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Jerri G

My very first client

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Here's my "short version" of negotiating and working with a client:

 

1. Talk to client/get a feel of what needs to be done.

2. Send proposal outlining the work, and your anticipated time frame

3. With the proposal, include a "cost estimate". If for a monthly retainer, you can write something like, "client support via telephone, email and regular mail; preparation of letters and other documents; and social media management: Ten (10) hours per month"

4. DO NOT, DO NOT (repeat after me) DO NOT send a contract at this time.

5. On the proposal, have a place for them to accept on the condition of acceptance and signature of contract (to follow)

6. After acceptance of proposal, send contract AND either a Credit Card Authorization (if you have a merchant account) or a PayPal invoice.

7. DO NOT, DO NOT (repeat after me) DO NOT do any, and I mean any work until you have the contract and money in hand.

 

Congratulations on your first client!

Great information Dana, thank you and I will take your advice. I don't have a merchant account at this time, how do I creat a PayPal invoice? I do have a PayPal account. I just feel stupid because I don't have a general proposal or contract created at all, this is where I am freaking out.

Hi Dana,

On number 5 what do you mean on the condition of acceptance? I have a place for them to sign the proposal.

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On my proposal, I spell out what we've discussed in our phone conversation, for example:

 

"Client interface - handle all incoming email correspondence, voice mail management, returning phone calls from voice mail and handling live telephone answering during court appearances;

Document preparation - from transcription and forms management, preparing documents such as letters, pleadings, file memos for use by attorney;

Research & writing - using Lexis Database to pull opinions and prepare research documents for use in court pleadings or file memos

Trial management - organizing all trial documents and arranging for witness testimony

 

Anticipated monthly hours use: 50 hours x $X - $XXXXX (including discounted rate of $XXX)

 

I understand that this is an estimate of the anticipated number of hours that can be used by Fortier Virtual pursuant to the initial consultation and that the number of hours may be less or more depending upon trial schedule and other duties to be handled by Fortier Virtual."

 

 

Then below that, I have a line for their signature

 

I usually encourage them, if they're at that level (50 hours or so estimated) to retain or prepurchase 30 or 40 at a time. I bill on retainer at the reduced rate anyway, so it doesn't matter if they go over. I would rather they retain for less and get billed at the end of the month than lose the hours.

 

Does that help?

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On my proposal, I spell out what we've discussed in our phone conversation, for example:

 

"Client interface - handle all incoming email correspondence, voice mail management, returning phone calls from voice mail and handling live telephone answering during court appearances;

Document preparation - from transcription and forms management, preparing documents such as letters, pleadings, file memos for use by attorney;

Research & writing - using Lexis Database to pull opinions and prepare research documents for use in court pleadings or file memos

Trial management - organizing all trial documents and arranging for witness testimony

 

Anticipated monthly hours use: 50 hours x $X - $XXXXX (including discounted rate of $XXX)

 

I understand that this is an estimate of the anticipated number of hours that can be used by Fortier Virtual pursuant to the initial consultation and that the number of hours may be less or more depending upon trial schedule and other duties to be handled by Fortier Virtual."

 

 

Then below that, I have a line for their signature

 

I usually encourage them, if they're at that level (50 hours or so estimated) to retain or prepurchase 30 or 40 at a time. I bill on retainer at the reduced rate anyway, so it doesn't matter if they go over. I would rather they retain for less and get billed at the end of the month than lose the hours.

 

Does that help?

Yes it does. I am soooo glad there are VA's out there like you :thumbup:

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I just acquired my first client (a friend of a friend) and I am terrified! I do not feel totally prepared, although I think I have what I need. The client said he would pay $XX an hour, which turns out to be my higher end rate anyway, so this is good! I recommended a retainer but he really was not to interested in it, though he asked for a proposal for an hourly rate and one for a retainer rate, I am not too sure on how to do that can anyone help me?

 

He said he would send me the work and let me know what needs to be done, he said it was along the lines of data entry, no problem there. What he said next kind of bothered me "if it doesn't work out we will still be friends" which is fine we will still be friends, but I felt like I was put down before I even got started. :unsure:

 

Anyway,the contract should come after he accepts one of the proposals rite? Is there any order in which the process needs to be handled? I haven't figure out yet how I should bill, by one minute increment, 5 min or 10 min increments etc.? what is the best way to bill that is not confusing?

