Recent events have shown us how quickly things can accelerate.
You only have to watch, read or listen to the news to understand that.
And one area where you are always going to see rapid change is in technology.
For the forward-thinking VA, ready to absorb it and adapt, this is always good news. Knowing that bright minds are constantly exploring and developing ways to make your life easier, more productive, more collaborative and also fun.
Take Microsoft Teams, for example.
Corporates have had this communications and collaboration tool in their systems ever since it was introduced in 2017.
But it’s only now, three years’ later, that the rest of us are hearing so much about it.
Because more people have been working remotely from home, they have been looking for solutions for video calling, conference calling, and delivering training sessions, courses and programmes online.
That’s why Teams – like Zoom – has experienced an explosive increase in users.
But very quickly, many people on 1-2-1 and group video calls realised something they did not feel comfortable with. Their bedroom, kitchen, dining room, conservatory or even study does not resemble an office.
Suddenly, the whole world could see them – and what was behind them – on camera. And this made some feel awkward, a little embarrassed or perhaps ‘unprofessional’.
People would see their disorganised shelves, the colour and state of their walls and curtains, or maybe a bit of clutter in the background. They would hear people comment on their own background – or get so distracted by other people’s backgrounds that they were unable to tune in 100 per cent to the business conversation at hand.
This prompted many to look for a solution. Some even went to the expense of investing in green screens (like the ones I use for my training and podcasts).
Noticing this trend, Microsoft recently began rolling out a new feature to Teams: customised background effects.
Users can now create more than a ‘background blur’ to make things behind them less distracting. People can choose a more ‘professional’ office look or go for something a bit more silly and fun (such as a cartoon beach scene).
Have you seen that in your Teams?
Have you tried it out yet? What background is your favourite?
The aim is to make video meetings more productive and a bit more fun. And the developments are not just on the visual side.
If you are in the USA, you may have noticed what’s happened to Cortana, the ‘personal assistant’ for Windows 10.
Microsoft is moving with the times. It is also shifting direction in some respects. For example, it has moved away from offering Cortana to consumers (and operating like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant). The company is repositioning Cortana as a more business-oriented tool.
For those who prefer to speak instructions rather than tap some keys and buttons, the future just got brighter for you.
In the States, Cortana now offers a chat-based way to find information, check your calendar, connect with people, set reminders or add tasks to To Do.
Microsoft has also updated the Play My Emails experience in Outlook (features will appear first for iOS and then Android devices). It allows people on the go to schedule a meeting in response to a mail, add an email to their list of tasks or send a “running late” message to all participants in an online meeting.
This is only happening in the States for now, but you can expect a wider international rollout in due course.
The main point is this.
The world is changing. It’s changing fast. We have to be ready. We need to be prepared. We need to adapt. It’s important to keep moving with the times.
If others embrace the technology and we do not, we may get left behind.
The same goes if clients and companies start asking you to carry out tasks and projects for them – and you’re not up to speed with the most efficient way to do that in Microsoft 365.
There’s no need to panic if you know what you’re doing. It’s why I encourage VA’s to think smart and get to know the essentials of each application they use or may want to use in the future.
That way you’ve covered whatever clients throw at you – and they’ll be impressed with the calm, confident way you say “No problem”.
I am on a mission to help VA’s, Executive Assistants and PA’s to do more in less time – and make more money. It’s why I offer training in Microsoft 365, whether you’re on Windows or Mac.
Here are FOUR more tips to help you focus on getting more money in for your business.
Boost #4 – Create a New Offer
A simple way of boosting your income is to create a new offer for your clients.
This could be a product or a service, or a combination of the two.
Create an e-book or guide. What topics are of interest to your market?… productivity? Design? Creativity? Presentations? Training? If you can put together relevant and high-value content for people, they’ll be more likely to buy.
Create bundles or packages for your services. Make what you do look and sound as compelling as possible. Make it easy for people to see what you offer, recognise the benefits of the package and make the investment.
You’ll probably know that offering different levels of service – e.g. Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum – is very popular. There’s a reason for that. It gives people choice, according to their needs, wants and budget.
