I don’t need to tell you that there are a million and one scams on the internet. But there’s also a lot of virtual assistant scams that are specific to this industry.
The people that create them try to take advantage of hard-working VAs that are dedicated to supporting their clients. Although there’s no perfect solution for spotting them, there are a lot of indicators to watch out for to protect yourself.
What are VA Scams?
Virtual assistant scams can be presented in a lot of different ways, but they essentially boil down to the same thing all other scams do.
They work to get something from you that helps them and leaves you hanging high and dry.
This can be in the form of getting free labor/services, up front “bonus” payments, or not fulfilling payments that were due at all. Most of the time, the people that are using these tactics are doing these things specifically to harm the person they target.
There’s of course circumstances where client’s refuse to pay an invoice or just simply forget to do so, but that’s very different than an actual scam. Because a scam is something that’s intentionally harmful from the very beginning.
Is it even possible to find Legitimate Virtual Assistant Jobs?
When you’re just starting out and looking for your first clients, it’s easy to look at the job listings you see and get a feeling that they’re all crap.
That’s because a lot of the jobs you see are things like:
- Answering phone calls from a script
- Being available 8 hours a day, but them only offering to pay you for the 2 they actually needed you for
- Working for a giant agency where you don’t get any say in what tasks / clients you work with
- Paying on commission for well… any job.
Fun fact: My mom once got offered a job helping people fix their water heaters over the phone. She barely knows what a water heater looks like (Love you, Mom!), so it’s safe to say that she wasn’t the best fit for the job and they were hiring anyone they could get. So I understand why people have hesitations around finding high-quality work as a freelancer.
Here’s the thing though: The type of clients that you want to work with probably aren’t going to post their positions where you’re looking.
Because why would someone that’s amazing to work for post their awesome position alongside a helpline for water heaters?
Spoiler alert: They wouldn’t.
So don’t be discouraged if you feel you can’t find legitimate work from home jobs when you first start your search.
It takes a lot more effort to find high-quality positions than the crappy ones. I’m here to tell you though, there’s still more legitimate jobs than there are virtual assistants.
So there’s no shortage in work. You just have to know what to look for… and frankly, what not look for. 🙂
The Top Virtual Assistant Scams to Watch Out For:
#1 Little to No Details About the Job Provided
You’ll often see job listings in facebook groups and posted on freelance sites that have essentially no information about the role.
How and why would you want to work for a company that doesn’t even tell you who you’re working for? Or what exactly they need from their new team member?
It’s a massive red flag that will more than likely result in a poor client to work for or worse case – it’s a scam job all together.
#2 Asking YOU to Pay Up Front
Anytime a potential client or agency asks for your payment information up front or asks you to pay THEM for anything up front – RUN.
Seriously, be like Forrest Gump and run for the hills.
At no point in time should someone in this industry ask for payment from you when you’re providing them a service. This is by far the clearest sign of a virtual office assistant scam you can find.
#3 Lack of Willingness to Pay a Deposit / Sign a Contract
Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s not appropriate for client’s to refuse to sign your virtual assistant contract or pay your requested deposit.
They are entering a partnership with you that has clear boundaries and expectations from both parties. So they should want those agreements in writing just as much as you do.
When a potential client or agency isn’t willing to sign a written agreement to work with you, it might not entirely be a scam. However, it’s almost certainly a client who isn’t going to respect you, your time or your process.
#4 Performance or Incentive Based Pay Only
There are a lot of instances where performance or incentive-based pay can be a positive and even beneficial for a freelancer. In my experience though, that’s only after you already have a solid working foundation with the client.
You’ve had the opportunity to confirm things like:
- What their average monthly revenue is
- How many clients they have
- What their conversion rates are (aka: how many sales they get)
This helps you protect yourself from working and not getting paid for your efforts. Otherwise, you have no way to know for sure whether or not the client’s business is successful and/or stable enough to where you’ll make enough money.
Plus, usually if someone wants to pay you on performance from the get-go – There’s usually a reason. That reason is usually because the people that do the work never see a payout due to the client’s business structure.
#5 Direct Emails from Unknown Sources Ready to Hire You on the Spot
In this day in age, it’s pretty understood that if you get an email promising the world or telling you the sky is falling – It’s probably a load of crap.
This 110% carries over to virtual assistant scams. If you ever receive an email from an unsolicited email address that is promising you work, delete it immediately and move on.
There are a lot of people that pose as “Virtual Assistant Agencies” that are hiring to gain access for your personal or business information and then vanishing. It’s a really common practice that makes me so sad to see, because a lot of kind people are taken advantage of as a result.
So unless the email comes from a direct referral from another client (or something similar) – be careful!
#6 Bad Gut Feelings
I know this is sort of a cop out one, but it’s crucially important. You always have to honor your instincts when they say that you’re entering a bad scenario.
Anytime you get an icky feeling from an email, potential client, or something else entirely, think about why. Because in my experience, even if you think the situation is going to get better with a project or a client over time, it doesn’t.
So if you feel like something you’ve come into contact with could be a scam, honor that feeling and walk away.
Bonus: Unqualified Virtual Assistant Coaches
I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way, because I’m obviously a virtual assistant coach and I don’t want this to come off as trying to convince you from working with someone else. In fact, I make it a point to tell my students and communities members regularly to work with someone else (rather than me) for their business support if feel that’s the right path for them.
Besides, there’s a lot of Virtual Assistant Coaches for a reason! You have to find someone you truly resonate with, and if that’s not me – I want you to go out and find the person who does.
However, there are a lot of people out there that market themselves as Virtual Assistant Coaches who do not have a proven track record of years of experience. They simply saw it as a more profitable option than client work and decided to dive right into coaching others after serving a handful of clients.
So I encourage you to truly do your homework when you consider hiring someone to support you in growing your business. Look into how many clients they’ve worked with, what year they started their business, and what their current business model is.
Because you always want to work with someone that is or has been where you want to be, but simply walked the path before you.
So just be mindful when you’re choosing your mentors so that you make the best investment for you and your business. 🙂
*steps off soapbox*