Struggling in Appalachia, He Books the High End Lifestyle for Rich Techies
Lauren Smiley

Thanks for writing this, Lauren! The Creeches are good people and it’s really sad what happened to all of us who lost our jobs. Many of us have made the best of it, thankfully. It’s cool to see a piece that focuses on a former ZA and life after Zirtual.

I did have a couple of points to make though. First, your article mentions that ZAs, as independent contractors, were making $20 an hour. I was originally hired in as a ZA in April of 2013 as an IC (I worked up until the layoff), and we were making only 50% of what Zirtual collected for each plan, so if a client was paying $199 for 10 hours, I would see $100 of that go into my pocket. It worked out to $10 an hour, not $20. At no point, as far as I am aware, were any of us making $20 an hour. Even when we were hired as employees, I made $13 an hour. (EDITING TO ADD: For clarification, again, this is by the hours we were made to be available to clients each month, not necessarily hours worked. This was how everyone I knew at Zirtual back then looked at pay rate.)

I also find it interesting that Wil mentions that they “inadvertently” reached out to clients. While the initial emails to our clients were believed to be accidental — after all, how would Startups know which of our clients were working with us independently, right? — Startups continually reached out to our clients, even when the clients were put on a “do not contact” list. (When I eventually reached out to Wil about the concern that my clients were still frequently being contacted, I was told that because he purchased their information, he could do whatever he wanted. He also referred to my clients as HIS clients, since he had purchased the info.)

Zirtual has lost a lot of trust in the online community — not just with VAs, but with clients as well. Time will tell if and how they will eventually move forward.

I do wish that Maren would have emailed us a truly sincere apology after everything though. It seems like the least we all deserved after how we were all blindsided. For months on end, from Maren, we heard nothing but talk of growth, expansion, and how well things were going for the company, only to wake up one Monday morning to the realization that we didn’t have jobs anymore. We never really got a sincere apology after that. Maren came off as sympathetic in articles when she spoke about Zirtual online, but if she really cared about the community as a whole, a lot of us thought we would have heard from her at some point. We never did. For someone who claimed to love her employees so much, that’s incredibly disappointing that we never heard a word.

There’s probably a lot more to the story than we’ve been told. Too many weird things that don’t seem to add up in my brain. I kind of feel like selling the company to Startups was always the back-up plan… but we’ll probably never know the full truth.

Just sad all around.

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