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You know you need a virtual assistant when…

Virtual Assistant

You know you need a virtual assistant when you’re self employed and missing phone calls.  Assume your average cost per massage session is $100.  Let’s say you miss 1 call a week.  That’s $400 dollars month.  $4800 a year.    

Virtual assistants save the day

A virtual assistant is as the name suggests, an off sight helper.  They can:

  • Manage an appointment book.  
  • Answer phones.  
  • Make calls.  
  • Enter data.  
  • Email management.  
  • Collect payments.

You name it, they can most likely do it for a fraction of the cost.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant

There are a few ways to go about hiring a virtual assistant.  Google virtual assistant and you’ll come up with a number of options.  Select the ones that look the best to you and give them a call.  Questions to ask are:

  1. What do they do?
  2. Are out going calls, emails included in their virtual assistant fee?
  3. What happens if they miss a call?
  4. If you are having them book appointments, do they use their software or do they log into your account?
  5. Do they charge if you go above what’s included in the fee?
  6. What hours will they be working?
  7. Do they give you a virtual mailbox or forward your calls during after hours?
  8. Do they check the mailbox the next business day or is that your responsibility?
  9. Can you give them a script to use when answering calls?
  10. What are their fees?
  11. Is there a contract?
  12. What are the penalties of leaving the contract early?

Every business is different so you’ll need to ask additional questions around your business structure.  These are questions that I’ve learned to ask from experience.  

In My Experience

I have used a virtual assistant for the last 6 years.  I’ve used two different companies.  One was a national company I found through a google search while the other (and my current) is a small local  company that I found on Craigslist.  They both cost roughly the same $100/month for 5 hours of time each month.  Each additional call is $2/call.  Note: I’ve never gone over my time.  Nor does my time roll over.  They answer calls, run my waitlist, make cancellation calls when I’m sick, book my appointments M-F 9-5 and forward all after hour calls to me.  

Here’s a review that I wrote for my virtual assistant several years ago:

Intelligent Office is a Must Do for Any Entrepreneur

I started with Intelligent Office (IO) about 18 months ago and haven’t looked back. In the past, I worked with other virtual assistant services who just couldn’t get it right. I needed someone to competently answer my phones or else I’d lose business.

I’m a solopreneur and there’s just absolutely no way to do it all alone. If I am in a session with a client then there’s no one to answer the phones. As they say, an unanswered phone, is lost business. Meaning that person is going to call the next business on their list. I just couldn’t let that happen.

IO has helped me tremendously. They answer my calls, they book my appointments, they help me reschedule clients in cases of when I am sick or weather conditions. They do all of this with a smile over the phone. My clients have nothing but positive things to say about their interaction with IO which makes me feel that they are treating them with respect and kindness.

If IO has questions, they don’t hesitate to ask me through email or with a call. They have even taken the time to learn about my business. Because of their help my business stays busy. I am happy to have found them. They’ve been an asset in my creating and maintaining a thriving massage practice.

Felicia Hayes, Licensed Massage Therapist

I think that sums up how I feel about using a virtual assistant.

A word of caution

Pick a virtual assistant who is as inquisitive about your business as you are theirs.  The virtual assistant should be friendly, patient, and have a strong desire to learn about your business.  They should also be confident and well educated on their own business and customer service.  

Although I paint a beautiful picture of the service, it took work and still takes work.  I communicate with my virtual assistant at least once a week about tweaking the way they handle calls, updating policy or what to do in certain situations.  

Be clear this isn’t a talk to them one time and you’re off doing your thing.  If you do that, things will surely fall through the cracks.  It is a working relationship.  Like all relationships you have to work at them to be successful.  They are your employee.  Just be mindful that you must guide them in the direction you need them to go in.  

Comment below if you have any questions about getting a service of your own or how you should set up your service.

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This is the best space to build a massage practice

My Professional Office Space

When I decided to go out on my own.  Be my own boss.  Work for myself.  The very first thought was where am I going to open my practice.  My next thought was where would my clients fill the most comfortable.  Really that last thought was what guided my search.  I needed a space that was comfortable, safe and airy.  I made of list of several spaces I would be interested in growing my business.  They were:

  • Professional office space
  • Physical therapy office
  • A wellness center
  • Home

The Professional Office Space

I ultimately choose my own professional office space in a community shared suite.  That’s a mouthful.  I gave my search a lot of thought.  I looked at a variety of setups before finding the perfect spot.

