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