I’m still tweaking it, but now have Virtual Assistant – THE Blog housed on my own server, using WordPress. I’ve been learning this program for just over a couple of months now and have been able to successfully import this blog from its previous home. Please do update your bookmarks to http://www.vadirectory.net/blog/ for new posts or, if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to my blog at the left of screen and new posts will be automatically emailed to you. KMT
Interesting title – why would I use it? Well, because I noticed recently that people were Googling this phrase. Additional to that I had an email from a gentleman who was contacting VA businesses trying to get business from them – he wanted to operate as a VA and just couldn’t understand why other VAs wouldn’t give him work. He isn’t the first who has sent me similar emails. His response to me, in our email discussion, was that he was convinced the ‘VA business’ didn’t work.
So, why would some believe it doesn’t work? There are a number of reasons and this could end up being a long post, but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.
Firstly, if starting out as a VA you need to realise that approaching other VAs to give you work is NOT the way to go around it. I know and understand the rationalisation of the idea – they would charge a cheaper rate and the VA passing on the work still gets their normal rate, but the reality is that whoever deals direct with the client is putting their name and their business on the line – they have to be responsible for the end result, and therefore would have to spend time checking over the work before passing it on to the client – this could end up being considerable time for very little return (the balance between what is paid out to the subcontracting VA and what is paid by the client), especially if time was spent fixing the job up. If it were passed back to the other VA for fixing up (at no extra charge) then there is a timing issue and whether the client’s deadline is being met.
Secondly, when VAs do choose to subcontract work out because they are either too busy, or don’t have all the necessary resources or skills at hand, they are not going to outsource to someone they have no knowledge or experience of (enter the VA forums – more on that in a minute).
New VAs need to be dealing with clients direct but I do understand that there is a nervousness about this – it’s breaking new ground. The reality is though, if you are in business for yourself, you do need to take responsibility for marketing your business and learning how to attract clients for yourself – real clients, not just someone subcontracting to you.
So, this is where the Virtual Assistant networking forums come into play. Whilst some have membership subscriptions and offer member benefits in the way of web pages, job leads and referrals, discounts on service providers from other businesses (insurances, training, etc), the discussion forums are, in most cases, available to non-financial members as well as financial members. You are welcome to join more than one to get a feel for the different cultures of the groups and the different things that are discussed at the forums.
The most valuable thing you are going to learn at a forum is how to operate your business, how to attract clients, how to market your business, how to work with clients, how to handle problems when they arise, how to do all sorts of things. What amazes me though is that some (new) VAs join chat forums and then start selling their services to the discussion forum – that is the WRONG thing to do and totally inappropriate. Everyone else is there to learn, just as you are.
The RIGHT thing to do is to join the forums, read through their archives (past messages), see what the most popular topics are, learn from the mistakes of others and apply things that you learn. After settling into the group, introduce yourself and then ask questions, if you’ve seen they haven’t been asked before (or you’ve done a search and can’t find it). Over time other members will get to know who you are, and if you use a signature block, will even check out your website (if you have one) and/or email you privately, especially if they’re seeking help and think you can help them. But, I repeat again, it is NOT appropriate for you start emailing them all and ask them for work. That is the quickest way to put everyone off you and they will not be interested in passing work on at all.
Many VAs will tell you they don’t have sufficient work to pass on – this may also be the case. If they themselves are new to the industry and just getting started, or perhaps they choose only to work a few hours a week and have sufficient work for what they wanted, then they won’t have anything to pass on to you. But again, I emphasise, it is important to spend time building relationships, let people get to know you, and spend time learning about the industry and how to run your business. Before you know it you will have your first client and you’ll be asking chat forum members for advice on how to handle different aspects of your client/business relationship.
I’m open to discussion on this if you want to post a comment – I’m sure many will come back to read the comments and responses. KMT
One of the team asked me today a question I’d not thought about before – at least, not in detail. It’s one of those things that you tend to develop an unwritten law about – and each person has their own law. She was responding to a job request late in the day and asked up to what time would be suitable to call the client? We discussed some times and I suggested that anything up to 8.30pm is often ok for many people but not for others. Probably best to call and ask if ‘now is a convenient time?’ or arrange a suitable time to call back.
