On This Get-a-Free-Hour Virtual Assistant Nonsense

There is an effort going on this week where a small group of virtual assistants is trying to educate clients about virtual assistance by giving away a free hour of time.

This effort doesn’t do anything to better educate people about virtual assistance.

In fact, it doesn’t help our industry at all, and it’s a really poor business example.

Anyone who asks you to work for free is exploiting you, be that a client or a fellow virtual assistant.

And if you’ve been in business for years and are supposedly established, why then are you still thinking you need to give it away for free? Hmmm, doesn’t sound so successful to me.

Giving away free work doesn’t educate clients in any way.

And the people it attracts, they’re are only there for the free buffet.

“Yeah, thanks, when I’m ready to hire a virtual assistant, I’m totally gonna call you!”


I call this dangling carrot syndrome. Don’t fall for that.

It’s a misguided effort and all you’ll be doing is frittering away your time, energy, hopefulness and resources focusing on entirely the wrong-minded people.

You don’t need to give away your value to educate clients. Giving away your value does nothing to attract clients who are serious about their business and your services.

Further, giving away one simple hour of tasks doesn’t in any way show clients the value of working in ongoing partnership with an administrative expert.

That’s because the value isn’t in the tasks, it’s in the equity of knowledge, quality, understanding and forward-moving synergy that is only grown within the dynamic of an ongoing, collaborative relationship.

In fact, the conversation doesn’t even need to be about money.

Virtual assistants make it about money because they don’t know how to have any better communication about their value. And that of course is when they then feel they have to resort to bribery and enticement.

Now a smart virtual assistant, one who has done her homework, studied her target market and clearly knows exactly what her value is to that group of clients, she never has to give it away or bribe people with freebies and discounts to try it out.

That VA gains the knowledge, direction and focus in order to have a different, more effective conversation with clients, one that attracts instead of bribes. She knows the difference between a commodity and a professional service.

Don’t train clients to devalue you from the get-go. They’re going to expect you to bargain with yourself forever more from that point forward.

8 Responses

  1. Denise says:

    Great post Danielle, and very true. If anyone wants to figure out how this works, all they have to do is get your guide.

    Keep up the good fight! 🙂

  2. I agree, Danielle. No one really gains anything. They would have been better off to create a blog-roll type of deal for the month where PCs could go around to all the blogs and really get to know the person that the VA is, learn their professionalism and skillset. That way everyone wins 🙂

  3. Jean Granger says:

    I agree with you. No other business owner would do something like this.

  4. So true, Danielle. It’s crucial to see the difference. Not only does it mis-educate the marketplace (bad for everyone) and attract the wrong type (bad for the individual VA doing it), but the devaluing of one’s own services is bad for self worth, which has an impact on how successfully anyone doing it could sell their true value.

  5. Kim says:

    From the very beginning of the VA industry VAs have offered 1-2 free hours of service. This is nothing new to our industry. But the question I raise is “What can you actually do for a potential client in one hour?” I don’t think an actual task can be performed on a project in one hour. When you offer 1 hour of service the VA is offering their time to consult with the potential client to discuss, brainstorm, interview, etc. on how that VA can help him/her in their business. This is what I like to call the “brainstorming sessions”. I, to this day, offer a 1 hour consultation with potential clients and it works – 9 potential clients out of 10 are ready to go by the end of the 1 hour consultation. While I am on the phone with the potential client I am reviewing their websites, Googling them to learn more about who they are and what they offer, asking questions about tools they use, etc. This consultation is meant to show your expertise and insight as well as to find out what it is the potential client is looking to accomplish. That is the value of the FREE one hour of services. You’re brainstorming with the potential client to showcase what you have to offer, the benefits of using a VA and how you can help them take their business to the next level. This is a service and it is a service that is worth a free hour.

    This is about how you perceive “giving” away your time. If a new VA is struggling to build his/her business, it is a great opportunity to offer her expertise and to discuss with the potential client what their needs are and how she/he can help. This is a win-win for both parties. If you market yourself correctly in that one hour and have shown that you are a benefit to their business you will most likely have a new client and all you spent was 1 hour. That is worth anyone’s time.

    So, let’s look at this free one hour as a positive. It is a marketing tool. Many businesses offer free consultations, but as VAs our time and expertise is worth money so you have to put a time limit on the consultation or you could be on the phone all day answering questions, etc. You don’t want to give away the “farm”, but you do have to make a good impression and promote yourself.

    As a VA you need to learn how to market your services and show the potential client you are an asset to their business. You are selling yourself! So, maybe you should look at it as “marketing “ and not “service”. if you think it is an actual task then you are not seeing the end result that you may be growing your business. I have been a VA for 10 years and I cannot tell you how many times I have been contacted out of the blue by a potential client to discuss my services – I tell them up front I can offer you 1 hour to determine their needs and make an assessment if a VA is right for you. My closing ratio is 9 out of 10. So, again what are you giving away in that one hour? My one hour is my action plan of what I want to accomplish with this potential client. I have a great opening, middle and closing. It works and I support the VA offering a FREE hour to all potential clients. Just decide what you are giving away and make sure your one hour is focused on determining what the client’s needs are and how you can help them.

  6. Thanks for your input, Kim.

    Couple distinctions to make…

    Just because virtual assistants have always done something a certain way doesn’t mean a) it was smart or b) it works.

    Sure, there are virtual assistants who have done this and will continue to do this until time immemorial. Which is why they continue to struggle in their businesses to earn well and attract value-centric clients. These kind of ploys keep them in a really immature level of business sophistication.

    They get frustrated with all the price-shoppers and it’s exactly because they themselves are making the conversation about money and freebies and discounts and making deals. My blog is not for virtual assistants who want to keep doing the same thing and getting the same results. My conversation is always directed to those who want to learn how they can do it all better, smarter and with more success.

    Bargaining with your value, discounting, giving your stock in trade away for free…. all that attracts are people looking for bargains. And they’re going to expect bargains and deals from that point forward because that’s exactly what they’ve been focused on. The conversation doesn’t need to be about what they’ll save. For virtual assistants who want to earn well and find business-minded clients who are truly looking for solutions (not bargains), the conversation should be on how their condition is going to be improved as result of working with a virtual assistant.

    The other clarification is that the topic of my post is about virtual assistants giving away free work.That is something completely different from offering a complimentary consultation. I have no problem with offering a complimentary consultation. I offer one myself.

    A consultation is a conversation about seeing if you can help, finding fit and ultimately marketing. It’s about facilitating understanding (about what the client’s goals are and how the virtual assistant might help them) and creating a path toward working together. It’s not work itself. Giving away free work and offering a complimentary consultation are two completely different things.

  7. Jen says:

    This post is great. As a VA who’s new to this type of work environment I have been wondering if discounting, etc. would be helpful in getting my biz off the ground. I realize now, no! Thanks again for this post.

  8. Pam Lokker says:

    Danielle, you made an excellent point. Free is not always what it’s cracked up to be, especially in the world of virtual assistance. Treating your clients with respect and providing them excellent customer service and good quality will provide them with the value they are seeking. They don’t need freebies that are full of disappointments.

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