Who pays when something goes sideways on work a VA is doing for you?

First of all, what kinds of “sideways” things am I talking about? Anything really. Unfortunately, the possibilities are endless. To get you thinking in the right direction consider these challenges:

  • An electrical surge or computer malfunction that causes the loss of hours of work your VA was doing for you
  • A weather travel delay resulting in added hotel and meal expense when she’s traveling home from one of your events
  • The wrong version of an edited blog post ends up on your site after the two of you agree on the version to be posted
  • A gift ordered for a client doesn’t arrive as expected and it turns out the gift vendor never received the order your VA says she placed

You know these kinds of “sideways” things, right? They happen to you, too, and regardless of who causes them or how they happen, they’re frustrating as all get out.

The difference for you between when you cause something to go sideways and when your VA does is all in your perspective.

When something happens to you, you simply do the work again, and although you’re not happy, it doesn’t likely feel like a truly big deal. And, your VA will make sideways things right by doing the work again, too. But when your VA has to do the work again, or incurs additional expenses, the extra money to pay for making things right always makes the whole thing feel like a much bigger deal. Anything that costs more always feels like a bigger deal. But it’s really not any bigger.

As to who pays for that extra…it depends. When you started working together, did your VA tell her about her own expectations of situations like this? And did you agree with that? If so, you might already have your answer.

But if not, then the two of you will need to discuss it and come to an understanding about what’s going to happen and how things will be handled in the future.

When I work with a VA, I look at three things:

  1. Our relationship
  2. How often things go sideways
  3. Whether the issue was something that my VA could have prevented or not

My highest expectation is that we have a relationship of equals and believe we each want the relationship to be strong and good. With that in place, the last thing I want to do is point fingers or place blame. I want to first give the absolute benefit of the doubt and find out what went wrong and why.

It’s also true that I have an expectation that her own errors won’t happen frequently, and that her business has a solid foundation and her life is drama-free enough that the other kids of problems won’t happen frequently, either.

If that’s what I experience, then I would pay (her for her time, or whoever needs to be paid) to remedy anything that went sideways. And in the spirit of finding out what went wrong and why, I would expect us to look, together, at what happened, and see if there were holes in any of our processes that need to be patched to prevent whatever had happened from happening again. Experience has taught me that most things that go sideways go sideways because of holes in processes, or misunderstandings due to wholes in processes. Plug the hole, fix the core problem.

But if things went sideways frequently, that would be a toleration for me and I would stop working with her. That’s the smart business decision.

We all make mistakes. It’s part of what it is to be human. And I don’t think any of us have the right to expect perfection from those we work with (especially since we can’t offer it ourselves). But for VAs who hold themselves up as admin and ops professionals, you absolutely have the right to expect them to have their stuff nailed down pretty well so that you experience very few of these “sideways” challenges.