Get creative. See what other people doing (in the VA field and in other sectors) for inspiration.
Boost #5 – Raise your Prices
This is one of the simplest ways to boost your VA income.
You might, if starting out or in the early part of your business journey, feel a little nervous about raising your prices. Let me give you some encouragement.
As a VA you offer value to clients. You do things they either cannot do, don’t want to do, or simply don’t have the time or energy to do.
What you charge your client is the reward for a job well done. If you can deliver on your services – and offer great customer service with it – people will be happy to pay.
The market (and testing different price points) will tell you if your pricing is way off or close to the mark.
Let’s say you charge £20 per hour. Try raising it to £22 or £25 per hour. You could always ask for £25 and settle on £22
Been charging £30 for a few years and never changed it – even though you have more experience, skills and knowledge to offer?… take it up to £35 or £40 per hour. See how people respond.
Working at a more premium rate? The same principle applies.
If you already have clients, explain the increase. Demonstrate and remind people of the VALUE you deliver for them. Don’t assume people will object or stop using your services. They may actually say “We were wondering why you charged so little for so long for what you do for us.”
Remember, you can always raise your individual hourly rate and keep the option to offer a lower rate if people agree to a regular ‘package’ of hours or a retainer.
Think smart. Negotiate from strength.
Boost #6 – Adopt a Portfolio Lifestyle
If you’re already well established in your VA business, congratulations. I know what it takes to build something on your own.
You may have a solid income and feel that as long as you can keep that coming in you’re good with that.
If you’re just starting out and the VA side of things is part-time for now, you may want to consider another alternative to putting all your focus on going full-time.
Increasing numbers of self-employed professionals are looking at having a portfolio income.
This means they earn a living from more than one skill or area of expertise. For example, a trainer might also be paid as a writer, a speaker or as a consultant. They might, in addition, run an online membership or programme and receive recurring subscriptions from that.
If they have another interest or hobby, they might be able to make some income from that as well; making toys, knitting, fixing cars, creating greeting card ideas and designs… it could be anything.
You can supplement your VA earnings with a part-time job or other options for boosting your income: getting paid to complete market research surveys, be a mystery shopper, sell someone else’s products or promote someone else’s products as an affiliate.
There’s no rule that says you can’t have a VA business AND other income streams. You do what works for you. You do what you need to do to get you through.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
And even if you are running a well-established full-time VA business, you may also want to find ways to top up your income. As extra financial security, for a special event, as a treat or gift, or even to help you retire a little earlier.
Money does not guarantee happiness, of course. But it does give you more options.
Boost #7 Learn a new skill
If there’s a demand for a product or service and you can supply, it (at a price people are willing to pay) … you can make money. You’re in business.
The more scarce or sought after that product or service, the more money people are willing to pay for it.
That is brilliant news for the smart and highly skilled VA, Executive Assistant or PA who is like my Veronica F.R.O.G. – Fast, Reliable, Organised and Great.
Because if you have a complete understanding of Microsoft 365 and its standard applications you are going to be in demand.
Clients expect VA’s to know their onions when it comes to Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. If you’re working with corporates you can increasingly expect them to want you to know the ins and outs of Microsoft Teams – you may even ask you to teach their people how to get the best from it.
Your skills and knowledge matter. The more highly trained you are, the greater the opportunities for boosting your income.
Naturally, if you realise it’s about time you updated your practical know how I can help with that.
All my online courses give you a complete step-by-step guide. They cover EVERY essential task or function you’re ever likely to be asked to do or use. There’s no waffle or padding. Just clear, precise ‘how to’ delivered as if I were by your side.
You owe it to yourself and your business to be the best you can be.
You can get fully up to speed in one specific application at a time. Or, if you know you are going to be using the whole suite from Microsoft 365, you can save money by investing in my complete set of courses.
Whichever approach you take (single or The Full Monty) you choose how you go about it. Watch and learn in any order. Dip into what you need or fancy first. Or go through it systematically, ‘season by season’.
And there you have it. Seven Ways for boosting your income.
