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5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Virtual Assistant Business

Are you feeling unprepared to start your VA business? If so, you are not the only one.

We all started the same way. With no real knowledge of how it worked, and how we were supposed to get started. I did, too!

How you proceed with your Virtual Assistant business will determine whether you can succeed or whether you will fail.

There are many things that you need to consider when you are getting started or are growing, and you will make mistakes.

Identifying mistakes that can be easily fixed, or avoided all together, is what will help you get past the tough times and on the road to success.

5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Virtual Assistant Business

Here are 5 mistakes that you should try to avoid (or fix!) in your Virtual Assistant business:

Learning New Skills to Get Started

Finding clients is hard enough when you first start out. Don't make it harder on yourself by spending money on something that you don't even know you can do or sell. You will need to get comfortable selling yourself to clients, which can be very difficult - and this will be made more challenging when you are trying to sell them something that you have no experience doing for clients yet. Training is great, when it is timed right. But you should never start your business trying to market and sell a brand new service or skill. You have admin experience. Start with what you know.

Charging Rates That Are Too Low

Recognizing our value is always a challenge as Virtual Assistants. We feel like what we do is not as valuable as what other people do. We struggle with selling our value to clients. And that translates to setting prices that are not high enough to sustain our business. When rates are set with intention (and by doing math!) and you know the value that you are providing the clients, they are probably going to be higher than you thought. But your business will thank you. Don't be afraid to set rates that earn you a profit and reflect your expertise.

Getting Stuck in the Research Phase

There is a lot to learn when you start a VA business. Probably more than you thought there would be. But many VAs get stuck in the research phase - looking for advice or simply Googling things and taking free trainings. I've seen VAs spend weeks on their logo and company name, or more than a year on their website. You need to get out of research phase and make a decision. Your business is a living, breathing thing - and it can (and will!) change. Your business name and logo are decisions. Your website should be simple. It will change. Don't let it hold you up. You need to get started to get clients, and you will never start if you keep researching. 

Never Saying No

Clients will ask you to do whatever they need. It is up to you to say yes to things you want to do. It is also up to you to say no to what you don't want to do. You are a business owner and the client does not get to decide what you do for them. If you have a client contract, it should include a scope of work that you discussed before starting to work together. If the task they request is not on that list, you can say no. Saying no is your right, and you need to exercise it so that you stay happy in your business. Your clients will be happy when you are clear, and you can always help them find someone else to do the tasks you don't want to do.

Not Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are a very big part of being a business owner and yet they are grossly overlooked, especially by Virtual Assistants. We are helpers by our nature as support professionals, and so saying no and setting boundaries can be difficult for us. But setting things like business hours or work time helps everyone know when you are working and when you are not - so that you can balance everything in your life. Just because you are at home doesn't mean you are available to everyone all the time. Set boundaries and be sure you follow them yourself. Again, clarity is the key, and it keeps everyone happy.

Are you currently doing any of these things?

Avoid these mistakes or fix them if they are part of your business right now.

I challenge you to identify what you are doing that could use a change.

Get help with something if you are having making the change yourself.

It's your business - and your health, and your life. Setting yourself up for long term success helps everyone around you. But especially you. You are worth it!

For more tips on how to take action and get moving, watch this free video: Take Action and Stop Making Excuses on my YouTube channel. There are more than 40 free training videos for VAs there!

3 Simple Ways to Get Clients for Your VA Business

If you are struggling to find Virtual Assistant clients, this article is for you!

When we start our Virtual Assistant business, most of us don't realize the work involved to get clients.

We meticulously launch our website, get business cards printed, and expect the clients to start calling. Or we expect to join job boards and fill our client roster easily.

That's not always the way it works. In fact, most of the time it's very different.

While writing blog posts and posting to social media is an important part of your marketing, it's not enough to get clients easily. Your posts need to have an audience - and that takes work to build.

To get clients for your business, you need to do outreach. You need to find your clients and connect with them.

Here are 3 simple ways you can reach out to people about your VA business:

Contact 100 People You Know

When you start talking to people about your business, the first place to begin is with who you know. Make a list of 100 people you know (it's okay if this list starts with your mom - mine does too!). Maybe not all of these people will be your clients, but they can certainly help to spread the word about what you are doing - provided that they understand what you do. You will see quickly that you know a lot of people. Once you have your list, start reaching out to them by email or by phone. Introduce your business, tell them exactly what kind of clients you offer services for, and ask them if they know anyone who might need your services.

Attend A Networking Event

Going to a networking event is a great place to find potential clients. Everyone is there for the same reason - to network with other business owners. Make sure when you choose an event to go to, you always have a goal of how many people you want to connect with. Often the local networking groups have Facebook groups where you can connect with the attendees before and after the event. When you network with a goal in mind, you will have much better results.

Find Strategic Partners

The connections you will make in your business are not always going to become your clients. Some of the best people you can connect with are strategic partners. These are people who can potentially refer business to you. Usually they are in contact with your audience or market, but they are not providing the same services as you. Your VA colleagues can be great strategic partners. If you don't provide the same services as a colleague, you can refer business back and forth to each other. When you make your list above, identify potential strategic partners on it and reach out to them as such.

Getting comfortable with outreach is going to be one of the best things you can do for your VA business. The more conversations you have with other business owners, the better you will get at it. And the more connections you make, the more potential clients and referrals you will have.

What are you doing for outreach in your business? If you are struggling to find clients and you are still hiding behind your computer, I challenge you to do these three simple things to see how it impacts your VA business.

