What Counts as Billable Time For Your VA Clients?

What do you charge your Virtual Assistant clients for? Just time on task? Or more?

Quite often, I see posts in the VA forums talking about time tracking and billing.

One of the topics that is discussed a lot is around what is billable time to your clients and what isn’t?

And the answers you see posted would probably surprise you. They definitely surprise me!

The short answer is that anything you are doing for a client should be billed to them.

Here’s a quick example.

When you go to McDonalds (I use McDonalds as an example often!), you don’t leave with anything that you haven’t paid for. You get your sandwich, your drink, and you get your condiments and napkins on the counter adjacent to the cash. Maybe you didn’t see the napkins and condiments itemized on your bill, but everything you are leaving with is factored into the price you paid – including the staff that served, the machines they used to process your order, and the lights over your head.

It’s the same thing with your clients.

You provide a VA service to them. The service includes what you do for them (ie managing their scheduling), and everything else that you need to use to provide that service for them. These things are what make up your billable rate. You need to make a certain amount of money in your business to cover your expertise and your expenses.

I’m not talking about your internet and your other overhead expenses – I’m talking about all of the time you spend looking after their client work.

If you can not earn a profit in your business, then you won’t be in business long.

Now let’s talk about the itemized stuff.

Aside from doing the client’s scheduling, what else do you need to do to manage their work? With VA work it’s mainly communication and administration. Do you bill for these things? If you do not, then you are giving away your time.

What specifically? Phone calls, meetings, updating the project management system, reading and responding to emails.

It is important to factor all of things like communication into your billable rate – and find a way to do all of it efficiently.

Some Virtual Assistants do not charge their clients for this time. They call it ‘included’ but what if one client sends you one email a day and one sends you 20?

The assumption would be that the one who is sending you 20 emails is a larger client, who is probably paying you for more time. But it’s not always the case.

I once had a client who LOVED her email. She was a writer, so words were her craft but I used to dread seeing her name in my inbox because it was there so often. One Monday morning I logged in to see more than 80 emails from her, that she had sent over the weekend. Eighty (I counted them). And she was a client who was billing only 5 hours a month with me.

I had another client who LOVED phone meetings. She didn’t like to write or type, so she wanted to speak on the phone every time she needed to tell me something. A phone call every day adds up quickly – even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes, never mind the fact that you have to stop everything you are doing to take the call.

As a service business, your time is your money. You need to get paid for it.

That means everything you do for a client should be getting billed to them. If you were not there helping them in their business, they would be doing things themselves.

And yes, we all want to be giving and generous – there is never a problem with that. As a VA, that is one of the best things you can be – provided that you are not giving your time or energy away for free.

Clients are paying you to work with them. So charge them accordingly to get their work done. Your time is as valuable as theirs (actually it’s even more valuable, in my opinion!)

Charge for your phone time, your email time, your project management system time. If you don’t like the idea of itemizing that kind of thing, fix a monthly rate to it, something like 15 minutes a day for communication with a client is only 5 hours a month. But then be sure to track it so you are sure you are billing them the right amount.

Nobody should be working for free. Your clients don’t, and you shouldn’t either.

What’s billable? Anything you do for a client (honestly - except sending them their invoice each month!).

Factor in everything you do and you will be happier in your business, and your clients will be happier too!

For more tips and resources on making your VA business more profitable, sign up for a free CAVA membership today! Connect with VAs like yourself, and have a look around at our resources, while you consider full membership in our association!

5 Tips for Better Follow Up in Your VA Business

Where are your clients coming from?

Are you getting great clients easily from the people you come into contact with on a regular basis?

Or are you struggling to find clients - and maybe even taking on clients that you don't really want to work with, just so you don't turn down the money?

If you aren't meeting enough business people, that should be your first step in trying to get new clients.

But if you are meeting business people and still not getting clients, your follow up procedure probably needs work.

How many sales conversations have you had this week? this month? this year?

The more people you talk to about your business, the more clients you will get. It's just a numbers game. Honest!

A recent Hubspot survey (and many others!) says that it takes 5 to 7 marketing touches to bring someone from a new prospect to a client.

