The process for screening clients is one of the most important in my business. It makes a huge difference in my happiness as a VA, in my job, and in my relationships with clients. If clients aren't aligned with my values and purpose, along with my culture, we're not a good fit. The sooner I know that (and they know, too) the better.
I've been in business for a long, long time, so my ability to screen clients wasn't always second nature. It took me a few years to be able to nail down how to vet clients in the best way.
Lucky for you, I'm saving you the time and letting you in on my secrets.
Here are my top 7 tips for screening clients in your first interaction, whether in person or on the phone:
See how comfortable they are talking with you on the phone. Sometimes this can be hard to gauge. See if they're hyper professional, or more personable and casual. This might affect your working relationship (and preferences), so this is great to note.
If you're more casual in nature, show a little bit of your sense of humor while talking with a client the first time. Humor can be a way to connect with your client, and also create a connection that's more personable. If the client has a different sense of humor than your usual, that's something to pay attention to.
Get to know the client's goals as much as possible when they're first meeting or talking with you. This tells you where they're going, where they want to be, and how you'll be fitting into their plan. You'll get to see if launches are in your future, or more back burner tasks like email support. Both are good -- it's the knowing in advance that is the focus here.
Find out about the client's lifestyle. Are they a super strict Vegan? Are they a venture capitalist that often travels overseas (and is out of contact)? Knowing how they live their life will help you to understand how you could fit into it as a VA.
I always ask personal information -- and I call it their "entourage". Does your client have a huge team that they run for work? Maybe they're working hard on their PhD. Maybe they're a mom of six, and their entourage is pint sized. Knowing who's around your client will help color in some detail about who they are and how they live.
Creating a sense of welcoming is important. Share information about your life as well if it fits in the conversation. This is something you'll need to use your judgment to discern. If the client is hyper professional, it might not fit. Do you want clients who invest in your life, too? (Every single one of my clients knew I was moving from Denver to Phoenix. Every single one asked me how the move went when I came back to work. Those are the kind of things that make me so elated and happy in my job.)
Know what the client needs and wants from you. Sometimes these can be different, which can create some friction. Sometimes a client needs a lot of administrative help, but wants a business coach. You are not a business coach. You are a VA, not a business coach. Set this precedent from the beginning so that you start boundaries early.
There's nothing worse than bringing on a client, and then it doesn't work out. That's frustrating, and leaves everyone feeling like they are starting at square one. By screening your clients and learning more about them, you'll be much happier. Your clients will be, too.
What tip above will you try first? Let me know in the comments!