Freelance Marketing – Building A Solid Foundation

By | Marketing | 6 Comments

When it comes to marketing your freelance business, you can read up on tons of marketing strategies until your eyes get dry, but in order for you to be successful, you’ll need to work on your “mindset” first. When I say mindset, I’m referring to your level of self belief. I’m also referring to whether you are operating from a place of of fear and scarcity or from a place of confidence and abundance.

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How to create positive affirmations and remove self doubt

By | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

In my last blog post I wrote about the fears you may be having about marketing your freelance/Virtual Assistance business.

I explored some of the fears I had when I was new to freelancing.  You may have identified with some of them yourself and I encourage you to write down any fears that you have, in your own words.  By recognising and acknowledging your underlying doubts, you gain the power to turn them into positive beliefs.  Challenge your fears by writing down positive statements.  Here are some examples of positive statements that I created, to challenge the fears I had:

  • Will I actually get any clients or is this going to be a waste of time?
  • I will get all the clients I need so that I can work from home full-time. Each hour that I invest in marketing and building my business will pay off in in the future.
  • Where am I going to get clients from? Is anyone really going to need my services?
  • I know that suitable clients are everywhere. I just have to market myself in a way that will attract the right clients to me. There are people out there who need my services to help grow their businesses.
  • It might take me ages to get my first suitable client.
  • I will get my first client quickly and easily.
  • Will I get enough clients to fill each week?
  • I will get enough ongoing clients to fill xx hours a week. It’s just a matter of having a good marketing strategy, time, determination and persistence
  • I’m not confident enough to “get out there” and meet people face to face.  Maybe I’ll just stick to putting a few ads in the local paper and see if I get any business. If that doesn’t work, then nothing will work!
  • I am ready to try various ways of marketing my business.  I will put an ad in the local paper and start from there.  Some marketing methods will be more successful than others.  I am confident enough to get out of my comfort zone and educate people about the services I have to offer.  If a particular marketing method works then I will do more of the same!
  • There might be alot of competition already.  If the market is already saturated with Virtual Assistants / freelancers, how will I get any business?
  • My fellow freelancers/Virtual Assistants are all unique and have different skills and services to offer.  The market is not saturated because there are many potential clients that have not heard of Virtual Assistance yet and they need us! I am confident that I will get lots of business and be able to use my unique skills to help other businesses.
  • How much money do I need to market myself? I might not have the budget for it.
  • I have all the resources I need to market myself. There are many ways to market my business without spending a cent. I have enough money, time, determination and persistence to be successful.

How does that sound? Doesn’t that make you feel more confident, optimistic and restore your faith in yourself?

Once you have formulated your positive statements, take a fresh sheet of paper. On your blank sheet of paper, write out ONLY THE POSITIVE STATEMENTS.  There is no need to write down your fears again because you have already got these out of your system. There is no need to focus on them again. Going forward, you only want to focus on your positive statements.

Each night before you go to sleep, read through your positive, affirming statements so that they are absorbed into your subconscious mind. Every morning, read through them again. Really FEEL the statements rather than simply reading them through.

In time, you’ll be amazed at how confident and optimistic you feel. You’ll be able to face any obstacles and challenges (and we all have them!) with faith and resilience. Having faith in yourself is vital to your success as a freelancer.

Your comments are welcome as always!

Will this be your Best Year Yet?

By | General | 5 Comments

I hope you’re all having a wonderful festive season so far.

I am touched that over 50 of you have taken the time to comment personally on my “I’m back” blog post.  Please revisit that post to read my answers to the questions some of you asked!

http://virtualpabusiness.com/blog/general/iamback/

I usually like to use the relatively “quiet” week between Christmas and New Year to work through a great book that I have which is called “Your Best Year Yet” by Jinny Ditzler. It’s an annual “life review”which she has been teaching for 25 years in live workshops and is now available in book form.

You can read more about the book on Amazon. I heard about the book from my very good friend Sheina!

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Best-Year-Yet-Successful/dp/0446675474

By working through the book, you answer 10 key questions about the year just gone and the year about to arrive. It helps you to learn from the past, change limiting beliefs to powerful ones, establish your personal values and set goals based on your values.

You also decide on a main “role” to focus on for next year, which could be related to your career or personal life. This helps you cut through the noise of everyday life and focus energy on your most important priorities. I like the way Jinny encourages you to come up with goals which tie in to your values, as this makes it more likely you will achieve goals which are meaningful. She provides a lot of useful information and tips for planning your daily, weekly and yearly objectives too!

