Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

NZVAs

New Member
[fimg=left]http://www.virtualassistantforums.com/images/interviews/serena.gif[/fimg] Serena Carcasole is a certified Internet Marketing Specialist, business consultant and the President of Virtual Business Solutions ON DEMAND (VBS On Demand). VBS On Demand is a premier virtual assistance firm helping entrepreneurs around the world to succeed and grow their businesses. Serena’s success is outstanding considering she has been operating officially for less than 2 years.

In addition to administrative services, Virtual Business Solutions ON DEMAND provides a host of specialized technical and marketing outsourcing options to meet business owners' unique needs.

Believe it or not, the best thing that has ever happened to Serena was injuring her back and consequently being immobile for two months! Had she not injured her back, she would not have purchased a laptop and taken the time to research her future career.

It was on leave that she realized she wanted to be a VA and decided to quit her job without even having one client to start working with. She believed in herself and made things happen. She watched ‘The Secret’ and followed the Law of Attraction through positive thinking. In one year she managed to triple her monthly income through hard work, dedication and most of all, believing in herself.


What makes you unique?
I am unique because I developed confidence in my business before I had one. I jumped into the VA world and skipped a few milestones. I was too eager to learn the business and industry before offering a broad range of services. I am a people person and this has helped me with my success. I immediately met the right people and started my business with the mentality of an established business.

While I wouldn’t recommend this route for everyone, it worked out for me. I took my chances and invested time and money. This strategy has rewarded me twice over. One thing my clients and prospects say about me is that I am well informed. Many people can’t believe how little time I have been in business. I make it seem as though I have been in business for several years. I am dedicated and ambitious and confident. Having confidence in myself and being ambitious has allowed me to reach success very quickly!

What is your favorite part about being self-employed?
Having the freedom to make my own decisions is very important to me. I am happy I do not have to deal with the office and corporate politics so often found in the workplace. I have always loved what I do and unfortunately, when I worked in the corporate world, my successes often brought about envy from my co-workers. Regardless, I have always managed to hold my head up and handle anything that came my way.

Starting up isn’t the easiest thing to do. What did you do differently that you think would help other VAs?
Even though I invested substantially at the start, there are many cost-effective ways to start up a VA business. One of my best tips for marketing - Don’t waste your time sending out flyers and letters to get started. Go to networking events, network online, use forums to the max, buy books such as Client Attraction by Fabienne Fredrickson, Get Clients Now by C.J. Haden and most of all, learn internet marketing and social media marketing because those are the hottest services that a VA can offer.

What services of yours are in high demand?
All my clients want help with internet marketing and social media marketing. Blog design is one of my most popular services along with graphics, writing services etc. Admin and bookkeeping are not popular because all my clients deal with their own accountant or they have hired a student at minimum wage to help with admin work.

Some VAs advertise rates online, others do not. Which do you prefer?
I believe that, in order to not waste anyone’s time, you should include your lowest rates on your website. When I first launched my business, I spent too much of my time with prospects who did not end up being clients because I was outside of their budget. While I always made it to the top two on their list, I was sometimes cut for someone who was offering a lower price. I had much more success once I started advertising my lowest rate. This is because I was attracting only prospects whose budget aligned with what I had to offer.

Can you point us to your favorite part of this forum?
I love everything about the forum! If it wasn't for VAF I don’t know if I would have reached success so quickly. I learned so much and met many wonderful VAs who have become my VA partners.

What makes my business unique is that I am a One Stop Business Service Shop. I provide all services that a business requires to succeed. I am able to do this with the help of my fellow VAs. When a prospect requests a service I do not offer, I head straight to the VA directories and forum to post an RFP looking for support. I am so thankful for VAF!

What is the key to making VA partnerships work?
I believe in offering: prompt payment, great tips and advice, and plenty of appreciation. I believe in long term partnerships and therefore strive to establish positive relationships.