We agreed that it depends on people’s different lifestyles and she then commented ‘Email is easy ;-)’ and I had to agree. But it reminded me of something that happened only a month or so ago.
Late one night, around 10.45pm I was responding to emails before packing it in for the night when suddenly the phone rang. My husband and I looked at each other and wondered who it could be at that hour? Thankfully that particular phone doesn’t ring through the house to wake the family and only rings in my office – if I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have heard it. I picked it up thinking it’s probably someone from overseas as it’s not unusual for someone to call in the late hours of night or early hours of the morning without checking to see what time it is here (in Australia).
Sure enough, it was a lady from India – she’d just received my email and took that as an invitation to ring me. She was rather surprised to find out how late at night it was and I have to admit I told her I wasn’t impressed. This same person had been contacting several members of the team asking for work and making a bit of a nuisance of herself and I’d been emailing her about it, giving some advice on ways to seek work. When I shared this with the team member mentioned above, she laughed and commented that ‘it takes all types’.
So, going back to our original discussion – what is a suitable time for calling a client? Do you have any thoughts about that? I’d love to hear about it. KMT
If you don’t already provide a newsletter to existing and prospective clients, now is as good a time as any to start thinking about it and preparing one. Perhaps you might feel you have nothing to say, or perhaps you don’t feel confident in your own writing ability. But don’t despair because you can get good articles from any of the article submission sites available online, such as www.goarticles.com, www.articlecity.com, www.ezinearticles.com, www.ideamarketers.com and others. The authors are always happy to see their articles in print, providing acknowledgement is given to them. Using articles that are a value-add for your clients is worth doing, instead of a hard-sell – it’s about keeping in touch with your clients on a regular basis so they don’t forget you exist, whilst giving them useful information at the same time. A good rule is to make it a minimum every 90 days, but generally a monthly newsletter is well accepted.
If you enjoy writing, then you could consider submitting articles to the sites I listed – don’t forget to add a paragraph with a brief bio and your contact information – as others will use your articles if they like them. This helps give you exposure to a greater audience as well.
For those not subscribed but who may have an interest, my latest newsletter is available at http://www.vadirectory.net/newsletters/acsnewsjun06.htm. The two topics are Blogs and RSS Feeds. KMT
By the way – if you would like to learn about blogging and don’t know how to get started or what to do, you can join BloggingLearners!
Recently one of the ACS team asked members on our chat forum about online facilities that would allow training via the internet to take place. She had an overseas client who needed training in the database program she was using for them and she was looking for something where the client could see what she was seeing on her computer at the same time. Sound like something of the future? Not at all! It can be done today and that’s what makes this industry so exciting – the possibilities continue to develop and opens new doors with the technologies that are available to us. But why don’t I let Tracey tell her own story? Click here for the full details.
If you are in an industry where access to the web plays a part in what you do, then it stands to reason that there is probably a chat forum or two where you can ask for advice, learn from peers and share what you know with others. It’s a great way to develop your knowledge and keep up to date with what’s happening out there, outside of your current working environment. Yahoogroups is just one of those communities but there are others too, such as Google Groups and more. My first introduction to the web early 1996 was through a community with Compuserve.
Many of these allow you to receive the chats via email so you can respond to the queries or discussions as they are happening. Some people don’t like receiving heaps of email though, so you can choose to go ‘nomail’ and log in at the website instead to view what’s been happening. Some forums have chosen to use php based programs and developed forums where you can only log in to participate – I belong to a couple like this but find I participate less because I much prefer the email method – for me it’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Wikipedia describes the online communities like this:
A virtual community is a group of people communicating or interacting with each other by means of information technologies, typically the Internet, rather than in person. Virtual communities are also known as online communities or computer-mediated communities (CMC).
This article is also posted at SOHO-Life.