Are you following up with people 5 to 7 times? Are you following up with some of them at all? For me, it's the statistic more than that 'marketing' piece that is important. You have to connect with most people more than once to get them to advance their relationship with you in order for them to start working with you.

Here are 5 steps to set up a follow up system that works to get you clients:

1. Create a master list, database or CRM.

Keeping everything in one place is the most important part of managing your follow up (other than doing that actual follow up, of course!) Set up something that works for you. For some people that's a notebook, for others (like me!) it's a Google Sheet, and even others use a database, CRM or app on their phone. The key is to work within your habits. A beautiful database that you never use is useless. Keep things simple to start with and find a way to use it every single day so that it becomes a simple habit.

2. Record every interaction.

When you connect with someone, you need to find that master list and update it. That's part of why it needs to be so accessible for you. If you don't keep things up to date, it will not be effective for you. I use a Google Sheet because I can access it from my PC and my phone and anywhere else online. So when I speak with someone I can update it with my most recent notes and it is always current. With the many ways we can connect with people these days, having a central place to record it all is essential.

3. Communicate with intent.

When you are looking for those 'touches', be sure that you have a reason to connect with someone. Creating the intent - the topic of conversation, if you will - is essential when you reach out to connect with them. Maybe you know of an event that is coming up that you want to tell them about, or an industry trend that you are reading about that you want to share, or maybe it's just a check in to ask how their business is going. But be sure you know what the intent of the communication is before you send it.

4. Schedule time to do it daily.

Daily follow up is really important. When you are talking to people every day about your business, you will end up with a lot of conversations going on at once. Of course that doesn't mean that you have to email or message or call everyone every day! But you should reach out to at least a couple a day. It makes the routine regular and helps you stay on top of all of the relationships you are building.

5. Ask for a sales conversation only when the time is right.

When you are prospecting and doing follow up, patience is a virtue. Don't connect with someone and right away ask them to talk to you about working together. You want to nurture the relationship with anyone you connect with. When the time is right, you can ask the prospect if they want to chat about you helping them. Or, if they aren't your ideal client, you might ask them for a referral. But always make sure it's time for that and not jump into it.

Following a few rules when you are doing your follow up helps you to keep organized, on top of things, and authentic in your relationship building.

Remember you are going to be in business for the long-term. Connecting with potential clients is about the long game. Treat your prospects well, keep in touch with them, and you will find that you will get clients more easily. And you'll probably even find the networking part FUN!

For some tips on how to manage your sales conversations once you get there, check out this free training video: The Sales Conversation. There are over 40 free training videos for VAs on my Youtube channel!

How An Accountability Partner Helps You Grow Your VA Business

Did you reach the last goal you set in your business?

Good Virtual Assistants set goals, just like all good business owners. It's how we grow, and it's how we get better at what we do.

Whether it's business or marketing related, there is nothing like achieving a goal you set for yourself to help you celebrate your success!

But if you are setting goals and then just not reaching them - then, honestly there is no point in setting them. You have to do what you say you want to do!

However, all is not lost!

All you need is someone to help you stay on track - an accountability partner.

An accountability partner is someone you choose to partner with in your VA business, that becomes your confidant/e, your cheerleader, your butt-kicker, and even your strategist.

When you start a partnership with someone else, you help each other with moving ahead in your business - and helping you to get done what you say you want to get done.

Just like we do for our clients!

Our own VA business 'stuff' often gets left by the wayside as we focus on client work - but our business can't grow if we don't nurture it.

Here are a few tips for you to find and work with an accountability partner:

Find an accountability partner. 

Look for someone who understands the VA industry or business. You don't want to spend your time explaining everything all the time. Ideally another VA might work - but it's not necessary, as long as your partner understands how the VA industry and role works. You can look in CAVA for one - just reach out to your colleagues!

Build a partnership with structure.

Don't keep it casual. You want to have a structure - a regular check in call is going to be essential to your success. Figure out how you keep your records of what your goals and actions are (I suggest a shared Google Doc you can both access and update). And be sure to schedule and structure your phone call so you both stay on track for reporting your updates.

