About This Episode
Today's guest is Julienne, who started a virtual assistant business a number of years ago. She's been full-time in the business for three years now, and she's a work-at-home mom. For about a year now she's been booked to her capacity, and has started hiring more people onto her team so she can shift to an agency model. She has a two-part question:
1) She hasn't had great success selling the idea of the team to clients. What can she do to continue her brand under her name, JulienneDesJardins.com, but still have a team behind it?
2) As pertains to her service packaging, she has some flat-rate packages as well as retainer packages. Within that there are more customizations. But as her business expands, where does she fit in within the packaging of those services?
We start by analyzing Julienne's current brand messaging, discovering why some clients may be turned off to the idea of working with Julienne's team. We work on positioning and messaging, and how Julienne can better in both aspects so that she closes more business. We walk through her business model and the different packages her clients purchase, and I give Julienne tactics and strategies for more efficiently serving her clients and better managing the time she spends with her growing business. In the end, Julienne develops structures, blueprints, and clarity for her business's future.
What You'll Learn:
Go deep with strategies for expanding your business, positioning your brand, and better packaging and streamlining your services.
AskPat 1027 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: Hey, what's up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to AskPat Episode 1027. This is AskPat 2.0, where we do some cool stuff. I coach an entrepreneur like you through a problem or a pain or a process that you might be going through, and then those of you listening are kind of just like a fly on a wall during this conversation. It's one of my favorite things to do because I can really get deep into what really we can do to solve that problem and I'm glad you're here. By the way, if you want to get coached by me, you can apply. I can't possibly pick everybody but if you have a good thing that I think could be valuable for everybody to listen to, share it, apply. Go to AskPat.com. You can apply right there on that page. You can get access to all the other episodes there as well, and make sure you subscribe if you haven't already.
This is going to be a really great episode because I've actually had a lot of people who are doing service based businesses and they have X number of clients. The issue with that is you can only scale so big before you either burn out, or you just aren't delivering as good quality as you want to. That's what's happening with Julienne. She's reaching her client limit but knows she can help a lot more people. So, what do you do in that situation? A good solution is to start building an agency and start building a team to help services to those clients.
But, the problem is—this is the problem that Julienne's running into—she's tried this and people don't want the team. People want her. That's why they go to her; other people recommend her, her existing clientele recommend her. So, how do you build an agency yet still be there when the whole purpose is to kind of take yourself out of it? Interesting. We're going to talk about that today.
But before that, I do want to give a big shout out to today's sponsor, which is FreshBooks.com, one of my favorite companies out there. Not just because they have a really good tool to help us manage our business finances, but also just because they care about us. They serve over three million . . . million, I was about to say 300 million, which I think they should because they're that good. That's like all of America. But three million small business owners, helping us manage our business finances, helping us stay stress free when it comes to just keeping track of numbers and stuff. And if you're somebody like me who just wants to focus on the relationship building and the building of products and all those kinds of things, podcasting, then the financial stuff isn't really what you want to work on. Let the software do the work for you.
If you want to check it out for thirty days for free, all you have to do is go to FreshBooks.com/askpat and make sure you enter “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” Section. That's all you got to do—I'm like, knocking things over here. Anyway, thank you all for listening and I appreciate it. Now let's dive into the conversation with Julienne and help her out.
Julienne, thank you so much for joining us today on AskPat 2.0, welcome.
Julienne DesJardins: Thanks for having me, I'm really excited to talk.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, let's talk. Tell us what you do and kind of what you're up to.
Julienne DesJardins: Sure. Well, I started a virtual assistant business about five years ago and I sort of just didn't know what it would become, just kind of started freelancing on the side. We were paying off student loans, that whole thing, and it really became what it is now. So, I've been full time in the business for three years, and I am now certified with ConvertKit, certified with Infusionsoft. So a lot of my work is higher-level marketing stuff. And so it's time to kind of transition into something else.
But in general more about me, I'm a work at home mom just like a lot of people, you included. A couple of goldfish, a two year-old, just working on nap time, it's that kind of thing.
