How to Get "More" Work from Current Clients

QUESTION: I have a couple of clients who are giving me only a minimal amount of work. How can I get them to give me more? I know there are plenty of additional things I can do for them and finances aren't an issue.

ANSWER: I'm very involved in the businesses of 80% of my clients. I have two clients who I totally run the day-to-day operations of their companies -- including budgets, bookkeeping, implementing ideas, managing staff, etc. When I started working with my clients they either had a 5 or 10 hour minimum -- now I rarely do less than 10 for any of them.

My secret?... I take my clients to the next step in our relationship is by "investing MY time" in learning more about their businesses and personal life. I spend at least 30 minutes of MY time (I do not bill them for this time) a week talking to my clients and catching up on what's going on with their family, business, and what their plans are for the future. When I hear something I can help with, I let them know.

You may be cringing now at the lost billable time -- especially if you know how many clients I have -- but I consider it marketing and promotion. I do let my clients know that I am investing this time in our relationship and they love it! I've developed a great professional and personal relationship with many of them.

The other 25% of my clients, we've identified their needs and they don't want to expand our work together for various reasons -- all of which make sense in their situation (that's why I still support them <G>).

This business model works well for me -- I have six clients I've been supporting since 1998. BTW...I did make a few mistakes choosing clients along the way, but I was able to identify incompatible relationships within the first 90 days of working together. All of my relationships have ended on a positive note with the exception of one. I've even received referrals from ex-clients.

Good luck in building your relationships.

Fees and Pricing

If you want to keep your business and make money, you have to figure the cost of doing business. Here is a formula for figuring out what is right for your situation.

Make a list of standard monthly expenses...

Marketing, Promotion, and Advertising
Office equipment (printer, fax, phone, stapler, scissors, etc.)
Software Upgrades
Client Gifts
Paper Clips
Local Phone Bill
Long Distance Phone Bill
Cell Phone Bill
Internet Access
Web site hosting
Marketing Expenses
Business License
Professional Dues
Accountant fees
Fuel (trips to office supply store, meetings, etc.)
Federal, State, and Local Taxes
Self-Employment Tax
Health Insurance
Business Insurance
(break down annual costs to "monthly")

You should also allocate a monthly amount for replacement equipment -- Computer, Fax, Printer, Telephones, etc.

You may have additional expenses that I didn't include, but sure to add them to your list. You then need to figure out how many hours you want to work a week and how many weeks a year (be sure to allow time for your administrative tasks, holidays, and vacations).

Divide your basic expenses per month by the number of hours you want to work a month. This gives you a "base" rate. (ie... you want to work 30 hours a week and your monthly fixed expenses are $900 a month. Your base hourly rate would have to be at least $7.50 per hour to cover your expenses.

Then determine how much you want to make per year and divide it by the number of weeks you are going to work a year (ie... $30,000 and you take two weeks vacation so you are working only 50 need to make $600 a week or $20 per hour based on a 30 hour week..

So add the $20 per hour and the base $7.50 per hour and the minimum you should charge is $27.50 per hour. ---- NOTE: I am NOT saying charge a certain amount an hour, typically VAs charge from $25-90 per hour, I'm just using this as an easy-to-figure number.

Of course, your expenses, days off, etc. are going to vary from my example, but this is the best way to figure what you need to charge your clients.



Starting Checklist

Since over the past few weeks I've received a lot of "how do I get started" questions, I thought I would start a checklist of "things you should do / know / have to start a VA business."

I'm including a few things I think is important and please feel free to jump in and share your thoughts. I am sure the beginning VAs will appreciate the guidance....

NOTE: these are not in any particular order

1) Business Plan
2) Business License (what you need depends on your area)
3) Computer, printer, telephone, and fax capabilities
4) Bookkeeping Program -- or spreadsheet -- to track business income and expenses
5) Plan for paying quarterly t axes
6) Filing Cabinet -- yes, even if you are virtual you need somewhere to organize and store papers "you can't live without"
7) Contract / Agreement to send to potential clients. Include confidentiality statement, terms, office hours, and fees.
8) Open an account with a courier/delivery service.

I know there are a lot of details to starting a business and hope you will add to the list.