Call them sample projects, test projects, or anything else you like…as a professional virtual assistant, should you do them if asked by a potential client?
My opinion is a big, fat nope. And it’s not only because you deserve to be paid for your work, which you clearly do.
It’s also because there isn’t any universe in which professionals are asked for a “test” or “sample” of the work being requested.
“Oh, Doctor Jones, I’d like a free exam so I can sample your doctoring skills.”
“Mr. Plumber, please come fix my sink for free so I can check out your plumbing skills.”
“Hey, Mrs. Tailor, please hem these pants for me for free so I test your seamstress skills.”
“Mr. New Butcher in My Neighborhood, please give some free lamb chops so I sample your butchering skills.”
“Hello, Miss Lawyer, can you please draft this contract for me for free so I can test your command of the law?”
Can you even imagine?
That universe simply doesn’t exist. We don’t do that to professionals (and professionals who know their worth wouldn’t ever say “yes” to that kind of request). It’s unreasonable, and unrealistic to expect. Plus, we don’t tend to feel the need to do that with professionals. We might ask our friends for recommendations, or read reviews and testimonials, but we tend to choose the professionals in our lives based on how our interactions with them are in advance of the work.
Where we do tend to ask for sample work is with people who aren’t perceived as professionals, and/or who aren’t running businesses we feel safe with. We do it as a way of getting to a place of feeling safe, and confident in our purchase.
If you are running a professional VA practice, everything a potential client sees and touches should show you to be a professional virtual assistant (as opposed to someone doing gigs while the baby sleeps), and worthy of their confidence in you. You shouldn’t need to “show” them that you can do the work through a free sample or test. For that matter, you shouldn’t have to do a test even if someone wants to pay you to do it.
How you show up matters. So, be confident. Have a site that shows you to be who you say you are and has testimonials that glow about you and your work from clients (or, if you’re a new VA, get testimonials from ex-bosses and co-workers), show up in interactions with potential clients as a person who has her stuff (standards, policies and procedures) nailed down tight, and realize that, then, if someone asks you to do a “test” or “sample” project, that person is telling you how she perceives you.
And what do you say to that? Yep… you say “NOPE!” No exceptions.
I do want to suggest that if you feel like you have everything nailed, and that you’ve created your business, your site, your presence, etc., to show you off in your very-best light, and still someone asks, that either tells you something about how she sees all VAs, or it could mean that, to the public, how you’re showing yourself doesn’t work well for you. So, if you get asked for the sample, at least take another minute to look at everything you’ve put in place and see if there are tweaks you can make.
Now, there is one place where it could be different for you. We all know that the VA world isn’t a very “show me your work” kind of world. Admin and ops are more easily talked about than shown. But, if you have an arm of your business that engages in providing specialty services that do lend themselves to being shown (like you do ads, or graphics, or high-end presentations, or anything design related that you can SHOW), then, in addition to testimonials, you probably want to have a portfolio of your more visually creative work on your site, or at least available by request (I have a friend who sends her portfolio out as a PDF when a client wants to see it).
But that’s still not the same as agreeing to do a sample project. That’s still a “nope.”
Stand up for yourself as a professional VA by behaving in a way that shows yourself to be a professional VA. That includes showing your work where it makes sense to do that, and saying no to blatantly unreasonable requests for you to prove yourself worthy of being worked with. People who don’t see you as professional won’t respect you and genuinely don’t deserve more than about a minute of your time.