05May/24

Time for a New Identity?

Do virtual assistants need a new identity?

When I launched my virtual assistance business fourteen years ago, not many people knew what a VA was and I found myself explaining my role on behalf of a new and emerging industry. 

Today, the title “virtual assistant” evokes many thoughts, feelings, judgments, and triggers. From non-human virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, or other AI-generated “helpers,” to high-end and highly valued right-hand team members, to a market of low-cost, low-quality overseas VAs that have saturated the market and, in some cases, lowered the standards that highly qualified, founding or “veteran” VAs worked so hard to carve out and uphold. 

Now, I want to be careful about applying a broad brush to the overseas category. I know entrepreneurs (including fellow VAs) who work with offshore VAs who are amazing at what they do and produce quality work. Some are great at one thing and really should claim that title (editor, web designer, etc.), but promote themselves as a VA and end up falling short in the administrative or techie skills that the role requires. Or there are language barriers. Others do a lot of things very well and are hidden gems. Tim Ferriss turned business owners onto offshore VAs with his book, The Four Hour Workweek shortly before I started my business venture. The simple fact is a U.S.-based VA cannot charge what a VA in the Philippines charges. The economies of scale aren’t balanced as our cost of living in the U.S. is much higher. But it is a global market, and the services of a VA by definition are virtual, thus broadening the resource pool, saturating the market, and, in some cases, weakening the perceived value of a VA.

There are also U.S.-based VAs who undercharge for their services, sometimes it’s because they are trying to build experience and sometimes they need to learn to value their services.

Business owners will burn out without support and I believe a VA should be their first hiring decision. Once you decide you need support, so you can focus on what you do best, you want that support to be an experienced, proactive, committed professional who will show up with critical thinking and help with strategy and implementation. Company-specific processes can be learned, and sometimes specific software may come with a learning curve, but a valued VA will bring the skills and experience that immediately instill relief and confidence.  

What prompted this post is a couple of recent observations.

The first is a potential client who is currently working with an offshore VA (an agency employee). The potential client is overwhelmed and she cannot hide her frustration with the support she’s receiving. Or lack of support.

The second example came today as I listened to a business owner ask questions during a webinar. The product we’re learning about comes with its own VA, who will set up your contacts and do design work. They also call their VAs “gratitude consultants” or “kindness consultants” because of the type of product they’re helping with. The business owner asked about the term VA because he had worked with VAs (in the Philippines) and that was his reference and experience and it didn’t instill confidence for him. The title, “virtual assistant” was a trigger for him. The presenter assured him that he would work with her and her team of VAs, some of whom are located in the Philippines. And she went to bat for her team, saying they were amazing, and formed critical relationships with the business owners they were helping.

The business owner said, “Okay, I believe you, but the term virtual assistant doesn’t sit well with me. I like kindness consultant or something else.” 

Wow. That’s valuable feedback from both business owners. They are working or have worked with VAs who have soured their experience and are hesitant to work with VAs in the future. 

However, virtual assistants are as varied as there are people. Location, skills, experience, language, packages, value, results, agency employees or business owners. The title comes with a wide range of skills, experience, and potential help for business owners. 

Once the “kindness consultant” manager walked the business owner through their process and showed him that’s the same process all team members (VAs) follow, he was on board … but it opened my eyes to a potential weakening of the industry and how we’re perceived. He wanted the same experience – the same results – with someone who had any title other than virtual assistant. 

I find that I am now sometimes asked to prove myself to potential clients with long, unpaid assessments to ensure I’m the “real deal” because of their past experiences. As a business owner, I don’t necessarily need to put myself through that, yet I understand why potential clients want to test for skills before committing to an assistant. 

Now that I no longer need to explain what a virtual assistant is, I find that I need to defend the industry – the high-end, thorough, highly skilled, and experienced business owners who have years (or decades) of administrative or marketing or tech or copywriting experience before transferring their skills to an online environment. And continually learning new skills as technology advances.

We are skilled professionals, yet has the title “virtual assistant” become a cause for pause? Between lackluster support experiences and the term being confused with AI-related help, does the title fully express what a VA is and can be to an overwhelmed and floundering business owner? 

If a highly-skilled VA is great with creating funnels and writing copy, or managing memberships and social media – should she choose a specific title related only to those skills? Then those who are looking for a virtual assistant won’t find her. What title do we market our services under to show up for our ideal clients? 

I think the answer is twofold:
1) We need to reclaim the “Virtual Assistant” title and ensure we provide unmatched value.
2) Business owners, you need to do your research. Just like when seeking help from any professional (plumbers, attorneys, dentists, etc.), do your due diligence when looking to onboard a virtual assistant.

How do you find your valuable, amazing support person? I’ve got you! Download this checklist for Finding Your Right Fit VA.

What are your thoughts? Business owners and/or virtual assistants … has the title “virtual assistant” created obstacles or opportunities for you? Connections or consternation? 

 

 

17Dec/23
Planning, calendar, laptop

Let’s Make 2024 Your Best Year Yet! 🌟

Hi friends!

It’s been a while. I’ve been quiet. I’ve been moving through the types of changes many of us have gone through. My mother passed. I’ve been navigating the closing of the estate, a move, and learning to release my role as her caregiver. Things are starting to settle and I’m really excited to get back to it.

Here are three things I’ve learned during this time of reflection:

  1. Not losing sight of your dreams, taking time to get clear on what you want, a vision of where you want to go, and identifying what’s standing in your way is really important.
  2. Having systems and processes to support you and being able to stay in momentum and action are really important.
  3. Having support in that action and co-creative energy is really important.

