How to decide if something is a scam before it breaks your heart and the bank…
“It’s a scam”
“That sounds like a scam.”
“Stop trying to scam me.”
First things first, we need to make sure we understand what a scam is. Currently, any time someone feels like they don’t appreciate what you’re selling you can be accused of trying to scam someone.
As virtual assistants we are somewhat vulnerable because our businesses are all remote and we have to trust that our potential customers are working towards a business relationship.
The first, and most obvious, red flag that indicates a scam is the offer, business, deal that is too good to be true.
You are not that special that this once in a lifetime deal is only going to work for you, belong to you, or catapult you to greatness. Offers such as:
“Copy information from a Google Sheet into a Google Doc, 200 entries, $1000.00 USD”
“Send inquiries to companies, work from your phone, 1 hour per day, $500.00 USD per day”
Do I know what these people are doing with those who apply and actually start working for them? No. No I do not. Why? Because I’ve not ever replied to those sorts of job postings. My gut always told me that they were not something I would want to be involved in.
A second red flag for a scam is making a lot of money for very little work.
Another scam, sending money back and forth between you and a client for “equipment” (see below)
The Money Switch (or money laundering scam)
You will see, on every job board and some Facebook groups, the person that posts looking for someone to work for them as a virtual assistant. There will be a long list of duties, reasonable pay, and an email address to reply to. Sounds legit, right?
So you reply to the email. Then you get a request for a Google Hangouts interview. But not over video ~ only via chat.
During the chat you will be asked to fill out paperwork that includes your social security number and direct deposit information. The potential client will then tell you that they are going to send you a check that you are to deposit. The check is usually for something around $3000.00 USD and you are told to buy equipment and that you can keep a few hundred dollars for yourself and send the remainder to the client.
These fake clients check out in some regards. They claim to work for a legit company that you can look up online.
A lot of newer virtual assistants fall for this scam. That’s how legit it looks.
Best advice? If you are going to take a chance with a client that sounds anything like this, please take whatever check they send to a bank that can look up the information before you deposit said check. Because if you deposit and withdraw to send to the scammer, you will be responsible for all of the money. Seriously. It’s money laundering and a huge problem.
Check out every potential client to the best of your ability by checking websites, the BBB, or ask around if they claim to be local.
Ask for references of others who have worked with the client if you have a bad feeling.
Meet face-to-face over Zoom or another app.
Ask questions. You are allowed to ask as many questions that you need to feel comfortable with a potential client. This is a business relationship.
Scams can be avoided by doing research, being diligent with questioning and using some common sense. If a client passes all of these tests and you still get scammed ~ that will be on them, not you.
Finally, if you are interested in becoming a virtual assistant, check out valid resources. The VA Blue Print is currently on sale through Black Friday.
But, even if you choose to go out on your own to try to learn all the things virtual assisting, please be careful, read thoroughly, and confirm that you understand completely.
Freelancers, whether you are applying for projects on a third party site such as Upwork or responding to an advertisement, usually send in proposals.
Proposals are important because they outline what you, the freelancer, can do to accommodate and accomplish whatever needs the client might have. A good proposal clearly defines the services that will be provided in a professional and cohesive way. This gives the client the feeling that you provide high-quality services.
It is important that your proposal shows that you:
Understand the needs and goals of the client
Offer the best alternative and best quality
You are open to communication and ideas that fulfil the needs of the client
Proposals should generally include this information:
Your name or business name and logo in a prominent place such as the header
You should address your potential client if you have a name. Otherwise, use an appropriate salutation
What project you are hoping to be a part of
Scope of services/description of services
Amount of time to complete services – if you are able to estimate based on the description of the project
Price of services
Why the client should select you
A proposal can be long or short depending on the needs of the client. For example, on Upwork you complete a “cover letter” then add your pricing in another section. In that situation you would use a shorter format generally. If you find a project post on Facebook, you would send a more detailed or formal proposal perhaps from a CRM such as Dubsado or even long form in a Google doc.
The important thing to remember is that you want to match the tone of the project poster. A very casual opportunity post probably doesn’t need a three page project proposal. Remember, clients are busy – they need you to get to the point and tell them exactly what you will do to help them.
