An awkward email was received in my inbox today – awkward for a few reasons:
- It wasn’t addressed to me but to another VA
- It was clearly a mass mailout untailored to my business and touting for work with a skill which I don’t offer to my clients and wouldn’t be interested in offering
- It had spelling mistakes in it
- It was from a home email address
What does this tell me about the VA? Firstly that she has no concept of the Data Protection Act or how to use BCC properly. Secondly that she hadn’t done any research on me or my business. She can’t spell and therefore I can’t have her working for me. She doesn’t value her own business enough to spend a few quid on setting up a professional and secure email address. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I will not be working with her.
But as irritatingly crap as this email was, I do sympathise with her predicament – she’s new, she doesn’t have any clients and she’s desperate for work. She may well have tried all her own contacts and not had any success, which doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s not any good, it’s just been bad timing… But meanwhile there are bills to pay!
So what gives me a really GOOD impression of a VA? And why would I hire them? Now granted, I’m a multi-VA so perhaps this differs slightly from a solo VA who would outsource work, but feel free to disagree with me below…
- Look on the website, get a feel for the business and look to see if there’s any information about how you can apply for jobs – 9/10 if they are hiring, you’ll see how they want your application submitted. Follow the instructions. Part of being a great VA is following instructions properly – show your skills here.
- If they don’t have a recruitment page, and you still want to send in a speculative application, introduce yourself and explain why you are getting in touch. Most VAs are really very helpful to newbies – it’s a quirk of the industry. They may not have any work for you, but if you are honest about why you are getting in touch, most will at least try to give you some helpful hints. Pretending to be a prospective client will annoy them and ensure you NEVER get hired by them.
- Do a spell check. I know it’s nerve wracking (and exciting!) to be setting up, but honestly a spell check takes two minutes but saves your reputation. Whilst you are doing that, double check that you’ve attached any documents which you want to send (CV, test results, etc).
- If you must send a mass email, use the BCC function properly and send it to yourself rather than using one of the recipients’ addresses. This disguises the fact that it’s a mass email and also makes sure that you keep all the addresses confidential.
- If the VA takes the time to read through your application and can’t offer you work based on your skillset or test results, don’t get aggressive or tell them how many years’ experience you’ve had as a secretary… Believe me, they do not care because you still can’t perform the tasks expected of a VA in their business if you haven’t passed the test. Most VAs will forward you a copy of the results and point out where you’ve gone wrong. Take it as constructive criticism and appreciate that clients won’t tell you that you’ve screwed up, they just won’t use you again.
- Set up a proper email address – it only costs a few quid but it demonstrates a commitment to your business and a degree of forward planning. You’re asking the VA to pay you as a professional, so be professional!
- If they don’t have work for you, ask them if they can recommend anyone else to speak to. They might know of some other sources of work.
- Be prepared to work for low rates at first – I’m not saying pitch yourself at £5 an hour, far from it! But appreciate that if you’re a newbie they will effectively be teaching you on the job so you’re getting paid whilst you learn. Ask for feedback, take note of their recommendations.
- You might also want to look at doing a few Peopleperhour.com / www.elance.com / www.fiverr.com jobs to get you started… It’ll give you an idea of the sorts of tasks clients want to outsource and how you would work with a real client.
- Be persistent… Okay don’t plague them with emails and phonecalls… But if a VA says she doesn’t have any work for you right now, check back in 6 months time. I have one VA I send loads of work to simply because she sends me a reminder about her availability when she’s got free time – she is therefore in the front of my mind when I get a new piece of work in that afternoon (cracking job Vicks!!!)