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Observe the things that you find yourself doing over and over again. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
Pick a system that works for you. #vatipGotta Tweet!
Save your responses somewhere that’s easy for you to refer back to. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
I am recording this in the morning, and this morning systems was on my brain when I woke up this morning.
I have got to send out a proposal to a client, so I had a few questions and went ahead and sent those to her, and I thought about how a lot of what I’m doing is a repeat. Some of the questions aren’t because, you know, that’s custom to the client project. But once she sends that back, I send her the rates. She says, “Yes. It’s a go.” After that, the process is the same.
As I’m eating my breakfast and trying to decide what is the podcast going to be about this week, I thought about, you know, let’s talk about systems.
For me, when I hear the word “systems,” it doesn’t always compute as to how that looks for me and my business. I’ve had clients tell me that I’m really good at creating systems, and I don’t necessarily know that I’m doing it. It just works.
I thought it would be great to talk to you about that because maybe you’ve heard systems and you’re not sure exactly how to start, what that looks like for your virtual assistant business.
Let’s talk about those things that you do over and over again.
For example, scheduling. Well, I’m jumping at the end. I’ve got my three points. I’m jumping at the end because that’s my favorite part is the whole scheduling with a client.
A client has agreed to work with you, and what do you do next? What are the next steps? How do you explain the next steps to a client that’s agreed to work with you? Think about that. Do you find that you’re saying the same thing pretty much each time to each client? If that is the case, make a note of that. It’s time to create a system for that flow after they’ve agreed.
Your system could be something as simple as having your response already saved in a Word doc, Evernote, Notepad, wherever you find it’s easy for you to keep notes and grab quickly. Everybody’s going to look a little different. Some people praise Evernote and I’ve tried to use Evernote and it’s good for me to drop things in, but then I forget it’s there and don’t go back to it. So pick a system that works for you.
Save your response somewhere that’s easy for you to refer back to if you find you’re saying the same thing over and over again.
When you paste it in for the next client, of course, tweak it for them, but the general part is probably the same thing. So that’s the first place you could start to create a system.
The next thing is if you’re requesting information for their project. That could be their logins or content or scheduling an appointment with them or something like that, whatever that is. How you collect their project information, mostly it’s probably going to be their login and content or a system for getting content.
Let’s say you’re doing their social media. You’re scheduling their social media. Of course, you’re going to need their logins too. If they’re doing Hootsuite, you need that. If you’re doing Facebook, you’re going to need to get access to their Facebook page.
If you’ve got three clients in a row or all at the same time for social media, you’re saying the same thing to all of them. So you create a system on how you ask for their information, you know, based on the different social media networks that they’re using, and save that in the same place that you’re saving how you explain next steps.
This way you can just grab it, copy it, paste it, customize it for them and off you go to save yourself some time and some brainpower because you’re only having to think about it the one time.
If you’re doing social media, think about how they’re going to get you that content.
If you’re not creating content for them, how are you doing that? Do they want you to go through their blog and pull the blog titles or blurbs from each blog and the link? If you’ve already discussed that or you already have something in place, put that as part of your system for that so that they know what they need to provide you.
If it’s, say, images for Instagram and they’re providing the images for you. Maybe you’re doing their Instagram. How are you going to get those images? You certainly wouldn’t want them to send that to you in an email, because imagine you’ve got – let’s work with those same three clients, and they’re sending you images in email a couple times a month or maybe one time a month, that would be a lot in one email.
So think about maybe doing a Dropbox, creating a Dropbox for each client and that makes it very easy. Maybe you be the one to create the Dropbox folder and invite them to Dropbox. If they don’t already have Dropbox, you’re introducing them to a new way of storing files, and Dropbox gives you credit for referring a friend, so your clients become your referred friend and you get additional space on Dropbox for free.
So it works great and you’ve got something that’s part of your system and that makes it nice and smooth for you. That’s a great example if you’re a social media VA. If you’re a transcription VA, you could use that same system for how you get those mp3s, or maybe you have another way that makes it easy for you to get access to those files.
