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How Not to Burn the Path You Hope to Walk Along

Home » Successful Behaviours & Habits for Virtual Assistants » How Not to Burn the Path You Hope to Walk Along
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Let’s talk some more about work ethics. Yes, of course, we already talked about it in our lesson Maintain a Healthy Work Ethic, but even after reading such a lesson and passing the quizzes, some people still don’t fully comprehend the importance of ‘fair play’.

It’s quite easy to judge a person for their actions and say you’d never do anything like they did, but in reality, you can never be 100% sure what you’d do until you find yourself in a similar situation.

Everybody who works online will tell you it is tempting to overcharge a client. When there is nobody watching over your shoulder in your home office, you think that nobody will ever know. After all, you have a family to feed.

However, while it is tempting, it is also the worst thing you can do.

You are thinking it’s quick, easy cash in your pocket, but, in the long run, your action can bury your online career even before it’s really started.

This sounds a bit like your mother lecturing you, right? So, let’s step away from lecturing you and talking about general truths and morality and try something else.

Why don’t we give this topic a bit more space here, but this time, approach it in a different manner. Namely, let’s learn from a real-life example!

What Happened?

Here is a real story for you: a wonderful, good person wanted to change their life, switch careers and earn more money. So, they discovered our Small Revolution School and decided to give it a go! So far, so good, right?

They applied for a Scholarship, and guess what – they got it. They even finished all the courses and quizzes and were promoted to online employers.

Finally, they were offered an online job. Honestly, it was a small job. A simple, little one-time project that should have been done quickly and charged fairly.

While the money earned wouldn’t have been a large sum, this may have been a gateway into permanent employment or further recommendation to other employers.

However, the person chose another path and it backfired.

Namely, the person tried to overcharge the client. What could have been done in an hour or so, was charged as if the had taken 27 hours.

That is a lot of time and way too much money for a simple, easy one-time project.

The employer asked for the VA to integrate a simple Gumroad payment system into their website, with three products to sell. Now, Gumroad software boasts to be a very user-friendly platform that allows you to set it up in minutes.

Literally, minutes.

However, this is a real screenshot of the invoice that the employer received from the VA for the work done.

work timesheet screenshot

Naturally, the employer realised that something is off about this invoice and decided to do a ‘sanity check’.

You know what that is? When you are not sure about something and you think that you might be wrong, so you check with your friends to see if you are off or not.

That’s just what this employer did. She contacted Katrina, the owner of Small Revolution School, and she explained the situation.

screenshot of email message

Katrina also thought that there was something wrong with that and tried to perform all those tasks the VA was supposed to do. Take a look at her reply:screenshot of email messageNaturally, once the employer realised they have been taken advantage of, they fired the VA and decided not to hire them ever again. Was he paid? Perhaps. However, that is not the point.

The point is – if the VA did a good job and charged fairly, he would have been given more work, been recommended to other employers for more work, or even have been given a full-time job.

However, not only did he lose this chance, he also managed to 100% alienate himself from the Small Revolution School support network.

In other words, he did not just break the ties with his employer, he also broke the ties with the Small Revolution School and all the potential employers that could have offered him a job in the future.

He burned the bridges and the ground he walked on.

What do you think? Was all that time he spent studying in the university worth the money he earned on this one-time project?

You always have to understand that employers, just like yourself, have friends. They have acquaintances, online contacts and networks. They share the news, chat and exchange information.

Just because you don’t see them talk by the watercooler doesn’t mean they don’t communicate regularly and a person will definitely talk if they had a bad experience.

Bad news spreads like wildfire and if you lose your reputation, it is hard to win it back.

Why Did This Happen

Let’s not be too quick to judge and say that the VA in question is a bad person with horrible work ethic. This has been a big mistake and it surely says a lot, but there may be some factors that led to this decision.

First of all, it is much harder than it looks to be self disciplined and to resist the temptations such as this one when there is nobody in your room but you to monitor you.

