This post was contributed by Chris from freelancingwithchris.com.
On a cold December day, John and Lisa decided that their new year’s resolution would be to earn more money. They were very much alike, John and Lisa. They both freelanced as virtual assistants, both had the same background, and both helped executives in the finance industry.
Now, a year down the road, there is a difference. Lisa earns twice as much as John.
While John is not doing too bad for himself, he feels stressed and isn’t always sure where his next client is going to come from. He is always out there pitching new work to make sure he has something to do again next month.
Lisa, on the other hand, has everything planned out in advance and often earns more than she did the month before even though she rarely takes new clients and doesn’t even have to market her services.
Why did John and Lisa start out so much alike yet now are living two different lives?
Because they took two different approaches to earning money in their businesses:
- John spent lots of time getting new clients
- Lisa spent only a little time getting new projects from existing clients
Why is Lisa’s approach better?
Studies show that it is often cheaper for a business to sell more to its current customers than to land new ones because they already trust us. And because freelancing is a relationship business, that is even more true for us.
The Hidden Cost of Landing New Clients
You see, there is a hidden cost associated with landing new clients and often we get stuck in a cycle of constantly completing a project and pitching a new one, just like John.
For the sake of example, let’s imagine that we charge $40 per hour and that it takes 15 hours to land a new client because we have to:
- Find leads
- Research their business
- Have a call with them to see if it is a good fit
- Send a proposal
And not all the leads we speak with will be a good fit, so there will also be some “wasted” time.
If we are helping a client with a project for 40 hours and it takes 15 hours extra to land them, we have spent 55 hours. Instead of our expected rate of $40 per hour and $1,600 for the whole project (40 hours X $40), our hourly rate was actually $29 ($1,600 / 55 hours) before fees, taxes, and other costs.
To compare, it might take us one hour to land a new project from our existing client because they already trust us, so we just have to send them a proposal.
Our hourly rate is now up to $39 per hour ($1,600 / 41 hours) on the second project instead of being stuck at $29, if we assume the next project is of the same size.
Related Post: Virtual Assistant Salary: How Much Can you Earn as a VA?
The best part is that you can use billable hours to earn your client’s trust, so your unpaid “client pitching” hours become fewer and fewer.
Pretty awesome, right? That means it’s often cheaper to double your virtual assistant business without finding new clients. I’ll show you how in a minute.
The Currency of Virtual Assistants
Popular advice tells us to “charge what you are worth”. The intentions are good but if we are not an experienced virtual assistant, it can do more damage than help. We can’t just tell our clients that we are increasing our price without expecting any questions.
Think about it: how do you feel when a service you like increases their price “just because”?
If Netflix doubled their price without any new shows, how would you feel? If you have used any job boards like Upwork, you’ve probably experienced them increasing their fees without any particular reason.
When you raise your rates without reason, you might keep some of your clients while the rest will run for the hills. It is not that it is impossible to raise your prices. The point is that if you don’t have all your billable hours maxed out, it is not the right time to raise your prices yet.
A better idea to double your virtual assistant business is to get more projects from your clients so you can book out the hours you want first.
Allow me to show you an example where I turned a project of about $500 into $5,000.
How to Turn a $500 Project into a $5,000 Project
At first, the client just wanted help running a couple of Facebook ads and putting together a quick marketing plan.
Tip: Want to learn more about Facebook ads for your business? Check out Flourish with Facebook Ads!
As I learned more about their business, I suggested other ideas as we went along. So instead of only doing the plan and ads, I also helped them with website edits, landing pages, radio ads, etc.
Assuming your skills are good, you can do the same for your clients. They don’t just hire those who are the absolute best in their field but often clients appreciate reliability and being easy to work with, too.
That is not a fit for everyone, so it’s important to find the right clients — the clients that have too many things on their plate and would love to pay to get help.
For example, think about an entrepreneur that just started their business. They probably have a lot to do but no money to pay you.
The big difference happens when you understand why clients need your help.
You might discover that they want more free time. On the surface you are selling them help with emails, managing travel plans, and perhaps leads management.
But in reality, you are selling them time. Time is the only thing we can’t get back, so you might find that it sells for a lot more than the tasks themselves.
When you show clients that you understand them, they become accustomed to the convenience of working with you and might even offer you extra projects without you asking!
The best part is that the bar is low because most other virtual assistants are unreliable.
