If you are a virtual assistant who is happy where you’re at in your business, this post is not for you.
BUT, if you are someone who is not satisfied with the kind of money you’re currently making … If you’re having trouble commanding even the most basic level of professional fees … If you always seem to get clients who want to pay peanuts and treat you more like the hired help rather than a respected professional advisor and administrative expert, this post is for you.
Words are important. The specific words you choose to portray you and your business directly impact, shape and mold client perceptions and expectations. The words and termininology you use can mean all the difference in attracting a higher caliber of clientele. Following are some words that I advise you to take out of your business vocabulary if you want more clients who approach the business relationship with the proper mindset and are more given to understanding the value of professional services.
1. “Affordable” (and any variation thereof). As a business, it’s not your job to be the most affordable. It’s your job to provide the most value. Talk about value, benefits and results—not money—and you will focus and attract more value-minded clients. Of course, if you like working for peanuts, not being able to make a full-time living in your business, and you want to keep cattle-calling every cheapskate and tire kicker in the universe, then keep bringing up cost, savings, discounts and how affordable you are.
2. “Contract worker” (and “Independent Contractor,” for that matter). A contract worker is an employee of a company that farms workers out. You are not a contract worker. As a Virtual Assistant, you are a professional service provider and specifically an administrative expert. But by all means, keep using that terminology if you want clients who continue to view you as an under-the-table employee and who don’t want to pay professional level fees because you are merely an interchangeable commodity to them. That terminology doesn’t portray the correct context needed to help clients perceive the value and understand the nature of the relationship.
3. “Outsourcing.” I know you’re going “wha?!” on this one, but really, get rid of that word.
Here’s the connotation: When you use the term “outsourcing,” it suggests an impersonal kind of transaction where there is no participation from the client. But that’s not what Virtual Assistance is all about.
Virtual Assistance is about a two-way, participatory relationship. It takes the input of both client and Virtual Assistant. That two-way, back-and-forth interaction is critical to the dynamic that makes Virtual Assistance a much higher value to clients than simple, commoditized, secretarial transactions.
If you allow clients to view the work as something they simply offload without any further input, you’re going to keep getting clients who don’t value the relationship, don’t understand the value of the work and who dump on you instead of working with you.
Instead, emphasize the idea that you are a professional who specializes in administrative support and related services and that you work collaboratively (together). You must hold the work in respectful regard if you expect clients to as well. If you treat it, talk about it and dismiss it as mundane, unimportant, something any ol’ flunky can do (which we know it’s not), you will attract clients who think exactly the same and who definitely don’t respect it enough to pay much for it.
4. “Generalist.” As a Virtual Assistant, are you a lowly generalist who doesn’t really do anything of any real value or importance? Or are you an administrative expert who specializes in delivering ongoing administrative support? As a client, which would you hold in higher regard? Which description inspires more confidence? Which portrays a more professional image and status?
Don’t buy into the propaganda of exploitists who want to keep pounding it into your head that you and administrative work are nothing special, not worthy of valuing and honoring and respecting. They are preying on your lack of professional self-esteem (instilling it even!) so that you’ll keep feeling like it’s not enough and you’ll keep paying for their ”hot” skills training and products.
Hold your head high! You HAVE a specialty. You ARE an expert—a consultant and expert of administration and support. Don’t you let anyone, ever, get away with calling you a generalist! Administrative work is THE backbone of every single business on earth. Each and every one would fall apart without that foundation, support and diligence. It’s an expertise and a highly valuable and marketable service–as long as you value it and yourself in the first place.
5. “Interview.” Employees “interview.” Professionals “consult.” Don’t submit to client interviews. Offer a consultation. See the difference there? Virtual Assistants have a hard enough time getting clients to view them as independent professionals and administrative experts. If you want to stop the confusion, don’t use any language or verbiage that is a holdover from your days as a employee. Leading your own show causes clients to view and respect you as a professional and expert. It also helps instil more trust and confidence.
6. “References.” I addressed this topic in my last post (Dear Danielle: What About References?) so I won’t go into it fully again here. Suffice it to say that employees provide references; professionals provide testimonials. Use the terminology of professionals rather than employees (be sure to reinforce that language at every opportunity when talking with clients), and you will set the conditions and perceptions for more of the professional treatment that you want from clients.
7. “Resume.” Business owners don’t provide resumes. Employees provide resumes. Here’s how to understand this stuff:When you were an employee, the cover letter is what got your resume read. In the business world, your marketing and networking become the “cover letter” that leads clients to your business website. As a business, your entire website and other marketing collateral are your “resume.” So whereas your resume is what you hoped would secure you an interview when you were an employee, your website is what should now be converting visitors into consultations with prospective clients.
Here’s a visual:
Cover Letter –> Resume/References –> Interview
Marketing/Networking –> Website/Testimonials –> Consultation
If you continue to indulge requests for resumes and references from clients, you have no one but yourself to blame when you keep getting clients who don’t extend you professional respect nor view the relationship in its proper context, namely one of business owner and client. Professional respect and understanding of the relationship are very important ingredients in shaping client perceptions, showing them how to treat you, and commanding a professional level of fees.
Insist on being treated as a professional. Use the right language to reinforce that expectation and instill proper understandings and perceptions.