At the end of your self driven “workshop”, you end up a simple one page plan for next year which you can keep in view so you don’t lose sight of what you’re working towards.  Note: This is not meant to replace your detailed business plan. Think of the “Best Year Yet” plan as an overall “life plan”.

The “Best Year Yet” is profound, simple and easy to follow. The first time I did it was a year ago and it has been a wonderful tool to keep me focused not only on my business goals but personal, social and health goals. I haven’t done as much as I’d hoped, but I guess my personal relationship challenges and major upheaval played a part in that.

This method goes beyond setting “New Year’s Resolutions” which seem like a good idea at the time but quickly lose their veneer without any solid foundation behind them. Usually New Year’s resolutions become some kind of wishlist that never seems to eventuate!

Anyway, here are some snippets from my Best Year Yet workshop/plan so far:

What did I accomplish?
•    I moved out of a long-term relationship which was no longer beneficial
•    I moved into a new place which I love
•    I continued successfully running my freelance business with existing clients and getting new clients

What were my biggest disappointments?
•    I did not progress further on my idea of running a VA/freelance teleseminar course

What did I learn?
•    That taking the hard way is often the best way
•    It’s important to be around positive energy
•    That it is not good to procrastinate and get overwhelmed!

Guidelines for next year
•    I will break large projects into small steps
•    I will take consistent, focused action on the projects which are meaningful to me

How do I limit myself?
•    By allowing fear to get in the way of achieving bigger goals
•    By allowing perfectionism to prevent me going for greater challenges
•    By allowing myself to become overwhelmed

What are my personal values (in no particular order)
•    Inspiring and helping others
•    Integrity
•    Persistence
•    Determination
•    Taking care of myself, physically and mentally

What role do I want to take on 
•    To mentor and inspire freelancers to achieve their own successful work at home/work anywhere business

Now I just need to take consistent, focused action to make next year my Best Year Yet!

How about you? Any thoughts, questions or comments? What would make next year your Best Year Yet?

I’m back!

By | General | 63 Comments

I really must apologise for my lengthy absence on this blog. I know some of you have been wondering why I haven’t been in touch as regularly as I had been previously. 2010 has been an extremely stressful year involving a major upheaval in my personal life. I had no option but to move out of the home I had lived in for almost ten years, in April of this year. I did not take this decision lightly, indeed I spent most of last year 2009, wondering whether to make this move or not.

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Virtual Assistants Are Not Employees

By | General | 10 Comments

Today I’d like to talk about a scenario that may occur, when a client is under the impression that they have hired you as an employee and so therefore you are their dedicated assistant.

A Virtual Assistant is an independent business owner, not an employee. A Virtual Assistant is actually a partner to multiple business owners, supplying professional services on an as-needed basis, similar to other partners in business e.g. accountants, bookkeepers, business coaches or consultants. It’s very important for both the Virtual Assistant and the client to understand this concept!

Once you have established yourself as a VA, you’ll have more than one client, and each client will take up varying hours per week. If one or more of your clients believes that you are available to help them at any time with very little notice, you’ll inevitably encounter some problems juggling your time … not to mention alot of stress. You want to avoid the situation where a client thinks you are their employee, that you’re available at the drop of a hat and doesn’t want to ‘share’ you with other clients.

I have been a Virtual Assistant since 2002 and strangely enough, only came across this situation last year! Up until then, all my clients had completely understood the concept that I am an independent contractor with various commitments. They were happy, because the end results were consistently good and deadlines were met. They also understood that they were going to save a lot of money because I wasn’t their employee and they were only paying for the time spent ‘on task’, rather than having to pay a full-time salary or other benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay etc.

Last year, I started working with a new client who initially seemed to understand the concept and had in fact worked with a Virtual Assistant before. When discussing my availability to do some work, I had explained a few times that I had more than one client but could definitely fit in time to help on particular days if I was given some leadtime to schedule it into the week. She seemed fine with that and we started working together.

It was great, the work was interesting and we got on very well. However, pretty soon, she started to expect that I would be available every day, for most of the day! Now, don’t get me wrong, it was great to be entrusted with this much work on an ongoing basis. However, it wasn’t the model I had intended for my business. I already had a number of ongoing clients who needed various levels of support, and I did not want to be dependent on a single source of income.

