I was chatting to a newbie VA the other day through my work at www.4vas.co.uk and she was telling me about a new client she had landed from a networking event. She was so excited about having a real life client, she’d sort of glossed over the reality of what they’d agreed.
The client needed someone to do her admin in her new business but couldn’t afford to pay for it. The VA offered to do it for free since she wasn’t doing anything else anyway, and this client could act as a testimonial for her work and refer other people to her.
Which is great… in theory. But has she really thought about it?
Now ideally, the client keeps her side of the bargain and works hard at their business so that they can afford to pay the VA.
- But what about if the business just doesn’t ever get off the ground or simply is set up as a loss-making business?
- Can the VA afford to write off 5 hours, 10 hours or 20 hours?
- What happens if the VA picks up paying clients in the time she is supposed to be working for the freebie client and doesn’t have time to do the work?
- How about if the freebie client doesn’t have any work right now, but expects to use those free hours in two or three months time?
- What if she doesn’t write a testimonial or refer any new clients? Would you feel cheated? How about if she wasn’t happy with the work?
I looked around for freebie arrangements which have worked. In fact I even posted on a couple of forums… I got story after story about arrangements which had gone wrong and only ONE story of where the arrangement had worked out. So there’s definitely something about agreeing to work for free that courts disaster. I won’t detail them all here because mostly they were just really upsetting to see virtual assistants systematically abused by people who had no intention of paying them.
In my business, we have a free week of call answering trial for clients. I daresay it’s been abused occasionally. We’ve had people use it when they are on holiday, or when they are launching a new advertising campaign. But we get a really good conversion rate of clients from it, so it’s worthwhile. We also have one day a month which we put aside for freebie client trials of VA work, which is limited to new clients only, 2 hours each, and they must supply us with all info we need to complete the work within those two hours. Again the conversion is usually pretty good.
The other example I found of where it’s worked well is an article writer for blogs who offers a free sample article written. Again, she insists on all the information upfront and there is a long lead time for completing the work so it doesn’t interfere with paid client work. She makes it a hassle for the person to fill in all the information she needs, and therefore it cuts down significantly on those who just want a freebie.
So what’s the commonality which made these schemes work?
- The VAs were willing to write off the work if the client didn’t go ahead.
- The offer was time limited and had conditions attached so that it didn’t interfere with their normal work.
Have you had a freebie which turned into a nightmare? Or do you use it effectively in your business and does it get you fantastic new clients?