Help each other build better habits and routines.

The hardest part of getting things done in your VA business is thinking you have more time than you do. We are all busy, so that's why we don't get things done to begin with. Try to help each other move slowly but surely. If a goal is too lofty (ie get 10 new clients in a month), you won't reach it. You want to set goals that you can reach (especially in the beginning). If you think your partner's goal is too big, challenge them to break it down so it's more manageable.

Set each other up for success.

Make sure that you are both at the same place in your business - both committed to doing the work to help yourselves and each other. Commit to being present and supportive on your check in calls. Schedule them and be honest with what you have done and what you haven't. Your partner can't help you if you are not being honest. 

Accountability is an essential piece of your business. Getting a partner is simplest way to get started. If you want support from a group, be sure to have a look at my Inspired Action Mastermind Group for VAs - a low-cost, high value coaching program centred around monthly goal setting and weekly accountability. 

Get more details here: www.YourVAMentor.com/inspired 

Freshen Up Your Social Media Content with These Tips

Do you get stuck when it comes to social media content?

Many Virtual Assistants say they don't know what to post, and so they end up either wasting time, or posting nothing at all.

But social media is one of the best tools you can use to market your VA business.

I don't know about you, but when I come across someone that I might want to work with, I immediately check out their online presence, and that includes their social media profiles and content.

No matter what your service offerings are, I want to see that content in your social media posts.

If you are struggling with what to put out there, here are some tips to help you get unstuck, and getting your profiles to work for you.

1. Plan ahead

So many VAs try to just post spontaneously, and then they say they don't know what to post or write. Your social media is marketing - and you need to present a cohesive message to your audience that lets them know what you do and how you can help them. Without a plan, you will not be able to make sure that your message is consistent and clear.

2. Focus on 1-2 platforms

It is tempting to be everywhere and do everything, but the more you try to do (especially without a great plan), the more you will dilute your efforts - and your results will reflect that. Focus on 1 platform at a time, and really do it well. Facebook or LinkedIn are usually the two biggest places that VAs post. Clients are generally in one or the other, and you will have the time to interact with people better when you don't have to go 5 places. Master one platform, and then start to work with another.

3. Schedule and Be Spontaneous

Some people will tell you to never schedule any social media, but it helps to make sure you are consistent. Don't rely on scheduling everything, however. The idea behind social media is to be social. Schedule one post a day to Facebook, and make an effort to be present at least once a day to share and be social. When you aren't present, your content will reflect that.

4. Curate Great Content

Your social media channels don't have to be all about you. Find content that others are posting and share that with your audience as well. Of course make sure it is congruent with your own marketing message. But you don't have to reinvent the wheel with every post. If you see some great information that someone else has shared about a topic that your audience will be interested in, share it. They will appreciate it!

5. Check Your Messaging

Make sure your messaging is consistent with what you are talking to clients about on a regular basis. If your service offerings have changed, or if your target market has changed, make sure that your social media has changed too. It's important that your marketing message is consistent across your online channels. You sometimes don't know how a client finds you - so you want your message to be the same no matter where they are finding you.

6. Create Your Own Images

Sharing other people's images is easy - but it's not always the best idea (or even legal!). Creating your own images helps you to ensure that you have original content - and you can brand them to suit your business. It is a fact that posts with images garner much more interest that posts without them. Do yourself a favour and have some images made or make your own with a software like Canva.

7. Educate, Don't Sell

Many VAs get challenged by the ratio of content to sell their services versus those that don't sell. You will hear percentages like 20% or 25% sales posts. But what you really should be focusing on it educating your audience. When you do that, you are seeding your service offerings without providing a link for them to buy something. Focus your posts on providing information and your audience will get the message that you can help them.

Whether you are new to social media, or stuck in a rut of 'I don't know what to post', it's about strategy and congruency. 

Freshen up your social media by taking these two things into account. Sell less. Educate more. Make things look nice, and branded for your business. Share relevant content always. Schedule but be present.

To make sure your marketing message is congruent and working properly for you, check out this blog post:   Get The Most Out of Your Marketing Message