Starting out as a Virtual Assistant
So, you have made the decision to leave the world of mono-employment and move out into a new realm, the exciting world of Virtual Assistants – congratulations, you have taken the step towards an exciting and gratifying career. You have your decision made, your big ‘Why’, your ‘What’ and your ‘How’ sorted. You know you have so much to offer as a VA and can’t wait to get started.
In considering your ‘Why’, you would either have come across this career path, personally known someone, or even have been following the career of one who has chosen to be a VA, and his would have struck that chord within you that made you sit up and take notice of this being the path you want to be walking. So, what’s next – have you considered finding a Mentor?
What does it mean?
The word Mentor conjures up different meaning for different folk. A Mentor is basically someone that has more experience, skills beyond those which you currently possess and from whom you can learn and benefit.
During your work career you would have had some Mentorship along the way, even if it was not an officially appointed Mentor as such, there would have been those who were showing you the way, teaching and guiding you in your work career. Perhaps you didn’t perceive them as Mentors at the time, but they were there.
When is the best time?
There is no specific point or level in your career that is ‘best’ in having a Mentor, neither is there any limit to the number of mentors that you may interact with. There will ALWAYS be a benefit in having a Mentor, ALWAYS something to be learnt, shared or emulated. Some will help and strengthen you in one area and others in a completely different area. It is all about the learning, the teaching and sharing of knowledge, the interaction and the paying forward of skills and expertise learned from another.
Choosing a mentor
Mentors come in all forms and do not necessarily need to be in the exact field in which you operate. You will already possess a great toolbox of skills in which you have experience and expertise, however, there is always space for honing them and adding a new sharp edge. Look for someone that displays the same values that you have, possesses some of the skills you would like to add to your own toolbox and is willing to listen to you, guide and direct you, but mostly, someone that you really admire and inspires you to succeed as they have. Approach them. Tell them that about your admiration of their success and ask if they would be willing to act as your Mentor. Many would be honoured to be exactly that.
As VA’s we should be constantly learning and evolving, so, the old saying with a twist here is ‘Learn Smarter, Not Harder’ and what better way than with someone who has already walked the path successfully.
The person that influenced me most in life played a very unconventional role. It goes without saying that you look up to your parents and they are your biggest influencers. But from a business perspective it was one of my employers who showed me what was possible with hard work and determination.
As I’ve mentioned before I’m very good at reading people. So when used in a work environment you can hit it off with pretty much anyone. This particular lady was a very determined, I’m not taking nonsense from no one, strong woman. When I went for the interview one of the current employees passed me in the waiting room and asked me if I was waiting for B. I told him that I was here for an interview for the new receptionist position. His eyes widened and he said, “Good luck…” In a ‘she’ll eat you alive sweetheart’ type of way.
Cutting to the chase, I eventually got the job and became good ‘friends’ with B, my new boss. I knew how to stay on her good side and leveraged every opportunity to learn from her. She was a successful business woman but as all stories in life, it didn’t start out that way. She started from very humble beginnings and worked and worked to get on top.
Here is what I’ve learnt from her:
Do everything to the best of your ability
We once had a function for our clients’ secretaries and she went all out with wine and cheese and awesome entertainment. She didn’t need to impress anybody as they were already clients but she showed how much she valued their business by treating the ladies to a very special day.
Things first have to be really bad before it gets good
There were difficult days were I just chatted to her about our life struggles in general and she would tell me about how bad they had it before it became good. How she used to drive from medical practice to medical practice and sold stationery to the doctors for an income. Today she is selling them IT solutions and support and she’s killing it.
The importance of constructive feedback
Look, if she wasn’t happy about how you handled her client, she won’t sugar coat and tell you straight. Luckily I very rarely experienced that side of her but it was only because she was so passionate about keeping her clients happy and giving them the best customer service possible, after all it was her name at stake as she personally knew each and every client. Even though she could get really upset, you could still take her words to heart and learn from it because she built her business up from nothing and knew it better than any of us.
What I most admired about her was that she didn’t sit back when things started going good. No, she knew that any day something could happen and it could all be gone. Still to this day she works just as hard as her staff in making sure new clients are coming in and that current clients are happy.
As an exercise I’ve created a dream board of my best life, without even noticing that it very closely resembled the life of B. Guess she was much more influential to me than I thought.
