Are You Charging Too Much without Enough Value as a Virtual Assistant?

This week's video presents the question "Are you charging too much for your virtual assistant services?" As controversial as the question is - this really is about pricing yourself to the value that you offer your clients and consciously communicating that value in terms of outcomes instead of services rendered. The acceptable price point on an entry-level administrative role, for example, would be very different to a role that generates revenue and ideas which have a direct impact on your client's bottom line. 


Are you ready for something slightly controversial? In this video, I want to help you figure out whether you're charging too much for your virtual assistant services.

I'm one of the biggest advocates out there for virtual assistants to make a living wage and to get paid well for what they do. However, lately, I've seen a variety of people who are offering really high hourly rates or retainer packages, but they're not necessarily communicating the value of that.

One of my original mentors in the online business space told me something several years ago that really stuck with me. She said she had never met a virtual assistant who was charged more than $50 an hour who also brought along $50 an hour or more in value to her team. Now that's a major disconnect, right? This is somebody who owned a seven-figure business, very successful in the online space. But if you can't communicate and bring that value to charge $40, $45, $50, or $60 an hour, then your client is not going to stick with you. For this reason, you’d actually be better off slightly lowering your hourly rate, thus having clients who feel as though you're right on target in asking for that.

Consider Lowering Your hourly rate 

I'm not advocating that you charge $5 or $10 an hour and make no money as a virtual assistant, but if you're going to be charging these really high rates, you need to be bringing a lot of value to the table – high end strategy, Infusionsoft experience, other knowledge managing teams of other people, or being a project manager and helping a project move from the initial idea stages all the way to completion. If you're charging $45 and $50 an hour to input an email newsletter, a lot of people aren't going to see that as worthwhile because that's something they could easily do themselves or outsource to another competent professional for $20 or $25 an hour.

I know this is a really controversial topic, but it's become really popular lately with a lot of virtual assistants for transitioning to an online business manager role. An online business manager does more than your typical virtual assistant. The online business manager, in some cases, is like the right-hand person to the entrepreneur, helping to create strategy ideas and plans for bringing things to execution. In some cases, for a seven-figure entrepreneur, paying $40 or $50 an hour may be worth it because that person is helping generate revenue, contribute ideas, and increase profits. But if you're pitching yourself as scheduling social media posts and sending email newsletters, or proofreading for $40, $50 and $60 an hour, it's going to be harder for you to land clients because they don't really see all of the value in that.

Services vs. value

This is another mistake I see VAs and OBMs in this situation making. They're positioning themselves as providing services and not value. You have to think about your client when you're pitching an offering to them. You have to be able to communicate value versus services. A lot of times, I see virtual assistants talking about services. They say, "I can create 20 social media posts per week." Great! But what does that actually do for the client? Are those posts going to increase engagement? Free up time? Provide more opportunities for generating revenue because they'll be heavily researched and focused on conversion? By focusing on value rather than services, you can increase your hourly rate, but always be mindful of the value you're bringing to the table. Don't just charge a high hourly rate for the sake of saying that's your hourly rate and hoping that's what you're going to get. You must be able to communicate why you're asking for that and how the client will benefit from paying that amount. Just something to keep in mind as you grow your virtual assistant business.

If you're curious and want to learn more about launching a career as a virtual assistant and making $1000 a month or more in your off time, or growing it into a full-time business, check out my resource library all about becoming a VA and my free course on why being a VA right now is a great opportunity for you to add some income and amazing skillsets to your bottom line.

Why Leaving an Unfinished Job Open on Upwork Can Actually Hurt Your Ratings

When you accept a job on Upwork, you probably have the best of intentions of completing it. However, there are many different reasons why the job may actually fall apart and this could prove problematic for you as it relates to landing other jobs or your job success score.

Your job success score takes into account numerous different factors that Upwork uses to rank you as a freelancer on the site. Of course, part of this is developed directly from your client's feedback when you finish a project. 

Occasionally, however, you might have a client who seems to ghost on you a couple of days or weeks into the project. They may have had their own best intentions to pass things along to you, but simply were not organized enough or were not ready yet to hire a freelancer. Having an open job on your Upwork profile, however, can actually work against you.


Multiple open jobs give the impression that you are overbooked

First of all, if someone is viewing your Upwork profile and it indicates that you have multiple jobs open, they may hesitate to hire you or extend an invitation to you because they suspect that you are currently overbooked. If you have 12 open jobs, for example, an individual who is checking you out and considering hiring you for freelance services may be under the impression that you are simply too busy to help them. This means they may not even reach out to you at all and you wouldn’t even be aware of it.