Maybe you’ve experienced these things in your life too.

The purpose of this post is to 1) reconnect and 2) share an offer I’ve put together to support you in moving your business forward with momentum, clarity, and purpose. This offer may not be for you, but I didn’t want to exclude you and leave you out  – or maybe it’s for someone you know. And if that’s the case, please feel free to pass it on to them.

Let’s catch up! I would really love to hear what’s going on in your world and how you are since it’s been a while since we’ve been in touch. Hit me with a reply and let me know when we can schedule a virtual coffee to catch up.

And, without further ado, here’s what I’m offering…

In my work with business owners, I’ve learned that several things keep them from reaching their goals and from taking action. One is perfection paralysis and another is not knowing where to start. Both lead to procrastination and inaction. I have also found that a lot of story tends to creep in and they don’t execute because they’re having to do things in their business that are outside their zone of genius – tasks that they hate and tend to put on the back burner. Before you know it, they’ve lost steam and they didn’t reach their goal for the year.

I don’t want that to happen to anybody in my circle of influence. 

So I’ve created two opportunities that go hand-in-hand if you choose, or they can stand alone. I’m offering a holiday gift rate on my strategy and implementation packages so you can stay focused on your zone of genius and in money-generating activities in your business. Here’s a snapshot.

Year-End Offer

I want to make this incredibly accessible for you. I want there to be no excuses for you to get things done in your business and kick this year off right, okay? So I’m offering these options at a special holiday rate which must be purchased by December 20th and used within 90 days of purchase. After that, they’ll go back to my regular rates.

OPTION ONE: Acceleration VIP Day (Strategy)

This is an immersive private one-on-one experience to get really clear on what worked this year and what didn’t, apply the learnings, and look ahead to what you want to create in 2024. We’ll identify your challenges, see where the gap is from here to where your vision is taking you, and map out a plan that allows you to close that gap as fast as possible, as easy as possible.

Together, we will:

  1. Evaluate the year and capture lessons learned.
  2. Get clear on your goals, desires, and the life and business you want.
  3. Identify what’s in the gap and create a plan to close that gap with specific deliverables and measurable action.

Complete with action items and deliverables. So that all you have to do is dump your energy into action, not trying to figure out what to do. By the end of the day, you will have a plan to get from A to Z. Once you sign up, I will send you a form where I ask some very specific questions so I know how to structure the day and communicate deliverables. You’ll also receive my calendar link to schedule your VIP Acceleration Day.

GET THE VIP DAY – $997
Regularly $1495

OPTION TWO: Implementation (Done For You – 3 Tiers)

There are a lot of things in our businesses that we don’t want to do, things we don’t feel confident in, things we don’t feel capable of that hold us back from executing on tasks. I can do the background work for you. Things like: setting up systems and operating procedures; working on your website or sales pages (copy, design, promotion); creating deliverables (slide decks, workbooks, eZines, etc.); Customer support or group management; implementation on all the items discovered “in the gap” during our VIP day, if you choose that option. The possibilities are many!

GET THE BRONZE – $197
Regularly $350
GET THE SILVER – $397
Regularly $550
GET THE GOLD – $597
Regularly $750

One or both of these options may serve you best. They can be chosen in combination. If you’re not sure which one is for you, grab a free 15-minute clarity call and we can talk through your options at no obligation.

Let’s make sure your 2024 is epic. Let’s kick your year off by making sure that the things that held you back this year don’t hold you back next year and that you have clear systems and processes that do the heavy lifting for you so you can stay in your zone of genius all year long – which will help you make more impact, more income and have more freedom as a business owner.

Give yourself the gift of implementation and clarity. I don’t want to see you struggle unnecessarily or delay the results you want to see today.

If this isn’t for you again, please share it with those you know. I still would love to hear from you. Can we connect for a coffee or Zoom chat?

And I just started Merri’s Morsels which is a weekly email with strategies and tips to help you keep moving in your business. If that’s something that you’re interested in you can opt in here. I promise not to spam you or pollute your inbox. And outside of the weekly tips you’ll only hear from me when I have something exciting or relevant to share.

I’m so happy to be back and fully engaged in service. Little hinges swing big doors.

Warmly,

P.S. If you want the “formal” emails or to receive tips from me, you can do that here. Stay well and enjoy the holidays!

 

 

12Aug/18

It Takes Polish To Shine

Polish your content so you can shine. Click To Tweet

I see a lot of email campaigns come through with “unknown sender,” misspelled words and inconsistent formatting. I’ve even seen generic template language like “insert title here” instead of typing a custom section header. I’ve clicked on links that go to “404” pages, and I’ve seen code in the merge field where your customer’s name should be.

Your newsletter represents you and sloppiness will create questions about the value you offer. Your message is fighting for attention among your subscribers’ cluttered in-boxes, and if your subject line is good enough to get them to open it, you want to show up as the savvy, knowledgeable expert that you are and not waste clients’ and prospects’ time with poor grammar, typos, and broken links. In fact, the next place they click might be the “unsubscribe” link. To keep subscribers, attract leads and cultivate a polished reputation, have your VA proofread, edit, format, check the “from” and subject lines, check titles, make sure a first name or friendly generic greeting populates the “name” field, test links, add images and alt text, and do a test send before anything goes out.

You have a message that people need to hear — don’t let it to get buried under a pile of distractions like typos and errors. Taking the time to edit and proofread your emails, online newsletters, landing pages, blog posts, marketing materials and website will allow your readers to focus on your content and get excited about your message.

Have your VA or editor polish your content so you can focus on getting your message out there — so you can shine.