If you’re problem solving and you come up with a great solution, write it down. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
Listen very carefully to what a client says and what their actions are saying. #vatipGotta Tweet!
Don’t make any sudden decisions about taking on a client. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
The Business of Being a Virtual Assistant – Episode #48
How do you get fresh content for your blog week after week, or fresh content for social media, or fresh content for YouTube, or fresh content for a podcast? Wherever you’re putting out content, how do you keep in fresh?
Here’s my big tip for you. How do you keep it fresh? Takes notes on every project that you do. Not after the project, but during the project. If you’re problem solving and you come up with a great solution, write it down.
For example, a client of mine just finished up a telesummit, and we had to figure out a workaround for Autopilot because the file was too big. I noted that workaround so that I can write a blog post about workarounds and autopilots and whatever else comes to mind for the telesummits.
Write down what you learn from the project itself.
I remember writing a blog post about everything that I learned about Black Friday promotions, and these were some tips that I would give clients: start early, don’t wait until the last minute, test out your shopping cart, make sure it works. Don’t start with a brand new shopping cart on Black Friday. You want to give yourself time to test.
On every project, take notes during the project. After the project is over, jot down some things that you learned, and you’ll keep building. This is how you keep your content fresh. Every project brings new ideas, new solutions, and a better way to get things done.
The way I would have handled the Instant Teleseminar Autopilot issue three years ago is totally different than how we were able to work around it and get it fixed today, because of my experience, but also because the technology has improved greatly since 2013. So make note of that. That becomes your content, something to share. Not that you share all of your good stuff, but you’re showing what you know.
Have you ever heard of bait and switch? That’s where somebody is showing you one thing and then switch it around, come to find out it’s something else. What does that look like in our world for a virtual assistant business? Well, it looks like a project that starts out as three items and grows to seven. It looks like a project that’s described really simple, but turns out to be complex.
There are times where things arise unexpectedly. I’m not talking about that for this particular case. I mean just what I’m saying, where things are growing out of hand. You can easily blame the client, but it’s not their fault. The responsibility is on who when it comes to bait and switch projects? Us. The responsibility is on us as the virtual assistant.
You want to make sure that you get all the information about a project that you can.
I get there are some times you miss. I’ve had plenty of misses. You learn from those misses. That’s where taking notes during the project and jotting down what you learned at the end of the project comes in handy so you’ll always remember what to ask. That’s how I know get very specific about the questions that you ask.
When you are reviewing a project description or when a client is speaking with you on the phone, don’t make any sudden decisions about taking the client on during that time. You want to digest all the information and make sure that you have an opportunity to ask all the questions. It may require you to do a little digging on Google. It may require you to explore their website or explore their social media platform. It may require you to schedule another time to speak with them so that you can get more of your questions answered.
A perfect example, if you are a telesummit VA or webinar VA, you help people with that, when you’re asking how many emails does someone have, be specific. Not only ask how many emails do they have, but ask where are your email lists currently. Are they are in AWeber and MailChimp? Are they in AWeber, MailChimp, and Constant Contact? Where are they specifically?
Do you plan to import contacts? If so, where do you plan to have contacts imported? Because some systems, if you’re importing contacts, require they opt-in again, and if someone’s looking to promote an event and their system that they’re using is counting on them to opt-in again and then you’re going to promote something else where they have to sign up, that may not be good. You want to be able to make your client aware of that, or just knowing there’s an extra step for you. That you’re going to be in one system and also another.
So asking how many emails, while there may be ten emails, if there are two lists and one’s on AWeber and one’s in MailChimp, how many emails are there? Is there still one email? No. It’s two emails, even though it’s the same. It’s got to go in AWeber and it has to go in MailChimp. You want to ask all the questions you can possibly think of.
Bait and switch projects are on us. We have to get all the information.
That is not always possible. 2009 was going into my second year as a virtual assistant, and back then a majority of my clients came from Elance and I had a few referrals outside of Elance. But this particular project sticks out in my mind like a sore thumb. I won’t ever forget it. It was a bait and switch project. The project was supposed to be a simple – whenever it starts out, “It’s a simple…” it’s not. It’s not. You don’t anybody to dictate to you how easy or how simple something is, you know, that’s subjective.