Your Job Success Score is dictated, in part, by your ability to wrap up a job

Furthermore, your job success score is also calculated on the effectiveness of your ability to wrap up Upwork jobs and close them out successfully. In an ideal world, you will accept an Upwork job, complete the work associated with it, close out the job in a timely fashion and receive excellent feedback from your client. However, there are many different working parts to this process and you cannot always count on the other person in the process, the client, to follow through on their end of the deal.

If the client is simply not ready to have you work on this particular project or if you have since turned in your work, but the job is remaining open, I recommend reaching out to your client and asking if there is anything else that they need help with. The client may not understand the impact that having an open and inactive job can have on your profile. Over time, Upwork will automatically pause inactive contracts. If you have given the opportunity to the client, two or three times to reactivate the contract or to provide you with additional work, I recommend going ahead and closing out the job yourself.  


An unresponsive client is not likely to give you positive feedback anyway

There are a couple of different reasons for this. First of all, the client is unlikely to give you positive feedback anyway, if they have not responded to your last couple of messages, asking whether or not the work still needs to be completed. This means that there are no potential gains for you in terms of waiting for the client to return, but there are potential downsides associated with leaving the job open.

Other people may think you are simply too busy and you will look falsely busy because you have information on your profile that indicates that you are still completing this job. I like to go through and close things out on a regular basis because it also helps to clear my mind and my Upwork profile. Having fewer jobs open and only keeping my truly active jobs open, indicates that I am very aware of my Upwork profile and that I am constantly logging in and updating materials as necessary. Furthermore, there is no direct harm to me because there is a very slim chance that any one of these people who couldn’t be bothered to actually return my messages is actually going to leave me bad feedback.

In fact, it’s probably been days or weeks since they have even signed into the platform. It’s far better to close it out and have the 'no feedback given' notice against that particular job on my profile. Since inactive open jobs can have an impact on both your job success score and how busy you appear to be when other people view your profile, I recommend going through this process at least once a month, if you are juggling multiple projects. If you are not that active yet on the Upwork platform, do this on an as-needed basis. 

I recently closed out six different projects that had been sitting dormant on my Upwork profile for a while, paring it down to just the jobs I was actually working on. This helps me when I bid on other projects to indicate that I truly have the bandwidth as stated on my Upwork platform. It can be challenging to determine which clients are going to be the ones who will give you the materials you need to do the job and also allow you to finish the job quickly and give you good feedback. One way to increase your chances of a project going as smoothly as possible and avoiding the problem of an inactive job with a dormant client is to tell the client, how important these details are in tracking your overall Upwork success.


An up-to-date Upwork Profile sends out the message that you are active on the platform & as a freelancer

Share with them that leaving a five-star feedback is critical for you to land other jobs on the platform. Share with them that you close out the jobs that are inactive occasionally because it reflects poorly on your job success score. Marking that the job was completed successfully in the review phase on your end and on the client's end will likely have a better impact on your job success score. The bottom line is this: it's strongly recommended that you go through and clear out your inactive Upwork profile jobs on a regular basis. It shows that you are still active on the platform and that you are available for work from others. If you are unable to prompt your client to give you additional work to wrap up the contract, just mark 'job unsuccessfully completed' or 'client not responsive.' This indicates to Upwork that you gave your best effort. Sending messages on the workroom well in advance to request they provide additional information or let you know if the job is still active certainly supports your case.

How Does the Two-Way Feedback System Work on Upwork and How to Use it to Vet Your Freelance Clients

This week's video is about the two-way feedback system on Upwork and how you can make it work for you.

As a freelancer looking to start a new relationship with a client, it is beneficial for you to review the client's feedback history to get a sense for what he or she would be like to work with. Regardless of the amount of money being offered for the job, multiple poor client ratings should be seen as an early warning sign for you as a freelancer.

Bear in mind, however, that the feedback system works both ways and it is equally important for you to be fair in your assessment of a working relationship so that others may be guided by it too.


Laura here. Let's talk about the two-way feedback system on Upwork and how you can make it work for you when you have an existing relationship with a client or when you're about to start a relationship with a new one.

One of the reasons I love the two-way feedback system is because as freelancers, we get to choose the people we want to work with, and we definitely want to know ahead of time if somebody is unprofessional and difficult, right? On other websites, when you're bringing on a client, you won't know whether other people have had a problem with them until you've signed a contract or worked with them yourself. That is, unless the client has told you directly, and by now you should know how I feel about clients who come to you and say, "I've hired six other freelancers and none of them worked out." This is usually a problem with the client and not the freelancers.

Know what you're signing up for

Upwork makes that easy for you – past freelancers can leave feedback for existing Upwork clients. That means you can go and see exactly what issues, if any, a past freelancer had in working with someone. This should always be used to aid your decisions about whether or not you should even apply for the job. There have been times when I see a job post that looks great, and then I see that the client has received 2.0 or 3.75 feedback. I am immediately going to look at that full job proposal and scroll through all the feedback from their past freelancers. It tells me a lot. In those cases where a client been dinged with a low feedback score, there will usually be an instance or more where freelancers have said they never got paid, the client was difficult to work with, they changed the scope of the project midway through, etc.

