Business Ethics + Honesty Are The Foundation Of Any Successful Virtual Assistant Business

A long-term and successful Virtual Assistant business is always built on business ethics and honest behavior and values. The VA industry is service-based, so we are dependent on relationships and reputation! If you ruin your reputation with unethical behavior, your business won’t survive.

First… be forewarned that this is going to be a rant post and something I feel needs to be addressed because lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on social media similar to this.

A new client just hired me for social media management, and I’m not sure how to do what they want. Can someone walk me through what I need to do?

This type of post makes me cringe. Now, I know I don’t have the whole story on this particular post, but more often than not, what is happening behind the scenes is someone telling a potential client that they knew how to do something when, in fact, they didn’t.

Don’t Offer Services If You’re Not Qualified

That means they closed the deal and then jumped on social media to ask, “What’s next?” This is NOT the way to do business—especially as a service provider! The last thing you want to do is tell a potential client that you know how to do something when you don’t, take their money, and then go out and ask on social media how to do what you’ve already said you can do.

This practice is dishonest and unethical. If you’re doing it, please stop. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t take money from somebody to do a job, task, or project. When people do this, it hurts the reputation of our entire industry.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m talking about dishonest people who take money for something they’re not qualified to do. In other words, they lack the knowledge needed to get the job done, let alone get it done right.

Yes, There Are Some Exceptions

  • And yes, I know that sometimes the person who posted on Social Media has been honest with their client, and the client is okay with them learning this service through them.
  • Or maybe an existing client has asked them to learn something. (This is how I learned Infusionsoft)

If this is the case, by all means, reach out for support!

What If The Client Finds Out?

This post is focused on dishonest and unethical people (yes, they’re out there) who tell potential clients what they want to hear, take money for something they don’t know how to do, and then ask for help on a Facebook group full of their peers.

How do they know the client who just hired them isn’t in the group they’re posting in? This actually happened in my free Facebook group! Someone posted that they got a new client and needed help doing X, Y, and Z because they didn’t know how to do it. The client was in the group and saw their post.

Think about how that client felt! Personally, I’d be livid. I’d feel cheated and taken advantage of. This happens far too often. The end result is people thinking the VA industry as a whole is dishonest and unethical when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people to think that about our industry.

Unfortunately, a few bad apples can (and do) spoil the whole bunch. We end up with clients who have trust issues because they’ve been:

  • Burned,
  • Taken advantage of,
  • Lied to,
  • Mislead,
  • Ghosted.

It’s up to all of us to help stop these dishonest individuals from tainting the VA Industry. I do my part when I see these posts. I’ll ask questions to see if they have the knowledge to get the job done and just lack experience or if they are completely new to the task.

Knowledge But No Experience Is Not The Same As No Knowledge At All

There’s a big difference between having the knowledge and not yet having experience and NOT having any knowledge of the skill at all. If you don’t have the knowledge, don’t sell it as a service. However, if you have the knowledge but don’t have the experience, be honest with your potential clients. You’ll often be surprised!

Would you allow someone to work on your car who had never seen an engine up close? Again I’m not talking about experience here, I’m talking KNOWLEDGE. Do you really want someone who is “learning on the fly” to be your Social Media Manager or to build you a WordPress Website? Imagine the damage they could do to your business.

I know there are other VA Coaches and Trainers who teach the “figure it out”, “learn on the fly”, and “fake it until you make it” methods. I personally disagree with these teaching methods – they’re unethical. What happened to honesty? Please don’t use your clients as guinea pigs; it’s not “on-the-job training.”

There’s A Huge Difference Between Watching Someone Do It On YouTube + Doing It Yourself

Just because you watched a couple of YouTube videos on Infusionsoft or Click Funnels doesn’t give you the knowledge you need to sell it as a service. You don’t know what you’re doing until you get your hands on the tool and get actual experience using it. I know this from years of teaching computers and software systems.

I got a ton of business due to these unethical practices. I was known as the Infusionsoft cleanup queen for years. People would watch a few videos on Infusionsoft and then “figure it out” after the client hired them, only to disappear because they realized there’s way more to it than what they saw on YouTube. I was hired to clean up the mess made by someone else because they didn’t have the knowledge to do the work and had no business selling it as a service.

A Few More Tips On Honest Behavior + Business Ethics

Here are a few more things I feel need to be touched on.

  • If you subcontract to others, be honest about who’s doing the work. If you take on new tasks and then give them to somebody else, your client should know who’s doing the work. Even though it’s your business, they still need to know if somebody else is doing the work.
  • Communicate when you may miss a deadline or need to change it. If you know you’re going to miss a deadline for a task, tell your client. Don’t just disappear or let the due date pass without a conversation.
  • Please don’t bad-mouth others that do the same thing that you do.
  • And it’s never okay to take a client’s money and then disappear when you realize you can’t do the work promised.

If your business is your livelihood, be honest and ethical. Post your business ethics on your website, add them to your business policy document, and share them with your clients. Let them know you’re a Service Professional and not someone flying by the seat of their pants. Ethics and honesty are where it begins and ends.

Remember, at the end of the day, this is a relationship-based business, and your reputation is everything. It just takes one bad move to ruin it all. Clients will not hesitate to share their experiences with others: “This person took advantage of me – I do not recommend working with them”. There goes your reputation and your business.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to post your comment or question below and let me know.

Thanks for reading – Susan

PS: Ready to embark on the journey of building a freedom-based business? Join me in Techie Biz in a Box, your comprehensive guide to leveraging systems, automation, and tech. Discover how to streamline your processes and reclaim precious time for the things you love. 

Susan Mershon
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  1. Dawn

    Thank you for posting this! You are exactly right – what we do and say does affects so many others, not just the client.

    • Susan Mershon

      Thank you Dawn for taking the time comment, much appreciated! We’re all part of the industry and what we do definitely affects the whole ;-)

  2. Linda Machado

    Hi Susan,
    Good post. Indeed, quite often I do see these posts on Facebook groups, even on LinkedIn groups (which I even think is less appropriate, demonstrating not only lack of ethics but also a total lack of personal/professional marketing notion on a business app).
    I recently turned out a job task because I didn’t feel comfortable on doing it, as I didn’t have the experience albeit I had the knowledge. I always have to feel confident on what I’m doing. It’s never wrong to tell a client “I don’t know how to do what you’re asking so I’m not the right person for you” and then, if the client insists, we can start the discussion from there and eventually do the job within certain conditions. This also already happened to me with a client that asked me to do transcription in English (which is not my mother tongue), he even provided me with the software and equipment so that I could try, but I tried and confirmed it was not doable in an effective time and the client understood and agreed. We are in excellent good terms, this has never turned out to be a problem as it was made clear as from the beginning that it was not something I was offering as as service. It’s never wrong to say No or I don’t know.
    Best wishes.

    • Susan Mershon

      Thank you Linda for taking the time comment, much appreciated! You are so right, you need to feel confident that you can do the work and deliver a quality result for your clients. This is such a great statement – It’s never wrong to say No or I don’t know!

  3. Pamela Lewerenz

    I agree 100% with you Susan! There is way too much of that type of dishonest activity going on in the virtual world. We want to be treated respectfully and professionally then we need to be that same with clients or potential clients. Great rant — wonderful topic for discussion in many social media groups!

    • Susan Mershon

      Thank you Pamela for taking the time comment, much appreciated!

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