What would you most like to change about industry’s perception of VAs?
I would like to see the VA Industry gain more recognition; being paid and requesting higher rates. VAs are life savers and deserve to be treated that way. VAs are more than administrative professionals. We support businesses through: administration, bookkeeping, web design, graphic design, internet marketing, etc. Businesses require more than administrative support and we all have different skill sets. So it is important to use our skills to our benefit and charge and be recognized accordingly.

In your marketing, do you emphasize the concept of partnership with your clients, or do you sell contracted services?
Whatever business services my clients require, I offer. I do believe that partnerships are best for long term commitment but I do not turn down a client. This could be why I am so busy! My clients like what I have to offer. My extensive list of services makes it easier for them to commit to me without feeling overwhelmed.

What aspects of your marketing do you find most successful?
Asking for referrals and offering an incentive. I have found several new clients through Internet and social media marketing, however nothing works better than asking for referrals and offering an incentive for the referral. Everyone enjoys a free or discounted service, so it is important to give them a reason to tell their family and friends about me. With an incentive, the chances of my clients telling more than one person increases. Perhaps they will tell 20 or more people in one day and then those people will often know of someone who might be interested in my services. Now one person has passed on your information to probably 100 people. It's a chain reaction. Your chances of gaining at least one client through referrals is great.

Are there any deductions you take at tax time that other VAs should be aware of?
Well there are many things to consider when it comes to taxes. Because I am from Canada, our tax laws are different from the laws in the US. One tip I can recommend to everyone is keep all of your receipts. When tax time arrives, go through each one and see what can be used to write off as an expense.

An interesting piece of information I learned from one of my fabulous clients is if you write off a portion of your home and your mortgage, you need to remember that when you sell your home you have to claim a percentage of the home in your revenue. If you don't and you get audited, you run the risk of getting into trouble. Many people don’t bother claiming the revenue, but it can be a problem if not done properly. Unless you rent, I wouldn't waste time writing off home expenses. The best advice I can offer however, is to speak to a certified accountant about the tax laws in your country/state/province. It is always best to inquire with a professional in order to avoid possible problems.

What is the most unlikely place you have found/contracted a client?
To be honest, all of my clients have been found through referrals, online marketing, and responding to RFPs etc. I do sometimes market my business outside of the home by attending specialized networking events such as Ladies Who Launch. I have gained clients from all events I have attended.
 

Tess

Administrator
Staff member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Serena, thanks for a great interview! I appreciate getting to know more about you and your business.

One thing people ask me quite often that I couldn't agree with you more on is the question of published rates. Great answer here:

Some VAs advertise rates online, others do not. Which do you prefer?
I believe that, in order to not waste anyone’s time, you should include your lowest rates on your website. When I first launched my business, I spent too much of my time with prospects who did not end up being clients because I was outside of their budget. While I always made it to the top two on their list, I was sometimes cut for someone who was offering a lower price. I had much more success once I started advertising my lowest rate. This is because I was attracting only prospects whose budget aligned with what I had to offer.
 

tsmith

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Hi Serena,

Thanks for sharing such a great success story. It is always interesting to read how others have gotten to where they are today.

I wish you continued success!
 

virtual writing

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Serena - Thanks so much for a warm and generous interview. Really enjoyed reading it. Interesting that you find it best to emphasize your online skills, as opposed to basic admin. Same here, at this point.
 

barnes4hire

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Serena, you are truly an inspiration. It is so good to know that we are not alone in this venture.

Sheila
 

StephanieP

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Serena, thanks for a great interview! I appreciate getting to know more about you and your business.

