And THAT'S What Makes Our Audit & Consultation Great

A few days ago I interviewed Sue about her audit and consultation process. Frankly, although I sit next to her all day every day, I'm busy creating stuff and don't get into the technical details of her work very often.

I was surprised more than once. Don't tell anyone, but after I found out how much work she puts in and what the client gets back, I'm going to suggest raising the price.

Here's that interview:

Q&A: What topics should I write about on my blog?

What should I write about on my blog?Question:
I am working full-time and trying to get clients for my business. The hardest part is marketing and writing a blog.I've started a blog but what topics can I write about? What about marketing?

It's got to be tough working full-time while trying to start a business. On the other hand, that gives you an income you can count on while you work on building your business.

Since you have such a busy schedule, it's important to make an appointment with yourself to make time to work on your business, write blog posts and market. Then keep your appointment as though you were meeting with a new client!

Here are some suggestions from the Action Guide, Building Blocks: Succeed as a Chief Virtual Officer:

  • Write a "how-to" article or a "ten tips" article
  • Answer questions you get from prospects and clients as a blog post (much like this one)
  • Invite prospects to write guest blog posts.
  • Write about a client's success
  • Post a list of relevant links with a short comment on why you found each valuable
  • Share a recent experience you had

It's very helpful as part of your marketing strategy to also visit other blogs and post comments there that will link back to your own blog.

More tips on blogging and marketing can be found in the Action Guide, Building Blocks: Succeed as a Chief Virtual Officer.

What topics do you write about on your blog?

Q&A: What kind of investment should I expect to make to be a successful Virtual Assistant in 6 months?

What kind of investment should I expect to make to be a successful Virtual Assistant in 6 months?Question:

What kind of investment should I expect to make to be a successful VA in 6 months? I know it is important to get business cards, get a domain, create a website, join online industry organizations and memberships. But what are the other considerable costs one should make?

I think the answer to this question is a bit subjective. First you need to define what success means to you. Some only want to work part-time while others hope to make it a full-time business and earn six figures.

More important than a monetary investment is the investment in your time and energy. Before we get into that though I will cover some basics you need.

In my book, The Commonsense Virtual Assistant - Becoming an Entrepreneur, Not an Employee , the introduction lists some skills and tools you'll need such as:

  • Business Plan
  • License
  • Contract
  • Reliable computer
  • Internet access
  • Phone service
  • Time tracking tool
  • Project management tool

There are other investments you can make to get training and certification. These are not necessary. If you do choose some training or classes to get certified, make sure to check them out thoroughly so you are getting the value you need for the investment you make.

Now to the important investments: your time and energy. Your success will depend largely on the time and energy you are willing to spend to build your business. The number one investment in your time and energy should be to attend in-person networking events. I've written numerous times  about how important it is to do this if you intend to build trusting relationships with prospects and clients and gain referrals. The Commonsense Virtual Assistant book has an entire chapter dedicated to marketing and specifically covers networking.

So the real question you need to ask yourself is, "Am I willing to attend four networking events every month for the next six months and build relationships?" When I was growing my business I attended a different networking event every week of the month and did that consistently for six months. By the end of that time I had built trusting relationships with people who I was able to refer work to. That in turn led to my gaining new clients and referrals.

Let's ask other successful virtual assistants: what did you do to succeed?


Q&A: How Can I Market My Business?

How Can I Market My Business?Marketing a business is a huge topic. Today we will address a specific concern one virtual assistant has.

I ran a VA business from 2007-2009. As much as I loved it, I found that I was having to spend a large percentage of my time marketing my business. I would like to start up again, but what alternatives should I consider besides doing my own marketing?

To give the best answer, I first asked some additional questions.

  • What percentage of time did you use to market your business?
  • What marketing strategies did you use?
  • Would you be open to having someone else do your marketing and if so, how would you envision that?

The virtual assistant stated she spent at least 50% of her time marketing her business. Now that may seem like a lot. However, I did a bit of research and found several entrepreneurs who encourage spending at least 60% of your time marketing. I do know that if I'm working 20 hours a week for clients, I'm spending an additional 10 hours or so marketing my business. So the amount of time seems right.