Pat Flynn: Well, first of all, I know firsthand because my wife is a work at home mom—or a stay at home mom. You're amazing, so kudos to you for that. In terms of like what's on your mind—business sounds great but what's going on? How can I help you?
Julienne DesJardins: Sure. So for about a year, consistently now, I've been booked to my capacity. So I am obviously, because of my circumstances or my choice to be with my son, I'm not able to keep like, full time hours. Booked to capacity about a month or two out. If a new client comes I'm having to schedule them. And so I started playing—my bigger question is now moving to an agency model, bringing a team member that would do specific parts. Everyone's just working in their zone of genius instead of me being this jack of all trades VA.
So now the team has grown into graphic designer and web developer, and this whole thing. Everybody is in place and we've been able to do things, great things for clients. So I'm confident in the ability of the team, but I have sort of this two-part question. The first is that if a client gets on the phone with me for a discovery call, I book like three out of four of them. I know what I do, I'm confident, I sell, whatever. I have not had great success selling the idea of the team. So on one hand, I know that there are specific things I could do like introducing the team on the website at this point, and almost by design I haven't really talked about it yet as I've been dealing out how it will go.
But sort of having their pictures and their names, and saying this is what we do as a collective so that people aren't kind of surprised if we get on a call and I'm saying like, I wouldn't be able to start for a month. If you want to start now, I could have the team start to execute some things for you. Whatever ideas you have about what am I not thinking of in terms of—my ultimate goal would be to still be JulienneDesJardins.com, I'm the person and I just have these people; I would still like to be branded as myself but there's a team behind it.
The other part of the question is about the structure of the packages moving forward. So as it stands now I have some flat rate packages but there's also a lot of retainer. So they're purchasing a set number of hours reserving me, and inside is that it's customized. So if they want extra calls this month to sort of do email strategy or thinking partner kind of stuff, they're able to do as much of that as they want. But as the client base grows, where do I fit in? I would still like to be talking to clients and doing some implementation but should I limit the call number, should strategy and thinking partner stuff be completely separate? I'm sort of toying with a couple different ideas. So I'd like to just, I know you're like further ahead on the process of managing the team and I would like to know like, what am I not thinking of about both of these things?
Pat Flynn: So let's first talk about people not really responding well to the fact that you are now building this team. Why do you think people aren't responding so well to it?
Julienne DesJardins: My feeling is that . . . like I said, by the time they get on the call with me it's rare that I don't book it. So I've done a good job of the messaging on the website and social presence and all that stuff, and a lot of them are referrals. So they have—their friend is working just with me and they want what their friend has. They trust me because of the messaging on the site. That's the best idea that I have that I'll tell them beforehand, “Hey, I'm booked but I'm happy to help you talk through your problem on the call, but I want to respect your time,” whatever. We get on the call and like I said, I'll say, “If you want to start sooner the team can implement.”
Sometimes they book, but sometimes they either wait for me or they go with someone else. So my best idea is just, I haven't integrated the team. It was like I said, partly by choice because I hadn't identified everybody yet, but that's my best guess, I don't know.
Pat Flynn: Here's what I think. I think that what they are expecting going into that call and what they hear back when they hear about the team, is there's a disconnect there. And so I would imagine that a person who comes on who wants you now is not getting you, it's lost, so it's not the same offer and therefore they're not going to close. If I hire, if I work with you and I get the team to help, do I never talk to you? Do I still get contact time with you? What is that like?
Julienne DesJardins: Yeah, so that's part of the question, is should that be different? But what it is now is I'm sort of part implementer, part project manager. We're talking together in project management, we're talking on our calls and then I'm saying, “All right, great, so I'll have the graphic designer tackle that Facebook Ad Image and you know, that social image for the funnel,” whatever it is. And then I go back to the team and I interface with the team. So very rarely do they ever talk to the rest of the team by client requests, like they often don't—what they've told me is they want to just deal with me and then I'm having other people execute. But yeah, it still is mainly me.
