Hiring an offshore assistant is frequently suggested as a way to streamline your operations while lowering your expenses. However, when working with a freelancer, you may give them access to sensitive information or authority to act on behalf of your business.
Without the proper safeguards in place, this can put your company’s entire future at risk.
Unfortunately, over 10 years ago, when I was still an inexperienced business owner, I learned firsthand about the risks of hiring an offshore assistant through a 3rd party platform. Here’s my story:
I needed a freelancer to assist with some digital marketing tasks. These were pre-Zoom times, so when I found an offshore worker that seemed experienced and competent, I hired him. We never even had a face-to-face virtual meeting, as Skype was notoriously unreliable at the time.
I gave him access to all our social media logins (during this time, the popular social media sites didn’t have all the security and business-friendly features that they have today).
Unfortunately, my first mistake was not getting to know the freelancer before working with him and sharing sensitive company information. He started to digitally market our business using questionable, even unethical, means.
This freelancer signed my business up for accounts on hundreds of platforms around the world. Many of these platforms weren’t even remotely related to the work my company did. My first business handled event management, but the accounts he created weren’t relevant or helpful for marketing or growing my business.
Unsurprisingly, his haphazard ways were unsuccessful. I respectfully communicated to him that my company was going in a different direction.
He didn’t like that and initially refused to give me the list of passwords and login info for my company’s social media accounts and the other platforms he had registered us on. While he may have gotten my business name “out there,” there was no targeted marketing involved.
This freelancer seemed to think that if more people knew about my company, this would magically translate to increases in growth and profitability.
The freelancer even initially demanded money before he would release my company’s login credentials to me. I was shocked; this individual was part of a major organization in the freelancing world, but his techniques were downright unethical and dishonest.
After I told him I would rather start my company’s accounts over from scratch than pay him a dime, he changed his mind and sent my company’s credentials to me.
The Longterm Effects
Even today, years later, my old business emails still receive random spam and junk emails from across the globe. The time (and money) he used was supposed to assist with our marketing efforts but instead went to waste.
Instead of directing our marketing campaign towards clients and organisations that fit our niche, he cast a large net with the hope that he would reach someone interested in our services. Unfortunately, his casts were unsuccessful and my company experienced no growth from his efforts.
I want to help other businesses from making the same mistakes that I did. Here are some tips and guidelines to follow when working with offshore freelancers to ensure you have a good experience.
Request a Background Check
Don’t hire a virtual assistant without performing a background check. If the freelancer or their firm balks, look elsewhere.
Have Them Sign the Right Documents
Before working with a freelancer, have them sign a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement to prevent them from sharing your company’s sensitive information. If they violate the agreement, you may have legal recourse.
Use a Password Sharing Program
When sharing passwords with freelancers, use a password program (like LastPass or Dashlane) to provide access to your passwords. Don’t ever provide them with your company’s exact account credentials; instead, use the encrypted password program for everything.
Make sure that whatever password program you use allows you to have administrator access to everything your company uses.
If your virtual assistant sets up accounts for you, it needs to be done through the password program. Should something go awry, you can quickly revoke the freelancer’s access.
You can also use password programs to store payment details that allow you to provide payment information to your assistant without giving them your credit card or financial information.
Follow a Smart Firing Protocol
Sometimes, a virtual assistant or freelancer just doesn’t work out. If you decide to part ways, it’s essential to be smart about your “break up.”
Make sure to backup all your project work and data (ideally, you should be doing this anyway, but just in case). You’ll want to disable their access to all your accounts and financial information.
Submit a project-ending proposal to them in writing that spells out the end of your agreement. Confirm that your proposal follows any terms specified by their contract, specifically matters pertaining to payment.
All in all, it was a very unpleasant experience, but an experience I learned from. When starting out in business, you often don’t know where to go for help. Start with reputable sources and don’t assume they have your best interests at hand. Ensure you have solid governance protocols in place to protect yourself and your business.