What we sometimes forget is that we are entrepreneurs and business owners. That means usually we are the one person doing it all: sales, marketing, client work, administrative work. And that takes time. If we don't want to spend the time doing the marketing, we have two choices:

  1. Hire someone as our marketing person
  2. Find a J.O.B. - because a business owner must market their services and products in order to succeed

Some marketing strategies that are very effective are in-person events such as SBA events, BNI meetings, professional associations. Then there's online marketing: a blog, social networking sites, ezines, press releases. Yes, these all take time. That's why it's important to put together a simple marketing plan and calendar and schedule these events and actions. Our Action Guide has a sample marketing plan and calendar with details on how to put them into action.  Having a plan helps you make sure you're using strategies that are most effective and less-time consuming than just haphazardly posting something on a social network every day.

Joining local small business groups and attending monthly mixers are effective marketing strategies. Get to know the people, what their needs are, how you can refer them to others. It's important to build relationships with these people before you ever try to "sell" them your services. There's a whole section in our book, The Commonsense Virtual Assistant - Becoming an Entrepreneur, Not an Employee, that has lots of great information on marketing. You can purchase a copy on the website.

The Commonsense Virtual Assistant
The Commonsense Virtual Assistant

I believe doing your own marketing is most effective. However, hiring someone to market your services for you is also a viable option. After all, isn't that what many of our clients hire us to do for them? You can hire someone to help promote your services - online, via mailings, follow-up phone calls, and even by attending in-person events.

Another great marketing strategy is article writing. It establishes you as an expert and always links back to your website. Check out my articles at Ezine Articles.

You can read more about proactive marketing at another blog post of mine.

I'd love to hear your comments!

Your Questions Answered: What About Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure?

Non-disclosure and confidentiality agreementsQuestion:
What are the main points that should be covered in a confidentiality agreement?

Some virtual assistants start their business working with clients they know and have had long-standing relationships with. Or they have developed trust with their existing clients and the issues of confidentiality and nondisclosure were just taken for granted. So what happens when a client, perhaps a large company that doesn know you, wants to hire you and wants a confidentiality agreement or NDA signed?

My first piece of advice is to add a standard confidentiality clause to your contract for any new clients. For existing clients, you may want to add an addendum to your contract. A confidentiality clause can be beneficial to both parties.

The confidentiality agreement does not need to be long and complicated. I use a simple two-page contract with a standard confidentiality clause included. You can review it below.

The confidentiality agreement, included in your contract, should address:

  • the definition of what is considered confidential
  • the time period covered
  • be in line with State law

Some clients may want a more detailed non-disclosure. An example of one is below for your review. This may be appropriate if you are dealing with a Client's proprietary software for example.

When preparing your contract and confidentiality clause, keep the needs of this specific client in mind. Be willing to adapt the clause for your individual client.

Standard Contract Clause: Confidentiality
During the term of this Agreement, Contractor shall act exclusively in the best interest of Client. Contractor acknowledges that it may have access to information which is non-public, confidential and proprietary in nature. Such confidential information may include, but is not limited to, trade secrets, business plans, copyrights, logos, trademarks, financial and operational information and membership lists. Contractor expressly agrees not to use or disclose such information in any manner or for any purpose at any time during or after the effective term of this Agreement, except as required by law or as required during the course of Contractor’s work for Client, unless authorized in writing by Client. Upon expiration or termination of this Agreement, Contractor shall return any such information to Client. Likewise, the Client agrees that it will not convey any Confidential information obtained about the Contractor to another party.

More detailed non-disclosure:
During the course of negotiations, training and consulting, The Contractor shall become aware of certain methods, practices and procedures with which Client conducts its business, including but not limited to: Tradeshow processes, blog and web content generation processes, sales and marketing processes, all of which Client and Contractor agree are proprietary information and as such are trade secrets.

Contractor will not at any time, either during negotiations or thereafter divulge, furnish, or make available, either directly or indirectly, to any person, firm, corporation or other entity any proprietary information used by Client. Contractor agrees that all such matters and information shall be kept strictly and absolutely confidential.

Contractor, upon the cessation of negotiations, irrespective of the time, manner or reason of termination, will immediately surrender and deliver to Client all lists, books, records, memoranda and data of every kind relating to all proprietary information and all property belonging to Client.

Contractor acknowledges that a breach of any of the provisions of this Agreement may result in continuing and irreparable damages to Client for which there may be no adequate remedy at law and that Client in addition to all other relief available to Client shall be entitled to the issuance of an injunction restraining Consultant from committing or continuing any breach of this Agreement.

What have you found most helpful to your client's in preparing a confidentiality agreement?