4 Secrets to Growing Your Business’ Sales Exponentially This Year With The Use of Social Media
What new small business owner or entrepreneur doesn’t need MORE SALES in their business? Especially when it’s free! Social Media offers endless potential and opportunities for the young entrepreneur or established company to drive traffic to their website and increase their sales for free. In this beginner’s guide to using social media for growing your sales, we are going to take an in-depth look at what it takes to drive that potential sales through the roof using social media to target your audience. In this modern day there’s not a person that doesn’t have a mobile device which is excellent news for the business owner. Just imagine crushing those sales goals when you have the right audience at your disposal – a global audience available 24/7, 365 days of the year!
#1 Do your research
What you want is knowledge about your audience before starting any campaigns on social media. Consider and research the demographics of your target audience and use the information to determine which social media platforms to use to reach them and what type of media would be most likely to succeed.
#2 Quality content vs Quantity content
So, this is where you expect me to say, “Start a blog”, right? Wrong! If you don’t already have a blog for your website, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful FREE marketing tools to boost those sales and you might want to take a step back and first take a look at where to start when writing a blog post or how to improve your blogging. Our focus is on social media so that means you’ll need quality content to share. Take note my emphasis on quality content. Your biggest faux pax on social media is to share a whole lot of content without providing value to your audience. Don’t just post and share random stuff. Make sure what you have to say or share will either engage or entertain your audience.
A good guide is to use the 80-20 rule, which means you share 80% content that engage and entertain the audience and 20% sales content. Hard-selling is a definite NO! It adds a desperate flavour to your business that will chase away your target audience faster than you can schedule your next post.
#3 Consistency is key
Nothing is of greater value to improve your business’ online visibility than consistency. If you stuck to rule number two your content will be of value to your audience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog, motivational quote or short video, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Your audience will be anticipating your next post. A social media calendar will enable you to plan your posts to coincide with special dates and events to maximize the effect of your content. So, what’s better than using a social media scheduling tool to make sure you free up your time while sharing quality content on a consistent basis to all the platforms and targeted audiences of your choice.
#4 Engaging with your audience
Social media is about engaging your followers. If you don’t grasp that concept first and foremost your hard work will all be for nothing. Nothing is as important as responding to your audience’s conversations, likes and shares. This is how you build trust in your brand and develop a relationship that turns a follower into a client.
Do the research, create or curate the content. Be intentional, be consistent, find your own voice and style. In a world where we are often overloaded with digital content, we need to be unique. AND we are – so use it to your advantage to outshine your competition. You’ll be amazed at the results!!
What you can do to get great work ethic
Setting boundaries and rules whilst maintaining good work ethic as a Virtual Assistant
As a Virtual Assistant we are sometimes so hungry to get that next client and maintain the best working relationships with the ones we have that we sometimes forget that the key to success is actually to set some boundaries. Setting boundaries and laying down some ground rules with your clients need not be a daunting, scary thing, in fact if anything it should be a relief to you and could even show your client a whole other side of your personality which they may love. Assertive and confident professional remote worker – THAT’S YOU!
Now although it may be a necessity to set these boundaries to avoid things like burnout and less than average work being handed over to clients, you need to be able to do it in a proper manner and without coming across as bitchy and condescending. You also want to make the rules clear from the get-go, so things like what hours you are available to one specific client, what your actual working hours are and so forth need to be discussed right in the beginning to avoid any awkwardness further down the line.
Below I will discuss a few tips for setting up rules and structure within your business which will ensure your success and success for your client.
Boundaries for you and me
Your phone – Now although you have a phone and the general idea of a phone is to take calls you do not want clients calling you all hours of the day and night and weekends expecting answers. So you need to be clear that, if you do not have a phone purely for business, that you tell your client you are available for calls between hours x and y and thereafter there will be no response to calls or messages.
Set working hours – Most VA’s have more than one client and therefore would want to have specific times scheduled in order to provide the best most focused work to each individual client. This can be tweaked according to the workload of course as sometimes one client has nothing for you to do on a specific day, but another may have a mountain of tasks which are all urgent, you can then use your discretion, but setting some sort of guideline around this with your client is very important.
Treat your business like a business – All business’s have hours where they open and then the same for when they close, you as a virtual assistant are essentially running a business and should do the same. Business’s have rules and regulations, therefore so should you. A virtual assistant is not an employee and therefore does not have to adhere to the management from a client.
Having a task list – A task list is also great as you and the client can set up the tasks together that are needed for any particular day, if the client then tries to deviate from this you can respond by saying that because the list has being drawn up in a specific way you have planned accordingly and unfortunately any extra’s would have to wait for the following day. If you are unsure of what the priority task is it is always best to communicate and find out, this is also a good way of setting the rules that priority tasks are completed first but whatever falls outside of the normal working hours will be added to the following day.