Do let me know if you use any of my suggestions and what the outcome is. It’s great to share people’s success stories.
P.S. If you missed the tips in Part 1 you can catch up with them here.
In these challenging times, everyone is looking at ways to boost their income.
That is no different for the smart VA, whether you’re just starting out or already well established with a good base.
If you’re going to treat what you do as a business – and you should be treating it that way – there are a number of ways to boost your income.
I’ll be sharing SEVEN ways in this two-part feature. Three here and four in Part 2 next time.
Before I get to the tips and suggestions, remember that income is only part of the money equation. The other part is the expenditure.
The more you have coming in and the less you spend, the more you will have in the bank.
Keep an eye on your finances…
When times are challenging, every pound, dollar or Euro counts. Even small adjustments to your spending can make a difference. If you’re missing your regular trip to the café, for example, just consider how much you have saved because of lockdown.
Even when the cafes reopen, one less coffee out a week could mean more than £125 saved each year. It might not sound much but just think what you could spend that amount on. (HINT: that amount just about covers a premium 365 Business Standard subscription for a year).
Boosting your income is not just about getting money in. It’s about using your money wisely. With purchases for your business, ask yourself the questions: do I really need this? Can I get it for less elsewhere? Do I need to buy new or would used suffice?
Remember, anything you save now can build into a handy buffer sum.
Money for a rainy day. Money for a holiday (when those are more possible). Money for ‘just in case’ or emergencies. Money for unplanned repairs on your car. Money to reinvest in the business when you know you can afford it. Money to treat yourself or your family. Money to reward yourself for getting a new client.
I’ll get to my first round of tips to boost your VA income in a moment but take note of this important point next.
Don’t forget to set aside a portion of your income for your tax and national insurance. Otherwise, you could be landed with a nasty surprise from the tax people. Typically in the UK, that portion is about a third of anything you bring in but do check what level it is for you, in your part of the world. Every country is different.
By the way, a little tip if you feel you can manage it.
You could choose to ‘tax’ yourself at a higher rate. For example, set aside 40 or even 50 per cent of your income as you go. When your tax bill arrives you will be able to pay it with ease – and have a lump sum spare. Now go treat yourself for that tremendous self-discipline during the year. Or leave it in and watch your reserves grow.
That’s enough about expenditure and keeping the tax people happy. Let’s turn to how to make YOU more money.
Here are the first THREE of seven ways to boost your VA income.
Boost #1 – Get New Clients
This can be the hardest thing for some VA’s but it is at the core of generating income. It’s something you have to learn if you’re going to run a serious VA business – and make it more than a part-time or pocket-money ‘hobby’.
If you know your target market or niche, go find the type of people or companies you love to work with.
Work out where they ‘hang out’ and start connecting.
They could be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram. They could be at a business networking event or in an online community. They could be someone who listens to a talk you give, a webinar your deliver, a podcast you record. They could be someone who reads your blog, book, e-book or magazine article.
Ask your existing clients if they know someone who might benefit from using your VA services. Set up a referral scheme.
Make sure your website and marketing efforts are up to date, consistent and relevant to your audience.
Boost #2 – Get Clients to Buy More Often
Another way to boost your VA income is to get people to buy more often from you.
If you are already doing regular pieces of work for a client, see if you can add more value and secure a more consistent income. Create a services package or a monthly retainer offer.
You know your client. Put yourself in their shoes. What challenges do they have? Is there something else you could help them with that they haven’t yet considered? Propose a deal that both provides a solution for them and brings in a little extra for you.
Working with one boss, manager or director in the company? See if another leader would welcome some additional VA support.
Boost #3 – Increase the Average Client Spend
If you are working with a client and providing some admin support for them, explore the potential to offer additional services.
For example, they may do some social media, but you know you could help them to improve it – or to expand their online activity to another platform or channel. Broach the subject. Offer a suggestion. Make a proposal.
Take a look at your other clients (past and present). Do a little research. Is there something they are missing that you could offer to help them with?
