There was a client who came through the Registry at AssistU for a referral to our VAs. A variety of VAs found him interesting and responded to his request. In response, he sent each a laundry list of questions he expected her to answer prior to his setting up a time to talk with her. Here’s that list:
1. Your Business
a. How long have you been a VA?
b. Since becoming a VA, are you where you thought you would be? Why, or why not?
c. Are you a full time VA, or do you work outside the home while running your business part-time?
d. If you have not gotten to a place of profitability in your practice, how do you live? Do you have an extra source of income while building your practice?
e. How many more years do you anticipate working as a VA?
f. What are your long-range plans?
g. If you have ever worked with someone in my field, describe for me what you do for them, and the systems you use to accomplish the work.
i. Please provide me with five references from existing clients.
ii. Please provide me with two character references that are not a member of your family.
iii. For each, provide me with their name, telephone number, best time to reach them, and whether they have been informed that I might call.
a. How much do you charge?
b. Do you charge the same while you are being trained as you do when you are proficient in a task with no “hand-holding?”
c. Is there a decreasing scale on your fee as the hours increase?
d. If you have to learn a new software package, do you bill me for this time? If so, is this at the normal billing rate?
e. How do you bill and when do you expect payment?
3. Learning My Business
a. Do you learn difficult concepts quickly? Do you have an example?
b. Can you learn new software quickly? Do you have an example?
c. Since every new client is a whole new experience, describe for me the challenges involved in establishing a new relationship and what you do to reduce the time required to make your new business relationships evolve smoothly.
d. What have you found to be the downside(s) of this type of working relationship?
e. In situations where this type of relationship does not work, what would you attribute this to?
4. Computer System a. Do you have a PC or a Macintosh computer?
b. What operating system do you have?
c. What type of Internet access do you have?
d. How do the people you are working for proof your work? In other words, what system have you found to work well when accomplishing work that needs to be proof read?
5. Follow-Up: after our interview, I would like you to send me a paragraph or two on why you believe you can help me as my Virtual Assistant.
Taken individually, the questions aren’t really out of line (except 1D which is absolutely none of his business). Taken as a whole, however, the list could feel (and did to many VAs) intimidating and invasive and as though he expected them to do things his way with no room for discussion.
Normally, when something like this happens (when something “seems” a certain way), I advocate asking if the perception is accurate. Using this case as an example, I’d suggest that a VA ask the client if his list was meant to be intimidating and invasive. That kind of dialog is often incredibly revealing for both people; the client learns that the VA behaves as an equal, and the VA learns the intent of the questions.
With this client, however, he’d made it clear that he wouldn’t speak to anyone unless she had completed his questionnaire. So they were right; there was no room for discussion.
Some of them asked what to do. Should they answer a questionnaire that felt invasive in order to get him on the phone and find out what he was really all about? Or should they let him blow them off when they said they didn’t feel good answering the questionnaire?
Neither. This is a perfect example of a time when finding the third options is ideal.
In this scenario, options one and two are disempowering and a waste of time. He’s clear on what he wants and expects and it doesn’t resonate on any level. Faking it to get to talk to him is all kinds of wrong, mostly because faking anything is an assault on your soul, and ain’t nobody got time for that. And being blown off when you tell him you won’t do it isn’t empowering, either. So the third option.
In this case, it’s where you choose to walk away and tell him so without engaging in his mess. You have the power to choose, always, who and what get your time and attention. It’s great self-care to not let yourself be pushed into a situation you don’t care to be in.
In case it’s helpful, here’s some great language for getting out of a situation like this once you’re already in it. In email, write, “Thank you for your interest in talking with me; however, since replying to your referral request I’ve decided to take my practice in a different direction. I wish you all the best in finding the perfect virtual assistant to assist you with your business!”
In case you wonder, the “different direction” of which you speak isn’t a lie. It’s a reference to the direction you’re going in that simply and powerfully won’t include him.