Finding and Keeping Clients

Discuss how and where to find clients as well as creating and maintaining exceptional client relationships, identifying ideal clients, and more.

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Old 08-01-2012
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Default How to handle request for references
I have a potential client asking for references. I am literally just starting out - I have another client I have just started working with, but I haven't done enough work for to ask for a reference. I have been a stay at home mum for years, so my last professional reference would be from about 7 years ago.

What would you do?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 08-01-2012
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Default Re: Request for references
Forgot to add: I was considering offering to do a short trial - say 15 audio minutes. Does that sound unprofessional?
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Old 08-01-2012
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Default Re: Request for references
Do you not have any jobs you have worked for in the past? Not as a VA, but as a regular employee. I know I have recommendation letters from two old employers that I use. I don't use the full thing of course, because some of what they say isn't relevant. But I did good work for them, and they definitely say it.
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Old 08-01-2012
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Default Re: Request for references
I agree with Moriae. Ask a previous employer for a recommendation. Does your client know that you are brand new?

Congratulations on a new client!
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Old 08-01-2012
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Default Re: Request for references
I don't have any letters of recommendation. Whenever I needed an employer's reference in the past my new employer would contact the previous employer directly for a reference - perhaps it works differently here in the UK. Anyway, as I've been a stay-at-home mum for seven years, my last employer was seven years ago!

On the advice of a couple of friends I decided to let the person know that I am a new company and offer personal references - we shall see what happens.

Thanks so much for your support.
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Old 08-01-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
When we were starting out- we did not have any recommendations either but... I did take on short assignments on Elance- I then asked each of them to give a recommendation. We also offer a satisfaction guarantee on our work. This allows the customer to know up front if they are not happy with the work- they owe nothing- but if they are- we ask for a recommendation that we can use on the website and on Linked in. Today will have lots of them because of these methods.
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Old 08-01-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
Oh letters of recommendations aren't a requirement here in the US. But if an employer really likes you, and you ask them (sometimes they do it without being asked), they will write one for you to show to new potential employers. Having letters of recommendation improves your chances to get a new job as most employers are impressed your old employers would go to that length to compliment you.

Since you're now in your own business, I don't see how you would be out of line contacting your old employers to see if they would do something along those lines for you.
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Old 08-01-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
Have you ever heard the saying 'fake it til you make it?'. Obviously I'm not talking about taking on services you have no experience in.

Personally - I don't give 'references'. I'm a business owner, not an employee going for an interview.

It is the clients' responsibility to do their research about you.

If they cannot see from your website, your communication and your memberships (if you have memberships to VA Networks) that you are experienced then they should find someone else.

But that's just me?
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Old 08-02-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
Ask them if they are offering you a job.

(?)
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Old 08-03-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
Thanks for all the replies - there's a lot here for me to think about. Right now I don't have my website up and running yet, and I'm not a member of any organisation, so these are obviously things I need to do as soon as possible. It sounds like most VAs don't use letters of recommendation. Would you just have testimonials on your website instead?

Does anyone else offer a 'satisfaction guaranteed' and have you ever had to deal with a client who was not satisfied - how would you handle this regarding deposits, retaining work completed, etc.

I haven't quite got my head around the fact that the client is not my employer!
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Old 08-03-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
It does take a while for you to get into a different headspace (from employee to business owner) LOL.

I don't offer any kind of guarantee (but that's just me). You should include a clause in your 'terms and conditions' regarding refunds and any financial matters.
For e.g. My retainer packages are not refundable. What is your minimum charge for certain services (minimum payable is 1 hours work).

YOU make the rules, not them, so make sure they understand things right from the start.

And remember the KISS rule (Keep It Simple Stupid). Try to keep things as simple as possible - then everything will just flow smoothly
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Old 08-03-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
I don't offer a guarantee because I think that has the huge possibility of getting someone into deep trouble...anyone can say they don't like your work, even if they do, just so they don't have to pay. Most clients wouldn't do that, but people here have seen the unfortunately bad sides of some clients...refusing to pay, taking forever to pay, being horrible to work with, etc. I do, however, offer to fix anything they find wrong with my work for free within seven days of completion of the project (that's in my agreement).

I have never been asked for a reference in 16 years of my business. And even when I started my transcription business, I had done home day care for about five years prior so I really didn't have any current office references to provide if someone had asked. I now have a few recommendations listed on my website, so if anyone asks I will give them the link to that page.

I don't have this in my agreement, but I will offer to transcribe ten to fifteen minutes of their recording for free. That allows me to give them a better sense of how long it will take to do their project. I can hear the quality of the recordings, etc., which helps narrow down the estimate. It also lets them see the quality of the transcripts. I've never had anyone take me up on it, though. I also give a 10% discount if the total project is estimated over $1,000. This obviously would be for one-time projects, not ongoing work.
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Old 08-04-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
Hi lkw05,

First, Welcome to the industry

I worked for a multi-VA firm where we offered a "Satisfaction Guaranteed" clause and what it meant was (and we added this in writing) "We will get it right no matter what it takes".

This did not mean we would give a refund or anything like that; it simply meant we will work with the client (of course within reason) to get a job done to their satisfaction.

If we 'thought' a job was good enough, we'd take the financial hit in getting the work done another way (again, that satisfied the client). If we thought the assigned VA did not do the best, that VA took the hit and someone else that 'fixed' it got paid, but we never gave refunds until and if we had gone back & forth and it was apparent the client was just not a happy camper

If you are the only person in your business now, this means taking time out of your schedule to re-do something if needed.

Regarding the reference vs. testimonial issue; we can call them what we want, but they are essentially the same. I've found that the more a client is paying the more they want to speak with a past client and I am perfectly OK with that because most of my business comes via word of mouth which only means they got the reference/testimonial before they contacted me

Taking a small (I mean small too) 'free' trial project when you are just starting out is common (I think...I know we did it at the company anyway), but once you're established it won't be necessary.

Even better (and also better than the guarantee), offer to do a small (again I mean small) project 'for payment'. The WIIFM (What's In It For Me) for the client is that they did not invest too much to ascertain your skills, etc.

Having not worked in 7 years is a hurdle to get over, but once you do you'll be well on your way.

At any rate I wish you the best in your business!
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Old 08-04-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
Thankfully, we have only had 1 client that we worked for- only 2 hours- that was not satisfied with our work- Personally we were VERY unhappy working with them as well. In 2 years of business and 30 clients- not a bad record.

We do not work on a deposit or retainer basis- we only bill after the work and do not require min. hours- so we are a little different that most of the VA structures are here.
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Old 08-04-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
I agree with Alice's comment about being a business owner and not an employee. We need to get into that mindset. With that said, I think it is difficult for potential clients to hire a VA without some sort of testimonial, example of our work, etc...

If you are new and do not have testimonials and do not have references, the suggestions posted previously about doing a small sample of the task/project being requested, is a great idea. I think it is important to provide a potential client SOMETHING that gives them confidence in your ability to perform the task/project.
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Old 08-04-2012
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Default Re: How to handle request for references
Originally Posted by Your Virutal Assistants View Post
Thankfully, we have only had 1 client that we worked for- only 2 hours- that was not satisfied with our work- Personally we were VERY unhappy working with them as well. In 2 years of business and 30 clients- not a bad record.

We do not work on a deposit or retainer basis- we only bill after the work and do not require min. hours- so we are a little different that most of the VA structures are here.

Funny how that works out every time!! If I have a difficult time in the process of getting the client or shortly after getting them (I don't know, their a little antagonistic, just not happy with life in general, etc.) it has ALWAYS without fail, turned out to be not a good fit. It's like Murphy's law....we should create a name for it
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