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Monthly ArchiveFebruary 2009

Uncategorized Sydni Craig-Hart on 24 Feb 2009

Question of the Week: Scheduling and Time Management

Q.  One of the things that interests me the most about Virtual Assistance is the flexibility.  I want a flexible schedule.  Is that something that can be managed, or would I still be stuck with a regular 9-to-5 situation?

A. When you’re building your business, keep in mind that it’s YOUR business.  One of the things we will be stressing over and over again is about creating standards around how you operate YOUR business, including when you’re available and who you work with.

Many times, because we come from a background where our work and boundaries are dictated to us by our boss or employer, so it may not easy to think about or wrap our head around the idea that we actually get to make this decision.

So, when you decide to start your Virtual Assistant business, you have to say to yourself, “These are the hours I want to or can work.  This is the rate I’m going to charge.  These are the types of services I offer.” Whatever you decide is okay.  You should never change your standards to suit your clients.  Nor should you work with clients who ask you to change or don’t respect your standards.

The ideal clients that will be attracted to you and that you will be best suited to serve are those who fit that.  If you decide you only want to work between midnight and 6:00 a.m., the ideal clients who come to you will be perfectly content with that.

You have to approach this standard from a place of saying, “This is my business.  I’m going to make it work for me.  It needs to be flexible.”  Then, whatever you decide, make sure you stick to that.  If that doesn’t work for a client, that’s okay because there will be a whole flock of people who will be perfectly happy to work with you whenever you’re available.

Uncategorized Sydni Craig-Hart on 23 Feb 2009

Virtual Assistant Success Quote of the Week

“Remember that you are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, than something wonderful has been lost.”

~ Martha Graham

Uncategorized Sydni Craig-Hart on 17 Feb 2009

Question of the Week – Various Client Professions

Q.  With your clients, what professions are you helping out?

A. Sydni Craig-Hart: I have a client who a college consultant.  Another one is an executive coach for media professionals.  I have a client who is a consultant for getting your kids into private school.  There is also a woman who works with other corporate employees seeking a career change.  One client is a marketing consultant for interior designers.  Another provides diversity training to corporations.  The last person is a holistic nutritional health counselor.

You can see from this list that there is tremendous diversity.  That’s by choice.  ’ve chosen to be a generalist and not niche myself by working just for lawyers, authors or fitness people.  Because I worked in finance for so long, I was ready to do something else.  I like having my hands in all of these different pots.

However, many Virtual Assistants choose to niche themselves into one area or one particular profession.  Or they only offer one particular set of services.  This is perfectly acceptable.

Laura Allen – Admissions Director, AssistU:    My first client, as I was going through the Virtual Training Program, was an independent local bookstore.  Books are a passion of mine.  This store was the last holdout of an independent bookstore in our town.  Everything else was chain operated.  It was nice to have a local client.  She unfortunately has gone out of business since then.  She was the only local client I experienced.

There are some pros and cons to having a local client, depending on if you like having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with your client to do some personal stuff in the store.  I love that. T hat was really fun for me.  I miss that.

A couple of my first clients were Virtual Assistants themselves through AssistU.  They were senior Virtual Assistants that I learned a wealth of information from in the first year I worked with them.  As I left services with them, clients they had outgrown came to my practice.  It was a win-win for everyone all around.

I also have a client who is a life coach.  I can’t recommend working with a life coach highly enough as you build your business.  I had never experienced life coaches until I had been through AssistU.

A lot of AssistU’s program is built on the foundations of CoachU and Stacy Brice’s background with coaching.  AssistU is one of my clients.  Everything we do at AssistU is virtual.  We teach our clients and virtual assistants virtually.   We are a virtual company.

I have a client who is a consultant for the public library system in Maryland and a nonprofit organization in the state of Delaware.

Those are my four current clients. They are varied.  I never would have believed those would be the types of clients I would be working with when I set out at the beginning of the training.

Uncategorized Sydni Craig-Hart on 16 Feb 2009

Virtual Assistant Success Quote of the Week

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.  I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try and follow where they lead.”

~ Louisa May Alcott

Uncategorized Sydni Craig-Hart on 10 Feb 2009

Question of the Week – Setting Your Rates

Q.  How do you go about charging per hour?

A. I’ll start with the standards in the VA industry.  I have seen Virtual Assistants charge anywhere from $25 per hour, which I’m dead set against and will go off on my rant about that in a moment, all the way up to over $100 per hour.

The range is really wide.  It depends on your level of experience, the type of services you’re offering to your clients, your personal finances and how much you need to make.  The higher the technical skills you offer, often the higher the rates you can command.