It’s a simple copy and paste from the Drupal website. Copy that and I think it was copy, grab the HTML, and put it somewhere else or vice versa. Actually, it was copy HTML, put it into the Drupal. That’s what it was. Copy and paste that way. Really simple project, can be done, easy. Okay, cool. This sounds interesting. I’ve worked in Drupal. I had a client that had a blog in Drupal. We would update his blog post, add images, all kinds of cool stuff. Okay. Sounds good. Let’s do it.
I got awarded the project and off I was going, but I kept hitting a wall. I’m learning it wasn’t a simple copy and paste. You would copy it, paste it in there, but then it had to be formatted and there was some funny, funky formatting that Drupal was doing that I was having a hard time figuring out. The client was on top of me, you know, it seems like as soon as I hit save on something he’s looking at it, and it just grew.
So we got the first few chapters off. This was, I don’t know, some type of class or something. We got the first few chapters going and I knew how many we were going to have. I’m like, okay, we’re getting it done, almost there. Little did I know the chapters had chapters inside of them. He might have said, “It’s only 25 chapters,” but the 25 chapters had units and other chapters inside of them, which made it even longer.
It was taking forever, and he was getting upset with me. I was getting frustrated with him. Guess what I did, because this was, to me, a bait and switch. I didn’t know what questions to ask. Not only was it not simple copy and paste, but it was also way more involved, way more chapters. It was like the never-ending project.
I kindly let him know I would not be able to complete the project and kindly let him know that I would cancel it out. At that time on Elance when you cancelled, it totally cancelled the project and so it never happened, which means you didn’t get paid for it. It just was a cancel, so he could start fresh with somebody else. It didn’t change the work I had done, but as far as the award and all the good stuff.
He was upset because he didn’t know what cancelled meant. He thought cancelled meant I was taking money and running and just not doing the project. I said, “Oh, no. You can keep your money. Don’t worry about the time I’ve spent on it. Let’s just call it even.”
I was SO relieved when I did that because I was stressing out over that thing and it’s not worth. I didn’t set up my business to be stressed out over a “simple copy and paste” project. No. I started my business so I could pick and choose the projects and the people that I want to work with.
Think about that for your own business. What decisions and choices are you making that may be causing your own anxiety or your own overwhelm or your own frustration. It could be a bait and switch project. It could be something else. Either way, you hold the key to whether or not that happens. You hold the key. You can’t control what somebody else does, but you can definitely ask enough questions to recognize whether this is a yes or a no project for you.
That’s not just for projects on the job board, but that’s for all of your client projects that you encounter. It may not even be the work. It may be the working style. Whatever it is, evaluate it, look at it, ask all the questions before you make a final decision. It doesn’t matter whether the person on the other end understands or not.
You’re running a business and you have to operate like a business owner.
There’s no rush. When you rush to make decisions, you don’t take time to get all the information, and you don’t want to rush on any of that stuff. You want to listen just as carefully as you’re reading the details of that project. Listen to what your client says. What are they saying? What are their actions saying? You guys know the phrase, “Your actions speak louder than words.” What are their actions saying? Listen to those actions. What are they saying? On that initial interview, what are they saying? Listen to what they are saying.
Now, if a client comes and they’re like, “Oh, I used to work with a VA. I don’t work with them anymore,” I want to know what happened. Not specifics, but I want to know was it amicable. I need to get a feel for that, because so far the track record has been those who’ve complained about a past VA end up being a challenge for me, so alarm bells ring off. It’s one thing if they’re switching their service or they’re closing down, you know, obviously, something that’s outside of your client’s control. But other stuff, listen carefully.
We are communicating so much every single day. Somebody’s listening to how we’re communicating. Somebody’s listening to what we’re saying, what we’re doing. You do the same thing on the flip side so you can make wise and good decisions for your business so you don’t encounter that bait and switch project, because you don’t know it’s a bait and switch until you’re in it. Switch. [Laughs] It’s already happened. You don’t know until you’re in it. “Oh, it’s just one email and one list. Oh, I forgot, we’re going to import the list.” You want to get all the information.
At the beginning of the whole bait and switch talk, I talked about how it can look like a project that goes from three things to seven things. Now, the way you could prevent that, and you’ve probably heard the phrase “scope creep,” is to make sure your client is aware of what is included with this particular project. Just remind them. That’s what you include in a final email to them just to let them know, confirming the service. This is what’s included. Just reminding them what is included in this particular phase and that just helps them to know and understand we’re doing the three things in phase one. These other four, these can go on phase two. That’s how you would handle that.
If you have any other questions, come on over to my Facebook page. You know where to find me.
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!