Pat Flynn: I think that should be something that is highlighted in these calls. I wasn't feeling that when you told it to me earlier, when you said you're going to hand it off. It's just a positioning thing, right? You know this. The team allows you to support your clients better.
Julienne DesJardins: 100 percent.
Pat Flynn: That messaging is not clear if people are responding to the fact that, “The team is there, therefore I'm now leaving.” That's all it is. It's a positioning, messaging problem.
Julienne DesJardins: I've felt that instinctively but I haven't figured out how to pinpoint exactly—
Pat Flynn: Let's practice.
Julienne DesJardins: Oh, boy.
Pat Flynn: It's okay. We're doing it now so that you don't practice while actually doing it.
Julienne DesJardins: Okay.
Pat Flynn: I'm interested in your services, I need a VA to help me with all kinds of things in my business. Email, graphics, ads, etc. And then we're on the phone but you're too busy, like let's—I want to work with you Julienne and I'm excited. I'm willing to pay you. Tell me how this is going to be structured.
Julienne DesJardins: Sure. So the way that I handle these types of projects with clients that want to get started now is to offer up the team that I have behind me. So, I act as project manager and you don't have to worry about talking to everybody else on the team, you're just working with me. That part is still clean and easy for you but rather than having to wait for extra turnaround time or wait to get slotted into the schedule, I have a graphic designer, somebody that focuses on your WordPress updates, somebody that will help you with your funnel. You and I are getting on the call, we're setting our intentions maybe for the week or the month, and then I'm telling the team how to go execute that for you so we get through your to-do list faster and get everything checked off and rockin' and rollin'.
Pat Flynn: Cool. Great, so I love it. You said some important things there. I'm only going to be talking to you, which is great. Now I don't have to worry about managing people, I just have to talk to you. I think that's where a lot of people could feel like “Well, I'm signing up for a lot more than I had thought.”
Julienne DesJardins: Yeah, okay.
Pat Flynn: So that's number one. Make sure that's included because that immediately made me feel much better, number one. Number two, you were almost speaking as if there was a different way to work with you. Well, if you want to work with me now, does that mean I could work with you later in a different way? That's a little confusing. I don't think that you actually need to delineate between the two.
Julienne DesJardins: Right. I never thought of that because I have been—the only time I've been working agency model has been straddling, it's been a back up plan to service clients. It hasn't been like, what we do.
Pat Flynn: I shouldn't know that there's a difference. I'm going to be getting this service and my life is going to be so much easier when I start paying you, and it's just going to get done. Now, it is good that you're honest about how it's going to—you're not going to say, “I'll do the graphic design and I'll do the—” that's not true so you don't say that.
Here's how I'd position it. We're going to start working together and when you need help you and I will talk, you know, you and I will talk, we'll come up with a plan and my team and I, that's how I'd—”my team and I will make sure that X, Y, Z gets done and gets delivered to you. Here's how we'll get it delivered, etc. By the way, I have this amazing person on my team. I'll be talking with her, we work together on your Facebook ads. Her name is this, her superpowers are this, we've been working together for this long. She's helped some of my clients go from this to this, and we work together to ensure that your campaign is going to be a success.”
Now I'm like, “Wow, I get even more than you now. I have like, an expert, I'm getting two people now,” instead of like, “I'm just getting pushed off.”
Julienne DesJardins: And this is all on the discovery call, you're saying?
Pat Flynn: Yes. Or even on . . .
Julienne DesJardins: On the website?
Pat Flynn: It could be on the website too. It doesn't have to be, because now I'm not feeling like I was ever being misled. Now I'm being given more value.
Julienne DesJardins: Right. And it has been this kind of apologetic thing of like, “I'm sorry I can't work with you,” you know what I mean?
Pat Flynn: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Julienne DesJardins: I'm hearing you sort of say like, I just got to go in. If I'm going to do it, I got to go all-in then.
Pat Flynn: I promise you you will convert more.
Julienne DesJardins: Okay, okay.
Pat Flynn: How does that feel to you?
