Virtual assistants work in a partnership with their clients. #vatipGotta Tweet!
If a client can’t narrow things down, it’s going to be a problem down the road. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
You set the tone for your client’s expectations from the very beginning. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
Hello. Thanks so much for listening. This is episode number 29. I’m just going to jump right in and share a book that I read this week, and actually I think it may have taken me a day or two to read it. But it was so good and I learned about this book – there was an article I read from a reference on Facebook and then I read in the comments from the article that was recommended, and can I just tell you there is gold in comments. You can get a lot of information by reading the comments, and that’s actually how I learned about this book.
There were two books that were recommended in the comments stream. I had downloaded both samples and I like to read the samples first and then go from there as far as deciding which book I want to read. So the two books that were recommended were The E-Myth Revisited and the second book was called Built To Sell, and I had heard of The E-Myth Revisited. In fact, I was like I think I have the actual book, but I wasn’t sure. So I went ahead and downloaded the sample from both books to get a feel and just to decide which one I wanted to read first.
So Built to Sell, I love how it is written. It’s a business book, but it’s written in story form so it keeps you interested. I was like, oh, this is really, really good, and the whole concept, Built to Sell, is setting up your business to be sold, whether you actually sell your business or not.
In this scenario, the owner of the business – I think they’re not a web design company. They’re a marketing agency, and they pretty much do everything from web design to copy writing to writing ads. They do everything in this story, and so the guy wants to sell his business so he can enjoy his life. The story takes you from there and him getting some advice from a good friend and how he can get his business set up so he it can be sold.
It is an excellent read. I highly recommend it to you for your virtual assistant business simply because being a service provider, we are very much wrapped into our business. If we take time off, things stop.
If your business is set up like most VAs where you are doing everything, you do the marketing, you talk to the client, you do the client work, you review the work, you go back to the client, they look at it, you look at it, you make changes, they’re satisfied, you get paid, or you get paid on the front end or whatever the case may be, but it’s all you.
If you wanted to go on vacation, you may have to let your clients know I’m going on vacation. If you got sick, you may have to let your clients know I’m sick, or if someone in your family got sick, your spouse, your kids, your parents, whatever, where you couldn’t do the work for that day or meet the deadline, you have to let them know.
A lot of things popped up as I was reading this book, and I’ve been all about building a virtual team since about I’m going to say 2009 when one of my clients suggested – I was doing all their web work and setting up newsletters and webinars and stuff, and we needed someone to do graphics, and I am not a graphics person.
When I say do graphics, I don’t mean using Picmonkey or Canva, or the apps for Instagram and stuff. Those are all great things and they’re actually things that I use, but I don’t call myself a graphic designer. If someone wanted graphic design, I wouldn’t say I could use it and then go use those tools. Those tools are great for us non-graphics people.
Anyway, back then, 2009, none of that stuff existed so we needed a real graphic designer who knew Photoshop and Illustrator to create landing pages for us, and so she said, “Well, Tiffany, can you find somebody on Elance for us? We’ll pay you and then you manage them and handle it and we’ll just communicate with you.”
That is what got me started with having my own virtual team, and to this day I still work with that group. To this very day, the same Elancer and I know they have a team of designers behind the scenes, and that’s who I go to when I have design needs and I’m not going in PicMonkey or Canva and I actually need some more creativity than that. I have gone to Fiverr a time or two when I was just doing some outside projects or something for fun. But for serious, serious work, I work with my same designers on Elance.
So my mind just totally went blank. You know, sometimes you get really excited about what you’re talking about and you just go blank.
Anyway, virtual teams and being able to handle it, point is if for some reason you couldn’t do the work you said you could do, you’d have to let your client know, right? This book is about designing it so you pretty much are taking yourself out of the picture and setting it up so team members can do the work and you be the owner of the company, whatever that looks like for you.
For me, I like being the project manager. I like talking to clients and digging in and finding out what they need, and then there are times I do it or there are times I send it to my graphic people or my programmers, just depending on what they’ve asked for. I’ve done it for so long, you know, I’m comfortable with that. Once I find people that I like working with for my virtual team, I stick until something happens. We stick.
So Built to Sell, that was his lesson in taking the owner of the company out of the picture. I’m just going to highly recommend you go download the sample Built to Sell. You like what you’re reading, buy the book. It is worth it. I read the whole thing. I’ll be reading it again, because like I said, it’s written in story form and then it summarizes the tips for you. It is phenomenal.
