Finding and Keeping Clients

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Old 07-21-2012
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Default What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
I stumbled across this video this morning -http://youtu.be/NVU2Xo0k0Gw posted by a virtual assistant staffing company.
I have a real problem with the concept of 'client training' in relation to what I do. I strongly believe that the point of virtual assistance is that training shouldn't be necessary, only direction and communication. I also believe that clients who 'train' their VA's are probably playing with fire regarding the employee/independent contractor status that the IRS defines.

Maybe it's just me? What are everyone else's thoughts about it?
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Oh I definitely agree with you and this video has kinda riled me up a little! What he suggests would completely cross the line and turn it into an employee/employer relationship. Plus - if a client has to train someone then why is that person in business.

The only time I can see it might be acceptable is if it is a proprietary tool or system to the client, where it cannot be reasonably assumed that other's would know that system. I can also understand that the work that the VA does should line up with the goals, objectives, and vision of the client - but the client cannot direct exactly how that happens. The VA and client should, however, come into agreement in how that happens.

This guy is totally talking about how things would work in an employee/employer relationship. If a client did what he suggests that employer would be "controlling" the situation and the IRS guidelines are extremely clear about this. Here's one of the 3 main guidelines that the IRS uses to determine if it is an E/E relationship or IC. "Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?" I know you know this, but for other's who may be reading and don't, I put it in. A VA is to be the expert.

The only thing I like is that he talks about some product called "Pamela." It must be an exceptional - excellent product! LOL
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Last edited by On My Wings; 07-21-2012 at 08:49 AM. Reason: edit
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Pam, I commented as well, but I wish there had been more space to do so, my first draft explained he was putting clients at risk but YouTube made me shorten it!

Thanks for posting the IRS definition, I agree that although you and I, (and lots of seasoned VA's here) know the rules, there may be some who don't and are allowing clients to dictate how the work is done without realizing they are acting as employees.

And we all know products with the name Pamela (or Tina for that matter) must be exceptional. LOL
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Pam, you brought up an interesting point with quoting the IRS definition. It reminded me on one of the "rules" on either Odesk or Elance (or perhaps both) where a service provider is expected to report the work progress and submit screen shots in order to show when and how the work was done... If I understood that rule correctly, then they are walking on a very thin line there?
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
@Tina - Amen...you are right that Tina products are also exceptional. . When I went to comment it said it was pending review. I notice no comments are showing up. I'm not that familiar with YouTube. Can people moderate and reject comments? If so - he may be doing so. You go to his website and you don't get past a landing page unless you give up your information. All seems a little goofy to me.

@Sara - I could be wrong, because I haven't looked into it that much in depth, but I think the difference with Elance and other similar services is that they function more like an employment agency rather than these people working as IC's. Do you have some indepth knowledge on this that you can share - or maybe someone else does.

I also wonder how the IC with the IRS works when we work with someone in another country. That needs to go on my list of things to research.
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Sara, If those are requirements then yes, if the IRS looked into it that would be an indicator that it was an employee relationship. All Freelance Writing wrote an article about the WorkView feature on Elance stating just that fact.

Since I gave up on the freelance sites 3 months after I opened my biz, I wasn't even aware that they were operating this way.
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Pam,
Yes, I think you can choose to screen comments, so I'd say we probably won't be seeing our thoughts there on YouTube.
Time for a blog post perhaps.

Originally Posted by On My Wings View Post
@Tina - Amen...you are right that Tina products are also exceptional. . When I went to comment it said it was pending review. I notice no comments are showing up. I'm not that familiar with YouTube. Can people moderate and reject comments? If so - he may be doing so. You go to his website and you don't get past a landing page unless you give up your information. All seems a little goofy to me.

@Sara - I could be wrong, because I haven't looked into it that much in depth, but I think the difference with Elance and other similar services is that they function more like an employment agency rather than these people working as IC's. Do you have some indepth knowledge on this that you can share - or maybe someone else does.

I also wonder how the IC with the IRS works when we work with someone in another country. That needs to go on my list of things to research.
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Agree and/or commenting on his facebook page. The dude has over 24,000 likes...but it truly looks like they were farmed likes. I get a really bad feeling about what he is doing out there. Does not seem too legit at all.