Julienne DesJardins: It feels really good. Exactly what you said. I'm a very transparent person, I like them to sort of know everything and be comfortable. I'm not worried about selling anything that isn't what it is; to sort of tell them how the sauce is made feels true to me and just say, “this is who we are.” And I have been, like I said, kind of straddling these two identities, and it's been hard to figure out like who we are and where we're headed.
Pat Flynn: You're feeling good with that direction—are we good on that question number one?
Julienne DesJardins: Yes.
Pat Flynn: Okay. Nice job by the way. Sorry to put you on the spot.
Julienne DesJardins: Nice job to you too, Pat.
Pat Flynn: I literally like, put you on the spot right then and there and you handled it beautifully.
Julienne DesJardins: It's fine.
Pat Flynn: Okay, structure of the packages. So, I want to work with you, tell me how it works exactly.
Julienne DesJardins: We have two options. We have monthly retainers where clients are reserving a certain number of hours. Those hours, you have thirty days to use them. So we're wrapping all your projects up within that month period, starting fresh the next month. That has a little bit of a discount offer, the hourly rate.
But the other option, if you don't need that much support, is just to purchase, pre-purchase a set of hours. You have six months to use those and you're coming to us whenever you have a new project. So that's a little bit more flexibility for you. But sometimes that might mean that we can't start for a week or two. We give you the next available slot when you're ready for us, but it just sometimes takes a little bit more of a dance to figure out when we can get started.
Pat Flynn: Just so I can wrap my head around it, what kinds of people are coming to you? Like, what are they often asking for the most help on?
Julienne DesJardins: Most of them are solopreneurs, small teams—one or the other. They want, this is I guess kind of another question, they want a mix of sorts—it's not virtual assistance necessarily these days, it's kind of a grab bag done for you, marketing stuff. Usually it looks like, “Hey I need this one thing updated on the website this time.” So there's some of the one-time stuff and then there's a lot of ongoing. So content curation and scheduling, community management in your groups. There is that ongoing support that happens every day or every week, and then sometimes it's just “I have this new product, let's build out the funnel and get it all connected,” and then we don't do that again for two months maybe.
Pat Flynn: So do you have clients who pay monthly but then also pay for additional work for certain projects that weren't a part of the normal recurring plan?
Julienne DesJardins: Every now and then because somebody might be on a retainer, so they'll select the ConvertKit migration package. They just do that separately. I'll give them a discount or whatever. I don't really know how that should go, but that's usually when it happens. Otherwise, if it's just a, “Hey, I want to try this thing this month, can we spend some time on LinkedIn?” It's an extra, it's just all inside of those ten hours or fifteen hours that they bought for the month. They're deciding what we do or how they want to spend it.
Pat Flynn: Which package are people buying most?
Julienne DesJardins: Retainers, overwhelmingly. I think it was like 80 percent of my business last year. But it's also what I sell because I only have a certain number of hours. If you want me whenever you want me, within reason, right—but if you want me when you want me, this is how you get me. You're my V.I.P. people if you do this.
Pat Flynn: The set of hours?
Julienne DesJardins: Yeah, the retainers. I haven't really ever sold packages of hours and that's been one of the new things that we've been doing. I'm not as comfortable with the language around it I guess.
Pat Flynn: Do you need to be doing it, or why are you doing it?
Julienne DesJardins: It's usually platform specific. So, when people are coming and they just want ConvertKit support, just Infusionsoft, they're buying five or ten hours and just sort of having me in there to check these automations or to build this sequence and then they don't need ongoing support. It's a different type of person.
Pat Flynn: Okay. I think I'm a little confused on that offering because you had said a certain set of hours, but I don't know how many hours of ConvertKit—I like that you're like, “Here's the package for ConvertKit integration.” That to me is like, “I know exactly what the outcome is going to be and whether it's thirty minutes or a thousand hours, like, it just needs to get done and I'll pay for that.” Does that make sense? That's super clear as opposed to, you had mentioned it was like, you can purchase a certain set of hours, right?
Julienne DesJardins: Aha.