Secondly, this person might have had family issues and needed money to help a loved one or simply pay bills. Not to mention, it is only natural that somebody just wants nice things and more money for their work. There could be many reasons that pushed them ‘over the edge’.

Lastly, put yourself into the position of that VA. He spent hours, days and months perfecting his knowledge and skills and that was just the reason why he was able to do this task quickly.

This means, if he gets paid hourly, the better and faster he gets, the less money he earns. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Still, all this is not a good reason to overcharge the client. There are other ways to get around this situation, so let’s talk about that.

What Should Have Been Done?

First of all, the employer should have asked about the expected price range for this job. They should have asked if that is something that lasts 5 or 15 hours before they assigned the job. Still, it is not their fault. This is just a way they could have been protected.

On the other hand, the employee should have been upfront about their expectations regarding the payment from the start. It is only natural that they wanted to be well reimbursed for their work, but then, they should have said so.

The best way to go around these situations is to ask to be paid per project and not per hour. You can explain to your employer that you have invested your time and money to gain the skills that they need and that you feel you should be properly paid for your expertise.

In most cases, the potential employer will be reasonable enough to understand your logic and you can, then, negotiate the price. In this way, both sides will be pleased and there will be no unpleasant surprises.

However, when you do this sort of work, make sure you are clear about how many alterations of your work is included in this price.

For example, if you are writing an article, make sure your employer knows that after receiving it and revising it, you will be willing to make one major or two minor corrections to it included in the original price. Everything after that is charged at an hourly rate or negotiated in a new project.

In other words, you want to make sure that everything is agreed in advance and that you and your employer don’t have drastically different ideas about the task that needs to be done and the value of it.

In that way, you will be able to build long-lasting and trusting relationships that will help you establish yourself as a good and reliable employee within your online network. This means that, in time, you will have no troubles finding ongoing and well-paid work.

In Summary

While transitioning to online work from your traditional office work may seem like an easy thing, but you need to realise that it is not without its challenges and quite specific issues.

One of them being–you need to figure out what kind of worker you are when nobody’s watching. Are you still diligent? Are you a slacker? Can you even tell?

Surely, you do not have a direct supervisor in an office right next to yours, but it doesn’t mean you have no supervisor at all. You do. It’s you!

You are your own manager and your own supervisor, and if you do not manage your ‘company’ well, it is going to fail. Therefore, you need to find ways to avoid the temptations that come with online work. Specifically, the temptation to overcharge a client when you are working on an hourly basis.

This is just what happened to one of the graduates from the Small Revolution School, so we decided to make the most of that situation and turn it into a teachable moment for other students.

Namely, after getting the free scholarship, training, support and being promoted to our network of successful online employers, this person got a job. It was a small one-time project.

This VA agreed to do this task and he did it well and on time. However, the surprise occurred when he sent the invoice to the employer. The invoice was for 27 hours of work! That is way too much, given the fact that the tool he used advertises itself as “installs in minutes”. The entire job should have taken no more than an hour or two.

The employer wasn’t sure if that invoice was fair so she contacted the CEO of Small Revolution School, who is her friend and asked her. Her doubts were confirmed–that was way too much money.

The VA wanted to charge that much because he wanted to earn more money and he wanted to charge for all the hard work and effort he invested in his training.

He felt that the money he would receive for only two hours of work wasn’t fair. He is certainly right to feel that way, but overcharging the client is never a good option. His decision destroyed something priceless–trust.

What Was the Right Thing to Do?

In this kind of situation, explain it to your employer that you are more comfortable working per project than per hour. Tell them that your training and experience has made you quick and efficient and you don’t feel that the hourly contract would compensate you fairly.

Suggest a reasonable, honest and true price you are willing to give for your time working on the project and negotiate with them. In that way, you will be satisfied with the payment and you will establish a good business relationship with this employer.

Moreover, employers, just like employees, socialise! They talk amongst themselves, do their sanity checks, exchange experiences and comment on their work. So, if you wrong one of them, the news will definitely spread and you will subsequently burn the ground you have walked on.

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