Question "Try it first package"/Rate nervousness, any opinions?

AuroraMuse

New Member
So I am pretty much ready to fully launch and want to attract new clients.

I was thinking of offering a “Try It First” type package where I will offer a certain amount of hours (perhaps 10) at about 1/2 the regular price, maybe even 60% off (which I am thinking of having them expire within about 60 or 90 days from the date of purchase - you get your money back on unused minus a fee of maybe 10%).

Does this seem too desperate? or also too far of a jump to go from 1/2 price and then full price (I’m thinking $15-$20/hr and regular would be $35-40/hr, and of course it will be stated upfront that this is a one time offer to new clients only for the hours included in the package only).

I'm really not feeling confident in my rates yet either, I have been working as a Personal Assistant (priced at $25/hr) and then executive assistant (same rate) mainly doing admin and running errands for almost 5 years now, $40/hr sounds like a high rate for my level in my opinion so I guess part of me is also nervous about setting that as my rate. :/

I am also a little worried about attracting people just looking for a deal but I am also really looking for clients ASAP as well as testimonials and experience doing business on my own, so even if they don’t last at first it’s ok with me for now. (but then it also means I need to get rid of the package in the future if its only attracting deal seekers).

I’m just really on the verge of officially launching but have been working on it for months, I really want to just start asap! But I am also still nervous about everything and still not fully confident in my skills and pricing and selling myself (even though I have been working similar jobs for quite a few years now).

Any advice or thoughts about this?

Did any of you do anything similar to attract your first clients/build your reputation? (I know some have mentioned similar but any particular details you are willing to share that helped/hurt?)

Or what special thing did you do to attract your first clients? (besides networking, like did you offer deals at networking events in order to stand out?)

Any advice is welcome.
 

colorfullshine

New Member
Hello AuroraMuse,

In my opinion, giving 50 or 60% discount from your rate is impossible. It's true that you can attract many deals with it. But, after the promotional rate is over, Client will find huge gap in your hourly rate and they will probably back off. It's hard to get client if the rate so high even we provide testimonials.

For my first package, I will set "pay 9 hours and get 1 hour for free". I'm still collecting my experience and testimonials as freelancer VA before launching the business.
 

Susankelly

New Member
Hi Aurora,

I have a few different thoughts on this. I know that many here will advise you not to lower whatever your rate is, they did the same to me and I've more or less stuck with my rates. I know a number of VA's that started with a low rate, got clients, and then found it nearly impossible to bring them up to the regular rate.

However, they were not initially offering an introductory rate, they just started low to get clients with the idea to move them up the pay scale and that doesn't work well. It might be different if they know ahead of time it's a test rate.

I do have a little story about a client/friend of mine that I was doing some marketing for. It is sort of apples and oranges because she started a cleaning business. She was a single mom found herself on her own and got laid off from a really great job (during the recession we had). No one was hiring in her field and she told me, one thing I do better than anyone is house clean.

So she sets up a business and doesn't have a single client AND she charged significantly more than anyone else around because she literally cleans with a toothbrush. When she leaves your house you can really eat off the floor.

So it seemed impossible to get clients, when she charges a lot more. I came in when she had 1 client. So here is what we did... I had a door hanger made up giving the first cleaning away. Totally free. And it included a coupon for a neighbor for 50% off.

My friend was shocked, "give it away???" Yep, free. It was my idea that it is very very difficult to get someone to try a new cleaner if they have one already. I know I wouldn't try one for 10% off, not even 50% off.

So we get the door hangers she goes into the best neighborhoods and hangs them on gates, mailboxes, doors. And low and behold people call her for free cleanings. And almost everyone of them signs up after the cleaning. In 2 weeks she's got a full dance card and she can support herself.

She thinks I'm a genius and we "thought" her business would grow huge in no time. It hasn't. Why? It's almost impossible to find anyone else that is willing to clean like she does and that's what she sells. She has 1 part timer she found that will clean like she does.

Long story but the point is the homeowners knew going in what the cost would be if they signed up and many told her that they really intended just to get a free cleaning and be done with it. But once they had it, they couldn't go back.

Not sure if this would work for a VA and I've never done it but I'm making the point that sometimes you need to get your foot in the door.
 