For instance, I’ve moved into doing a lot of web and blog design and very technical things with shopping carts and ecommerce.  Those are very specialized skills that more and more Virtual Assistants are learning, but it’s still a specialty niche area that not a lot of people are well versed in.

To determine your rates, first, you would need to figure out how much money you want this business to make for you.  Don’t come from the place of what you need versus what you think your client will pay.  You’d be surprised what people pay for.  Just starting with an arbitrary number and thinking, “This works,” is not a great way to make that determination.

You need to consider all of your expenses, including taxes, your monthly operating expenses and how much profit you want to make and work backwards.  That will help you determine how much you should be charging based on how many hours a week or month you can work.

Most Virtual Assistants are charging too little.  It’s a problem for a number of reasons.  They’re not making any money and are not covering their expenses.  They’re probably feeling frustrated because they’re working too hard and can’t figure out why this business isn’t working for them.

It also sets a really bad precedent for clients.  When a client knows they can work with someone for $25 an hour but that person is really worth $50, $60 or $70 an hour, it doesn’t put them on an equal footing. It’s such an important thing to price yourself at what you’re worth.

In the corporate world, the salary you earn doesn’t reflect all of the money your company is spending to employ you. It doesn’t reflect your benefits, 401K, taxes, supplies, and a lot of other things.  When you work for yourself, you have to cover all those costs.

When you’re setting your fees, you have to back into that.  You need to make sure you’re covering everything you need to cover and still make a profit.  That’s how you determine your rates.

I’m really passionate about people charging what they’re worth.  I know are worth WAY more than $25 an hour.  Please don’t sell yourself short by charging that little.  And if you do, please don’t let me find out about it!

For more insight on this topic, visit http://www.eatova.com/2008/10/24/how-to-calculate-your-fees/

Uncategorized Sydni Craig-Hart on 09 Feb 2009

Virtual Assistant Success Quote of the Week

“Your past is not your potential.  In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.”

~ Marilyn Ferguson

Uncategorized Sydni Craig-Hart on 03 Feb 2009

Question of the Week – Filling Your Virtual Assistant Practice

Q. How long did it take you to reach a full-time practice?

A. Sydni Craig-Hart:  The answer to that is really funny. How long did it take me? It took me one day. The reason is because I quit my corporate job on a Friday and started my Virtual Assistant practice full-time on Monday.  So,it didn’t take me very long.  I really had to dive in and make it work.

I don’t recommend that everyone do that.  I definitely recommend that people have a transition plan.  But, it worked out for me.

I had started my company in January and, as I mentioned, quit my job at the end of February.  By the time I quit, I had my first three clients.  By the time June came, I pretty much had a full practice just because my first clients retained a fair amount of my time.  My first three clients were using 75 hours of my time a month.  At that point, that was full for me because I was just getting my feet wet.

I had a practice full of my ideal clients probably toward the end of the year.  It didn’t take me very long for a number of reasons.  One was this was my baby for that first year. I didn’t do anything else but eat, sleep and breathe Virtual Assistance.

I really threw myself into it because I started the AssistU Virtual Training Program about six months after I started the company and was able to immediately implement everything I learned.  I had a really quick learning curve.  It just shows that it can be done quickly.

I feel very confident in saying that going through AssistU and immediately applying everything you learn and learning some quick marketing techniques along the way, you really can build a full practice in about six months.  It is possible to do that.

Laura Allen – Admissions Director at AssistU:  Within the first month I had three clients.  Adding that many clients at one time was a challenge for me.  It comes back to time management and the things you need to learn in-depth for each client.  I would highly recommend one client a month.  Adding them for six months until you get to that point is smarter than the way I did it.

Within six months, my practice was full.  It was actually too full.  I had to really step up my standards and boundaries and be able to say, “No. This is as much as I can do on my own.”

Within the first year, I was able to actually revamp my practice.  That’s when I went from the pay-as-you-go to the retainer clients, raised my rates, and kept the clients who were willing to stay on as retainers. I really made it an ideal practice with just a very few select clients.  That is where I want to be.

I have four clients right now.  My practice is full.  That’s going to depend upon billable hours.  One VA may be full at 100 billable hours and one may be full at 150 billable hours.  It depends on where you want your practice to be. Personalize it to your own preferences.

Uncategorized Sydni Craig-Hart on 02 Feb 2009

Virtual Assistant Success Quote of the Week

“Failing to plan is a plan to fail.”

~ Effie Jones