Note from Kayla: This is sad but true!. The good news is, I can teach you how to set yourself apart from those VAs! Learn more in my free workshop: 5 Steps to Become a Virtual Assistant
Let’s dive into the techniques, so you can double your virtual assistant business just from your existing clients, shall we?
5 Simple Techniques You Can Use to Earn More This Week
Making life a little easier for your clients can mean many things. These techniques can help you double your virtual assistant business by:
1. Taking work away from your client’s plate without them even asking and
2. When they see the way you take care of it, they might offer you more work because they trust that you can handle it without needing any hand-holding
You can take advantage of this immediately if you are billing hourly because you can add more hours if your client is comfortable with that. If you are charging a fixed fee (e.g. as a retainer or project fee), you’ll have to calculate extra time into your fee to account for it.
Many business owners don’t know what virtual assistants can help with, so it is your job to show them. Let’s look at the first technique to double your virtual assistant business:
1. Do it for Them
Through Ramit Sethi, I’ve learned the “do it for them”-technique and it is deceptively simple: Every time there is something you could be doing for them, do it!
For example, if I need a decision from the business owner on how to proceed with a project, I might prepare three solutions and ask them which one they prefer. That way, they don’t have to brainstorm ideas because I’ve done it for them. They can simply reply with “A, B or C” and get on with their day.
It works the best when your clients’ experience it, so putting it into place as much and often as you can, will give you the best results. You can even use it in your proposals when pitching a new client for extra effect.
2. Email as if You Don’t Expect a Reply
Busy people get plenty of emails, so the less they have to reply to the better. Sometimes, it’s even better if they don’t have to reply. They will secretly love you for understanding.
For example: “I updated X sheet and sent a note to person A and B. I don’t need a reply”.
Note from Kayla: I have also used a similar technique for client email communications at times. It’s called the “negative option” and basically works like this: Tell the client what you will do UNLESS they reply and say otherwise by a specific date and time. For example, “Unless you reply by EOD tomorrow, I will assume this is approved and will begin implementation.” It’s also similiar to #4 below!
3. Ask for Frequent Feedback
An important part of any project is feedback but the challenge that most virtual assistants face is that we’ll ask for feedback only at the end of a project.
By then, things might have piled up and in the worst case, someone might feel resentment and hope to never work together again.
Usually, this happens because of misunderstandings and the easiest way to avoid it is to ask for feedback in small portions frequently. For example, I suggest checking in once a week whether it is about the tasks themselves or the preferred way of communication.
That way, it comes in small portions and won’t feel as overwhelming for both of you to share feedback.
4. Creating a Default
This technique works particularly well if you are collaborating with your client’s team or there are different departments involved in a project.
To best describe how it works, here’s an example:
“Here is the list of ideas we brainstormed. I wanted to run it by you in case you have any feedback. If I don’t hear from you by 5 PM, let’s default to idea #4.”
But, it also works if it is just a situation with you and your client. If that’s the case, you can simply say something along the lines of “we need to complete task A, B, and C before X deadline. Y person might be available, so I’ll check with them and if not, I’ll default to doing it.”
5. Sending New Ideas
This is not a secret technique to double your virtual assistant business but it is effective when combined with the others. While you’ll probably see a nice bump in your earnings from the other techniques, this will help you land extra projects instead of extending the current ones.
As you learn more about your client’s business, you will inevitably discover other things they might need help with to benefit their business. Suggesting new ideas that you can help them with is a no-brainer.
You can simply ask them “Hey X, I noticed a few things that could help boost ABC. Would it be OK if I send over some ideas?”
I have never experienced any business owner saying no to getting ideas as to how to improve their business. The key is to show your client how it will help them.
“I noticed that we don’t have an email newsletter opt-in box on our blog. We get 10,000 people visiting every month, so if we can get 1% [e.g. add a link to study that shows the industry standard] to sign up that would give us another 100 leads per month.
Our most popular product sells for $1,000 so if we can convert 1% [e.g. add a link to study that shows the industry standard] of them to buy we will add $1,000 of revenue extra per month.”
In this example, we show the client exactly how it could impact his business by increasing the bottom line. Many clients care about revenue (or profit) the most but you’ll have to tailor it to each of your clients.
For instance, you might have a client that prefers to have more free time for her family. For her, you might help improve a specific process, so it takes one hour instead of five hours per week.
Not sure what other services you can offer? Check out our related blog post: 20 Services You Can Offer to Grow Your VA Business
In my experience, you’ll get the most out of these techniques by building a habit of doing them often. That way, when your client sees your name in their inbox they will feel relief instead of dread as they might with some colleagues.