AuroraMuse

New Member
Thanks for your reply and thoughts Colorfulshine.
When you say its hard to get clients with rates so high are you saying that you think I am setting my rates too high for my position or just in general when it comes to VAs(I don't mind either way, just trying to understand)?
I had also thought of the buy x get y free offer, but I do (think) I want it to be an un beatable/no brainer deal but 1 time only to basically get people willing to try (similar to what Susan shared in her story, people might be scared of trying someone new). But that is my back up! Thank you!

Susan, thanks for taking the time out to share that story! I think it's so great! And yes, I definitely had thought that too. I am trying to find a balance between free but getting taken advantage of and still getting valuable customers. I do think its a little different for VAs because we have a much larger audience/reach, I don't know it may just be me but it feels different (though could still work if done right I guess). Also, when I brought up doing things for free in the past I got many replies saying that people don't value free as much or think its a scam/crap, so I'm a little nervous because of that as well.

I have done a lot of free stuff in the past and most turned out eh (though one got me on this road). Like I did free copywriting recently, spent so much time on it and they said they loved it, when it came time for the second job (which we hadn't even mentioned money yet either) and/or testimonial they were no where to be found. I think I'm just tired of giving it away just to have it push me no where and people disappearing off the face of the Earth.
But one thing I am thinking about from your story is that your friend went to the "best neighborhoods", not just craigslist or places where they probably don't even use house cleaners (but wouldn't mind a free one). Obviously this is already kind of on my list to find places to share my offers but when it came to giving it away to get testimonials and such, I just gave it away to everyone cause I figured I might as well reach the most amount of people (and of course that isn't suggested for marketing for your ideal clients, so why would it be ok for my free offers, right?). I wasn't searching for my ideal client when it came to free offers so that might also be why I had so many bad experiences vs. helpful ones.

Overall I basically want to make it a no-brainer to at least try me (like your friend did). Perhaps I can combine the free offer with the buy x and get y free offer by saying, I will let you try me for free if you sign up for a 10 hour package at my full rate. You will not be charged until your free trial is up, if you arn't happy you leave, if you are we move forward. And the trial will be like 2-4 hours.

Guess I've got some musing to do! But thank you both oh so much again!
 

kmohan

New Member
I think it's great to give discounts, but I think it's tough and depends on how much you give.

When I hear 50-60% off, I think of groupon. I used to buy tons of groupons and very few of them actually had me going back after the first one. The point was to generate more business for the store, but it didn't always work.

The two groupons that did work were yoga classes. I went back to a yoga studio continuously near where I used to live. And I found my current yoga studio through groupon. It was a good way to try them out.

What I like about my current studio is that they offer discounts every few months (unrelated to groupon). So when my 5 or 10 class card runs out, I usually have to pay full price, but occasionally it runs out when there's a deal running so I get it at a discounted price. And I love that!

So I'm trying to kind of take that style and convert it to my own business. I'm officially launching in August and I will be offering monthly discounts in the 20-25% range. However, some of them will have requirements so not everyone can take advantage. I want it to be like, "Aw, darn, I can't use this monthly discount, but maybe next month's!" Some will be all encompassing that any client can use, some will not be like that.

I will definitely be offering discounts to people I meet at networking events in the beginning. Anything to get a client. But I just need to figure out what it is.

Anyway, it's totally an experiment I'm trying out, so we'll see how it goes. I'm in the same boat as you.
 

AuroraMuse

New Member
Thanks for your response kmohan, its great to hear from someone in the same boat as well and who's experimenting.

I do agree, groupon can be a hit or miss, though my experience has been closer to 50/50 or mostly good because I got cautious and read everything I can about the deal, like going to the company's website, searching google for reviews, looking into similar items, etc..but that's just cause its been so easy to fall for something that was not actually a good deal.
Funny thing is, at some point I was also thinking of doing a groupon but also was nervous about potential clients feeling that way.

