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A WAHM Slaps Back

Posted: Work & Business | December 1st, 2005



By Kelly McCausey

I’m a huge fan of Scott Stratten at UnMarketing.com, and I loved his recent rant about “looking the part” in business on BizSlap.com. If you haven’t been there yet to listen, you should definitely do that before you read any farther. I wouldn’t be a good mom if I didn’t warn you in advance that he uses a colorful expletive that you won’t want kids to hear — so slip on the headphones or make sure little ears are in another room.

Alright, so you listened? Great! You’re probably experiencing one of two common reactions: One possibility is that you’re laughing your head off at his boldness, agreeing with him the whole way. The other possibility is that your ears are burning and you’re feeling picked on.

Either way, I have to say that I completely agree with his message. It’s true that a business web site should look like a business web site. It’s true that we need to be willing to spend money on our business image.

Penny-pinchers, beware
Fair or not, work-at-home moms (WAHMs) do have a reputation for being cheap about their businesses. Some say it’s hard to get moms to spend any money at all — and to some extent, it’s true. Some moms are starting their web sites on a tooth floss budget — they can’t even afford a shoestring! They’re looking for every penny-pinching opportunity that they can find.

Scott makes a great point. Why should he or anyone else spend money with you when you’re not willing to spend a little money upfront to present yourself properly? I know it hurts, I know money is tight — but you do truly have to spend a little money to make a little money. And as your business begins to grow, you have to be willing to reinvest a portion of your profits back into the business.

So, if I agree with him — why is a WAHM slapping back? It’s not the BizSlap itself that bugged me. It’s the wide array of responses posted on forums, blogs and networks around the web that got under my skin.

By whose standards?
Scott specifically mentioned virtual assistants, so many of the comments were aimed at new VAs — work-at-home mom VAs, to be more specific. Several virtual assistants took the opportunity to give their own “slap,” attacking those who don’t come up to their business standards and calling them an embarrassment to their industry. The VA industry isn’t the first to try to set some standards that everyone should operate by, and it certainly isn’t the first to create some kind of quasi-caste system, separating the haves from the have-nots.

The message is clear. A “real VA” presents herself a certain way, charges a certain rate and performs up to a certain standard. Anyone who doesn’t present herself that way, charges less or offers fewer services is just “making the rest of us look bad.”

Who crowned who the VA fairy? Who gets to decide what a VA is and what a VA isn’t? It’s not like being a lawyer or a doctor – but they sure act like it is. It makes me think of the lawyer who chooses a career with legal aid instead of joining a big-name firm. How about the doctor who opts to serve in the inner-city hospital instead of opening a private practice? The lawyers and doctors who choose the high-priced specializations often look down on those who simply want to help the Average Joe.

Should virtual assistants organize and try to raise the level of professionalism offered in their industry? Sure. Any field is going to organize and set up some simple standards that stand to improve opportunities for everyone. Don’t read the wrong message in my words — I’m not anti-standards.

Set standards, make suggestions, provide resources and offer guidance. Those are all good things. Just don’t take things too far and start condemning others who don’t choose to sign up for your ideology of business.

If someone wants to set up shop and offer virtual services of one kind or another and call herself a VA — she’s allowed. If she chooses to charge one-fourth of what you charge — she’s allowed. If she chooses to have her kids around her while she works — she’s allowed! Why come along and shame her for it? When you do this, you’re no different than the high-priced nose doctor shaming the poorly paid ER doc for “wasting his skills.” Who are you to tell her what she should and shouldn’t do, charge or enjoy?

Diversity begins at home
We need to embrace the beautiful diversity of the home-based business community. Some are highly polished executive types, and some enjoy a more relaxed “fuzzy slippers” lifestyle. One is not better than the other. Not all clients are looking for the polished perfectionist. Many clients are glad to work with a home-based parent who can burp their baby while they work. I’m one of them.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that the mom or dad who chooses a child-friendly home office environment is any less of a professional or that they’re turning out sub-standard work. Parents are very capable of making a living with kids under their feet and in their arms.

© Kelly McCausey

Kelly McCausey is the host of Work at Home Moms Talk Radio and is co-coach at Mom Masterminds, where moms learn the process of building profitable internet -based businesses.

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