 

I am in need of a simple proposal for hourly rate and a retainer and a simple contract. Would anyone be willing to share theirs or point me in the rite direction? I have the VAC, but is there anything else out their that is "free"?

 

Trust me, their will be plenty more questions in the very near future. I need all the help and support I can get!

 

Thank you

Well, I think I lost my first potential client. Apparently, he does not understand what a VA does or is eventhough I explained it clearly (so I thought). He though that he could pay $XX one time not matter how much work and no matter how long it took. When I sent him my fees & plocies and the proposal he said "when I looked at what you sent me I was like whoah!" Personally, I think he thought this was a fly by night operation and he wasn't expecting the high level of professionalism brought forth. Anyway, I have a chance to change his mind but, I am not sure how and don't even know if I want to. He has blown me off twice and I don't really know if I want to work with this level of a client. The man has 3 businesses one is huge so I don't get why he has displayed (in my eyes) such unprofessionalism.

 

Any thoughts, ideas and/or advice? Was this meant to be this way for some reason?

 

 

What a dissapointment!

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Sorry it didn't work out for you Jerri. Having recently lost what I thought would be my first client, I can sympathize - it doesn't feel good. Personally, my attitude is that I get to choose who I work with, and anyone that doesn't fit into that mold can find someone else. Honestly, you probably dodged a bullet on this one.

 

Don't worry, it will happen soon!

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Sorry it didn't work out for you Jerri. Having recently lost what I thought would be my first client, I can sympathize - it doesn't feel good. Personally, my attitude is that I get to choose who I work with, and anyone that doesn't fit into that mold can find someone else. Honestly, you probably dodged a bullet on this one.

 

Don't worry, it will happen soon!

Thank you for the words of encouragement. Yes, it did get me down and I felt pretty bad like I don't know what I am doing. I feel that things happen for a reason and yes I probably did dodge a bullet. There is a certain type of client I want to work with and from the git I really wasn't feeling it.

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Tips for handling clients:-

 

1.Get It In Writing First

2.Set Your Payment Schedule In Advance

3.Set Reasonable Deadlines

4.Be Comfortable Saying ‘No’

5.Allow Downtime for Administration

___________________________

samual135

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Tips for handling clients:-

 

1.Get It In Writing First

2.Set Your Payment Schedule In Advance

3.Set Reasonable Deadlines

4.Be Comfortable Saying ‘No’

5.Allow Downtime for Administration

___________________________

samual135

 

Thank you! I will keep this in mind. One question though, number 5 what is your take on Administration? Some people have different opinions on it.

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Well, I think I lost my first potential client. Apparently, he does not understand what a VA does or is eventhough I explained it clearly (so I thought). He though that he could pay $XX one time not matter how much work and no matter how long it took. When I sent him my fees & plocies and the proposal he said "when I looked at what you sent me I was like whoah!" Personally, I think he thought this was a fly by night operation and he wasn't expecting the high level of professionalism brought forth. Anyway, I have a chance to change his mind but, I am not sure how and don't even know if I want to. He has blown me off twice and I don't really know if I want to work with this level of a client. The man has 3 businesses one is huge so I don't get why he has displayed (in my eyes) such unprofessionalism.

 

Any thoughts, ideas and/or advice? Was this meant to be this way for some reason?

 

 

What a dissapointment!

 

Being able to effectively educate a client about who we are, what we do and how we do it is a skill that takes a lot of practice. And a lot of the time, business owners have a preconceived notion that we're just a bunch of silly stay-at-home moms who used to be secretaries that are doing this while the kids are in school. Exhibiting a level of professionalism from the start is a good way to get them to take notice, pay attention and honor you for the professional that you are.

 

And a good piece of advice: Don't compromise your integrity and your values. On my "Ideal Client Checklist", I have "What does my gut say?" as one of the things I need to pay attention to. If my gut is churned up, I listen and often don't go against my gut.

 

If your hourly rate is $40, and a client says, "I can only pay $20" and you agree, you're compromising your integrity and your values and the client will end up not honoring you. TRUST ME. I've been there. Have I lost clients that I would love to work with because I wouldn't compromise my fee? Yes, but I chalk that up to they don't have enough trust in me to be able to let go and let me do all that I can for them. And also that they don't have enough honor and integrity in their business to do what's best for it, they'd rather go the cheap route.