Originally Posted by Clerical Advantage View Post
Pam,
Yes, I think you can choose to screen comments, so I'd say we probably won't be seeing our thoughts there on YouTube.
Time for a blog post perhaps.
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
If you go to the company website and look under Company History you will see "My staff was not all together “Excited” about the idea of outsourcing what they perceived as “American Jobs” to virtual assistants in other parts of the World" so that confirms that he is farming out the work to a third world country, paying the VAs there very little, marking up the hourly price and pocketing it. Basically he's a broker.

Frankly I view his sales spiel as misleading advertising and his manner makes me cringe. Anyone comes on to me in that fashion I head for the hills and any professional person would do so as well. Maybe he's a former used car salesman?

In any event if the VA is offshore wouldn't the IRS have no say in the matter?
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Tina, thank you for sharing this article - it's certainly something that all of the members of this forum should read. I signed up for both, Elance and Odesk when I started by business, but closed the accounts very quickly because I was not willing to compete with $1/hr offers. I know there are some hidden gems in there, too, but I decided that searching for them was not worth my time. There fore, Pam, I don't have any particular in-depth knowledge on this particular topic...
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
The whole issue with offshore workers is complicated. No, the IRS rules probably wouldn't apply (I say probably because I'm not an employment law attorney, meaning I could be wrong.)
That said, the whole outsourcing thing is starting to get much more complicated than it was when Tim Ferriss first released 'The 4 Hour Work Week'. There are multiple instances of legislation and restrictions both at the federal and state levels that are aimed at discouraging offshore outsourcing in order to bring jobs back to the U.S.
There is a good article that shows just how complicated it can be here.
But my issue is more about the message this guy is sending to potential clients. He doesn't state that he's talking about offshore assistants/employees. He calls them virtual assistants. So every PC looking for more info about working with a Virtual Assistant on YouTube is going to stumble across his too slick video and then come to me (or you) and be expecting to train us.
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Sara,
There is another article about the ODesk screenshot feature. The writer talks about the possibility of compromising another client's sensitive info accidentally should set off red flags for ALL virtual assistants.
If breaking the IRS independent Contractor rules aren't enough to make you rethink ODesk, this definitely should!
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Hi Wordpro Wizard,

I'm no expert on the topic by any means, but I am *fairly sure* the IRS is concerned with any business based in the US. It does not matter where the contractor/employee lives, The US Gov still regulates the US based business and all US rules apply.
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Also guys, I think he is talking about training on company-specific tasks...not skills in general. I don't like it either because quite frankly, anyone doing this (helping people find a VA in this way) is using offshore people 99% of the time.

I personally have looked for assistants and those that are both US based AND skilled enough to do what I need are too expensive for me to also make money AND pay them or to just pay them flat out (with me making nothing).

While I understand people wanting to buy cheap (although you get what you pay for), if all the jobs go offshore...who will have the funds to buy the goods and services in the US?

The main part that upsets me about this is....why does he think business owners need help finding a VA? The onus is really on us though....we have to be good at educating business owners ourselves and the need for these "locator" companies will greatly diminish; they will have no place in the industry.
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Old 07-21-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
I decided to go take a look at how Elance handles the IC situation. Take a look at this link.

They have found a gray area, obviously - but I find it extremely interesting that they keep saying they will "mitigate" the possibility of misclassification.

In my research I also discovered this, and this was news to me. There are a lot of times I see people talking about their former employer becoming their client. According to the IRS rules that is a big red flag and no-no. Just sayin' - that's what it says. It can seriously get the employer in trouble because the IRS sees it as a way that the employer may be trying to skirt paying certain taxes.
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Old 10-16-2012
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Default Re: What are your thoughts on being trained by your clients?
Wow, after watching the 'training' video, I checked out his video on timekeeping . . . be sure to 'set their schedule' and determine if they need to 'clock out' for 'a 15-minute lunch or to use the bathroom'. What will you do about 'sick days'? He's clearly not offering what I consider to be VA services.
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