He talks about things that I have actually mentioned on this podcast and on trainings for VAs, about not generalizing and specializing, and how important that is. I won’t give away the whole story. You’ve just got to read it. They did eventually start specializing and things took off from there, systems and specializing.
That is my book recommendation for this week. Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You.
That’s the full name of it. But if you look up Built to Sell, you’ll find it, and it’s written by John Warrillow. Great book. I’ll probably be looking at some of his other books too. So grab that. It will definitely help you in your virtual assistant business, especially if you’re in a position where you’re doing everything and you don’t want it to be like that. You don’t want everything be dependent on you.
For me, I don’t want it to be set up where everything is dependent on me. I don’t want to have to tell anyone when I’m on vacation or when I’m sick or when I’m not available, unless it’s a situation where I’m working on projects or something like that and there’s a waitlist. That’s totally different. But I mean for personal reasons. It’s just very reminiscent of Corporate for me if I have to report to you in that way.
You know, my hairstylist, if she’s going out of town or not available, they actually work as a team in the salons. So I may show up and the main person, the owner of the salon, is not there, but it’s no big deal because somebody else will take me and all their work is equally great and I don’t lose out. I don’t have to wait. Whereas back in the day, you have a hairstylist, if she’s out of town, she’s out of town. You’ve got to wait until she gets back. It’s a pretty good analogy, especially if you’ve felt the pain of having to wait to get your hair done and you needed it done badly.
All right, so I am kind of going to do a rant this week. I don’t think I’ve ever done a rant, but there is a lesson in this rant. I am all for my VAs, my service providers, all for you guys and you being respected, honored, and valued by the people that you serve. We set the tone to make that happen.
Recently, on Elance, I got invited to a project and you may have seen something like this yourself. The project was they do videos and do social media on a regular basis, but they’re looking for someone to help increase followers, and I’m saying “help” lightly. They want the VA to be solely responsible for the increase of their audience. They’re basically saying, hey, we’ll provide the weekly content, but you get us some more followers. The pay was monthly pay and then a weekly check on the results. Show us that you’re getting us results.
Now, these days, I mean, you can buy followers to show an increase. But that’s not what you want. You want your true audience. I would think that person wants their true audience. But the thing that got me was, gosh, you know, the tone felt like they were expecting miracles to be worked because they were going to have a virtual assistant to do it.
I’m like that is not right because you don’t even know what kind of content they’re putting out there, what kind of videos. Is it something that their audience wants? Is it something that people would be interested in? Is it of value? Is it educational, inspirational, or entertaining? Does it fit it into any of that?
It’s very much dependent on the content just as much as getting people to see it, and while a virtual assistant could set it up to where it’s being seen, promoting it on social media and promoting it through ads and based on what the client wants because that could also be limited as well if they’re not up for all the different ways that it could be promoted, but the actual numbers, the actual results, whether they get subscribers or followers or whatever, is really dependent on what they’re putting out there.
It’s like being a party promoter. If you get the people to the party and the party sucks, they’re going to leave. So do you base the results off of the people that showed up, or are the results based on the people that stick around? Is it right that someone would expect a VA to pretty much work miracles for them week after week after week, blindly, not knowing what they provide?
I guess the biggest thing that got me was just the tone of it. I didn’t like that. It’s like really, you know, virtual assistants are not miracle workers. We can put systems in place if you’re open, and I say that with emphasis because a lot of times people want all these different things, but they’re not open to do them on a regular basis or to implement change or to be a part of it.
It’s almost like, you know, some people have a long list of things, a long wish list of things they’d like for a virtual assistant to do, but yet they don’t want to take the time to go through everything to show the VA how they like to do it, you know, how they like for things to be done.
A blog post, you know, I could have a way of doing it, you could have a way of doing it, and another person a way of doing it. The end results the same – blog post on WordPress. If all of us have virtual assistants, the only way the VA knows what it is we want and how we like it is if we show them.
If a client doesn’t want to take time to show you, if you can see from the beginning that they just kind of want to throw all the work off on you and they go off into the sunset and enjoy life, and then if there’s a clink, if there’s a glitch, if you need to contact them, you can’t reach them or they don’t respond.
Virtual assistants are not miracle workers. We work with our clients in a partnership.
