And honestly, its sucks! some kind of bias info. I would totally disagree, that hiring such offshore VA especially in Asian countries don’t have an assurance when it comes to working performance. It pointed out there, that language barrier is one of the problem and Yes, I agree with you! Though we are comf’table using our own language but doesn’t mean that we are not conversant in English. You know, its totally ridiculous to generalize such things.

    Language from every countries may differ though but whatever other countries doing wrong should not be taken against us, VA Filipinos. Hope this will make sense.

  10. I have just come across your blog and frankly your comments caught my interest. I am proud to say that I am a Filipino based in Wales, United Kingdom. I have been living here for 6 years and am operating a recently launched virtual assistant practice and providing business support services to busy professionals.

    1. Language Barrier

    Proficiency in the English language (both spoken and written) and correct grammar & spelling has always been a competitive advantage for me, however with living in Northern California and now here in UK, I am amazed at the various ways English can be spoken – Cockney, Irish, Scottish, Welsh , etc – not to mention the accents and colloquialism. We in the Philippines had been taught English the American way . Being a baby boomer, my experience at school comes from learning English grammar, English pronounciation, precis and essay writing, voice intonation and spelling. We had great English speaking teachers and learned English literature as well.

    In my experience, even people who were born in America or
    UK does not necessarily mean that they speak and write English fluently. There are many Americans and Brits who I’ve worked with who has commented that their own spoken and written English was rubbish which apparently was due to their education system.

    So it is inherent upon the individual VAs education, training and experience to break through language barriers.

    2. Culture

    There is also the culture of each English speaking country to consider. In UK, there is what they generally call the “Queen’s English.” Each region in the UK has its own language quirks as is the same case in the Philippines where one can be Ilocano, Visayan, or Davaoeno. There are a conundrum of differences within one country to contend with what more with various countries that are also multi-cultural.

    3. Outsourcing to offshore VAs vs. locally based VAs

    At the end of the day, what matters most is that a client gets the support he/she requires within the time frame required. In my honest opinion, clients will have to find the right VA to fit their working and leadership styles, their expectations and their capability to pay regardless of where a VA is based. As a VA, it is up to us to build our relationship with a client and progress it to a long-term business partnership.

    Time zone differences are also significant. Filipinos have also been trained to adapt well and fast despite any adversity – “pliant as a bamboo” – as we were mostly likened to.

    4. Cost considerations

    If a VA is not co-located geographically to the client, it may seem that per hour rates will cost cheaper (on the assumption that the VA is in Asia) but the bottom line is where ever the VA is located she has to do her math so that she will earn a decent income from providing the service. It is true that there are VAs out there who do not do the VA industry any credit because the service they provide is not up to par at all; it is therefore up to the client to do their due diligence in choosing the VA they would work with. As the saying goes from the client’s point of view, you always get what you pay for.

    For someone like me, who is located here in UK, the local currency is one of the highest if not the highest in the globe. i.e. as of 8:36 am GMT today, 9th May 2008, 1 British pound = 1.9516 US$ so it makes our UK per hour rates seem very expensive.

    5. Interest in Clients’ business’

    I agree with you Ella, that as a VA, it is our responsibility to provide the services that our client requires in order for the business to achieve its goals and objectives. Loyalty, integrity, passion and dependability is not tied to the georaphical location of a VA, it all boils down to the individual character of the VA, education, experience, family background and his/her entrepreneurial spirit.

    6. Internet access

    In my opinion, because VAs are independent entrepreneurs operating from a remote location, it is important to have all the necessary technology in order to deliver the services required by our clients. Dependent on what you offer as a VA, you should have all the tools to make delivery of the service as efficient and as effective as it can be.

    Broadband access is a must if you wish to be available to your clients at most times; dial-up internet access is not cost effective in the long run.

    Because I have a self-taught technological background from the Philippines which were honed further when I lived in California and now here in UK by participation in Microsoft training, I am confident that my clients will benefit from my expertise. Personally, I use mainly Microsoft software and hardware because they all do work together and a makes smarter working a reality.

    The VA industry is becoming more competitive daily and more and more people are interested in getting in on the boat ride so to speak and get a piece of the action. This is where we will have to work doubly hard to gain a competitive edge and excel in what we do. There are those who do not have any administrative experience at all who market themselves as VAs undercutting rates per hour and not delivering a good job – these are the ones who provides negative feedback to the VA industry.

    I also believe that it is up to us who are in the VA industry to up the ante on our skills and excellent customer service we provide. We should work together as peers rather than competitors. Just my penny’s worh of thoughts.

  11. WOW, I loved your post, Ella. I’m a coach in South Africa and I’ve used VA’s in the US, not because of price differences (actually, I don’t know any in South Africa) but because I love the fact that they’re working while I’m sleeping!

    I find my work gets turned around much quicker!

    Personally, I don’t think language and such is a big issue because after the first clarification, you get it, don’t you? And let’s face it, the internet has made the world a much smaller place.

  12. Pingback: Onshore or Offshore Virtual Assistant? at Ella Thinks…

  13. hi,

    Wow! Great site.If your business is located offshore and you are looking for a credit card processing solution consider applying for an offshore merchant account.Good opportunity in the marketplace for that virtual assistant.

  14. Cool!!! Very interesting I’m glad I visit your websites because I have a problem about my communication skills (slightly), but I am frustrated to be a Virtual Assistant’s.
    Thank you..

    Rhei

  15. Pingback: Two Sides To Every Story | RJ's Internet Marketing Blog

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