Sometimes it isn’t about whether we have the hard skills required or not but rather, just the peace of mind that the client can trust someone to figure out the project.
Let’s look at a few examples of how you can apply these techniques especially for your own virtual assistant business today.
Impress Your Clients on Popular Virtual Assistant Tasks
Let’s look at examples of how to go above and beyond on popular tasks specifically for virtual assistants:
- Lead generation
- Emails and calendar scheduling
- Travel arrangement and planning
- Content research
- Creating reports
Lead Generation and CRM Building
You might help with a task related to finding leads and inputting them into a system like a spreadsheet or CRM system.
Usually, the email might go something like this:
I’ve found the leads you needed, here is the link [link added].
Let’s upgrade that using the techniques above:
I’ve found the 50 leads you needed and entered them in the spreadsheet here [link added].
I know that you wanted to reach out to them, so I took the liberty of checking if you were already connected with each one on LinkedIn. Except for one, you were not connected to any of them.
I’ve added their Twitter profile where applicable, so you can see what they are up to before contacting them because they don’t share much on LinkedIn. If you’d like, I can dig up a unique comment about each of them that you can use when you reach out to get a better response rate.
Let me know. Otherwise, I’ll continue with task X and have it to you by tomorrow at 11 as agreed. I don’t need a reply.
Imagine how nice it is not to have to reply when your inbox is full and everyone wants something from you? Also notice that if they say yes, you’ve just got yourself another project and all it took was one little email.
By continuing to add all of these small extras here and there, you are building up trust with your clients.
Emails and Calendar Scheduling
Normally, you might help process emails and scheduling in your client’s calendar. Let’s imagine you are helping your client with a project that she has to update a colleague or business partner on.
Usually, the email might go something like this:
I finished updating the spreadsheet as you asked [link added].
Let’s upgrade that:
I updated sheet Y [link added] with the following 3 points from our research
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Point 3
As I was researching, I discovered that the rate between A and B is higher than we thought, at 31%. I have attached screenshots for your convenience and here’s a link [link added] that will take you directly to that page in the system.
Let me know if you want me to change Z. Otherwise, you don’t need to reply.
Travel Arrangement and Planning
The usual email:
Here are five flight times and hotels that might fit your schedule and preferences [link added]. Let me know which one you prefer.
Let’s spice that up:
Here are five flight times and hotels that fit your schedule and preferences [link added].
- Option 1
- Option 2
- Option 3
- Option 4
- Option 5
I think flight A and hotel B would be the best option because of your meeting at ABC as it is nearby.
However, I know that you like X food, and I noticed that hotel C is near this popular restaurant, I think you’ll like [link to reviews].
Research for Blog Posts, Newsletters, etc.
Usually, an email might look like this:
Here’s the research on topic A you asked for [link].
Let’s upgrade that:
You wanted me to research topic A and send you the best articles on the topic so we can create some great content around it.
As I was researching, I discovered a subtopic within topic A called topic B. It seems like it has great potential because of ZYX.
Do you prefer that I:
- Continue focusing only on topic A
- Work on topic B as a chapter within topic A
- Move forward only with topic B
- Something else?
Since we have a tight deadline, if I don’t hear back from you today, I’ll default to moving forward with a) continue focusing only on topic A.
Creating basic reports (reports on weekly tasks, deliverables, sales)
Usually, an email might look like this:
Please find report A and report B as you asked for [links].
Let’s spice that up:
I have prepared report A and B [links]. As I double-checked them, I realized that X was unusually high, so I’ve also prepared report Z here [link] in case you want to dive deeper.
No reply necessary
Even if report Z didn’t matter to your clients, they appreciate the effort because it shows them that you care and try to go the extra mile.
The Bottom Line: How to Double Your Virtual Assistant Business
A few of the important lessons I’ve learned about earning more money from existing clients are:
- Working with the right clients make all the difference
- Clients might think of a certain task they need help with but often don’t realize all the other things you could also be doing
- Showing them is the easiest way to impress them. When they have experienced the convenience, they will often be hooked and “can’t live without you”
- The easiest way to get starting using the techniques is to pick just one to begin with today. Then leave us a comment below and let us know how it went!
If you are struggling to land freelance clients, grab 3 real freelance proposals from Chris that won him a $500, $1,200, and $5,000-project.
Chris helps ambitious professions land their first freelance client. Read more case studies and epic guides like this one at freelancingwithchris.com.
Which of these strategies do you plan to use to double your virtual assistant business?