One thing people ask me quite often that I couldn't agree with you more on is the question of published rates. Great answer here:

Some VAs advertise rates online, others do not. Which do you prefer?
I believe that, in order to not waste anyone’s time, you should include your lowest rates on your website. When I first launched my business, I spent too much of my time with prospects who did not end up being clients because I was outside of their budget. While I always made it to the top two on their list, I was sometimes cut for someone who was offering a lower price. I had much more success once I started advertising my lowest rate. This is because I was attracting only prospects whose budget aligned with what I had to offer.
One question, though... What exactly do you mean by your "lowest" rate? Do you have different rates for different tasks/projects and say something to the effect of "rates starting as low as..."? Or are you saying that you cut your rate back to the least amount of $$ you could live on?

Great tip, there, I just wanted a bit of clarification :)
 

StephanieP

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Oh, and I love the jump in feet first attitude (I've been feeling like I'm standing at the edge of the pool trying to will my feet to take the final step in...lol).

And I know how you feel about the co-worker "envy". I'm the one that would always take on any challenge or jump at the chance to learn something new. I did it for my own fullfillment but usually received better appraisals and bonuses for my efforts. My friends would actually get mad at me even though they refused to take on any new work or would complain if they had to take a class. So, yeah, like everyone else said, very inspirational interview. Thanks :)
 

divineva

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Great interview! Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself with us!
 

VBSOnDemand

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Different services have differnet levels of pricing. So Data Entry would be the lowest rate and internet marketing, web design, graphic design, social media marketing, copywriting etc would be at a higher rate.

A great trick for posting your lowest rates is as follows:
I offer discounts to my clients depending on the retainer they require. I give the client options of 5, 10, 20, 40 and 60 hours. Very few would take that many hours as a retainer so I make the 60 hours a 20% discount. Sounds great and sometimes pushes clients to use a larger amount of hours so that they can get a bigger discount. So if you charge $50 per hour (just using any number as an example) and your highest retainer amount of hours is 60 hours and you give a 20% discount you would publish your lowest rate at: $40/hr. "Rates starting as low as $40/hr" or "Rates starting at $40/hr".

By doing this you will not have prospects that can only afford max of $25/hr calling you. I spent many hours a week providing free consultations to prospects that kept me on the phone for hours at a time and then they ended up trying to bring down my rate to $15 or $25 per hour. I started to publish my lowest rates and the amount of calls dropped however the success rate went from 25% to 75% and I filled up my practice very quickly.


One question, though... What exactly do you mean by your "lowest" rate? Do you have different rates for different tasks/projects and say something to the effect of "rates starting as low as..."? Or are you saying that you cut your rate back to the least amount of $$ you could live on?

Great tip, there, I just wanted a bit of clarification :)
 

VBSOnDemand

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Thank you everybody!! I am very lucky to have finally achieved the career of my dreams and loving sharing my success tips and story with everyone. If it wasn't for the VAF I don't think I would have reached my success so quickly! I have met so many wonderful people and hope that one day we can have a VAF bash in person. I feel like everyne is family here!! :)
 

daisymss

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

I really enjoyed reading your interview. I loved how you knew what you wanted and went out there and made it happen!!!
Truly inspirational!!!
 

StephanieP

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Ahhhhh, now I get it! That's a really good idea!

Again, thanks for sharing :)
 
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Thanks Serena for sharing your story. It was truly inspiring. I'm just starting out my business and today I'm having a "doubtful" day so your story was motivating to me!
 

VAStrategies

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Hi Serena,

Thank you for so much valuable information. Great interview. :applause:
 

Agnes

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Hi Serena,

I absolutely enjoyed reading your interview and hearing your passion in your tone.

Agnes
 

VBSOnDemand

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Anytime Stephanie! I love sharing success tips with other VA's :)
 

VBSOnDemand

New Member
Re: 8/2009 Interview with Serena Carcasole of VBS On Demand

Never lose motivation!! We all go through that sometime but watch the movie The Secret and follow their steps and trust me success only comes to those who believe in it and believe in themselves. :sunny:

Thanks Serena for sharing your story. It was truly inspiring. I'm just starting out my business and today I'm having a "doubtful" day so your story was motivating to me!
 
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