As an entrepreneur, your business depends on a steady stream of clients, both old and new, so it’s always exciting to see a new face show up in your inbox.
Most of the time, they simply sign up and you begin happily working together sans issues.
But on rare occasion…you may find yourself with a niggling feeling that something isn’t right before you’ve even signed a contract. It might be a simple personality glitch. Maybe something they say or do rubs you the wrong way. Or, you might get a serious “red flag” that says “back away, disco lady.”
Maybe you trusted your gut and declined the work. But most of the time, that instinct gets ignored, especially when you are a new entrepreneur and needing the business.
And you know what happens next: it turns out to be a terrible fit and now you’re stuck in client hell.
Ever have that happen?
If you haven’t, lucky you. But, sadly, most entrepreneurs have.
When you need the work, it’s hard to say no to good, paying work. But when that work suddenly turns out to be a not-so-great experience, you may find yourself wishing that you would have listened to that small voice within.
How do you know when you are getting a true intuitive hit? And, if you do see a red flag, what’s the best way to exit the situation in a way that allows the client to save face?
I recommend a pre-emptive strategy that allows for time to flesh out a new client before you commit to working together. A little breathing room will give you time to sit with your feelings and see if they are valid or not.
Some tactics to consider:
An intake form
A questionnaire is a perfect way to feel out a potential client. It doesn’t need to be lengthy. A few short, well thought out questions can give you a lot of information.
A mini phone interview
Many coaches offer a free “15 minute strategy session” as a way to market their business. Instead of that mindset, use these sessions as an opportunity to ask questions and evaluate the energy between you and them.
One strategy that I use
All appointments are booked via email without an online scheduler. This often leads to a little “email tag” between me and the client, which gives me a chance to interact and scrutinize how they respond. While that may seem like an inconvenient way to work, I can see if they are friendly and if they practice good follow through. In some cases, I will require a valid referral, which gives me another buffer to explore if something feels funky.
Once you have had time to interact, notice how you feel. If something seems to bug you, sit with it so that you can assess if this is just a quirk or something more.
For example, I have a client who is extremely loud with a voice that sounds like a jackhammer on a chalkboard. Our first interaction was not great because her voice made the hair stand up on every pore in my body. That was not a sign of a “bad fit,” it was just an indicator that we needed to work on her inside voice. We’ve been happily working together for over a decade.
An intuitive hit feels much different. It feels negative and low-energy. For example, it might be the person who shows up with a list of demands and steamrolls right over you. It may be that you sense they are not being upfront about their situation. Or a perhaps they have a million and one excuses that smell like total b.s. When it starts going in that direction, you must trust your gut.
If you’re not sure, give yourself a little more “courting time” to explore this further. A few more probing questions may help you discern if this is indeed a potential problem client.
Once you’ve established that this is not someone with whom you want to work, the best path forward is to turn them down gently via email. Thank them for their time and interest and then use the “it’s not you, it’s me strategy” so that they can walk away with
Thank you for your inquiry and for taking the the time to fill out my intake form.
After careful consideration, I don’t think that I am the right coach for you. It sounds like you may be looking for someone who is more “hands-on” than me.
It may be better for you to continue your search to find the right person who will serve you the way you want – and deserve to be served. Although I’m not that person, I know that there are many wonderful coaches for you to choose from – and I know your intuition will lead you to the right one.
Thank you again for your time,
While turning down work is never easy, it’s much harder working with someone who isn’t your “right client.” That feels like a concert with mismatched players – the rhythm is off and it’s hard to hit the right notes, whereas a good fit brings perfect harmony.
Listen carefully to your instincts when you are making decisions about new clients and you’ll be making beautiful music with all the right ones.
Theresa Reed (aka The Tarot Lady) is an intuitive Tarot reader, teacher, mentor and yogi on a mission to take Tarot from hippie to hip. When she’s not reading tarot, she’s busy helping broke-ass mystics learn how to create sustainable + profitable businesses. If you are ready for straight talkin’ tarot and a side of biz whizz, get to her online hood: The Tarot Lady or follow her on Twitter @thetarotlady.
“I’d know that shade of yellow anywhere; I can tell you exactly where that image was published!”
“Brushy, handwritten font? Love it. Know where that came from!”
“I should send her a link to this; I know she’d love it because it’s all navy and stripes with a few gold details.”
In a perfect world, these are the things we want people to say about you, your site, and your brand. (Of course, we also want them to say things like “She changed my life!” and “You need to hire her, like, yesterday!” … but you understand what I’m saying.)
The branding of your site includes more than your writing voice and how you frame your offerings. Your branding reaches down to the studs and bolts – the colors, fonts, and even the types of images you chose.
And unless you have one of those rare money trees, you probably can’t hire a photographer to shoot new photos for every.single.thing you post. Good news! You can customize absolutely any image to make it match your branding + you.
