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How To Limit Subcontractors Damaging Your Reputation With Clients

Michelle Dale - Wednesday, September 21, 2011
When a VA starts to become busy, the idea of hiring subcontractors can begin to make a lot of sense, there are many advantages to expanding onto a team such as passive income, ability to offer a wider range of services, more free time for you, and much higher earning potential due to being able to take in a much higher volume of work, and whilst all these things sound great, there is one primary fear that we have when hiring subcontractors, the fear they will let us down, and in turn let our clients down, which could damage our reputation.

Knowing your limits.

I should throw this in here, that as a VA company you need to know your limits. We do that thing where we really want to impress our client, and do the best we can for them, but when they are asking for things which you simply can’t provide, you need to learn when to say that you’re not able to provide them with that particular service. I do this in my own business, I stick to what I am really good at, and for anything I can’t do, I will tell the client, and offer alternative suggestions on how we are able to handle it together. I may ask for help from another VA company, or suggest hiring an outside contractor, but either way, I stick to what I know best, which is generally what is best for the client.

Recently I heard a story from a VA who had hired a subcontractor to perform a particular assignment for a client, the subcontractor looked excellent on the surface and on the initial contact, terms were agreed, but to the VA’s dismay, the subcontractor let her down badly and sadly this impacted the VA’s business and also the client’s.

Hiring for a team role.

If I am completely honest it’s not possible to predict how a subcontractor is going to turn out, but when introducing a new subcontractor to my team I have to accept that I will need patience, and an initial investment to make sure everything goes smoothly. An integration of a new team member can take anything from a month to around 3 months depending on the role and the workload. We need to go through showing the VA how we work, where everything is, procedures for working in the team and with clients, if they are customer facing, we then need to make sure – and this is the key golden nugget of information, we need to make sure that we work with them first, in house, without involving clients, so they can demonstrate their work ethics and I can be sure that the subcontractor is a good fit for my business, the team and the clients. No matter how someone looks on the face of it, you have to experience that yourself first of all. You don’t buy a car without taking a test drive first – this is the same principle.

I feel much better accepting a loss in my own business, and putting it down to experience, than having an unhappy, dissatisfied client, who may now have lost their faith in my ability.

Hiring for one-off assignments.

When hiring subcontractors for adhoc assignments, where they won’t become an ongoing regular part of your business, but you will need to call on them occasionally to step in and help, you must always make sure you start them with a trial assignment before requesting the subcontractor to help you on any client work. You’re not Joan Jett, and you don’t in any way want to jeopardise your reputation with the client, and using a subcontractor who you have only just met to help you when you have zero first hand experience of working on an assignment with them, you’re just setting yourself up for potential problems, I am not saying there will be, but there could be.

Be upfront with the client.

Whenever you have an assignment request from a client, and you don’t have a familiar subcontractor available, you need to make sure you communicate this to the client, and explain that if they would still like you to pursue the project you would be happy to find a VA with the skill required but this could take a little longer. Most clients will be fine with it, they would much rather you handle it than them having to deal with it themselves. You could also recommend a service such as Live-Hire.com, where all the hard work of locating and pre-screening the VA you need for the task is taken care of.

All I can say is that I have learnt from experience, you should always give the subcontractor something, or several things to do as part of your own business, OR give them something to do, but check the work (or have a manager check the work) always for the first few weeks before it reaches the client, so it won’t affect your clients, it’s the only way you can be sure yourself if they are the one you are looking for, it’s an investment on your part, but it’s much better you suffer a financial loss, than suffering the loss of a client.

Don’t be despondent about misjudging people, it can happen to the very best and most experienced HR managers and recruiters who hire people for a living, but do take responsibility for any mistakes made by putting that contractor in head-first on a client assignment.

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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