One of the many wonderful things about running a VA organisation is the fact that we get to speak to a number of fabulous VAs and Freelancers on a regular basis about the things they love – and loathe – about small business ownership and self-employment. Our core team is made up wholly of remote business support professionals, so we can relate to the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of business life, but even we were startled last week by the situation that one of our mastermind members found herself in: She had proudly displayed the details of some of her customers on the testimonials page of her business website (with their permission, of course), and had found that a fellow VA business owner had used the testimonials as a fishing ground for potential new clients, approaching them directly and asking if they wanted to use her as their VA instead.
We’re not wearing rose tinted spectacles here. We understand that there is sometimes competition for customers, but the idea of approaching a fellow VA owner’s happy customers and trying to tempt them away just doesn’t sit right with us. It’s a different story if you are approached by a customer who has worked with a fellow VA previously; there are a number of reasons why professional relationships come to an end, and if you have a skillset that the customer needs assistance with and feel like they could be a good customer for you, go for it! Our recommendation is to refrain from passing judgement on their previous VA/Freelancer, and to focus on moving forward with the job at hand rather than dwell on what did or did not work in the past (unless you need to review systems and processes, in which case it’s worth looking at things as objectively as possible).
If you have a similar skillset to another VA or Freelancer who seems to have a larger customer base than you, why not think about collaboration rather than competition? It could be worth speaking to them and asking about the potential of becoming an associate of theirs, helping to support their business and their customers whilst bringing money into your own business if work is thin on the ground (or as a long term business relationship!). Even if they aren’t looking for anyone to help out, you could always ask for a little advice on how best to network and build your profile with potential customers (in a good way!). Though we are a fast growing industry, there are still enough customers out there to go round! Perhaps it’s worth refining your niche or working to expand on or improve your skillset?
For us – the answer is clear – whatever you do, don’t go poaching customers! You might think you’ve got the perfect offering and the customer might like your prices, but at the end of the day, your working relationship has started off in murky waters, so building a positive and long lasting relationship based on trust and respect is going to be hard.