As Good as the Next Guy

At the supermarket I noticed a package of batteries with this blurb: Lasts as long as Energizer.

So, they’re as good as the next guy.

Is that any way to advertise yourself? Is anyone going to switch battery brands (or, more importantly, start working with a “virtual” partner on mission-critical tasks) because they’re “as good as the next guy” ?

Marketers talk about your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for a good reason. If you can’t show a prospect why you are the only possible choice, why you are the perfect match for them, ask yourself: why should they choose you?

If you’re only as good as the next guy, what happens when the next guy gets just a little bit cheaper, or a little better, or both?

(By the way, even if you’re far better than the next guy, if you can’t show a prospect why you’re a perfect match, consider the possibility that they aren’t a perfect match for you.)

Writing Your Business Plan for 2010 to Increase Productivity

It’s time to start thinking about the New Year. Are you just starting out in business or have you been in business a while? Either way, each year you should consider writing a new business plan.

Your business plan does not need to be lengthy and complicated. It should include specific goals, strategies and actions you can implement on a daily basis. Having a written business plan with specific daily actions can increase your productivity and grow your business.

Take 15 Minutes Twice a Day to Become More Productive

We live in a very fast-paced world and often find ourselves so busy each day just doing what needs to be done that we feel overwhelmed. There never seems to be any time to work on our businesses, to market to new clients, to come up with and implement new ideas.

I recommend you schedule 15 minutes twice a day to focus on you, your business and goals. You will find the benefits to be tremendous. The ideal times would be first thing in the morning and last thing at night. When you first get up, take 15 minutes to write down your thoughts and outline your goals for the day. I often find that I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas. So I keep a pad and pen next to my bed and jot these things down. Then in the morning I can use that as a basis for writing for the day. Keeping an ongoing journal of your thoughts and ideas is a great way to make sure you don’t forget any of them. You can always go back to them at a later date.

Take a second 15 minutes the last thing at night to write down your accomplishments. This will help you relax and focus on the positive things that happened throughout your day. You will find you sleep much better, wake more refreshed and think more clearly.

Use these two 15 minute periods to relax, take a deep breath, and then let it all out. Then focus on something specific you want to accomplish or that you did accomplish that day. You will find that you become more productive by taking 15 minutes twice a day to focus on your business goals.

What do you do to stay focused each day?

Take Three Steps to Get Your First Client

The #1 challenge new virtual assistants have is getting that first client. You know that if you could get just one client and wow them with your work that they will in turn recommend you to their friends. But how do you get that first client?

There are a variety of things you could do. Today I’m going to give you three different steps you can take to find that first client.

Step #1: Subcontract for an established virtual assistant. Find an established virtual assistant and build a relationship. Some virtual assistants need additional help from time to time and if you’ve established a relationship, they may call on when they need extra help. Be aware, though, that the rate as a subcontractor may be significantly less than the rate you would charge a client directly. This is to be expected since as a subcontractor you did not go out and find the client and are not directly managing the project.

Subcontracting is a good way to gain experience and make a little income. I strongly suggest you have some sort of written agreement or contract clearly defining expectations and rate of pay. I know virtual assistants who only do subcontract work and don’t want the additional responsibilities that come with managing the client directly.

Step #2: Trade or barter services. Especially in difficult economic times, many solo professionals are willing to trade or barter services. I’ve know life coaches, business coaches, massage therapists, chiropractors and other service providers that were willing to provide their services in exchange for a virtual assistant’s time.

If you could use one of these services, find out if they would be willing to barter. Again, this is a great way to get experience and may result in good word of mouth referrals. If the client is happy with your work, this is a great opportunity to ask for a testimonial to use in your marketing materials.

Step #3: Offer an hour or two at no charge. I know you’re wondering right now if I really just told you to give away some of your time without getting paid. Is that what I meant? Yes! However, I did not say you wouldn’t get anything in return. Let me explain.

You are brand new, just set up in business and have no clients, no testimonials, no proof you are good at what you do. So why would anyone want to hire you or retain your services for five or ten hours each month? But if you could get even one client, a glowing testimonial and begin your portfolio, then there’s a reason for someone to consider using your services. So how do you get that first client? Offer an hour or two for free.

Of course you still want to have a contract detailing the work you will do in that one or two hours. Be sure that both you and the client have the same clear expectations. Let the client know up front that you’d like them to provide a testimonial – if they are truly pleased with your work.

If you provide excellent service, you will find that the majority of clients who you gave an hour or two of time at no charge will want to continue using your services and will gladly pay your fee. I have never been disappointed with my return on investment when I’ve done this. I’ve found it’s very rare that a client uses their free hour or two and then never comes back.

Since many small business owners are still reluctant to use a virtual assistant and aren’t sure what we can do for them, offering a small amount of our time can break the ice. In my opinion, this is not much different than a business coach who offers a free report with the hope that you’ll then pay for the more extensive eBook or even pay for his business coaching.

If you’re reluctant to offer free services to someone you don’t know, you may find a friend or family member that you can do some work for to gain some experience. Of course, this can have challenges of its own.

So what step will you take to get your first client?

Reluctant to Hire a Virtual Assistant Due to Past Experiences?

Are you reluctant to hire a virtual assistant because your last virtual assistant…

  • billed you for time beyond the contracted amount?
  • did not communicate regularly with status updates?
  • did not ask enough questions?
  • failed to meet your expectations?

As your Awesome Assistant, I will:

  • Never surprise you with a bill for work done beyond what the contract states.
  • Keep you updated on the status of your project(s) in a timely manner.
  • Let you know as we’re nearing completion of the time you’ve contracted so you are not surprised when you need additional work only to find out you’ve used up all the time you retained.
  • Ask questions to clarify your expectations.
  • Put in writing costs, timeframes, expectations and other necessary details so there are no surprises!

Several of my clients were at first reluctant to contact me because they had unpleasant experiences with other virtual assistants. One client was upset because her last virtual assistant had charged for hours beyond what they agreed on, without the client’s authorization and without informing the client before proceeding with the work that additional charges would be incurred.

This client also felt that her previous virtual assistant did not have clear expectations and was disappointed with the resulting work. Asking lots of questions and clearly communicating expectations would have alleviated this challenge.

Another client wanted their virtual assistant to do more than just complete assigned tasks. The client wanted a virtual assistant that could guide and advise them on what was best for their business. I was able to help this client accomplish the task – after advising him of a different tool that would grow with his business rather than the tool he was currently using and would shortly outgrow.

Though reluctant at first to hire another virtual assistant, these clients did choose to do business with me based on the recommendations of other happy clients. They in turn are now happy clients and recommend my services to their associates without hesitation.

If you are reluctant to hire a virtual assistant due to past unpleasant experiences, read the testimonials of my many happy clients, talk to them about how I’ve helped their business, and then give me a call so I can show you how the right virtual assistant can help you grow your business.

Tell me about your unpleasant virtual assistant experiences and let me tell you how I would have handled the situation.