Ask Anastacia: What do I say when a client asks why she should work with me when she'd get more hours for the same money from an employee?

On the heels of our last tricky question from a client, I was asked this one as part of an on-the-spot session I had with Janine.

Why would I want to work with you, when I could hire someone, getting more hours for money?

It’s really a great question. This, or some version of it, is a question every small business owner should be asking as she grows.

But I get that it might feel like she’s asking you to validate your fee structure. So, the first thing I want you to know is that it’s not that. It’s actually not about that, or about you, or your value, either.

What’s happening here is that the client is trying to reconcile in her head whether she values convenience or money more, and, whether she’s ready to step into having an employee (growth).

Hiring comes with all sorts of added effort and expense, not to mention additional laws that need to be conformed to. It’s not for everyone, which is, really, why we (in our profession) exist. Now, should she be asking you her question? Probably not. This is probably a better question for her financial pro because there’s a lot to consider in making this particular decision for a business.

But here she is, asking you. And you have to say something, right? Right. So, let’s give her a truly solid answer that’s going to have you looking like the smarty you clearly are.

Try something like this:

Why would you want to? You may not. And I would absolutely suggest talking this through with your accountant because there’s a lot to consider for your business in knowing if now is the right time to look at being an employer.

But here are some things I can tell you. Employment gets you more hours for the same monetary investment, that’s true. But you also have more oversight, more laws you might have to comply with (like OSHA and ERISA, and others at the state and local levels), and there’s more reporting, you might need to buy equipment for your employee, and even how you pay will be different, in that you’ll have to process payroll, withhold taxes, pay your share of FICA—all of which you can turn over to a service that will do that for you, but that comes with a fee, too.  AND you need to know if you can actually make use of all the hours you’d get with an employee. Maybe you can, and maybe she’d be sitting there twiddling her thumbs on your dime.

With me, you get the convenience of right-sized support. If you only need 20 hours of support/month, that’s what you’ll pay for. My support is 100% productive time; no thumb twiddling or breaks on your dime with me. And while you can’t treat me like an employee, you also don’t have to worry about buying my equipment, dealing with payroll or conforming to employment law, 

Virtual assistance was never meant to be the low-cost alternative to employment, but the convenient, efficient, and effective one. If it’s right for you, I’d love to talk further, but it sounds to me like you should first have this conversation with your accountant and decide what makes sense for you.

And then let her go. I’d even say make her go. She needs to figure this out before you talk with her more seriously; remember that every minute you spend marketing (which these conversations are part of) you can’t be doing billable work, so you need to talk with the folks you’re pretty sure are ready to work with a VA. If she’s asking the question, she’s far from being even close to sure, so you need to make her go. If she’s meant to come back, she will. And if not, she’ll remember that you didn’t try to talk her into what wasn’t right for her. That’s a win, right there.

And now that you have this language, you can use it in this sort of situation, as well as when a client you’re currently working with seems to start to get antsy, or when you’re pretty darn sure she’s grown beyond the place where working with you makes sense, which is probably at the point at which a client is wanting to retain more than 50 hours/month (assuming your fee is around $50/hour). It’s useful language to tuck away for when you need it. :)