Shamefully stolen from Professor Stephen Covey’s book, these are a few habits that I’ve noticed successful VAs have in common – and I don’t think it’s by accident!
Habit 1: Clear your desk
If you have work in, get it done and leave the decks clear for more work – why put off till tomorrow what you can do today and delight the client in the process?
That’s not to say that absolutely everything has equal priority and needs done straight away, but rather a warning that you need to build in time for errors, drama, disaster to your deadlines – and if they don’t happen you under promise and over deliver. Getting stuff done as soon as possible makes sure you hit those deadlines every time and it means that you can accept more work since the first lot is out the way!
Habit 2: Pay your bills!
A few years back I was at the VA Conference and standing around with 5 or 6 winners and finalists of the VA Awards who were talking about mortgage payments – each one of them had to make the mortgage payment from Day 1 of their business. It occurred to us that being a singleton or a single mum or having to pay half the bills could very well be the key to our success… Failure was not an option, it forced us to step outside our comfort zone and do things we may have shied away from were it not for the pressure of paying for the roof over our heads. I found that an interesting commonality!
Habit 3: Proof read
Okay this is one where I fail frequently because I don’t always get someone else to proof what I’ve written myself. Fortunately with 1600+ VAs all proofreading the SVA site, I often get prompted to change a typo… That doesn’t happen with clients – they won’t tell you – they simply won’t use you again. So if you must do your own proofreading: write your blurb; go have a coffee; come back fresh and PRINT OUT what you’ve written and wave a red pen over it. If possible, have someone else sense-check it.
Habit 4: Marketing follow up
Successful VAs all have this in common: they follow up. It might be via email, postcard, phonecalls, networking, putting some chocolates in the post… Doesn’t matter how, but they follow up those interested leads again, and again, and again, and again… On average it takes 7 contacts for a lead to buy from you, so repeat contact is vital to your business. It doesn’t have to be sales-y, it just needs to be consistent. Make sure you use different forms of contact to increase the likelihood of connecting with them too!
Habit 5: Pay Your Bills #2 (Outsource VAs)
If you are outsourcing, it doesn’t matter if the client has paid you or not, you need to pay the outsourcer. Nothing will lose people’s respect faster than not paying them, and next time you ask the outsource VA for a favour, they may very well say no. And VAs talk – oh how they talk! – and you’ll rapidly find it difficult to get people to work for you.
Part of our SVA Outsource Pack includes how to draft your payment terms very clearly so everyone understands what is expected from the outset.
Habit 6: Make it easy for your clients
I can testify to this as a client myself: I like working with VAs who make it easy for me to work with them. They don’t hum and ha about whether they will be able to do a piece of work, they are happy to be inventive and resourceful to get the job done when necessary, they ask relevant questions and they just happily get on with it.
Working with a VA should be as easy as having someone sitting next to you in the office. Think of ways you can replicate that relationship and make things easier for your clients.
Habit 7: Answer your phone!
Final one: And one many VAs are guilty of – ANSWER THE PHONE! Or email, or however else a client chooses to communicate. We pick up loads of work simply because we are the first people to respond to a client emailing a number of VAs. Our phones are minded by a call answering team. We check emails regularly, everyone doing that job is able to respond to enquiries and schedule a follow up phone call with them. Efficiency in response is one of the things clients look for – bear that in mind!
And here’s a bonus which perhaps isn’t possible for everyone, but I think it’s important to state:
The more hours you are available to work, the more work you will get.
That’s proved by our SuperVAs from the SVA Survey. It’s proved by my personal experience. But what if you can’t work a 40 hour week? Well – fake it! The best way of getting the work is making sure your deadlines allow for when you can work but where the client gets a quick response. So you might use a call answering service, or you might have an autoresponder on your email saying their email has been received and you are working on it, or maybe you check emails during your lunch hour at an office job, but you make sure they get a timely response.