Tips for Hiring a Virtual Assistant Ethically

May 10, 2023

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Have you ever found yourself questioning the ethics behind hiring virtual assistants at incredibly low rates?

In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the ethical concerns around paying virtual assistants low rates and explore alternative perspectives on outsourcing. 

Let's talk about:

  • the ethics of hiring help internationally at such low hourly rates.
  • budgeting for your general admin VA
  • systems and identifying deliverables
  • the importance of remembering your values and mission


This content is available as part of my podcast, Compassionate Side Hustle Strategy! Tap here to be taken to directly to the episode.

How most experts approach outsourcing to virtual assistants

Now, there’s no way for me to know exactly how deep in “need to hire someone, but who?” hole you are, but in your research you must have run across a few options.

They probably look like this:

  • “I hired a full time subcontractor for only $300 a week!”
  • “A dedicated marketing agency starting at $99 per month!”
  • or my favorite: “The minimum wage in their country is equivalent to only $4.00 USD/hr, so it levels out”

You're here because something about those statements just doesn't sit right with you.

I’ll share something personal with you.

I’m a woman of color in the United States and daughter of highly educated immigrants from the Philippines.

A lot of the outsourcing advice directs small business owners to hire people from the Philippines at outrageously low rates. It’s problematic in so many ways and also quite heartbreaking.

But I want to help you with this without making it all about me, so I’ll cut to the chase:

I pay my virtual assistants (domestic or international) at least $22.00 USD/hr with end-of-year bonuses and raises, and I think you should, too.

(In other words: No, I don’t believe that hiring internationally at such low hourly rates is ethical. Womp womp.)

Here's why it's unethical to hire international virtual assistants at very low rates

The truth? (well, my truth, anyway)

There’s nothing ethical about a mission-driven, change-oriented business owner in a first world country knowingly underpaying another human being just because that human being resides in a third world country.

I wouldn’t admire Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or any billionaire for doing so, and I need to hold myself to the same standard if I, too, want to see a great amount of success in my own business.

If I hope my business makes the world a better place, it’s my responsibility to do so in a way that raises ALL boats, not just the yachts that belong to the wealthiest people on the planet.

How to pay your virtual assistant MORE without breaking the bank

I'm guessing you at least somewhat agree with me or you would have clicked away already. So, let's talk about how this just got complicated for you in terms of hiring a virtual assistant at a rate that you can afford at this stage of your business.

I know that this might complicate things for you, especially if you were hoping to keep costs low as you start to outsource some of the administrative work in your business.

Does that make outsourcing seem a lot more expensive and complicated? Yeah, it does.

Should we give up, let the rich get richer, and accept things for how they are? Of course not!

So, how do you get around how expensive a virtual assistant can be, if you want to pay them well? Especially if you hope to work with the same person, long-term?

  1. You set a budget.
  2. You create systems and identify clear deliverables
  3. You stick to your personal values and your business mission

Setting a Budget for Your Virtual Assistant

Having a budget means that you don’t go over X amount per month, no matter how much you pay the VA per hour.

Remember that a budget is a number, not “biggest bang for my buck.” (It sounds silly but you’d be surprised how many people say that when I ask them what their budget for a general admin VA is!)

If your budget is $200 a month then set that boundary and stick to it. Simple!

Instead of spending $200 to hire someone for 50 hours of work, request a specific number of deliverables instead (number of tweets, graphics, edited videos, episodes uploaded, etc.).

Have Clear, Documented Workflows to Save on Cost

Having documented workflows in place means that you don’t have a ton of wasted down time and training if your VA raises their prices out of your budget, leaving you to search for and hire someone else that you can afford.

Knowing what needs to get done (in what order, and how frequently) will make finding a new VA a lot easier. It's easier to train someone new if the process is documented, ideally in writing and in a video walkthrough.

Note: This is assuming you can’t afford your VA’s new rates. If your VA lets you know they’re increasing their rates, and you can afford it AND you like working with them, keep them on board! Push some money around and adjust your budget to make it work.

Setting Clear Expectations & Deliverables with Your Virtual Assistant

If you haven’t already, write out clear expectations and deliverables.

For example, exactly how many social media posts? How many words written? How many videos or podcast episodes uploaded?

If you know exactly how much work one VA accomplishes per month and you have that process documented somewhere that’s easily shareable, you can easily find someone new to take over their duties if necessary. I’ll be going over this in more detail in tomorrow’s email!

And finally...

Stay True to Your Personal Values and Business Mission

I urge you to stay vigilant as your build your business and make sure you’re not replicating the same problematic practices of the corporate world. It’s easy for us to get stuck in “hustle mode,” overwork ourselves, and judge our success by the amount of money we either make or save.

But you started your business for a reason. You know that the world needs what you have to offer, and you’re committed to making a positive impact without doing harm to others.

Revisit your mission statement and business vision often. Double check that mission regularly to be sure you’re living by it.

Also, practice great self-care and surround yourself with people who understand what you’re building and will hold you accountable to your intentions.

Find Your Unicorn Virtual Assistant

All of these important elements have been included in the Find Your Unicorn VA (Swipe File). If you haven’t grabbed it yet, I highly recommend you do! You’re one copy-and-paste closer to finding your first long-term virtual assistant!

What’s included:

  • My full job description in Google Docs format, ready to easily copy-and-paste into the hiring platform of your choice
  • Explainer notes outlining the purpose of each section and why I include it (because some parts are... a little unexpected!)
  • A list of places for finding your virtual assistant (including the one I prefer and use every time to get 20+ qualified VAs within my budget)
  • Interview questions I ask my top three candidates to make sure we’re a good fit

A final note:

You have what it takes. Really.

There are plenty of industry-wide problems in the entrepreneurship world, and many are optional and avoidable if we just take a moment to consider them.

I know it gets complicated sometimes, but we’re entrepreneurs. We’re used to it.

It’s important to remember that we have personal control over how we move, share, and use our money to make positive change in the world. The change starts with us!

Welcome to the wild, neverending rollercoaster of problem solving to make good things happen in the world!

Did something here strike a chord with you? 

I am here to help (honestly) and I know that the idea of having to spend even MORE of your (perhaps, already very limited) money on a virtual assistant can be discouraging.

I want this to be an open and respectful conversation.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will try to help make your situation a little better if I can.

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