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Converting to virtual

How virtual assistants workOne of my core VA beliefs is that people won’t work with us unless it is to their advantage.  However, faced with having to take a risk trusting someone they can’t see with their business, possibly learn new software, and not being able to micromanage you, sometimes it is a step too far… They want someone in the office.

My approach to this has always been:

Well you aren’t ready to work with a VA then, call me when you are.

But I totally get why it kills newbie VAs to finally snag a prospective client and then have to turn them down simply because they want you to work some of the time in the office… But it’s a slippery slope because for every client who you don’t manage to convert to working virtually, you lose the ability to know how to do it and how to sell it to clients.

So whether they want to make the leap into the virtual world is really the crux of the matter.

I’ve split some of the objections up into rough areas and how I deal with them:

  • Practical considerations
  • Control
  • Habit

Practical considerations of hiring a virtual assistant

Most admin tasks can be done remotely, but it may involve changing some of their practices.  For example:

  • Filing: Can be scanned instead of paper copies or you could arrange for a pick up by a scanning company once a week/once a month and they will arrange the scanning and filing for the client, so you both have access.
  • Email: Can they give you webmail access or set up your own email under their domain which you can remotely access?
  • Phones: Can be routed via VOIP and ring in several different locations.
  • Receipts: Can be couriered once a month and uploaded to accounting programmes. You can even prompt them to do this by sending them a recorded delivery prepaid envelope from Royal Mail.
  • Meetings: Can be recorded and emailed for typing minutes and doing transcripts. Make sure everyone introduces themselves to the machine so you know who is talking and that they don’t speak over one another.
  • Calendars: Can be converted to online calendars or your client can give you blocks of time within their paper diary where you can put in meetings/appointments.
  • Already paying for certain things e.g. office, phone line, accounting software which can’t be done online etc. – in that case, can you get back in touch when the term is up or when they are ready to switch?
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And sometimes… just sometimes, it is very rare!… they will need someone physically in the office or shop.  And in that case, they need to hire an employee or a temp – not a VA.

Why?  Aha – here, all is revealed.

Control of virtual workers

I get that clients are control freaks.  I may even have slight tendencies that way myself – (Note to the VA who is editing this for me: I said SLIGHT!!!!).  I get why it is difficult to hand over control to your VA.  But the best way of dealing with the control freaky client is to handle their fears head on.  Get them to delegate a small task first so they can see how you work.  Make sure you get back to their phone calls and emails within a reasonable timeframe.  Explain upfront how you are going to approach the task and when they can expect it back – build in extra time for emergencies to make sure you hit deadline with ease.

Reassure them by making sure you understand data protection, confidentiality, and your professional conduct.  Point out your Data Controller Registration, your SVA Approved status, your contract and T&Cs, and any Professional Indemnity that you carry.

Bad habits with staff

Some people are just not in the habit of being particularly effective managers… They want to be able to dump stuff on your desk at 4:55pm and run for the hills.  Or faff about half the morning whilst you twiddle your fingers and then only give you instructions 2 hours into the day.

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This is why we often find clients saying they need someone for 20 hours a week but in reality the workload they assign only takes you 2 hours.  What they want is the FACILITY of someone available for 20 hours a week, and the CAPACITY of 2 hours.  It’s worth explaining the difference to clients, and it helps them understand why your fee is not the same as a temp fee.

Clients either need to be effective managers or they need to let you have the driving seat of their business to suggest what you should be doing and where it needs to go.

You might also agree to an initial assessment on site, and then say that XYZ can be done remotely and that ABC needs a temporary employee who you will help them find.

Have I missed something important?  Any other strategies which you use to convert on0site jobs into virtual assistant clients?


  1. Karina Bailey on 3 May, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Excellent tips Caroline.

    I’ll add to the phone tip. I arrange customer appointments for three of my clients. They are all sole traders so are out and about all day. I phone in to their answer machines three times a day, pick up the messages and then answer their questions ~ it’s usually pricing etc and I also book the jobs in for them via their shared calendars. It’s also handy to have access to their scheduels as I know their whereabouts if needed.

    It’s been working well for two years now.

  2. Denise Reay on 4 May, 2016 at 9:45 am

    This is really helpful, I sometimes struggle to reason with people when they come up with why they can’t use a VA. I’ve saved this to memorise for future.

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