Needless to say, I wasn’t able to provide full-time support, especially if lots of work was emailed to me in the morning with the expectation that it would be completed that same day! I wondered whether I had not properly explained that I had a number of clients and therefore needed some notice if there was going to be a lot of urgent work.

Of course, if you’re running a Virtual Assistant business where you have a number of subcontractors, you could outsource some of your work and juggle things that way. At the time, I was outsourcing some of my work but for personal reasons I had decided not to subcontract this particular client’s work.

After speaking to her at some length to explain things again, she decided that she would like to keep working with me on an ongoing basis, but just get me to help with some higher level work rather than everyday stuff.

I got the sense that she ideally preferred to have someone who didn’t have other client commitments. It turns out that her previous Assistant was more like a dedicated virtual employee with no other clients (or a minimal number of clients). She ended up finding someone who was able to commit to the level she needed, and everyone was happy in the end. I’m still helping her with more adhoc work on an ongoing basis and I’m glad that things got ironed out very quickly.

This isn’t a topic that I have seen discussed that often, so I thought I would write about it and share my experiences. Have any of you come across a similar situation? Please add your thoughts, questions and comments below!

As A Virtual Assistant, Should You Agree To Work At The Client’s Office?

By | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

At some point during your Virtual Assistant ‘journey’ you’ll inevitably come across clients that want to use your services but are not quite comfortable or ‘au fait’ with the idea of working virtually. So, if they happen to be within commuting distance, should you agree to work in-house or not?

There is no right or wrong answer to this. Of course, the concept of being a Virtual Assistant means, by definition, that you work from your own office, virtually. However, I think you have to consider this on a case-by-case basis.

If you feel that the client could be persuaded to work virtually after a period of working in-house, and that it would be worth it in order to land a long-term client, then by all means give it a go.

One of my previous clients had never worked with a Virtual Assistant, and had always had an in-house assistant. He wasn’t sure about using my services if they were purely virtual. I felt that he would turn into an interesting, lucrative long-term client so we negotiated a mixture of working in his office one day a week and the rest of the work was done from my office.

I could see why he wanted someone on-site because we used to do alot of brainstorming on the writeboard before sitting down and putting together proposals and presentations. I used to ‘take work home’ and happily do things such as internet research, formatting documents etc for him.

The arrangement worked really well for a number of years until he changed his business model and needed someone there full-time, 3 days a week. We parted amicably – the point being that in this case, a combination of working virtually and in-house worked for us, and it was well worth me being open to the suggestion in the first place.

So, if ever you’re asked by a local client whether you would consider working onsite for them, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons, and think of the long-term benefits, if any, for your business!

Have you ever been asked to work in-house? If so, what did you do and how did it turn out?

Will Large, Cheap Virtual Assistant Firms Put YOU Out Of Business?

By | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

In recent times, numerous Virtual Assistant companies have been springing up all over the place, promising fast, efficient service for very low rates (think $5 per hour in some cases), with large teams of VAs behind the scenes. Most of these firms are based in countries such as India, the Philippines and China.

So, if you are a one-man operation based in a Western country with a higher cost of living such as the US, UK, Australia or Canada, charging somewhat more than $5 per hour, are these firms going to put you out of business? How can you possibly compete with them?

The answer is, you don’t strive to ‘compete’ with them. What you are providing is a very different service.

Let’s take a step back and look at these large VA firms which have been made popular by books such as the Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. I have come across people who have actually tried a range of large VA firms, with very poor results. It sounds appealing to have access to a big team of cheap VAs behind the scenes but often this causes problems in that you don’t know exactly who is going to be helping you out at any one time.

‘Bigger’ can mean more impersonal, less attention to detail, more scope for misunderstandings and standards of service and work which leave much to be desired. Clients complain of being treated like a number, just another entity on the conveyor belt. They complain of having their time wasted delegating a whole pile of work that just doesn’t get done to any reasonable quality, and they have to start all over again, looking for a good, reliable VA.

If you’re a one-man Virtual Assistant operation or a small operation based in the Western world, you will be charging more than $5 per hour. You may be ‘smaller’ and more ‘expensive’, however remember that you are bringing the following to the table:

- very personalised service
- better command of the English language
- pride in delivering a quality end result
- transparency as in who is actually completing the work
- full accountability as to meeting deadlines (no potential to pass the buck to anonymous colleagues)

Make sure your marketing materials reflect who you really are. If you’re a one-man show, that’s fine. If you have a small team of trusted VAs that you subcontract to, that’s fine as well. There’s no need to pretend you’re larger than you really are, and there’s definitely no need to be intimidated by the plethora of mammoth, cheap VA firms.