While I do like those kinds of deals. I was thinking about giving away an hour free after a certain amount but I'd personally rather be paid for my hours as I still don't have my rate where I'd want them to be, but I'm still thinking about it. However, I'm really looking for some good bait to reel people in, so I'm not sure how catchy it would be to say you get one free after 10 hours...if they are hesitant to start with me I'm not sure if it would give them an incentive, but once I have them, it might be a nice way to keep them happy.
Personally though, I'm trying to think of other ways to give back once I have them. Things like a nice birthday gift on their birthday, a thank you give when they sign up and maybe every half a year of working together, a gift/card for big accomplishments, etc. But I haven't thought that out fully yet.

With further brainstorming I'm hoping we run into the perfect offer for us. I wish you lots of luck with yours :) I'd love to hear if you figure anything else out.

All the best :)
 

Susankelly

New Member
Aurora,

I'm not actually suggesting free, just to clarify and I think you understand. I just want others to "get" what i'm saying. Sometimes you just need an offer that is so good people feel like they must try it. What that might be in the world of VA, I'm not sure! But free sure works in the world of house cleaning!

Networking is what has worked for me and although I do it both online and in person, the in person kind has really worked well.
 

SarahO

New Member
Hi everyone
Great points! I'm also a little apprehensive about what deals to do - introductory, ongoing, initial ones just to get the initial boost I need... I'm worried about undervaluing my service and like others have said starting at a low price with a discount and then finding it impossible to increase. Do all GroupOn deals have to be a high percentage or would they work with a 'buy x number of hours, get x free' type of promotion? How do you promote your "loyalty discounts"? I guess the loyalty ones would hold more longevity than the huge % off ones... would you agree?
 

kmohan

New Member
Right now, I have on my webpage a rewards and referral program, because I love reward programs in stores and I think a referral program is fair.

My referral program is if someone refers another business/client to me and they sign a retainer contract (so they can't do hourly), then the person who referred them gets one free hour on their next invoice.

My rewards program for loyal customers is that for every three retainer packages they buy with me, they get $20 back on their next invoice. I might play around with that number, but for now, that's what I have.

I know that I like rewards programs at retail stores which is why I've offered them since I feel like someone should get something for giving me new business.

But yeah...not sure what to tell you. Again, it'll probably be a work in progress for me and figuring out what works and what doesn't.
 

GenuineSunshine

New Member
Hi Aurora,


I really like what Kmohan suggested (it's what I have been playing around with as well). I think offering your work at 50% is slippery slope. YOU are valuable and selling yourself short will, in the long run, burn you out.

I think all VA's start their business to create not only a business but a lifestyle. You want to enjoy what you're doing, and you want to be compensated for it fairly. You don't want to come across as desperate, you want your experience to speak for itself.

I would suggest focusing on networking in person. The more you talk to people the more confident you will become. For me confidence has been key - along with being assertive but not pushy. There's some great threads about "elevator pitches" and how people describe their VA business's to others.


Best of luck!
 

AuroraMuse

New Member
Susan - Thanks, I figured it was flexible but I couldn't think of anything else that might fit and anything I could think up would still be like giving services away for free.

When you first started networking did you have a special offer?

Sarah - If you are planning on doing a groupon (I'm not sure if you are asking specifically about groupon or just a groupon type deal) you should be aware they take a high percentage from what i hear, so if you offer 50%, they take like 40%, so you are making even less. And I have only seen a percentage off but it doesn't have to be totally crazy like 60%. You could try to do something where its basically the same as buying x and getting y free. So if you charged $10/hr (just to keep math simple) and wanted to give them 2 hours free when they buy 8 you can sell it as "20% off of 10 hours package for total of $80" that's the same as if you they bought 8 hours and you gave them 2 more free.
Loyalty deals I'd put into the welcome package and maybe into our first convo? (just an idea, I haven't actually done it yet and am still thinking it through).
Personally I feel the initial deal will help reel them in (which is where I need the most help currently) and be a smaller cost to you but it depends on how well you set up your rates. If you set them up in a way that you can afford to give discounts, I think customers would appreciate it. I am personally not there yet.

Kmohan - that's definitely one that has been on my mind, a discount for referring someone else. I know I have read on some forums that some clients don't want to "share" their VA so they don't spread the word and others said that thats one of the best ways to fill a business, but you need to get them to share so I think that is a great incentive for them to want to share. That's definitely on my list for clients who would have already signed up, thanks!!

