Dear Gritty VA:
There’s a conversation going on in another forum regarding addresses. Some people think it’s important to have one on your site and others think it’s unnecessary. What’s your opinion? –KH
Oh, I’ve talked about this before on more than one occasion. Let me take the slightly longer road in answering because it’s important you understand the psychology behind this.
One of the reasons we talk so much about standards and serving ourselves first in business is because the Virtual Assistant industry continues to really, really struggle in this area. I think a big part of the problem is the term “Virtual Assistant.” When you keep calling yourself an assistant, it’s hard to look upon yourself as a business owner. And many people in this industry literally don’t understand that they are business owners. They really do think they are simply assistants only working virtually. And like good little assistants, they let clients tell them what to do in their own businesses. They think it’s all about the client and whatever the clients want and need. <Give that good little girl who knows how to follow orders a pat on the head.>
And that just doesn’t help anybody. It certainly doesn’t help those Virtual Assistants grow successful businesses. And whether they understand or realize it or not, it doesn’t help clients who much prefer not to have to shoulder the burden of leading everything in the relationship. Um, that’s what they come to professionals for. But if they aren’t looking at you like a professional, they’re looking at you like a trained monkey. And we’re back to square one.
You don’t have a business if you aren’t leading it and aren’t making any money.
And so we talk constantly about getting over employee mindset, remembering that you are a business owner, having standards and making sure the business meets your needs first and that you get to say how it all works and how it doesn’t. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t care for others unless you first care for yourself.” That’s exactly what all that is about.
But then there are some folks who get carried away with all that to the point that all they think about is themselves in business. They think (and we’ll use the topic of the question here), “Well, I don’t want to put an address on my website. I don’t need to–I’m virtual!” To that I say, what on earth does being virtual have to do with anything? A business is a business.
They forget that being in business is about being in a relationship with clients. And a relationship is a two-way street. It’s not all about you and what you want and what works for you. Me, me, me, me, me.
Sure, you get to say how things work in your business. And you get to have high standards around the kind of work you do, the kind of clients you work with, and the kind of money you charge. You can not truly and superbly help clients without those things.
At the same time, there are some considerations you must be willing to extend to clients–because you don’t have a business with them.
So having an address on your site isn’t about what’s important to you. It’s about what’s important to the clients visiting your site. It’s about helping them view you as credible and legitimate. It’s about trust and and helping them feel safe about potentially doing business with you. It’s not for you that an address should be on your site, it’s for your would-be clients.
Long story short–yes, it’s absolutely vital to have an address on your website. It doesn’t have to be a physical address–and if you run a home-based business, I would absolutely tell you NOT to use that one. It’s unsafe, and you do not want clients or anyone you don’t know showing up on your doorstep one day out of the blue.
Get a post office box instead. My PO box costs me $36 every six months. And I can format the address to the physical location instead of using “PO Box X.” If a post office isn’t close to you, businesses like Mailboxes Etc. come to mind. Alternatively, you can get a mailing address with a service like Earth Class Mail (which is a phenomenal service, by the way).
I would add that besides an address and phone number, put some kind of photo of yourself on your site, in your email signatures, in your forum profiles. Get a gravatar so that when you post comments to blogs, people see your smiling face. Being able to “see” who they are talking with goes a LONG way in establishing rapport and facilitating conversation. It helps folks see you as a person–not a nameless, faceless entity–and they’ll remember you much better when they have a face to go with the name.