I recently passed along contact info of a Virtual Assistant to a former client. I didn’t know the VA personally, we had never met, but I had chatted with her on the phone and she seemed to be a good fit for what my ex-client had been looking for.
A few days later, my previous client came back to me asking if I had any more recommendations for Virtual Assistant. I was surprised as this VA seemed to be everything she was looking for. When I asked why it hadn’t worked out, the previous client surprised me by saying that she had asked a lot of questions about her personal life as well, and she didn’t seem to have enough time and perhaps had too much on her plate.
When I dug a bit deeper, I found out that the client had found out how many children (and grandchildren) she had and made a large jump from associating a lot of children in the VA’s house to not being able to handle her workload. Yet, the VA had a quiet house during the working day – all the younger grandchildren were in some form of daycare and she worked a standard business day like anyone else.
Immediately I began to wonder if these questions were fair to even ask of a contractor. People will sometimes turn to freelancing when realize that they can work on their own terms – making money but also gaining some flexibility in the process. Virtual Assistants are no exception to this rule.
Yet, many people associate VA’s as a workforce who turn to this niche of freelancing so that they can have their children home with them while they make a living.
It angers me because how a VA, or any freelancer, manages their personal life should not be approached in the conversation. The questions a client should be asking are questions that pertain to the role they want filled: what are their skillsets, how much time have they allotted for you as a client, what hours do they normally work? If someone is needed from 8-5:00pm every day, that is something you must be upfront with right away.
The more nuanced, sad part of this story is that I wonder if my client would have asked these questions had the VA she was interviewing been a man? This shows that there is still a large hurdle that women workers, freelance or not, still must overcome as we are seen largely as the primary caregivers for our children. As we fight for more equality and family life balance in the workplace, questions and probing like my former client had done, drag us backwards. Women are more than capable of doing their jobs with precision and excellence, whether or not they also have their children in their home – I have seen it with many VAs I’m connected to.
What employers and potential clients need to realize is that if a woman OR freelancer (or both!) say that they have the creds and skills to do the job you are hiring for, have stellar references, and check the boxes in every way, then you should work with them. Let them prove to you that they can handle what you’re looking for before you judge their personal situation.