The point of this is to think about those things that you’re doing over and over again, or that could be things that you do over and over again.
If you’re just getting started, this may not be something you’re going to have right away out the gate. Observe the things that you find yourself doing over and over again and go, oh, that needs a system, that needs a system, that needs a system.
If you’ve been a VA for a while, you’ve been running your business for a while and you haven’t created systems, you can sit and think about all the things that you know are repeats that you need to create systems for.
Now, let’s talk about scheduling.
When I was writing my notes before the podcast, and I don’t always do notes. Usually it’s a quick outline and I feel it and I’m like, okay, I’m ready. Let’s go. But I was just, you know, talking to you in my notes and realized, ooh, scheduling is just pretty juicy for me. I don’t know why.
Scheduling appointments with your clients, how you communicate that is a system. You want to have a system – everybody, regardless if you’re just getting started, been in it for five years, whatever, doesn’t matter. How do you schedule appointments with clients? Usually when you first start out, it’s more of a back and forth in regards to the schedule, and then you realize, oh wait, I didn’t give them a time zone.
Everything online, be sure to include time zone. Always, always, always include the time zone that you’re referring to.
So scheduling an appointment with a client, you’re pretty much going to say the same thing. Know what days you want to schedule appointments with clients. Don’t leave it open, Monday through Friday, or whatever the days you work. Don’t leave it open to every single day you’re open for an appointment.
You will forget because the more projects you take on, the more regular clients you take on, if you don’t have a set aside day or days to talk to clients on the phone, it could get crazy really quickly and you don’t want to ever forget a client appointment.
I raise my hand. I have forgotten a client appointment before. Because of overwhelm and stress, forgot an appointment. Then after that I was like, you know what, I can only schedule on certain days. Then I’ll remember and I’ll know, okay, Mondays and Wednesdays are a great time for me to schedule phone call appointments with clients.
In scheduling your system and knowing what days you want to talk to clients, this is going to be a perfect lead-in to your system for scheduling appointments.
Now, I’ll tell you, I’ve used vCita, TimeTrade, and now I’m using Calendly to schedule appointments. Now, you may be wondering why did you use so many and didn’t stick with a certain one? Well, last year I had to start reducing expenses for my business and I looked at every single tool I was using to evaluate is it worth the cost for me and my business? Is this something that is reasonable based on what’s going on right now in my business?
I was using vCita and I tested it out. I saw it on someone’s site and I was like, oh, this is a great idea. You can schedule appointments. You can send invoices through it. Oh, this is awesome. This is great. I can’t remember how much it cost each month. I’m not really certain.
It’s been a while since I’ve used it and it was fine, but it was a bit clunky. It’s been so long, I can’t remember the exact reason I stopped using it. I’m not sure, but I did find it to be clunky and so I was looking for a cheaper way to do this, you know, a cheaper way to do appointments.
Oh, are they the ones that have their own call line? I think so. That’s why I started using them. They have their own conference line, but it was confusing my clients. They weren’t catching the fact that they needed to call in to the phone line. So I didn’t need that feature anymore, because if they were getting confused by it, I didn’t want them to keep being confused by it. It started out with that, which started me looking at really close what all the offerings were.
So anyway, I found a cheaper option, which was TimeTrade, and I want to say TimeTrade was maybe like $49 for the year. I can’t remember exactly. But TimeTrade would sync with my Google Calendar and let me set certain days for appointments and, you know, made it easy for people to schedule. I’ve used them for a year because I got the annual membership.
The thing with TimeTrade is that TimeTrade does not send out email reminders. So if I got an appointment scheduled, you know, they got the confirmation email. But I would have to do the reminder emails. So, you know, that worked okay, but after a while you want it to be more automatic than that. I went ahead and kept using it because I paid for the year, but decided that when it’s time to renew in 2015, I would not continue with TimeTrade.