There are lots of clients out there who are looking for EXACTLY your kind of personal service. Not everyone is looking for the $5 per hour VA firm (especially not when they dig deeper and discover what kind of service this really is!)

Be transparent, put a photo of yourself on your website, on your brochures and so on. Write an interesting, engaging bio, describing your background, your story, a little about your personal interests. Let your prospective clients feel they know you. If you launch your business with this attitude, you are on the way to success.

What are your questions, thoughts and comments about the above blog post? Have any of your clients tried some of the large VA firms? Feel free to share any stories or experiences you have!

How To Provide Transcription Services From Home

By | General | 7 Comments

As promised, I have created a resource for those of you who are looking to provide transcription services from home. Transcription is simply listening to a voice recording and typing what is being said into a document. The finished document is formatted, spell checked and returned to the client.

If you don’t have a long list of skills that you can offer, transcription is a great way to start. It’s not difficult to learn, and not expensive to set yourself up as a transcriptionist. At least that way you’ll have got started with SOMETHING.

The worst thing you can do is say to yourself that you can ONLY do one thing so why bother trying? Don’t get put off because other Virtual Assistants have tons of services on their websites. You can be a specialist in one service and still get tons of work. In fact, sometimes specialising in one niche can land you more clients, because people see you as an EXPERT in one thing.

In a previous blog post, I described how I started my business by ONLY offering transcription services. I could have offered alot of different services but I chose to start out simply and dip my toes in the water first. I quickly got my first client by advertising in the local paper and she gave me alot of ongoing work. It was a great way to gain confidence in working from home, and after that, I started offering more than one service (I wrote about this last week too).

You don’t have to do the same as me, if you don’t want to. If you have more than one skill to offer then you can by all means start out with more than one service on your list. Some Virtual Assistants like to have alot of variety right from the start. That is fine, and actually one of the great things about becoming a Virtual Assistant is that you can design your business exactly how you want. Just don’t get overwhelmed and confused about what to offer. Pick some services which you would enjoy doing and that you’re good at. Then run with them, all the while knowing that you can add more services at any time later on.

Both approaches have worked for me. I got clients when I was offering only one service, and also got clients when I offered lots of services.

Transcription work is something that will always be around even in times of a recession. Clients sometimes try to do things themselves such as organising their own meetings or trying to put together their own Powerpoint presentations. However, transcribing voice recordings into a document is something that clients really shy away from, because they don’t have the right equipment or they cannot type!  This is where you come in.

It’s also a wonderful service to offer in the sense that it’s easy to schedule this type of work around your family commitments. If you have children, you can get your work done early on in the day or late at night when they’re asleep.

For those of you who are interested in providing transcription services from home, I have created an ebook for you. If you visit the following webpage, you will also see that there is a free 20 minute video that you can watch, by entering your name and email address in the box that pops up on the left-hand side:

http://www.hometranscriptionwork.com

Do You Have To Offer Lots Of Services?

By | General | 10 Comments

Have you ever wondered whether you have to offer LOTS of different skills and services when you’re looking to work from home?

Here’s an article I wrote about how I found my first client when I started out freelancing from home offering ONE service:

Audio Transcription – How I Found My First Client

As you can see, I had no problems finding my first client when I was only offering one service, so there’s no need to think that you need a huge list of skills to offer before you can start out. There are always going to be clients who are looking for what you have to offer. They don’t necessarily look for someone who can ‘do everything’ if they only need help with one particular task.

As you gain confidence with your freelance business, you can always add to your services gradually and at your own pace. You can take training courses in your spare time – there’s no pressure. For example, I got really interested in web design and desktop publishing, so I took a few courses, got alot of practice in and then started offering those as a service.

You might want to add any kind of services you want later, such as organising events, providing phone answering services, making travel arrangements, designing Powerpoint presentations…the opportunities are endless.

The point I’m trying to make is that the opportunities are there for you to design your freelance business just how you want it. Just don’t delay actually starting it though, just because you only have one skill to offer right now. You CAN find clients when you’re only offering one service, and the earlier you start actually working in your freelance business, the better!

What are your thoughts on this? Any stories to add?