When you are interviewing a potential client or customer, they’re interviewing you, but you also should be interviewing them. Ask questions based on how you like to work and the clients you enjoy working with.
If you can feel like, okay, this person is all over the place in describing what they need me to do or what they’re looking for a VA to do, if it’s all over the place and you try to ask them more specific questions and they can’t narrow it down for you, that’s a problem.
For example, a client may say, gosh, you know, I’m looking to have my social media done. I’m looking to have blog posts. I need landing pages set up. I need my social media done. Find out what “done” means. Does that mean scheduled? Does that mean written? Does that mean formatted? Does that mean everything from zero to published? Get very specific information, as specific as you can.
If they’re telling you a lot of things, because sometimes people are so excited, they’re finally talking to a virtual assistant, and you sound great, somebody referred them, they’re excited, they may be giving you their wish list. But budget wise they can only do a couple of things on this wish list. Nothing wrong with the wish list and them letting you know these are all my wants, wishes, and desires for you and what I need you to do. But find out where they want to start today. What is priority?
If they can’t narrow it down to a smaller list for you that’s digestible and doable and realistic, that is going to be a problem down the road.
Because they’re demonstrating how they communicate with you. They’re demonstrating their expectation, what they think about you, how they value a virtual assistant. Especially someone if they’ve never worked with one or if they have worked with one but maybe it was a family member or someone that didn’t take their role as a business owner, but consider themselves more of an employee. Listen for those clues as well.
If you have someone that has worked with a virtual assistant before and they share with you problems that they had and reasons why they’re looking for someone new, and it’s negative, look at it very closely, you know, put a microscope on that. Dig into that because most likely what they’re complaining about doesn’t have anything to do with the VA, but it could very well have something to do with them.
I actually had that happen recently. I missed the red flag when that happened on our initial interview conversation, and it came up later and it was really a communication problem versus the person that they had worked with before had done something wrong. It was a communication problem.
So point being, make sure that you are listening very carefully.
Don’t get so caught up in the excitement of the fact that here’s someone that’s interested in your service. Listen closely. If you can already feel yourself feeling weighted, overwhelmed, or you need to take a nap after the interview call, that is a sign. Internally, you already know this is not a fit.
Be clear on what you do provide because if something that they mention and it’s a lot, you know, they’re saying they need you five hours a day and we’re going to get together and we’re going to talk on Skype first thing in the morning to do a quick call on what we’re going to do today, and then on Friday send me a status update. We’ll just touch base every day via email or phone, preferably phone because that’s what I really like to just talk it all out, dah, dah, dah, and they’re just going on and on and on and on and on and on and on.
Have I overwhelmed you or did you get excited like, yes, I want a client like that, ooh, that sounds great? For me, my eyes get really big and I’m like, ooh. I’m taking notes on what they’re saying, but I’m also looking for where I fit, or if I don’t fit and it’s okay. I’m very clear. I’m technical. I’m a technical virtual assistant. I don’t edit and proof letters. I don’t write emails. If there’s an email you need sent to somebody, what do you want it to say? I’m very clear about that, and that’s how I want you to be.
Be very clear about what you provide because you set the tone.
You don’t go to a vegetarian restaurant, and if they have a drive-thru, you don’t go through their drive-thru and expect to get a Burger King Whopper. Wrong place. They’re very clear about what they provide. This is a vegetarian restaurant. We don’t have meat. We’re very clear. You go to Burger King. They say have it your way and you want a turkey burger, well, they can’t give you that unless it’s something they add to their menu. The do have a veggie burger.
Did you know you can get a Whopper without the meat? I had a friend in college, she used to go to Burger King and get a meatless whopper. It’s the same sandwich minus the burger. Yeah. That would mean lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayonnaise, and the sesame seed bun and maybe a pickle. I don’t know. They say have it your way, they’ll do it that way.
You set the tone for your client expectation from the very beginning, from the moment they contact you, on. It’s continuous, all based on you. If you accept that, you know, this wish list is something you have to do and you accept that, that’s what they’re going to expect. If you accept last minute requests on Friday at 3:00, it’s something you don’t really like but you accept it, it will continue to happen.
I don’t know if it was any of the episodes I’ve done recently, and it may have been back in the day when I did the BlogTalkRadio show, but I’ll share it just in case I haven’t talked about it here. But a long time ago I used to have a client and they were one of my first clients from Elance and we worked for almost four years together. But they would send on Friday – it seemed like it was happening every Friday around 3:00. Now, they were three hours behind me. I’m Eastern Time, so 3:00 for me. What would that be? 12:00 for them.