Get to know your potential client
Analyze the project description as deeply as possible. When writing a proposal the first thing to remember is that the client only cares about how you can help them have an amazing result. Look for keywords within the description and reply to those concerns or hurdles and how you can help the client overcome them.
The job description will also help you decide on the format of your proposal. This means that a less formal job description doesn’t necessarily need a super formal proposal and it can be more casual; where a super formal description would encourage you to make your proposal more formal.
Highlight your strengths
You want to shine a spotlight on your skills, especially if you see that the majority of the descriptions are a perfect match for what you excel in.
Do not include irrelevant skills or experience in your proposal. The client, once again, only cares about how you can help THEM with their specific needs. Be clear on how your amazing skills have helped in specific ways in the past with other clients in other employment.
Grab their attention…
With a strong start. Potential clients will read a LOT of proposals. Don’t use a boring first sentence. Start with a strong lead on why you are perfect for the project. You can be more detailed further in the proposal but draw attention to how amazing you are quickly.
Name specific tasks, ideas, or considerations that you would bring to that specific project. Tailor each sentence to that specific project and give details on how you would assist in accomplishing the clients goals.
The Other Stuff
Proofread and spell check – there is nothing worse than losing a project because you didn’t take those extra 3 minutes to check your spelling
Create a template so that you can reuse the proposal – changing the wording, of course, based on each client. Templates help keep your branding consistent and you can plug in the different packages or services based on the client needs
Follow up – send a message if you don’t hear back from the client.
Need more help determining how to set up your back office as a virtual assistant? Check out the various courses I offer. Or join the Business From Home Mom Group to join forces with others starting their journey to get feedback on your proposal templates.
Running a business from home while in the midst of a pandemic – the mom perspective.
The little kids are crying – they want something to either do, eat, or wear.
The big kids are either so bored, so bored they’re going to cry, or so bored they’re considering actually doing schoolwork.
The adults are eyeing either a glass of wine or that car sitting in the driveway like it’s manna from heaven by 10 am.
Welcome to running a business during a pandemic. This entire month has redefined my business and the entire world. But how do we really function in this new and strange world? There’s no childcare, school, activities, and there’s absolutely no break.
So. Let’s check out my quick advice on surviving (along with your business) in these new and strange times.
Keep Expectations Low
You may have started out with awesome ideas and plans; maybe even a little color coded schedule? Now, though, we are weeks into the “stay-at-home” here in Ohio and all of those good intentions have flown out of the window. I found myself so stressed out and overwhelmed trying to keep to a strict schedule, that I created myself mind you, that no actual work got finished. I was working in 10 minute spurts. Clients were understanding – they were in the same boat – but the pressure I was putting myself under was doing more damage than good.
So I set lower expectations. No one dressed today? That’s okay. Eating breakfast at 10 am instead of 8 am? At least they’re fed. We have to remember that everyone is living this same “normal” right now and comparing ourselves to others, or to our own expectations is overwhelming and unrealistic.
Get Your Priorities Straight
Is everything really important right now? Like everything? The best way to calm the chaos is to sit down and truly think about what is actually a priority.
Let’s say you have four hours you can count on working every day because a partner, older child, or TV program is able to watch your littlest. What are you going to do with those four hours? What is really important to get completed?
Personally, it’s client work. I know I have three solid hours per day (during the daylight hours) that I can knock out some work. So do the work. Then stop. You can randomly check email, texts, and do odds and ends here and there. Do the biggest chunk that requires the most concentration when you have that work time carved out.
Then go spend time with your kiddo’s. Or come take mine…just stand outside and make sure none escape…
Do Not Compare
Just don’t. Don’t compare any part of your life to anyone else. This is true from a parental perspective, business perspective, and personal perspective. There is always going to be someone who you think is doing better than you are. Some mom is always going to have better craft ideas, some business person is always going to have a better promotion going on, and some lady’s makeup is always going to be looking good while you look like a character from the Lost Lagoon.
You can only do what you can do.