I’ve been looking for another calendar system before TimeTrade expired. I wanted it to, obviously, sync with Google Calendar. I wanted to be able to set days and times. I didn’t want it to be wide open. I wanted to be able to set days and times. I like that TimeTrade had specific links for each appointment type, so that was something that I wanted to maintain. Then the thing that TimeTrade didn’t offer was the reminder emails, so I wanted it to have a reminder email.
I was listening to a podcast and the person that was being interviewed said that they use Calendly for their system, and I thought Calendly, okay, let me check that out. So I took a look at it and they have an option where you can do free. They’ve got a free version and the free version lets you set up one event, and an event for us is an appointment type. So think about the one event like you’re scheduling for an initial appointment with a client. That’s your one event.
What was really cool, it had all the features I was looking for, but something additional that I didn’t really think about that really should be on the forefront of all of our minds, especially when we’re on our phones as much as we are, you may be checking email or social media, what have you, and that is it’s mobile friendly.
The other systems I’ve used were not mobile friendly in the way that Calendly is. I mean, it looks really good from my iPhone, and I’ve got the iPhone 4s. I don’t upgrade in technology as soon as stuff comes out, you know, if it’s doing what it needs to do for me, I’m cool with that so I’m still on the 4s.
But anyway, Calendly looks really good on a mobile device. So I already signed up for the free account anyway. That was just a bonus for me. But I loved the modernness of their website. It was very easy to use. It looked really good, and there were some other features that I was really excited about.
What if you could prequalify someone before they scheduled an appointment with you?
I’ve got to share this story with you. A couple weeks ago I got a voicemail on Skype and it was weird because most inquiries come through email or social media, and then I take them through Calendly and prequalify and we go from there. But it was a Skype voicemail with a phone number and she was familiar with me from a coaching program or something.
I was like, well, you know, I broke my own rule. She didn’t leave an email, just a phone number, and my initial thought was not to call back. Yes, that was my initial thought because most clients will leave their email and their phone number. They’ll leave both, just because time. They’re busy. They’ve got things to do, and so they know if you can’t get them on the phone, you know, email is quicker than anything and they can answer you at their convenience.
So I waited a couple of days and returned the phone call, because I don’t like impromptu phone calls. I like scheduled phone calls, and so I called her and my goal on the call was not to talk to her about her project, but to schedule an appointment. I called her. It wasn’t a good time, but we scheduled an appointment for the next day, that next morning.
Man, it turns out y’all, she was tire kicking, and so she’s asking me what I do, what I provide, and I’m sharing this. In my mind I’m thinking this is really weird, like didn’t you go to my website. It wasn’t that she was asking me what I did, but it was the way she was asking. It was like the only thing she knew was my phone number, so then the whole time I’m wondering how did you get my phone number without going to my website?
Before she’s asking me these questions, she ended up saying that she already found somebody, which was great because I could already get a feel and know this was not my client. This wasn’t my ideal client. So she told me very quickly in the conversation that she had found somebody, but she wanted to talk to me anyway just to see for future.
Well, that was really wasting my time because she hadn’t been to my website and, you know, you tell me you’ve already found somebody and then I’m wondering what are we talking about because I didn’t prequalify her. I didn’t find out what she wanted to talk to me about, and I gave her a pass because, you know, it was an indirect referral from something, and I shouldn’t have. But, you know, with just the phone number, how do you send a link for that? But anyway, lesson learned.
I figured out she must have gotten my phone number from my Facebook page, and I’ll be honest, I have taken the phone number off the Facebook page because I want the first point of contact to be my website, social media, or email so I can ask you questions to find out what you’re looking for.
It’s been a very long time. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time that happened where someone was just kind of tire kicking and wasting my time. It’s not something that happens to me often. But each time something odd happens, I’m looking for an opportunity to learn, you know, I’m learning from that experience and that was huge. I was like, okay, I’ve got to stick with prequalifying.
