(Listen to the Podcast: 7 Virtual Assistant Red Flags )
I tend to get quite a few inquiries from new virtual assistants looking to ‘hire on’ with my company or perhaps ’sub-contract’. Honestly, I’m not at a point where I am comfortable sub-contracting work to another VA, but I have been known to send clients who need services which I don’t provide to another virtual assistant. That said, I make it a policy not to send them to just any VA. I want to be sure that they will be as committed to providing the same high level of service that I am committed to at Clerical Advantage.
Between conversations, e-mails and checking out websites, I’ve seen plenty of ‘warning flags’ that some new VA’s may have jumped in over their heads.
Here are the Top 7 Red Flags that scream you’re in over your head:
#1: Lack of a dedicated e-mail address. If I’m getting an e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org it’s the first red flag. If you’re going into business as a VA, you need a professional grade e-mail address. Ideally it should be email@example.com, but if you really can’t afford to purchase your business domain name w/e-mail (and I would argue you can’t afford NOT to) then at least look into the option of a personal domain name (firstname.lastname@example.org) w/e-mail hosting or a more professional free webmail account like email@example.com.
#2: You don’t respond to my e-mail for more information about your business. I’ve actually had new VA’s call and ask if I’d received their e-mail requesting subcontracting,etc. and when I respond that I sent them an e-mail in reply they say “Oh, I haven’t checked my e-mail for a few days”. Uh, hello? Are you sure you want to be a virtual assistant? We pretty much live and breath e-mail.
#3: You call and ask me how to run your business. Hey, I’ll give you advise gladly, because I have a passion for this industry and I enjoy helping others. But if you’ve signed a client and are asking me what your next steps are, you aren’t ready to be signing that first client. Months before signing your first client, company forms and policies should be drafted and ready to go. You should also have a plan as to how to proceed from the initial contact to the signing of the contract and beyond.
#4: You have a cookie cutter website and/or tons of typo’s and grammatical errors. Look, your website is a chance to show the world what you have to offer, if it’s straight out of SiteBuilders ‘R’ Us with nothing to distinguish it as yours, the message you’re giving is that you don’t value your own business enough to invest time, effort and/or money into it. So why should a client invest in your services? And nothing screams unprofessional more than typo’s and grammatical errors. Period.
#5: Your website contradicts your services offered. For example, you offer proofreading and editing services but your site is riddled with grammatical errors. You offer blog services and don’t have one yourself. You offer website maintenance and customization and your site is a basic template with no personalization. Get the idea?
#6: You lack professionalism.This is not something you can learn from a book, course or class. This is something that you obtain through experience and is yet another reason actual professional office experience is required. Trust me on this one, working in a corporate or attorney’s office teaches you a totally different aspect of professionalism than working in the office of the local grocery or department store. I’ve done both and know from experience that it’s like night and day. As an owner of your own business, your level of professionalism should be extremely high, otherwise don’t expect to be taken seriously.
#7: You tell me you’re ready to be a VA because you completed a course or class. Just because you complete a course, which may have truly been a stellar program, doesn’t mean you’re ready to become a VA. Do you have professional office experience? Have you been in a position that carried some degree of responsibility? Did you work independently or have all of your work assigned by a superior? These things make a difference. As a business owner you will need to be self motivated, no one is going to be reminding you that work needs to be done, it’s your responsibility to get it done and get it done well. No class, course or e-book can teach you that type of thing, it comes from experience. Plain and simple.
I’m sure some within the virtual assistance industry might view this as being a bit harsh. I view it as being truthful. Regardless of the fact that it’s tends to be portrayed as an easy, low cost ‘work-from-home’ job, everyone is not virtual assistant material. If I can help people understand that, even though it may come across as being a bit harsh, so be it. I’m proud of being a virtual assistant, and I’m proud of my fellow VA’s as well. I encourage those of you who have the experience and the passion to explore the option of becoming a virtual assistant. But in the same vein, I would ask that you seriously examine if it’s the right career choice for you.