My suite is filled with independent professionals.  Although I thought about renting out an entire suite for myself in the past.  I didn’t want the burden of that high cost of rent or finding tenants to rent out the extra space.  Nor did I want to  grow a full fledged business.  So this single 8 x 10 office was an excellent solution.  It was big enough for me to create a real welcoming environment.

There are many many examples of these professional office spaces.  But what drew me to mine was its waiting room and there were other tenants that had complimentary practices.  In my suite there’s a hypnotherapist, 2 speech therapists, a marriage family counselor, a life coach, an esthetician, an in-home caretaker and of course, me.  So I never feel alone.  Also, my clients like the vibe that there are other people around.  It makes for the appearance that we’re part of a greater network.  This has proven to be great for satisfying client comfort and safety.  On the flip side still allows me to be 100% independent of everyone in the suite.  One last note about this community office is through natural progression we all refer to one another and it has become an unexpected generator of clients.

I remember looking at other suites that didn’t have such a dynamic environment, a waiting room or were filled with non complimenting professionals like lawyers and relators.  Which bring me to my next point.

The List

Know what you are looking for when you head out searching.  I made this list of must haves to get me through my searches.  I would only allow my space to not have one thing.  If it had more than one, it was out of the question.

Light parking  √ Month to month lease
Handicapped parking  √ Less $600/mo
Location easy to find   √ Close To home
Bathrooms   √ Breakroom 
Elevators   √ Conference Room 
Clean   √ Gym  
Professional   √ Restaurant 
Waiting room/area   √ Close to food, shops 
Multiple tenants   √ Receptionist
A window   √  
Internet   √  

This list is basic.  The asterisk sign means these were things that would be nice to have but not necessary.  I purposefully made it that way because I knew I wanted to make the space conducive to bodywork and therapeutic massage.  I just needed the space to have good bones.  The rest was up to me.  My space isn’t picture perfect but over time I have created it to be a functioning space that can accommodate all of my clients.  I have been in it for 6 years at the time of this posting with hopes of being in it for 6 more.

Cost

These types of offices can range from $250-$800 a month.  Depending on location and size.  I opted for a nicer office to accommodate my clientele.  My office has a window.  It is at the end of the suite to cut down on noise and foot traffic across my doorway.  The office is the largest in the suite.  That paired with the window creates a sense of openness in the room.  

Cost played a major factor in my decision but I didn’t want to compromise on my space.  So I had to compromise in other ways.  In order to keep my rent low I ended up signing a year lease with a one month deposit.  There after my lease would be yearly renewals versus month to month renewals.  This was the compromise I made to get a lower rate but nicer office.  This particular suite is owned by a couple.  So I was able to have that discussion with them about cost and leases.  Where as if it were a management leasing company it would have been a no go. 

I was all in.  I knew that I was going to open shop and move forward.  There was no second guessing my business plan.

How did I decide the things I needed in an office space?

I rolled played.  Pretended I was the client coming to visit me for the first time.  Walked myself through all the stages leading from my house to getting on the massage table.  Took notes along the way.  As I was finalizing my list and setting up my business, I would go on Living Social and Groupon to get massage deals.  I would then make appointments taking notes along the way about the pros and cons of every interaction I had.

  • How easy was it to get there?
  • Was parking easy?
  • Is there handicap parking?
  • Easy to get there?
  • How was the check in process?
  • Are the people in the office nice?
  • Is the place clean?
  • Noise?
  • Where’s the bathroom?
  • Do I have to fill out a form?
  • Is the room comfortable?
  • Was I on time with my services?
  • Did I wait a long time to get worked on?
  • Was there water?

I think you get my point.  In the end these were very good learning tools that helped me decide on critical aspects of my business and its location.  They were absolutely worth the investment in time and energy.  Because now I have a workspace that I’m proud of and has allowed me to build a successful thriving practice.

A few more things that come to mind

I did my search through Craigslist.  There were plenty of options.  These types of units are always readily available.  Rarely was I asked to do a credit check.  Most cases it took only a deposit to hold the office.  I used my intuition about places.  I never ignored it.  Sometimes I was tempted to because the place looked awesome or it had awesome amenities.  This is where my list really helped guide me.  I choose a space that sent the signal to clients that I’m a working professional that is serious about my craft.  It works.

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This is how you get clients to write awesome reviews for you

How to get clients to write you awesome reviews

Let’s face it, reviews make a substantial difference for driving customers to your business.  According to a Vocus study, 68% of consumers go to social networking sites to read product reviews.  The more reviews you have spread out across the web the more likely people are going to find you.  The fewer reviews you have, the less likely people will bother looking at your information.  It’s that simple.  So how can you take control of your reviews?  How can you get your clients to review you?  How can you get more reviews?  