Yesterday, my four-year-old daughter decided to test my absolute limits. First, she woke up at 7 am demanding popcorn for breakfast (she got it), then she wanted to paint (which went surprisingly well), then a whole bunch of life stuff happened and I had to focus on work. So my littlest decided that stripping naked and streaking through THE FRONT YARD would be a good idea. Yup. But check out my social media. We look totally sane.
My point? Don’t compare – you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes.
That’s it. There’s nothing earth shattering. Just a few simple reminders that you’re not going to lose your mind, good enough is good enough, and you are an amazing parent. Stay the course and keep dreaming.
I remember the days, not fondly at all, where I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. The one thing I was absolutely sure of during that time (20 years of it) was that there had to be a better way.
There are a lot of words that others use to describe me – single mom, crazy, mom, mommy (depending on what they want), sarcastic, funny, smart, quiet, and laid back are just a few. The words I want to apply to myself? Successful, independent, happy momma…
My three girls are my biggest inspiration. Every single move I’ve made the last 14 years has been about giving them MORE. Not stuff. But time, experience, enjoyment; less struggle, sadness, insecurity.
I started my virtual assistant business just this side of poverty with a Google search for “work-from-home” jobs while pondering what I ultimately was going to do with the rest of my life. But where?
I’ve never felt like I “fit in”.
I’ve always been the jeans and t-shirt girl ackwardly trying to mesh with the corporate world. Incredibly skilled but not willing, or able, to play the part of the high level exec. But I’m not the type of person who knows what to say and when to say it. I never know how to act when it comes to small talk, or big talk, for that matter. So where did that leave me?
Finding a way to make money in jeans and a t-shirt, of course. Or my jammies. Or dressed up in leggings and a sweatshirt if I was feeling super fancy. But it’s really all about the jeans.
And that wasn’t the only challenge. I was a single mom which brought about its own passel of unique experiences. Society (or at least the ones I’d always listened to) said things like: single mom and freelancer is a mistake; you can’t be happy as a single mom; you can not, absolutely can not work only 30 hours per week and be a single mom; you must work two jobs and be constantly exhausted in order to be a successful single mom. Not a real optimistic outlook, was it?
Finding My Place
There were a lot of reasons to NOT take a chance on myself and start this business. Three big ones – my kids – who needed me to make money to do things… like to feed them. BUT the more pressure I put on myself to work the business – and make the business work for me – the higher I’ve flown.
There are a lot of questions that could discourage me from following this path ~ Can I afford health insurance? Is my income dependable? How will I make X amount of money per month if I lose all of my clients? I have to talk to HOW MANY people to get a client?
I’ve been incredibly blessed with super supportive people in the last three years who have allowed me to walk this journey of self discovery. I’m finally the person I always imagined I’d be. A high level exec in business jeans.
If you want to follow more of my journey, learn more about starting a freelance virtual assistant business, and work life balance while working from home – follow me on Instagram or Facebook and keep connected with my blog.
The world has changed dramatically in recent years. Freelancing careers are popping up in the least likely of places. Technology is creating an entirely new lifestyle and opportunity for many families. Now freelancers are working from home more often than not.
I would have laughed three years ago if someone had told me I’d be, successfully, working from home as a freelancer. I’m a single mom to three kiddos. I home school. I love spending time with my kids. So freelancing is the perfect option – if you can make enough to really support your family.
That is the challenge, right? How do you make enough. How much should you spend on tools. Office? Business license? Computer needs?
Tons of questions and worries before you even touch the need to acquire clients and write contracts that are binding.
That’s what I’m here for. Let me help you walk through the tangle of questions, find your niche, and polish you into a pro freelancer!
This is the first in a series of informational articles on working from home, course links, super cool people I’ve met that can guide you to your goals. This is an amazing time we live in! Your dream of working from home are right in front of you!
While I introduce myself in these next posts prepare yourself for a rocky story with a mundane ending and a suspenseful epilogue. Make no sense?
Success as a freelancer is only as good as you want it to be. The more you challenge yourself, the higher you will move. However, if you are content with making just enough – that’s perfectly okay as well. I’m only concerned with you getting where you’d like to be!