So I would get an email that had URGENT in all capital letters and the first time it happened I’m like, oh my gosh, what’s going on, everything all right? It was a request for something that we hadn’t even talked about. It might have been something she forgot or intended to tell me. But it needed to be done that day, Friday at 3:00.
For me, Friday at 3:00, my brain turns off. It does. It’s like I can’t process client work after Friday at 3:00. So I get things done early, earlier in the week meaning. Not earlier on Friday, earlier in the week. Funny thing is, Saturday morning, I can do something on Saturday morning, but that’s not the tone I want to set for my VA business.
But I noticed the pattern, this was happening. The first time it happened, I did it. I was like, oh my gosh, you know, I’m all for helping. Let me get this done, because I was new. This was back in 2009. But then I saw this was a pattern, and there was one Friday I could not do it. I had other things going on, wouldn’t be able to do it, and she got upset. Well, it’s because I set the tone. I was doing it before. So I worked it out, whatever was going on with me. I adjusted and got it done. But then it happened again and again, and I had to put my foot done and just let her know.
This is how it got resolved. I let her know that any urgent requests I was going to start charging an additional – it was going to be not double my rate, but my rate plus half. So if the rate at the time was $25 an hour, it was going to be $25 plus half of $25. Let’s just say double the rate for sake of conversation. It was going to be double because it’s urgent. I have to stop what I’m doing to do it, and of course she’s like, no, no, no, you know, that won’t work for us, you know, dah, dah, dah. Guess what? All of a sudden, urgent requests stopped. I took a stand. I took a stand for my business.
When it happened the first time, I didn’t know. When it happened the second time, I still didn’t know. When it happened the third time, how do we stop this? I don’t like it. What do I say? Nipped it in the bud and it makes sense that you would charge double for an urgent request, an emergency. Doesn’t it cost more to go to the emergency room than it does to go see your doctor when you have a scheduled appointment? Yeah. It does, so it makes sense for us. Same thing.
Well, that is my rant for this week and hopefully you got something out of that. There were a lot of things going on this week and I’ve just been taking notes on what’s going on, what’s happening in client conversations and experiences, and kind of sharing that with you and giving you that, and that’s where this week’s rant came from. It won’t be a rant every week. You guys know that. In fact, up to this point I think I’ve done mostly motivation with some training.
The action step for you for this week is to get the book Built to Sell by John Warrillow and read it. It is a game changer for your business.
Also, a little announcement for you: I’m going to start doing a Friday live recording of the podcast. I want to test out how this will work in Google Hangout and I would love for you to join me, and so the way that you can do that is to be on the VIP list. If you’re on the VIP list then I can communicate with you through email and give you an update and links to where to go, when we’re going to do it.
But I can give you time and date now so you can go ahead and mark your calendar, kind of save the date, and it’s going to be on Fridays at 1:00 Eastern, and we’ll go for, I think, 30 minutes. It may not even be that long. Actual podcast 15 to 20 minutes and then I’m going to take questions on the chat. This will be on Fridays at 1:00 Eastern and if you are on my VIP list you’ll get more details about that.
The way to get on VIP list is really simple. Go to my website: tiffanyparson.com, and I have to tell you, for some reason people want to put an ‘s’ on the end of my last name. It has no ‘s’ – tiffanyparson.com. Click on Freebies and that will take you to a list of different things that I offer for free. If you sign up for any of those, that will put you on my VIP list and then you will be notified about how you can join in on the live recording of the podcast on Fridays.
That is going to be fun because then I’ll get to actually engage with you and we can see each other. Maybe you’ll come on the webcam, whatever it may be. It could be chat or webcam. That’s why I say it like that. You don’t have to be on webcam, not a requirement. It’s going to be called Get Free Fridays and it’s just a live recording of this exact same podcast.
So that means we’ll have two episodes of the podcast that come out. But the Friday ones will kind of be exclusive. It’ll just be a recording that goes to iTunes and Stitcher, and I’ve started to post my episodes again on Pinterest using SoundCloud, so if you’re also on SoundCloud you can hear it that way too. But that’ll be the only way you get those episodes. Those will be like the exclusive ones. They won’t even be on my website, so you’ll only see those if you’re subscribed to the actual podcast itself.
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.