Here are four ways you can do just that!
Opt for for a consistent ‘feeling’ in the images you use
If your site has a lovely, overexposed, afternoon-light sort of vibe, you probably want to stay away from supersaturated images with lots of bright reds or royal blues. If you’ve got a bright site with lots of primary colors, a pastel-y photo might look out of place.
Thankfully, with some very, very basic photo editing you can make (almost) any photo match your branding. Turn up the saturation to make an image more colorful, turn up the ‘brightness’ to make it more dreamy and washed out, or just make it black and white so it won’t clash with your colors!
Choose images that match the colors in your branding
This tip isn’t so much about customizing photos as it is about customizing your photo search. When you designed your website, I’m sure you and your designer had a few conversations about colors and the feelings they conveyed, right? If the colors in your header and social media icons have been carefully chosen, why not carefully choose the colors in your photos?
I can see that Coaching Blueprint uses deep blue and marigold, so I would choose this image of a city
rather than this.
I might choose this image of a family
rather than this one.
Most image agencies will have a ‘search by color’ option which will make this a million times easier.
Add a wash of color that matches your branding
Braid Creative does a great job with this, adding a transparent corner of sunflower yellow to most of their images – which ties into the yellow in their header and their yellow ‘learn more’ buttons. Anytime you see an image with that yellow corner on Pinterest, you know exactly where it came from.
Always top your images with the same fonts
Adding text to your images makes them more Pinterest-friendly and a font that matches your header? Well, that’s polished as all get out. If you’re not sure which fonts are in use on your site, check out What The Font. Looking for a bit of font + image inspiration? Shauna Haider and Love Grows Design both do a great job.
See? Easy peasy! In no time people will be able to separate you and your images from everyone else.
Linda Laegreid Johannessen is the founder and CEO of YAY Images, a stock image agency that’s the Spotify version of affordable, licensed images. For just $9.90 a month, you have access to 5 million (!!!) images that are perfect for blog posts, newsletters, and social media. She’d love it if you took advantage of a free month of photos or followed along on Twitter.
Your business is growing and that’s always a good sign. But on the flip side, you’re realizing that you are starting to forget to do small tasks or you just wish you had someone to keep you on track with deadlines. As you browse the internet, you keep finding information on Virtual Assistants.
What is a Virtual Assistant (VA)?
In my own words, a VA is someone who runs their own business, virtually contracting out their expertise in any type of administrative field. Virtual Assistants work with entrepreneurs, executives, small business owners, bloggers, and anyone who needs administrative help so that they can focus on their own tasks and not get bogged down in details. There are even VA’s out there to do personal tasks for you too.
But how do you find a Virtual Assistant?
Surprisingly, when you search for a VA on Google, the results are paltry and there are lot more results on how to become a VA, not their webpages. I find that most business owners have no idea how to even begin looking for a VA and stumble around until they find a VA haphazardly. Sometimes the relationship ends up going well, sometimes not. This article is to point you in the right direction on how to find the perfect VA for your business and lifestyle.
First, and most importantly, write a list of what you are seeking help with. Is it calendar management? WordPress maintenance? Do you need a whiz on compiling spreadsheets? Perhaps it’s market research? Whatever it is, making a list of the tasks you need assistance with will help you narrow down the appropriate VA’s to contact when you find them.
Now that you have that list compiled, I believe these are the best places to search and find a VA:
1. Linked In. LinkedIn is great for professionals who want to view a VA’s experience and past work history before contacting them. If they have published any posts, it gives you a chance to see their style of writing. Searching on LinkedIn pulls up numerous VA’s that you can sift through to find some that could be good for what you are looking for. Type in “Virtual Assistant” on the search bar and click “People with Virtual Assistant Titles”. A great thing about LinkedIn is that you can filter based on connections or area. If you filter by connection and find one through a 2nd connection, you could reach out and find out how they know the VA and if they would recommend them.
2. Virtual Assistantville. Virtual Assistantville is a great webpage where you, the business owner, can submit an RFP for free and have VA’s submit proposals. You can then wade through the proposals and talk to the few that seem like the best match for you. There is also a directory where you can find VA’s based on their specialty. Since VA’s have to pay to be part of this directory and to see the RFP’s submitted, the pool of VA’s will be small but more serious about their business. Similarly, another place to look is the International Virtual Assistant’s Association, where you can also submit an RFP. Their pool will be even smaller because their member fees are even higher for VA’s.
3. Twitter. Most people don’t even realize what a valuable asset Twitter is for finding a VA. I find it the most comprehensive tool for being able to pull up a bunch of VA websites and sifting through until you find a few that could match what you’re looking for. On the search bar of Twitter type in, “#virtualassistant”. Many VA’s advertise their services with tweets and that particular hashtag. You can click on their photo, which takes you to their profile and it should have their webpage link within. This is, by far, the fastest way I have found for browsing multiple VA webpages.