Let’s say someone pays you £500 a month for your current services. You offer an additional service and charge £600 instead. That’s an extra £100 per month. That’s £1,200 more in your account for the year. Get two clients to take that up and you’ve doubled it to £2,400 in 12 months.
How is your business looking now?
It’s not all about landing the big client or taking on huge projects. You can seriously boost your income by implementing small changes, making tweaks to your service offerings and getting creative.
Let me know if you’ve tried something and found it worked really well. I love hearing your success stories.
And watch out for Part 2 of this feature, with FOUR more ways to boost your income.
In other words, tell people how you help them and what difference it makes to their business, career and lives.
You can save them time, money and hassle. You can do the tasks they do not like doing and free them up to focus on what they love doing. You can keep them organised, on track and help them create a great impression with their customers and clients.
They say people are only really interested in “What’s in it for me?”… so you have to tell them.
That’s how you present and demonstrate value.
But there’s another way to draw the right kind of clients towards you. And that’s by sharing your values.
There’s another saying that ‘people buy from people’.
And people often like doing business with people who are a bit like them, or like-minded or feel like a good fit.
Part of that draw is their perception of your values… and how those match their own.
It’s not something that sole traders, freelancers and ‘helping others’ professionals tend to think about. Or they may regard it as something only for the big companies.
But know this. Your values are part of you and your business.
Consciously or subconsciously, people are weighing you up on these. They’re doing this whether you openly state your values or not.
It’s based on first impressions. Your website. Your communications. What you say. What you do. How you are with them.
Values are part of your personal brand and, by association, with your business brand.
And this is not a paper exercise (as it sometimes looks when you think about how some corporates behave out there).
If you just write down a set of values like a ‘shopping list’ of things you’d like to have, that is NOT doing it right.
Values should be the things you hold dear. They are cornerstones for the way you are, the way you do things and the way you conduct your business.
Most corporates tend to set these out publicly. And some companies live to them.
If you’re using Microsoft Office you may be curious about Microsoft’s company values. Here they are.
Microsoft says it is about “innovation, trustworthy computing, diversity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, philanthropies, and environment.”
You can decide what you make of that. Certainly, innovation and philanthropies can both merit a tick. The company has also made recent pledges which suggest it is doing its bit to respond to the world’s environmental challenges.
And what about you?
What are your values? Could someone make a good guess what they are just from how you are and provide your services?
How are you sharing these so people can see clearly what you stand for?
You can talk about values in many ways and places. On your website. In your social media content. In blogs. On video. In stories that you can link with relevance to business. In your networking. In public speaking.
It’s also something you can look for in the type of clients you most wish to serve.
How do their values stack up against yours? Is there a good match there?
These are all questions which can help you with your positioning, credibility and marketing messages.
Sharing your values can add value to your business.
What about me I hear you ask – what are your Values Shelley?
Well, I am so glad you asked. Here is what I believe in and what underpins my work.
I believe in honesty and fairness, delivering value and empowering others by helping them learn how to get things done.
I’d love to hear how you do this and examples of how this has helped you in your VA journey.
To YOUR VA Success!
p.s You can see this in my courses, just take a look at the Course Directory – you will see that everything I do is set to help you in YOUR VA business.
There are quite a few buzzwords floating around these days, aren’t there?
Ones I hear include the following.
Distributed global workforce.
These words and phrases are on-trend because the nature of business is changing – and changing pretty fast.
Lean is all about eliminating waste and increasing operational efficiency. Companies look at ways to streamline their processes and offer greater value for clients and customers.
Agile is about an approach that encourages employees to work how, when and where they want. Leaders are beginning to understand the performance and health benefits of allowing their people greater flexibility.
We haven’t quite reached the paperless office but the world is increasingly digital. More and more invoicing, document signing, and collaborate creation and editing, is now done online.
Collaboration is the buzz word of the moment. It’s all about how you can get people working together faster, smarter and with better results. Two reasons it’s so on-trend right now are the rise of remote working and the more widely distributed workforces of growing global brands.
Companies are making different use of office space. They want to work smarter. So it’s not about having the biggest buildings or having all your staff in one place.