I’m going to teach you how to increase your visibility on the web right away which will also lead to clients naturally going to those big sites like Yelp, Google Plus, Facebook and your website to leave you an awesome review.  

Take Control Of Your Reviews

1.  Dedicate a page for reviews on your website

Create your own review page.  This will give you the ability to ask clients to review your work which you then can place on your site.  Ask.  Copy.  Paste.  It’s that simple. 

2.  Get a Yelp Business Page

Yelp can drive a substantial amount of quality business to you.  Quite often people who find you on Yelp are pretty good about writing reviews on Yelp.  Just check out the statistics here.  So it behooves you to set up your Yelp page.  But once you do this ALWAYS be on your A+++ game.  A Yelper can enter your massage practice at any moment.  Then review your business as they walk out the door.  You want to make sure you get the best review possible because it can drive a lot of business to you.  Where as a bad review can have the opposite effect.  Yelp will tell you that it’s better to get fewer awesome reviews than more mixed reviews.  Consistency is king!  

3.  Setup a Facebook Page

Most of your clients are on Facebook and so, your business should be too.    Facebook makes it very easy for people who follow you to write reviews.  Also, your clients are more than likely looking for your on Facebook.  

Word of advice, separate your business page from your personal page.  It makes life much easier and professional.

Also, those who are following you are likely to write quality reviews.  Not to mention, people on Facebook love to share good finds with their Facebook community.  Making this a must do.  

4.  Make a Google + Page

Getting people to review you on Google+ is probably the most challenging just because there really isn’t a community there like on Facebook or Yelp.  It takes more effort to get reviews here.  But boy oh boy it’s beneficial.  The more reviews you have on Google+, the higher ranking your website gets in the search engine.  The better reviews the stronger your ranking.  It’s a whole algorithm that Google uses.  It can potentially drive quality business to your website.

5.  Use an online appointment book

Take the time to setup an online appointment book.  You can use Fullslate, Genbook, Square, Acuity and there are probably a million more.  Some have free options.  Others are based off a monthly payment fee.  But, they all have the ability for clients to leave reviews.  It makes it easy for you to setup an automatic request for a review after their appointments.  You can then post the review to your own website and/or to your online appointment book.  

Pay attention to this

Yelp discourages businesses from asking their patrons for reviews.  Facebook and Google encourage you asking your customers for reviews.  Yelp feels you will be bias in who you ask.  Facebook and Google feel the more reviews the merrier.  More traffic and searches on their engines.  

How to get the message out

Reviews have helped my business grow and continue growing.  I have gotten to the point that I discretely ask for reviews at every touchpoint I have with a customer:

  • “Please review my services on XXX” with a link.  I have this tag on every email I send to my returning clients.  
  • I send review my business emails to all my customers after their second visit.  that way they can give a solid review of my service. 
  • Quarterly I send a newsletter to everyone and in that newsletter and one of the topics I ask for reviews.  

How to get better reviews

The messaging you use in the email requesting a review has to be short and guiding.  It has to tell your clients what you want in the email.  If you simply say, please review my business then you’re going to get a simple response like “Felicia is awesome.”  Really you want the people reading your reviews to understand why Felicia is awesome.  A better way to get your clients to write more would be to say something like, 

Dear {name},

Hayes Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork has invited you to share your experience with other potential customers. Your review may be published online and will help others make an informed decision.  

Please leave a short review by clicking here. 

Thank you, 

Felicia Hayes

This will inspire your customers to explain why they came in and how they felt about the massage they received.  It will get a greater response from your clients and add more value to your potential clients reading your reviews.

Are incentives necessary?

People like being rewarded for giving reviews.  I’ve seen businesses give a percentage or dollar amount off of the customers next service in exchange for a review.  And I’ve seen businesses not give anything.  

I think the better approach is to think about the behavior you want from your clients, yourself and of your business.  Here are some examples of questions I would be asking:

  • Will my clients always expect something in return?
  • Do I provide great service and massages that will inspire them to write a review?
  • Am I willing to take another decrease in income for the review?
  • What will I gain from the review?
  • Do I give away enough already in my practice?

The answers will lead one to make a logical decision for themselves and their business.  

Final Thoughts

It’s a no brainer that collecting reviews should be a part of your business model.  It’s free, within your control and can drive a ton of quality business to you.

 

Need more information on building a plan for collecting reviews on your website?