4. Freelance websites. For those of you who are budget conscious, finding a VA through a freelancer site may be the way to go. You can post a job on sites such as Odesk, Elance, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour, and others and find a VA that could be willing to do your assignments for as little as $5/hour. I have worked with one or two clients from these sites that have been fantastic, but I have heard horror stories from people who have worked with VA’s that would disappear for days at a time, miss deadlines with no explanation, or turn in sloppy work. I do not wish to turn you off entirely from these sites as there are great people on them, but buyer beware.
5. Referrals. Referrals are the best way to find a VA, but I saved this for last because sometimes – you really don’t know anyone who has worked with a VA. But dig around long enough and you may just find someone who knows of a great VA. Another option would be to reach out to any internet forums or groups you may be part of and ask if anyone there has recommendations. Ask them to be honest on the pros and cons of working with said person and go from there.
Growing your business to the point where you know you need a Virtual Assistant is a great problem to have. But finding the perfect VA should not be another overwhelming task. So what are you waiting for? Find that perfect Virtual Assistant so that you can start freeing up those hours in your life to focus on running your business.
Kiri has been working in the administrative field since she was 15 years old. What started off as a part-time job after high school blossomed into a full-time business when she realized she loved supporting people but wanted more flexibility than corporate America provided. Currently a Virtual Assistant for almost four years, she is constantly striving to figure out ways to make other people’s lives easier. Kiri is a Mount Holyoke College graduate and currently lives outside of Boston, MA with her family. In her spare time she blogs about Star Wars, drinks tea, and eats olives.
The creation of an e-course or group program is an important part of the evolution of your business. Hopefully, you see your practice expanding beyond 1:1 work and offering products and programs to generate passive income.
Before you invest hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into an e-course, here are 3 things you MUST know for a successful e-course launch.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
The biggest mistake I see coaches make again and again is launching an e-course that no one wants to buy. It’s easy to assume that if their paying clients enjoy the 1:1 program, they’ll be more than happy to pay for a group program or e-course. This isn’t always the case.
Begin your research by directly asking your clients what they want learn as well as how they want to learn it. You’ll want to gather up enough feedback to help yourself answer these questions:
- Would they prefer PDF or video format? Or both?
- Would they feel comfortable discussing in a group what you discuss together in private?
- What would an e-course need to include to make it BETTER than your 1:1 program?
- What would their hesitations be? Why WOULDN’T they buy an e-course (other than money)?
My favorite way to do this research is to have face-to-face conversations with existing and potential clients. Tip: I record our conversations so I can replay them later and identify the keywords they use when discussing their problems and desires.
GROW YOUR LIST & CONNECT
While you may have a full practice of 1:1 sessions, you’ll need a much larger list to sell an e-course or a group program. Not only that, your list needs to be engaged and trust you.
There are millions of ways to grow your list. Facebook ads, webinars and speaking engagements are just a few. Choose what works with your natural strengths and ALWAYS be growing your list for your next launch.
If you notice your open rates are declining, consider “scrubbing” your list. This means removing duplicates and individuals who haven’t opened your email in a long time. While this will lower your list numbers, it will give you a far more accurate count of who is a possible buyer. It’s better to start with a smaller list of customers who will buy from you than a massive list of subscribers who won’t.
THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES
Know that no matter how big your list is or how great your research, there is no way to predict the success of your first group program or e-course.
With that in mind, keep an eye on your budget and sales goals. Go lean on your expenses in your first run and treat it as an opportunity to test. If you don’t see success right away, tweak and try again. Oftentimes, a failed program that sold zero spots only needs a few more tweaks, after which it sells out in no time flat.
TAKE ACTION NOW
If you’re itching to create a future e-course or group program, can you set up three face-to-face discussions to learn more about the needs of your clients?
If you need to grow your list, what is one list building activity you can pursue this month with ease?
Farideh Ceaser is a musician turned launch strategist. After 15 years on the road touring as a musician, Farideh switched gears and now helps entrepreneurs launch their big ideas and online courses. She regularly delivers her wisdom in the form of a ukelele and a song here. Grab your copy of Farideh’s free 30-Day Launch Checklist & Calendar at www.launchyourcourse.com
To be honest, I feel a little sorry for the long-form sales page. Think about it. It’s that one piece of copy that people love to hate, yet works hard regardless of popular opinion. When I imagine the long-form sales page as a person, I can’t help but see that tough, hard-working teacher who is under-appreciated. You know her — she’s the teacher you whined about because she was “too hard” on you or “boring” — until you realized years later that she was the one that got you great results.