Today, increasing numbers of employees work together from different parts of the country and globe.
They can do so because of advancements in communications and data technology. You can share your computer screen with people anywhere in the world and collaborate in real-time.
There’s a move towards smaller, more flexible meeting space. You may have heard of the words agile, hub, hive, ideation, stand-ups, scrum, huddle creeping into conversations.
Which can only be a good thing for the VA who knows her stuff.
Companies and small business owners are becoming used to working with people remotely – on the phone, via video conferencing, through online meetings and collaboration tools.
So working with a VA appears a very natural way of getting things done.
And the more you know about the applications and collaborative functions within Microsoft Office 365, the more your skills and knowledge will appeal to potential clients.
You may even find yourself knowing more things than the people you work for. You may have opportunities to share the advantages of features like Teams, which remove the need to rely on Zoom and make real-time collaboration easier.
When you are able to help clients save time, money and hassle they will love you for it.
And, of course, being super-efficient and productive yourself gives you the same lift.
It gives you time back for you. Time back for your family. Time to rest, refresh and re-energise. Maybe even out that work-life balance a little more in favour of you.
Lean into the lean world. Adapt to the agile ways of working in business today. Be confident with your communications and collaborations.
P.S. If you are ready to improve your Microsoft Office skills, take a look at my range of online training courses. Learn what you need when you want, where you want and at your own pace.
If you are a VA you may find you and your business falls into one of three camps.
Group one includes the freelance and professional ‘Veronica F.R.O.G.s’ who are as busy as ever. Maybe even busier than ever.
Group two contains the VA’s who are experiencing a bit of a dip in business yet still getting through OK. Despite the kids at home. Or their other half at home. Or caring for a relative.
And then there’s group three. This is those who are struggling a bit. Who may be feeling anxious about money and a bit less confident than when they began the year.
The VA in each group will have their own set of challenges right now, some of them unique or personal.
Some freelancers, self-employed and small business owners are asking whether it is the right time to be ‘selling’ their services. Will people really want to buy now? Will people have money to buy now?
They are valid questions. But too often there are assumptions being made about the answers.
The truth is, you don’t know until you ask.
If you are in group one or two above, you may be wondering what kind of things you can you do to (a) help existing clients (b) engage with past clients and (c) offer something of value to potential clients.
Why don’t you ask them?
Give your current clients a call.
Yes, on the phone. Just ask them how they are doing and see if there’s anything they need right now. And that doesn’t have to be a direct business ‘need’.
2. If not a call, send them an email.
And ask the same. You may think every successful entrepreneur, business owner is managing everything with confidence. That may not be the case. These are strange times and it can hit people in different ways.
3. Send out a survey.
You can do this easily with online tools like Microsoft Forms which is part of your Office365 subscription or even free tools such as Survey Monkey. You can set a range of questions to gain the information you are looking for. You can have Yes/No responses, multiple-choice options, ratings and spaces for comments.
When your surveys are in you can analyse them – look for common themes, patterns, concerns and potential opportunities. It also allows you to see what words people are using to describe their wants and needs. You can use those when putting your marketing copy together.
4. Send a Letter.
This is ideal if you only have a small number of clients. It adds a super personal touch. If you can, do it. Your clients will be so appreciative.
You could always include something of value with your note – like a relevant or inspirational quote, a quick tip or a checklist.
5. Send a Card.
This is an alternative to a letter. It will be welcomed just as much.
You could even include a question or a link to a survey so people can tell you how they are – for example, “No needs now”, “Might need something in 4 weeks” or “Yes, happy for you to get in touch in the Summer”. You can set out the options how you want.
Connections and communication have always been very important in business. Now they are more important than ever.
Microsoft Office 365 gives you all the tools to do that with efficiency, service and grace. Make sure you are up to speed with it.
Any questions? Just ask.
P.S. If you are ready to improve your Microsoft Office skills, take a look at my range of online training courses. Learn what you need when you want, where you want and at your own pace.
No waffle. Just the essential, step-by-step ‘how to’ for the most practical functions you’ll ever use as a professional VA.