Genuine Sunshine
Thanks for your feedback! I was only planning to do it for a short amount, for a month or two (though I don't know if that really makes it any better) but my goal is definitely to be creating that lifestyle soon. I just want to get over the first big fear of starting for me, cause once I start running I think I can keep going but right now I'm stuck behind that starting wall. I'm stuck in getting nothing and thought starting smaller might be a better stepping stone then jumping from thinking I'm worth maybe $10/hr to feeling comfortable $35+/hr. But I know I need to get there.

Definitely will get out there more and perhaps give it a try with a not so high discount for a "try it" package/a small discount for new costumers. I will muse some more. Thank you for the advice!
 

MaplewoodVA

New Member
Hi Aurora,

I'm going to encourage you to not offer free or deeply discounted. I do encourage you to offer a block of hours with your bonus being a consulting session(s) with you. The consulting session will build on your expertise and differentiate you from others.

Consider this when pondering deep discounts and run some calculations: things that come out of your rate include administrative expenses, marketing expenses, operational expenses, equipment replacement/upgrade expenses, retirement planning expenses, and FICA types expenses to name only the common core expenses. When you deeply discount these expenses still come out and dwindle your net profit. Thriving, long-term virtual assistant businesses can't open with a deep discount teaser and then expect work quality alone to be enough to increase rates after 30-60 days to a full rate. This short amount of time isn't typically enough to build a sustaining relationship for business owner's to take the leap and double their paying price.

Deal seekers will bite but will quickly flee for the next bargain. This is why sites like Fivvr are so popular. The providers bank on selling in quantity much like the business model of Dollar-type stores. The usual business model for virtual assistants is different where the focus is on superior quality, skill, customer service, and expertise in specific areas. Niche small, hone your skills, and sell this expertise that only you bring to your projects.

Networking is the key.

Best,
~Ruth
 
Hello everyone; I am still in pre-launch mode and so I have not actually had any clients yet. But I can make this suggestion. I went to a seminar not too long ago about pricing and pricing strategies. One of the main things that the facilitator kept going back to is that you can't just include the rate that you have been paid while working in a full time role. Think about this, not only do you need to include the $25/hour that you are comfortable with, you also now have overhead to consider. Everything that you need to support your clients. Add everything up including things you might not think of, such as ink and paper for printing (estimate how much your ink cost you per page), the cost of paper per page, etc. And that $40/hour will start to sound much more reasonable.
 

ChiVA

New Member
Everyone will offer different advice based on what they have heard or read or from experience (what they have tried/what was successful and/or unsuccessful)

I also offer "specials", but in the fine print, and there's always fine print :) in order to receive my "special", I may require that a service agreement must be signed. (All depends on how I obtained the client)

For instance: If I am running a special where a new client gets 2 weeks of my administrative service for free (as a test drive, so to speak), that client may have to sign a service agreement for XXX amount of time (1 month, 3 months, etc.)

On the back of some of my business cards, I recently put a "coupon" - which is good for 1 free hour of administrative service. That has no strings attached. If they have my card and actually turned it over and contacted me, by offering them that freebie, they may become a more permanent client. It's not on every business card - only some!

So, different things may work for different people and sometimes it's trial and error, but I'm all for giving a new client some sort of discount/freebie, but only you can decide what works or will work for you, how much of a discount, etc.

Good luck! :)
 

RobinH

New Member
I don't offer discounts to get clients. I may discount a percentage of the invoice. For instance, when I took on a property management company (500-700 transactions/month) I discounted (not that much!) the invoice for learning the software.

What about your self-esteem? Are you so insecure that you are willing to give your services away for nearly free? You may be desperate but don't ever show anybody that.

Besides, just because you discount doesn't mean you get clients.
 

VN Linda

New Member
I have spent the past week working on rate everyone in forum has been great support and cleared my mind to appreciate my rate is my rate
What made me feel comfortable with rate is think this way : (example) as an employee you are paid $20 per hour now your rate is $35 you feel you are overcharging but you$35 has to cover : electricity, stationery, advertising etc as well as cover your personal living expenses so please dont feel guilty / embarassed with your rate on your packages possibly offer discount (small) alternate advertise some 30 min rates for one week like a trial for launch week

Hope it makes sense in my head it does judt dont undersell yourself
 

AuroraMuse

New Member
Oh my goodness! I got more replies than I realized!! Thank you everyone!!