 

Fill your business with clients that respect you for the QUALITY that you provide, not the quantity of work you can provide for a little bit of money per hour.

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Sometimes we give a poor impression by stressing how much a VA can save them. They hear 'save money' and develop a perception of low rates and worse. If they went into the relationship as they go to a dr. or a lawyer, determined to have the service, they would be past that first cheap flush of excitement and could appreciate where the savings are.

 

A client doesn't have much of the cost working with me as they would with an employee. However, my rates aren't in keeping with wages. Some of their gain is because I work on their task and get it done. The employee has other factors in play all the time.

 

I've stopped trying to snag 'em through their pocket book. In fact, i tell them right up front that they can often have present staff or family do some of that stuff -- or they can pay me. I'm more expensive than staff and family, (and without rubbing it in, I already know how to do it, I'm passionate about what I do and can probably do a better job.) Because most of it isn't rocket science. I've just spent money and time learning how to do it well and continue doing that. Edited: I don't mind if they opt to make their kids do it and accept the quality of work. It's when they have to have me and then get poor and disappear or make me out to be overpriced that can make me begin sticking pins into dolls.

Edited by VA-Judy6

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Well, I think I lost my first potential client. Apparently, he does not understand what a VA does or is eventhough I explained it clearly (so I thought). He though that he could pay $XX one time not matter how much work and no matter how long it took. When I sent him my fees & plocies and the proposal he said "when I looked at what you sent me I was like whoah!" Personally, I think he thought this was a fly by night operation and he wasn't expecting the high level of professionalism brought forth. Anyway, I have a chance to change his mind but, I am not sure how and don't even know if I want to. He has blown me off twice and I don't really know if I want to work with this level of a client. The man has 3 businesses one is huge so I don't get why he has displayed (in my eyes) such unprofessionalism.

 

Any thoughts, ideas and/or advice? Was this meant to be this way for some reason?

 

 

What a dissapointment!

 

Being able to effectively educate a client about who we are, what we do and how we do it is a skill that takes a lot of practice. And a lot of the time, business owners have a preconceived notion that we're just a bunch of silly stay-at-home moms who used to be secretaries that are doing this while the kids are in school. Exhibiting a level of professionalism from the start is a good way to get them to take notice, pay attention and honor you for the professional that you are.

 

And a good piece of advice: Don't compromise your integrity and your values. On my "Ideal Client Checklist", I have "What does my gut say?" as one of the things I need to pay attention to. If my gut is churned up, I listen and often don't go against my gut.

 

If your hourly rate is $40, and a client says, "I can only pay $20" and you agree, you're compromising your integrity and your values and the client will end up not honoring you. TRUST ME. I've been there. Have I lost clients that I would love to work with because I wouldn't compromise my fee? Yes, but I chalk that up to they don't have enough trust in me to be able to let go and let me do all that I can for them. And also that they don't have enough honor and integrity in their business to do what's best for it, they'd rather go the cheap route.

 

Fill your business with clients that respect you for the QUALITY that you provide, not the quantity of work you can provide for a little bit of money per hour.

Excellent advice Dana, thank you! I did not lower my price I WILL NOT comprimise my integrity nor my values. You are so rite Dana. I maintained and will always maintain my professionalism as if I were still in the Corporate world, but with a different mindset. :)

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Dana, this is very helpful for newbies! Thanks for sharing.

 

Here's my "short version" of negotiating and working with a client:

 

1. Talk to client/get a feel of what needs to be done.

2. Send proposal outlining the work, and your anticipated time frame

3. With the proposal, include a "cost estimate". If for a monthly retainer, you can write something like, "client support via telephone, email and regular mail; preparation of letters and other documents; and social media management: Ten (10) hours per month"

4. DO NOT, DO NOT (repeat after me) DO NOT send a contract at this time.

5. On the proposal, have a place for them to accept on the condition of acceptance and signature of contract (to follow)

6. After acceptance of proposal, send contract AND either a Credit Card Authorization (if you have a merchant account) or a PayPal invoice.

7. DO NOT, DO NOT (repeat after me) DO NOT do any, and I mean any work until you have the contract and money in hand.

 

Congratulations on your first client!

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All great advice above. :) If you want to accept credit cards, check out square (www.squareup.com). Their per-charge fee is pretty reasonable. AND you can write off the cc fee as an expense to your company. :)

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