Pat Flynn: Which, this might be interesting for you to position it as the outcome instead of the hours in that regard because number one, it will be a lot clearer. And maybe you just work on becoming super efficient at those specific tasks such that a person will pay for something that may seem like it might take forever but you're so good at it that—or you have a person on the team who's so good at it—it might only take one hour. So these become sort of one-off, nice little quick surges of income for you, as opposed to just promising a certain set of hours. If you can get more efficient with that, you have more profit.
Julienne DesJardins: Sure. I do see that with the packages that I do. With a ConvertKit migration for instance, if we happen to be able to go faster, you know, obviously. So it's been something on my mind to think about. I'd have to think through, like look back and think, what have people been purchasing most frequently, you know, and sort of say this thing, this sequence, whatever, this would cost this much. That gives me something to think about, for sure.
Pat Flynn: Personally, I can't tell you exactly what to do on this front because this is more your business and how you want it done and you know more about it than I do. I'm just kind of, from an outside perspective my job is just to kind of poke holes and offer suggestions.
Julienne DesJardins: It feels easier to me in general. Like I don't have to, I'm not keeping track of anything. It feels a lot cleaner in general because we're just getting it done and then rolling on to the next thing you need. I could see, I don't know if it would be the entirety of what I do, is the package is just based on I guess my inclination to sort of stay flexible and kind of . . . I think it's like the VA in me still. I think as I—I don't know, maybe in a year it all is packages. But I can see, doing more of them now, I could definitely sit down and pump through five of them or whatever and say “this is what this thing costs,” so that's helpful.
Pat Flynn: I would worry about adding too much to your plate as opposed to being efficient with what you know is working now. That's the first thing. And then you can get the systems in place. You had mentioned not tracking earlier. I think just to clarify, you're still going to track like, how long it takes to do the certain things. So you have like a running average and you can base how much you're paying one of your team members to do these things.
Julienne DesJardins: What I meant was if a client comes back in three weeks and says, “Hey, I forgot, what did you say, how many hours do I have left?” that kind of thing. That ends up coming up a lot.
Pat Flynn: It's either done or it's not done.
Julienne DesJardins: Right. I still would like to know how much things—how much time it's taken.
Pat Flynn: But for the client it's, “I'm signing up, I know what I'm going to get.” One of the biggest struggles in entrepreneurship is we often just, we don't get very clear with the transformation and the outcome.
Julienne DesJardins: Yeah, okay. Okay.
Pat Flynn: It ties specifically to major pain points that entrepreneurs have which is why I'm really excited about those, and those could potentially be some things that could be—you're starting to productize your business by doing that. And then perhaps there's a certain team that you build later on that just literally does those things which, I don't care who does them. You're promising me that this will be done, I wouldn't even imagine that you would do it. You would just have people who do that and I don't need to know their names, I don't need to know what, because that's just a thing that I don't have that will then be done after I pay you this much money.
Julienne DesJardins: Right, okay. Yeah, this is—that's interesting.
Pat Flynn: So that could be productized even more.
Julienne DesJardins: Yeah. Every time I sit down and kind of think through this, it becomes not overwhelming, but bigger and more refined than I even thought was possible, like before we started talking about it.
Pat Flynn: Don't go there just because you could go there, go there because you consciously want to go there.
Julienne DesJardins: Yeah, okay, I appreciate that. All right. So I guess the last thing that I have a question about is those—the strategy conversations. So again, maybe it is still the VA in me. What feels true to me is still sort of being a VA and part-implementer. But within—let's say if we head back to the idea of the retainers, like I said, they're able, if they just want to talk through something they're able to just—they have my calendar, they book a time and we just, we can do that as often. Should that be limited in a team?
Pat Flynn: You want control over your time, because when this thing continues to grow you're going to lose control of it unless you have boundaries. And when you have those boundaries and are clear that “one client gets X amount of time with me,” then you can plan for that, you can schedule for that, you can set a cap on that. You can adjust accordingly instead of just kind of an open, like, “Hey, whenever.” You might have the room to do whenever right now but you want to get smart with that. And it becomes something that people will then—as a client if you tell me, “Hey, you get two, thirty minute calls with me every single month to go over planning, should you choose to use them. You don't have to, but if at any point you want to use them you can.” Now I am forced to—and this happens with my accelerator students, they have a thirty minute call with me, they get three, thirty-minute calls with me every quarter, and they go into those calls super well-planned and thought out in terms of what questions they are going to ask, because they know that that's the only time they have with me.
