angry-virtual-assistantI’ve got a peeve with some of you prospective VA clients out there and I need to get it off my chest. Please forgive me in advance if I offend, because truly, it’s not my intention to do so. My only goal here is increased awareness of an issue that, in my mind, hurts all business people in the end. Here goes:

For the love of Virtual Assistance, Do your homework before you ask for a quote!

What do I mean by “homework?” Well, if you want to avoid royally pissing off the next Virtual Assistant you contact for a quotation, read the following detailed instructions and take some notes:

  1. Google the services you’re looking for in a VA. If Google doesn’t bring up anything promising, check out VA directories, RFP systems. or ask your colleagues to recommend a VA based on personal experience.
  2. Write down the URLs of the 3 top contenders. Yes, THREE is enough! Anything more and you’re just price shopping. That’s bad karma, but more on this later.
  3. Go to each VA’s website with pen and paper in hand. Check out key information such as services offered and how, rates and package deals, owner bio or company profile, testimonials, etc. Make note of what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’re not sure about. What you’re not sure about will determine what you’re going to ask the VA during the pre-consult.
  4. Contact each VA to arrange a time to discuss your needs AND the question marks still in your head after reviewing each VA’s website.
  5. Okay, here’s the part I need you to pay close attention to: while you’re on the phone with the VA, ACTUALLY ASK THE QUESTIONS THAT YOU NEED ANSWERS TO.

If you do everything I’m telling you to do, you should have 99% of the information you require to decide if she could be “the one” before the conversation is over. If you think she won’t be a fit, please, tell her this either before you get off the phone or within 24 hours of speaking to all 3 contending VAs. Explain your reasoning.

Yes, if you turn her down, she may be offended (silly VA). Or, she might counter your convictions with additional reasons she could be the right VA for you anyway (ambitious VA). Or, she might thank you for your candor and refer you to someone better equipped for the job (considerate VA).

Now, you may be thinking that this is a great deal more honesty–and interpersonal squirming–than you really want to expose yourself to before you’ve even decided whom to hire. Yet by going through this exercise now as opposed to AFTER you get a quote, you’ve achieved a couple of things:

  1. If you do decide, after receiving a quote (and possibly formal proposal which gee, takes TIME to write), you’ve created a climate of candor and honesty. No one is playing it too close to the chest and no one is feeling ripped off. Nice feeling, don’t you think?
  2. If you decide against hiring the VA you spoke with (again, BEFORE she wasted time on a quote), you’ll feel confident in your decision and will sleep easy at night. Why? Because you didn’t created one of those convoluted situations where a business person is putting much energy into a process that was a lost cause to begin with. Yeah, lost cause. Lost cause because had you done your homework like I told you to, you would have known within minutes of speaking to the VA if you weren’t that into her.

Reasons you might not be into a VA could include:

  • price
  • personality
  • skills
  • availability
  • procedures
  • work style
  • etc.

Don’t you want to know this stuff before you get a quotation drawn up? There is nothing worse than spending time and energy on a quote only to have the prospective client turn around and say,usually quite sheepishly in an email response they’ve been avoiding, “I’ve decided to put this project on hold for now due to [insert excuse here but usually this piece includes financial reasons, change in strategic direction, personal challenges, and on and on].

Um, yeah.

Making people do cartwheels for you when you’re not really that hot to trot in the first place is inconsiderate, wasteful and downright unprofessional. It makes VAs want to take up drinking. This is the bad karma I was talking about.

So, please, I beg you, do your homework. Make the most of your research process. Ask the tough questions (like “Why you?” and “How much?”) during that pre-consult. It will put some good energy back into a universe that could really use some right now.

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