Well, the long-form sales page is used to people complaining about how long it takes to read her and how hard it is to write her. She takes the hatred and indifference in her stride. But unlike that taken-for-granted teacher, if done correctly, you won’t have to wait years for your long-form sales page to pay off.
You’ll make sales. Which means you’ll stay in business. Because even though people profess to hate long-form sales pages, when it comes to selling your next offering, it’s worth remembering that results are more important than opinion.
Now, I’m not sticking up for the long-form sales page because I believe it is your only option. Rather, I urge you to make an informed decision around how you will persuade your potential clients to buy your coaching services or programs.
Whether you loathe reading long-form sales page or avoid writing them for your own offerings, my intention is not to convince you of the many benefits of long-form sales pages but to present you with some worthy alternatives.
Video Invitation / Video Series
It’s official. Our dwindling attention spans combined with sheer laziness means watching a video is preferable to reading text. Perhaps because it’s easier to engage with, a video invitation makes a viable alternative to your traditional sales page.
- Your prospective client gets to see and hear you, which increases trust and likeability.
- You capture attention more easily and can break down content into digestible chunks suited to a video series.
- You can add your video to YouTube and optimise it for SEO, thereby increasing visibility.
- With a video sales page, your prospects won’t be able to re-read parts of your offering as they can with a long-form sales page. Not being able to go back over the information can be a drawback because while people will first skim and then re-read the same written information, they are unlikely to watch a video more than once.
- You still need to write your video script (can’t get out of writing, my friend!).
- You will need to invest time in editing your video, which may require more technical support or training investment.
VERDICT: If you have a straightforward one-to-one coaching service, one without a whole heap of features, using a video invitation rather than a long-form sales page makes sense. You’ll still need to write your video script (or hire a copywriter to do it for you), but if you can share a compelling story, clearly articulate the problems you help people overcome, and know how to edit it, go for it!
I highly recommend combining video with copy on your sales page. That way you get the best of both worlds. Not only will you improve your sales conversion by 5% to 24%, you’ll likely limit the usual objections to the long-form sales page.
Same information conveyed via different mediums means you’re appealing to different types of learners. Win/Win.
Short Sales Page
A shorter sales page sounds appealing, until you start to wonder…
a) What can I afford to leave out?
b) What kind of relationship do I have with my audience?
Keep those questions in mind when making your decision.
- A short sales page is a great alternative to a long one when you have an established, invested community of adoring fans through your blogging efforts. Think about the bloggers you follow who come out with the coaching offer you’ve been waiting for. You already love them so it’s a no-brainer.
- If you have a straightforward coaching offering, or if your prospective clients are already quite familiar with how coaching works, keeping your sales page short can position you favourably.
- A short sales page can be ideal if you are testing out a new service or offering. You can always add more copy as required.
- You may discover that potential clients want more information than you have provided in the short sales page, which means you end up responding to email enquiries that could have been dealt with via a long-form sales page. Doh!
- You may not know what to keep or leave out of your short sales page, which means key benefits of working with you might be missed.
VERDICT: A short sales page is a wonderful alternative if you have already built an impressive platform. For example if you grew a huge, engaged list of followers before you even decided to offer paid coaching services then you can probably get away with a shorter sales page. Go you!
This is an effective, elegant option for multi-talented coaches who offer a range of services.
- When you offer a range of services (3 or more), your prospects can view a snapshot of everything you do.
- You can even use a services list to “test” newer offerings. By this I mean, rather than write a new long-form sales page for a brand-new offering, you can provide the basics and follow up with a call to action to get in touch for more information. This may allow you to test several offerings for interest before committing to using a longer sales page for your signature offering.
- According to SEO expert Shae Baxter it’s more effective to have a separate web page for each service. That way you can optimize each page for the right key words.
- If your offering is a considerable investment or is an information product, the services list may not supply sufficient information.
VERDICT: When you offer a range of services at industry-average rates then a services page is a great alternative to several long-form sales pages.
Unless you have a great deal of social proof, I suggest you err on the side of longer rather than shorter copy. If you only want to pitch your offering to people who already know, like and trust you, you can possibly get away with a shorter sales email. On the other hand, if you’re offering something that has a high price tag and takes quite a bit of explaining, seriously consider the long-form sales page.
And remember, even if you personally have an aversion to long-form sales pages, it’s wise to reflect on what your prospective client actually needs from your communication. After all, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to say yes, that’s exactly what I need – sign me up!
Kate Erlenbusch is a writer, teacher and the force behind Word Love, a digital copywriting service and virtual playspace for creatives, coaches and big-hearted business owners who want to sell and serve with soul. When Kate’s not searching for the right words she’s searching for her car keys, or the meaning of last night’s dream. Download Kate’s free eBook 7 Cheeky Secrets of Writing that Sells & Serves at wordlovebykate.com.