Julienne DesJardins: Right, right, okay. The way that you said that was interesting, because let's say in two or three years as this grows, the twenty hours a week I have, that time is still finite, theoretically. We'll be in kindergarten by then. But pretend we weren't, then that still is going to be full of just this new task of sitting on the phone and talking through stuff with clients. Okay.
Pat Flynn: Some people might, I mean, you could try that out. But, another way to structure it would be to offer certain set of clients who pay more for that access to you. Now you have a package for people which kind of anchors how much you are worth and your time is worth, and maybe if they want to call a week with you then they have to pay this much. Because there likely will be some clients who may want to little bit more time than the two, but you have to define how many times and how much that's worth. It shouldn't be a free for all, that every—like, it shouldn't be a person who's a client of yours who never talks with you is paying the same as somebody who talks with you ten times. It shouldn't be like that.
Julienne DesJardins: Right. And right now it is. The only boundaries I have is just the days that I have childcare. It's just a certain set of hours on those days, versus the limit. I agree with you, I think the clients that want more time to talk, maybe we could probably tighten those up if they were coming prepared, more prepared than we are because we do have like, intention setting and stuff, but we could probably tighten that up even more, like you were saying for your students.
Pat Flynn: Awesome. I'm feeling good, how are you feeling?
Julienne DesJardins: I feel good. This gives me a lot to think about. I feel much clearer than I was twenty minutes ago, so thank you.
Pat Flynn: Good. No, thank you, and I'm sure the audience is feeling clear too with a lot of things that were perhaps similar. So thank you. Any final wrap up? What was the big thing that you took away from this?
Julienne DesJardins: That I have to go—if I'm going to do it, I got to do it. I have to go all-in. It's difficult because when I started I just thought, “I want to be a mom, I want to . . . I enjoy these tasks. I want to just kind of work in my pajamas.” It was sort of this thing of like, “I want to be an implementer.” It's becoming something, it's becoming the next level of what it is, I just didn't see it getting here when I started. I'm going to go all-in, Patrick.
Pat Flynn: And just consider, the better you focus on that, the more time you'll have with your child, because things are structured. That's what fires me up. I have two kids also and the more efficient I am and the better strategy I have, the better it is just for the family. That's what drives me more than anything.
Julienne DesJardins: Yeah. That's what started the whole thing, was not enough time for the zoo and not enough time for like content creation, those kinds of things that I want to do. So, that's what got me thinking about it anyway. But, when I waver I will remind myself of that.
Pat Flynn: Awesome. Thank you, Julienne. I appreciate you coming on, and we'll follow up with you in the future and see how things go.
Julienne DesJardins: Sure thing, thanks.
Pat Flynn: All right. That was a good episode. Julienne, thank you so much. I think it's going to be really helpful for a lot of people. By the way, if you're listening to this episode on Twitter right now or you have Twitter or Instagram, let me know what you thought of this, because I know a lot of you had this issue or had this problem, or maybe know some people who had this issue of like, “How do I start expanding beyond just myself and my business?” Give me a shout out, use the hashtag #askpat1027. So I know that's a lot of numbers because we're in the thousands now, but #askpat1027. Let me know what you think, let me know that you're out there.
By the way, another way to let me know that you're out there is to leave me a review, leave AskPat a review on iTunes. That'd be super helpful. It helps convince other people to stick around and start listening in. So I appreciate you guys, thank you so much.
Also, big shout out to FreshBooks one more time. If you want to get that thirty-day free trial, FreshBooks.com/askpat, that's where you go.
And hey, keep crushing it guys. Julienne, thank you so much. Best of luck to all of you and I look forward to serving you next week in AskPat 2.0. Cheers.
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