It should be noted that when I speak about discounting my rates I don't mean it as an on going thing but rather getting my foot in the door with clients (or at least getting the ball rolling where I can be more confident with now having some feedback & experience w/ my business ). I totally realize what goes into the rate and why it makes sense not to undercharge as a regular practice (and I know it can be a slippery slope when you do start discounting but it's a promise you have to stick to for yourself). It just feels hard to ask for an expertise amount when you haven't been out there and you have no reputation. I feel like I'm saying "hi, we just met...can I have $500?, I swear I'll do a good job".

And another main reason I am considering discounting is because I feel that some people are nervous when it comes to trying new things. They are happy to pay a higher price, if they know it's going to worth it. There have been times where I tried things free (like programs) or discounted items (like groupon) and then became a fan of the company and continued afterwards. But if there was no free trial/coupon I might not have tried it and may have decided to go with the cheaper version b/c I couldn't tell the different between quality from my point of view. And there have been times I didn't realize I needed/preferred something until I got it free and then when I saw how helpful it was I wanted more, kind of like free food samples, you're like 'eh its just chicken or just a smoothie' and you try it and say "i'm never eating chicken anywhere else again!" and you totally forget about the price (though of course not everything works that way). Most things I am willing to pay more for I found only because of free/discounted deals. So I am wondering if this is just a silly way of thinking or if there is maybe another way to do similar.
Another idea I was thinking is maybe my tutorials and such will give others insight on how I will work. For instance if I give a free guide to Google Drive or how to organize your files, some will say "ok, I can do that" and some will say "sounds great, but I don't have the time. Will you do it for me?". So I am still offering free help but not really using up quality time IN my business.

Kathy thank you for offering up a little knowledge from the other side of things. I definitely know that either way there are cons. I was thinking a long the lines of offering a few free hours with sign up as well, similar to your deal. I'd be interested to know how well your deals have worked for you and what has worked best.

Robin, I definitely don't want to come off desperate, but rather I saw it as an option for people who arn't familiar with the VA world and/or are just afraid to try someone they haven't worked with before without having to feel like they may lose a lot (as also mentioned above). But of course that doesn't mean people won't see it as desperate so I am trying to find a middle ground.
And yes, of course its not certain it will get me any clients. But I thought of it as one approach to trying to get the attention of potential clients.

Thank you again everyone, I will go back and Muse on this some more with all of you wonderful and much appreciated input. THANK YOU THANK YOU!
 

VN Linda

New Member
Aurora - Just a thought have you considered putting the comparison calculator on your price page even for a little while so people can see and compare your costs to full time employee ... We decided yesterday that we will have it on our page with price & packages just with the simple heading : Let the Numbers do the talking
 

AuroraMuse

New Member
I have considered that Linda, thank you! I hesitate because most of the calculators have a set rate which I believe is lower than the rate I'd like to go for, so I may actually end up the same price or higher (if I remember correctly). But also, I want to emphasis on the quality not just the price as well so that even if I am a little more expensive, there is more value. And I also feel that my ideal clients weren't even considering hiring someone as a full time employee. They are people who have been working by themselves and adding any cost seems like a negative or a big scare because it might be a bad decision.
I'm not sure if it would be helpful in that case. But for most business people who have experience or have considered hiring an employee it would work for them.

Perhaps a comparison chart to how much people are losing by doing everything themselves? Like if you make $50/hour and spend 20+ hours working on your website because you don't know what you are doing that cost you $1,000 when you could pay someone to do it in half the time at a lower rate (or even if it was the same rate it would cost less because they know what they are doing).

Any thoughts on that?
 

VN Linda

New Member
Hi Aurora

Having loaded the calculator to our site I know understand totally what you mean when i was testing i knew not to put full hours in like for like with full time employee but when my husband tested for me he said someone new to the business of recruiting VA might not think and when you put same hours in then we are also so much more expensive and of course it will put someone off.

For the type of business person you are looking for also I totally agree it wont work but the idea of comparison chart is really good and I think I will also look for ideas on this if you come up with some ideas would be great to hear and like wise I will let you know any that look plausible to check out.
 
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