At the end of the day we all want to be able to deliver top-notch service as a VA and we want to have as many clients as possible and keep everyone happy – but happiness comes from being honest and upfront about things. You never want to find yourself a few months down the line, when you realise you cannot handle the workload, telling a client you need to set boundaries, it will probably not end very well.
Be assertive, have a clear idea of what you can and cannot do in any one day and then have that chat with those clients and you will flourish.
Happy Virtual Assistant = Happy Client
Tactics to Positively Overcome the Difficult Client
Irrespective of what industry you are in, there is always that odd difficult client that as a result of various factors can leave you feeling frustrated, angry, unmotivated and possibly even full of self-doubt. For some of us, the reaction to a difficult situation can be defensive for others it can be offensive which can have either positive of negative outcomes regardless.
Stepping out of your comfort zone to establish smart habits
The fact remains that there will always be clients that are a little harder to please than others, so the question at hand is, how do you handle those situations in a way that will have a positive outcome for both you and the client? Well, while in my previous role, I had done some research on the topic and I came across an article by Barbara Markway (Ph.D.) who has some excellent insight into handling difficult clients, which I will delve into a little further, but one of the factors she mentions amongst others is going about things in a way that may seem unnatural to you as first. What does this mean? Well simply put, we all have our ways of doing things, and sometimes it works other times it doesn’t but if your finding your not getting the outcome you want from a difficult situation – perhaps its time to step outside your comfort zone, try a new approach and create smart habits.
Some Tactics to be Used with the Client
Out of the many tips given in Barbara’s article, the following tactics on how to handle a difficult client stood out to me:
- Listen & Stay Calm. Listening is the number one step in dealing with “unreasonable” people. Everyone wants to feel heard, and although staying calm can be extremely difficult in an emotionally charged situation, real progress can’t take place until the other person feels acknowledged. While you’re listening, really focus on what the other person is saying, not what you want to say next. I have often said to people in the past, “I know your hearing me, but are you listening to me? There is a difference”. Taking the time to really listening to what someone else is saying, can give you a fresh perspective and clarity on a situation at hand.
- Reflect respect and dignity toward the other person. You don’t know what the other person is going through. Chances are, if a person is acting unreasonable, they are likely feeling some sort of emotional or mental strain for whichever reason and showing contempt will not help productively resolve the situation.
- Saying, “I understand,” usually makes things worse. Instead, say, “Tell me more so I can understand better.” This for me was an interesting point, because I personally have often used the term “I understand” countless times with clients and looking back it wasn’t always well received, looking at this approach has given me a new perspective on how a client would possible react to the situation differently.
- Saying, “I’m sorry,” or, “I’m going to try to fix this,” while establishing boundaries can go a long way toward defusing many situations. This tip can be quite difficult to follow when you feel your not the one in the wrong and are feeling defensive. Sometimes by being humble in the situation and saying the words “I’m sorry” or “I’m going to fix this” can completely diffuse a situation, and in turn can give you the opportunity to establish the hidden need. The client could end up disclosing what they are really trying to gain or avoid within the project/ task and positive outcome can take place for both parties. Having said that, you will also need to assess the situation, while some of the above tips have encouraged listening and letting the angry person vent, you also have the right to be assertive and say, “Please don’t talk to me like that.” if the situation is gets out of hand.
Some Tactics to be Used with Yourself
Handling a difficult client with some of the tactics, may be draining for you which would defeat the purpose of positively overcoming difficult clients, that’s what there are also a few things you should do:
- Debrief. After the situation is over, talk to someone about what happened, take 5 minutes to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and just allow yourself to process the situation.
- Discharge your own stress. You had to put your natural reactions on hold for a while. Now is the time to discharge some of that pent-up adrenaline. Go for a run. Take your dog for a walk. Don’t let the emotions stay stuck in your body.
- Give yourself credit for getting through an uncomfortable situation. It takes a lot of energy not to act like a jerk when someone else is behaving badly. Don’t skip this step!
Positive Outlook, Positive Outcome
Remember these tactics are simply guidelines to help you along the way. How you implement these tactics is up to you, and maybe they won’t give you a positive outcome every time, but its all about trying and keeping at it until you establish smart habits that work for you. If you do not have the time or cannot see yourself dealing with difficult clients that’s ok, perhaps consider getting a VA to deal with your Client Relationship Management and can implement strategies for you! I have seen how these tactics have worked for me, and to this day some of the best connections and relationships that I have established in my career have been as a result of a rocky start with some pretty difficult clients. The key to all of this however is to always have a positive outlook, and having said this I will end with a quote by Lailah Akita “Our reaction to any situation will determine the outcome”