Use this as a key tool for helping you decide whether you're even going to apply for the job. I don't care if the job is promising $10,000 a month in revenue. If multiple people have left negative feedback and that they've had a bad experience – run. It is not worth the money. The person has realized that they're going to have to increase the rates they're paying because they're difficult to work with, and because at that point, they've probably hired and fired multiple people to do the same thing with no result. Never worth it. Your money and your time are valuable, so only apply to jobs that seem like a great fit.

Warn other freelancers

There’s another side to this coin as well. When you work with a client on Upwork, whether you have a great or a bad experience, do your part to help future freelancers by telling them what your experience was like. And no, it's not all about helping your competition, because frankly, if a web designer, a graphic designer, or a voiceover artist had a negative experience with this client last month, they're probably going to treat me the same way as a freelance writer. Do a good job for your fellow freelancers by telling them you've had a great experience and the client is wonderful to work with, but when you've had a negative experience, let them know they should run from the opportunity.

Bear in mind that a client's going to leave you feedback as well, and you're not going to see their feedback until you have left yours for them. Choose carefully and be fair. If a client has been easy to work with, award them a strong rating for that. However, if they've been difficult to work with and it was a really bad experience for you, consider how your feedback – not just the star rating, but the words you actually write – could help future freelancers determine whether or not this is the right person for them.

I think it's my job and duty to let other people know when I've had a really negative experience. This doesn't happen often, but I don't want someone else to have to go through what I went through. For this reason, I'll take the five minutes to leave a feedback comment about what went wrong in the project, just so somebody else has the opportunity to review that in the future.

Best of luck with your career on Upwork! And remember, for more great tips on Upwork, check out my blog, and my podcast, Better Biz Academy.

A Hot Niche Idea for Virtual Assistants: Podcasting Help

The opportunity to niche down as a virtual assistant in 2017 is better than ever. Many people start off as a generalist VA, offering to assist clients with a wide range of tasks at an hourly rate or even on retainer. But I have seen many instances where the marketability of a virtual assistant can be enhanced dramatically simply by having a good niche market strategy. Not only are you able to position yourself as an expert within your field, but you are also able to command a higher rate for that specialized expertise. 

Here are a few guest experts on the Better Biz Academy Podcast who have made the decision to niche down and have done so successfully. Have a listen: 

Niche Down with Pinterest Expert Kathryn Moorhouse

Digital Marketing VA and ConvertKit Expert Julienne DesJardins Dishes Business and Baby

Boosting Conversion Via Google Analytics with Web Strategist Katie Williamsen

In today's video training series, I introduce a hot new niche that you might want to consider - providing podcasting help. 


In 2017 and beyond, the opportunity to niche as a virtual assistant is better than ever. Many people start off as a generalist VA or somebody who does all kinds of tasks and then changes an hourly rate or packages them together to give that opportunity to the client every month to pay a set amount and receive a certain number or type of tasks.


It's time to niche down

But niching down as a virtual assistant is super powerful. If you're curious to learn more, check out some of my podcast episodes shared in the description below in which I've talked to virtual assistants who are specializing in everything – from Convert Kit to Google Analytics – to really increase their hourly rate and be viewed as an expert in their niche. This is really powerful because you can communicate from a place of confidence. And today, I want to talk to you about one of the hottest niches in 2017 and beyond to get involved in – helping with somebody's podcasts.


Podcasts as a Versatile Niche

Podcasts are very popular, and I get requests every single week for referrals for people who can help plan, edit, produce, and generate social media graphics around somebody's podcasts. A podcast is a great medium to share information with your listeners, which is the reason I have a podcast of my own. However, it's extremely time consuming. People can spend hours preparing just one episode from the point of recording all the way to completion. Someone might need help with all aspects of podcast production: finding guests, booking guests, making sure the guests have provided their materials like a headshot and a biography in advance, creating social media graphics, uploading the podcast to Libsyn or a similar program, posting it on a blog, and sharing it over social media.


Many steps of podcasting can be outsourced

You can see how many different steps are involved in the process, and that's to say nothing of writing the show notes or making this into a blog post and sharing it in other places as well. For that reason, more entrepreneurs who are starting podcasts, even if they have had a podcast for a while, are looking to outsource some elements of that process. If you can become familiar with some of the software involved and educate yourself to become a podcast expert, you can charge a great retainer or hourly package to focus specifically as the podcast VA.