I’m saying all of that to say Calendly lets you ask the person questions before they can schedule an appointment with you, which is another bonus for me because that would have totally eliminated this whole call, right, because I could have found out, had her describe what her project needs were.
I find out their name, obviously email, their phone number. I find out what their social media links are, their website, and what they need. This way I can go check them out. Who are they? What is their business? Is what they’re looking for something that matches with what we provide? I can do that ahead of time.
Then after they complete the form of questions, the next screen is for them to schedule an appointment. But I get all of this information, even though they schedule an appointment. But if they go through that and they’re filling out the information, that let’s me know they are a serious prospect and it’s definitely, you know, a good call.
If this lady had gotten prequalified, she probably wouldn’t have filled out the form because now I’m asking about her business, what she’s looking for. But if she had completed it and put in there that she found somebody else, I wouldn’t have confirmed her appointment because I want to find out, you know, how soon are you looking for somebody.
I don’t want to schedule appointments with people that are looking for someone six months from now. Let’s talk when you’re ready, when it’s closer to time. I like to talk to people that are ready to go within the next 60 days, preferably 30 days. But if there’s a surge of people, then 60 days is good.
Calendly is my number one tool for scheduling appointments. I am enjoying it.
I did the free option, you know, they’ve got a trial period so you can have several what they call events, which is appointment type. That would be, for me, an appointment for clients that are looking for technical services or webinar services or social media services, and then I’ve got another event type for my virtual assistant coaching clients. I do, you know, one-on-one mentorship, so they can schedule appointments on my calendar.
Then the third one, I do direct sales offline. It gives me a chance to get out in the community and meet people, so I do jewelry parties and I’m now doing Skype jewelry sessions one-on-one, something fun to do. So I’ve got an event for that.
Calendly lets you have these different events, and they have different levels in their account. Can you tell I’m really hoping you go check out Calendly? Because the fact that that questionnaire is there, ah, the fact that you can prequalify your clients. They can schedule an appointment with you. They’ll get confirmation. It’ll send out an email reminder 24 hours before the call, and you can customize the email for that particular event type.
That’s really good, so if there’s something that you want to people to do, if you’re using a conference line or Skype or something like that, you can put those instructions in there. And guess what guys – systems. You’re creating that message one time and it gets sent to everybody that schedules an appointment with you that wants your service.
So really, really, really great and even though it syncs up with my Google Calendar, I like selecting specific dates and I’ve talked to you about that. Specific days and times, so both are happening, and by it syncing with your Google Calendar, it’ll update automatically if you’ve got it set up like that on your phone. If you’ve got an iPhone where your iCal is connected with Google Calendar, then that will sync up really nicely so you’ll know about your appointments.
You even get those custom links specific to your event. So depending on who they are, like what event, for me, again, I talked about client appointments for technical services, there’s a specific link for that, specific link for VA coaching clients, and so on.
This will help prequalify your people, help create a system for you, and things run nice and smoothly for your scheduling.
Big action step for you is to look at things that you’re repeating over and over again, create a system that works for you so that you’re not wasting time every time that pops up.
Also check out Calendly, and I’ll have the link in the show notes so you make sure to go to the right place. But it is absolutely wonderful, so check it out. Try that. They’re not a sponsor of this show. I don’t have any sponsors for the show, but it’s a tool that I am really enjoying and I think you might enjoy it as well.
Let me know how this has helped you. Let me know what systems you’ve created as a result. I love to hear from you!
Thanks so much for tuning in. If you like what you heard, stay tuned. We’ll be back. Tell me what’s going on with you. Come on over the Facebook page: facebook.com/tiffanyparsonbiz, or if you prefer a little shorter message, come on over to Twitter: @tiffanydparson.
See you next time.
Renae Bobb says
Enjoyed the podcast Tiffany. Thanks for the new tool tip!! I am still in the exploring stage for my virtual business and your information shared is much appreciated. 🙂
Tiffany Parson says
Hi Renae! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂 I’m so glad you’re enjoying the podcast. You are so, so welcome!