Are you finding it hard to find customers you work well with? The kind of customers who have a working style and ethos that reflects your own? The kind of customers who appreciate your unique skillset and trust you to carry out the best work you can for them?
I’m sure every VA out there has had a customer (or two) who makes them want to move to the forest and turn bowls for a living, far, far away from the land of WIFI and micromanagement from customers. Thankfully, it’s possible to cope with the odd troublesome client, but when your to-do list features back-to-back tasks for business owners who don’t appreciate your skillset or time, make you second guess yourself for no good reason and are consistently ‘moving the goalposts’ when it comes to your role or the work they want you to do, it can be a little soul-destroying.
Trust me, if you are eyeball deep in customers that make you dread checking your emails, or you wake up in the middle of the night having some kind of slack-conversation nightmare, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There really are great customers out there – people who will value you and appreciate the work you carry out for them. You just need to find them!
The first thing you need to do to attract the right kind of customers is to consider your rate – seriously! Are you charging enough for the work that you do and the extensive knowledge and experience that you have? Honestly, some of the worst customers that I have had are people who refuse to pay you a fair or competitive rate for the work you do.
You know the sort – the “I could get that miles cheaper somewhere else!” lot! I know that if work is thin on the ground or if you are just starting out that these jobs are hard to turn down, just be aware that if someone is questioning your value BEFORE THEY EVEN START WORKING WITH YOU, it’s not likely to turn into a beautiful and highly productive working relationship. As my business has developed and I have started to focus on more technical services, I have increased my rate (quite significantly). And you know what? Not one of the customers who has come to me asking for technical services has queried my rate: they appreciate the time and effort (and investment) that has gone into developing my skillset and are willing to pay for someone who can help them rather than quibble over a few pounds here and there when they are likely to be charging significantly more per hour than me!
The next thing to consider is your marketing material – your website, social media profiles, your business cards, etc. You don’t need to pay a fortune for these things, but it really helps if they look crisp and clean and provide clear and concise information. Words like ‘cheap’ and ‘free’ – even if you’re using them with the best of intentions – are likely to stand out to people who won’t value you as highly as you deserve. Trendy ‘slang’ and jargon might put off potential customers too, so keep things clear and accurate.
The primary source of your work is the next thing to consider – have you got a card up in the local shop? Do you advertise your services on platforms like PeoplePerHour, UpWork and Fiverr? Are you networking (physically and online)? Do you ask your customers for referrals?
It’s so important to think about where your ideal audience of potential customers is hanging out. If you love working with small local businesses or individuals, a business card in the window of your local shop could be a great source of interest, whereas if you favour working with larger organisations it’s unlikely you’ll attract their eye in the corner store! Freelancer platforms also have their place for some industries, but from experience, if someone is looking for the ‘cheapest deal’, quality isn’t necessarily at the top of their criteria checklist!
One of the best resources that we have in our industry is the community. Take the APVA Hub – a group of likeminded individuals over 2000 strong, each with their own unique skills and experience, and dispersed throughout the UK and internationally. If you can’t find customers that you actually want to work with, why not consider associate work with a fellow APVA Hub Member? That way they are sourcing the work and you are completing it.
Alternatively, APVA have a special VA directory – https://findyourva.co.uk/ – that pulls together APVA accredited VAs from across Europe so that business owners can find a professional and skilled virtual team member. If you’d like more information about becoming an APVA Accredited member, click here – https://apva.org.uk/membership/