Gain expertise in a coveted field

In fact, one thing I've noticed in the field is that there are not enough of these at the time of this recording. It's hard to find somebody who specializes in podcast related tasks, so if you're thinking about adding an additional menu of services to your virtual assistant business and you aren’t sure where to go, I strongly recommend podcasting. Niching down and positioning yourself as a specialist with podcasts can help you make more money and keep your brain focused on one particular type of task that you're doing every single day. It makes things easier for you and makes you into an expert for your clients. Ultimately, it works out well for everyone.

To learn more about the podcast process and how I've launched a podcast in 30 days or less, check the description below for my Udemy courses on how to become featured as a guest expert on podcasts and how to launch your own podcast. Educating yourself about what podcasts are, the audience they reach, and how they work can help you begin to offer this in your virtual assistant business.

What Are the Most Common Types of Freelance Writing Jobs?

Freelance writing jobs have become extremely popular in the last several years. In fact, it’s become easier to break in as a freelance writer and identify freelance writing jobs online than ever before. Many people are considering this as an excellent way to add part-time income to their bottom line or to generate a full-time career that will allow them to leave their day job.

Whatever your goal is with freelance writing, I promise you that if you have the talent, the willingness to market and the ability to deliver high-quality products on time to clients, you'll be able to succeed in the freelance writing industry. I can say this with confidence because of the tools and tricks that I learned from Yuwanda Black's SEO copywriting course and that I have implemented over the course of my own freelance career for the last five years. We've worked together to put together a bundle that can help you accomplish your goals of starting freelance career, easily and lucratively. Although SEO blogs are just one type of freelance writing jobs that are popular, there are many other opportunities that will allow you to market your SEO knowledge and expand your ability to earn money.


White Papers

White papers are technical documents often used to explain a company's position on a particular issue, a research project they have delved into or a new product they are preparing to release. White papers are very technical documents that often involve a writer interviewing multiple people at the company and gathering research over the course of several weeks.

Since white papers can be extremely technical and require a vast degree of knowledge in the industry or the ability to consolidate interviews, they can pay extremely well. Make sure you take some time reading white papers of your own to determine whether or not this is the type of structure that you would like to pursue in your freelance writing career.


Email Newsletters

An email newsletter is the lifeblood for any online entrepreneur. It is the primary way he or she communicates with their audience and sells information or provides information for free. Email communication is much less technical than writing a white paper or other types of copy. In fact, emails are typically written as if they are one person speaking directly to another, even when there are thousands of people on the email list receiving that exact same message. For that reason, you must be able to capture a client's tone and voice succinctly and effectively through email newsletter marketing. Since email newsletters can be sent weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, this is also an opportunity for you to make a great living once you understand your client's needs.


Sales Content & Copy

Sales content and copy are some of the most lucrative types of content to produce today, simply because the potential return on investment for your client is huge. Imagine, for example, that your client has a $1000 private coaching program that they hope to sell over a webinar. While on the webinar, they will point their listeners and viewers to a sales page. The sales page written by you will tell the readers everything they need to know about the product and why they should purchase it. A great sales page has the potential to convert at extremely high numbers, making it all the more important to understand the craft of good sales copy. Consulting with a client is crucial when writing sales copy, but once you have learned how to do sales copy, you have a skill that is marketable for many years to come.


SEO Blogs

SEO blogs have to be some of the most popular and in-demand content out there for freelance writers. I have made a full-time living as a freelance SEO writer since 2012 and my mentor, Yuwanda Black of Inkwell Editorial, has been writing for SEO for over ten years. This extensive experience from both of us is part of the reason why we bundled our knowledge together to talk about how to launch our SEO copywriting career and use Upwork, my favorite source for leads and the largest freelance job board site in the world. I have successfully used Upwork for many years to land lucrative freelance writing gigs and develop retainer agreements with clients that I love working with. Even when a client does not hire me through Upwork, but discovers more of my feedback from other clients on Upwork. This is a very valuable tool that allows me to increase my earnings and grow my freelance writing business.

SEO blogs are written for an end reader, but also for search engines. Search engines troll the web constantly, looking for information that can help connect the search terms that users are entering into Google with relevant articles. When you can craft content for your clients that serves dual purposes of engaging directly with their audience in addition to telling search engines that they are updating their website regularly with high quality content, thus improving their search engine rankings, you can build wonderful retainer agreements with your existing clients and increase your chances of success as a freelance writer.


What I have listed here is not an exhaustive collection of all the different types of freelance writing jobs that you can land online. In fact, this says nothing about the magazine writing opportunities or other types of copy that may be in-demand or may become in-demand in the future. Writing sales scripts or YouTube video or webinar scripts, for example, could be a great way to enhance the tools you have learned as a sales copywriter and apply it to multiple different industries. That being said, I have chosen to showcase the four most common types of projects that I find on freelance job board sites as well as what my clients ask me to do most often. Learning any one of these skillsets can help you launch a part-time or a full-time career as a freelance writer.