Virtual Assistant Needed: How to Submit an RFP that Gets Results
We’re going to take a short detour today from the list of questions you should ask a prospective virtual assistant to discuss the importance of submitting an RFP (Request for Proposal) that gives the right amount of information to get the best results possible.
Many clients don’t realize that when they submit an RFP they have an opportunity to frame their expectations, needs, and more. Virtual assistants who read a well-written RFP can learn enough about a potential client and his or her business to draft a truly professional answer, and it also helps weed out virtual assistants who don’t fit what you’re looking for – saving you time and energy. As a consumer, it’s in your best interest to think carefully about how you see a virtual assistant fitting into your business operations and goals and give voice to those expectations in your RFP.
We’ve included the fields of a standard RFP form along with suggestions for how to fill in each section for an RFP that really gets results:
This one is pretty straightforward. If you hesitate to share your name due to privacy concerns, check the RFP policy of the site you’re submitting your RFP to. Most RFP sites only provide client information to their registered members.
Make sure you provide the correct email address and that your account has room to receive replies. Double check your email address before submitting your RFP. If you’ve provided enough information in the rest of the RFP, proactive virtual assistants may do the legwork necessary to track you down, but don’t make responding to your RFP more difficult than it has to be.
Also, providing a company email address as the contact point is an optimal choice as it helps potential virtual assistants feel comfortable responding to the RFP, knowing it’s a ‘real’ company. email@example.com just doesn’t command the same sense of legitimacy as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Provide your full company name. Some clients, in the interest of privacy, will not divulge their full or real company name in an RFP, which is a mistake. The most professional virtual assistants will be motivated to research your company, but they can’t do so if you don’t tell them what that is.
What industry do you cater to or service? Whether it’s law, medicine, photography, coaching, or widgets – defining your industry up front will help prospective virtual assistants tailor their response to your RFP as well as their approach to your request for more information. Think about it, would you rather receive replies from VAs who understand what you do or those who have no clue and are reaching in the dark?
Give your RFP a descriptive title. Sure, you’re looking for a virtual assistant, but just typing that in the field isn’t going to do you or your prospective VAs any favors. Sum up the gist of what it is you’re looking for. What type of VA? What sort of work are you looking for help with? Are you looking for a long term contract or a one-off project?
If you’re ready to have a virtual assistant install and customize a new WordPress theme on your website, “Seeking WordPress Virtual Assistant for Website Redesign” will bring the right kind of virtual assistants to your RFP in the first place. Whereas ‘Virtual Assistant’ or even ‘Website Work’ don’t really help narrow down just what it is you’re looking for. Spare yourself responses from the VAs who are responding to your RFP just because you’re looking for help with a solid title.
Do you have a deadline?
This is particularly important if you need something done quickly or are contracting with a virtual assistant to help you complete a project that you’re on deadline for yourself. Letting VAs know up front what they have to contend with will again help weed out those who truly can’t help. If a virtual assistant sees your deadline is next Friday, but knows she is booked until then and cannot help you, she’ll spare herself and you the expense of time by passing over your RFP for one she can fulfill.
Of course, if you don’t really have a deadline and it’s not a rush job, don’t arbitrarily fill this field out. For some clients, every project feels like an immediate concern, even emergent – but carefully weigh if this is truly the case before you note that on your RFP form as it will likely dissuade busy virtual assistants from responding.
This is where you get to wax eloquent about all the things you imagine your virtual assistant taking off your plate. Use the opportunity to clearly paint what you need done, what you want done, and what you’re hoping to accomplish.
Note that truly professional virtual assistants will appreciate more detail and information about what you are looking for. The more information they have about what you think you need, the better they can tailor their specific offerings as solutions to those needs.
It’s also important to realize that if you’re looking to contract a virtual assistant for the long term, as most clients are, you don’t have to know all the details of everything you need right now. At this early stage you can’t possibly be aware of all the ways in which a virtual assistant can positively impact your business. Once you’ve found your VA, you and he or she are bound to discover and create new directions and tasks. For now, start with the things that are getting in the way of you doing what you need to be doing (visiting with clients, making sales calls, writing, developing products, etc…).
If there are things you aren’t sure about handing over, share them anyway – you may find that a particular respondent offers a solution or suggestion relative to those tasks that impresses you to no end.
Special skills required:
If you have specific expectations of your virtual assistant’s skill level, expertise, or experience, share them here. This is particularly important if you’re in an industry that requires special knowledge or training and want a virtual assistant who has at least some understanding of the same.
Note that some clients actually prefer a virtual assistant with limited knowledge of or experience in a particular field so that they can teach and ‘train’ the virtual assistant to approach business tasks in a certain way. Your own preferences and working style will be important to consider when answering this portion of the RFP.
Length of job:
Are you looking for a long-term working relationship, or a one-time project? The distinction is important to make because some virtual assistants will not take clients on outside of a long-term retainer. Specify what works best for you in your particular situation.
Are you looking for a virtual assistant on retainer, where you pre-pay for a specific number of hours at a specific rate each month, ongoing? This can be useful for clients who want to ensure their virtual assistant is readily available to them on a regular, ongoing basis. It is also preferred by many virtual assistants, especially those in high demand. Another item to consider is that unused retainer hours generally do not roll over to the next month, and are rarely, if ever, refunded.
Are you looking for an hourly arrangement, sometimes called pay-as-you-go or PAYG, where you pay only for work you need, as you need it? This can be a simple arrangement and is often favored by clients who are new to working with a virtual assistant but it’s important to realize that this can sometimes mean waiting for available time in a busy service provider’s schedule. Note that virtual assistants who offer PAYG often require some form of deposit up front before beginning work.
How much money are you looking to invest in your virtual assistant? This is an important question, and while there’s really no ‘right’ answer it should be noted that professional virtual assistants charge anywhere from $25 hourly on the very low end, to $75 hourly and up for highly specialized and technical services. With that in mind, it’s also important to realize that an experienced virtual assistant can often finish a task much faster, and with more accuracy than you or another VA may be able to, ultimately saving you money.
If you are really uncertain how much you are able to spend, write ‘Negotiable’ or ‘Market rate’ in this field and compare rates as responses to your RFP come in.
Working with a virtual assistant truly is an investment. Smart business owners approach the RFP process with this firmly in mind.
Proposal submission requirements:
This field is perhaps one of the most important in your RFP. This is where you can provide specific requirements for the submission of your RFP. And it can be an excellent way to weed out candidates who can’t, won’t, or don’t follow directions. To do so, simply provide a request for a specific subject line, a certain piece of information to be included, or the answer to a particular question.
Finding the best virtual assistant for you and your business is a process worth investing in. All it takes is a little time and clear communication on your part. Submitting an RFP is the first step – take that step with purpose and your RFP will get results.