For some more ideas on how to get clients for your VA business so that you get clients, read this blog post: Where Do I Find Clients for My VA Business?

Improve Your Marketing Strategy To Get More Virtual Assistant Clients

How do you feel about marketing? Does it make you feel stressed or anxious?

If it does, it's probably because you aren't getting clients easily from it.

As a VA, we need to do many types of marketing every day. The most important thing in our business is getting clients, and we need to put ourselves out there to do it.

In a perfect world, we would have clients find us and hire us, but that’s not how it works most of the time.

We need to show up in front of them when they need us.

Thankfully, it’s not as difficult as it sounds – all you need a is a good strategy that you implement consistently.

Here are a few simple tips to help you improve your marketing strategy:

1. Set up a marketing plan.

A marketing plan seems like a daunting task for some Virtual Assistants – because often planning ahead comes with insecurity. Forecasting is something that isn’t natural to us so it sometimes can be difficult to put stretch goals on paper.

But if you dial it back to just doing a marketing plan for the coming month that can bring it into a more manageable frame of mind. Short term marketing planning is a great thing to do, because it makes you think about it more often, and you can stay very close to the goal at hand. Decide what you what to do, and what the steps are that will get you to that goal. Then make sure everything you do points in the direction of that goal.

2. Be very clear on your client’s problems.

Many VAs talk about being a Virtual Assistant – in their networking and also in the marketing copy. While it’s very exciting for YOU to know how being a VA works, your clients are not really all that excited about it. What they need to hear you talk about is what you can do to help them in their business.

If you provide bookkeeping services, talk about common problems clients have, why they should work with someone to get their books done, and how you have helped other clients. Clients who are struggling with their bookkeeping will notice that message in your marketing far more than anything about being a VA. Focus on what their problems are and you will be putting the right message out there – and your clients will hear it loud and clear.

3. Market your business consistently.

If you are only thinking about your marketing when you are trying to find new clients, and you don’t do any when you are not, you will probably not do very well when you are in need of clients. It can be difficult to fit it in when you are busy – but it’s necessary to keep your name out there consistently.

Even if you aren’t looking for a client right now, what if your dream client comes along that is better than someone you are currently working with (maybe they pay more, or they work in an industry you love, or they have more consistent work)? You don’t want to miss working with them because you weren’t out there.

Figure out what you can do regularly and consistently and make a plan for the next 30 days to implement it.

Make sure your messaging is clear and focused entirely on your client’s problems – and your solutions for them.

That’s a marketing plan!

For more great info about marketing your VA business, check out this article on Getting Clients.

Why Many Virtual Assistants Aren’t Blogging (But Should Be!)

The most common argument VAs have for not writing a regular blog post: I don’t know what to write!

You’ve got your Virtual Assistant website set up and you even have a blog!

It’s exciting but that excitement wears off really quickly for many VAs when they realize they have no idea what to write about.

Sometimes the first few posts come easily, but then the shine wears off and it becomes difficult to come up with ideas to post.

At least this is what Virtual Assistants tell me.

Who wants to read my blog?

How do I come up with new ideas all the time?

Why is blogging so hard for Virtual Assistants?

The main reason you get stuck is that you don’t have a plan.

The second reason you get stuck is that you really don’t know who you are writing to, or what you should be writing about.

Take a look at your blog. Do you write about being a VA? That’s not what your audience wants to read about. Unless you are helping others become VAs, that is.

But if you are providing services to clients for anything – that’s what you should be writing about.

VA need to have a blog. And there are all kinds of things you can write about on it.

If you provide client care services, you should be writing about things that are related to that service. For instance, write about things like how to build long-term relationships with clients, how to reward customer loyalty, tips to onboard clients more easily, and so on.

If you provide WordPress services, write about everything WordPress-related. For instance, the latest plugins, new or improved themes, and tips to help you maintain your website (or how your VA can maintain it for you).

If you provide bookkeeping services, write about tracking expenses, filing and organizing tips and share info about other paperwork and admin resources that will help your clients do a better job in this area.

Get the idea?

Your blog topics have to be what your clients need to read about.

The blog posts should be written from your perspective, as the Virtual Assistant who can help them with those services or tasks.

You probably offer more than one service, so you can build your content from there. (Still stuck? Google your main service offering with the word ‘blogs’ and you’ll surely come up with some great examples you can model your content after).

The idea is that your content is for your clients and your potential clients. When you connect with someone in a networking situation, they will often check you out online. So your blog, if you have one, is an important place to showcase your expertise.

Come up with 3 or 4 main topics that you will write about – and then you still need to have a plan.

How often will you write? Once a week helps you to build a really good routine and habit. Less than that, and you might find yourself taking longer to do it or skipping it all together.

What kinds of posts will you write? You can write a variety of posts – conversational/advice like many of mine are, lists and how-tos, reviews of services you use, and more. Change it up and you will be keeping your blog fresh and interesting every time.

When will you write? Schedule time every week to do your writing and you will get a lot more done.

I belong to a writing support group – and it’s been great for me to be able to schedule time in my calendar to write ‘live’ with the help and support of our group facilitator, Kathy Colaiacovo. We come to the group with our article idea, get feedback on how to make it more appealing and SEO and keyword friendly, and then get (at least) the first draft done so we can finish it up and post it.

Learning to develop good writing habits, and writing regularly helps you to get better at it. When you nail your main topic areas it also makes it easy to find things to write about, and your audience will love it.

Start now. Pick four main topics to write about on your blog. Make sure they showcase your VA expertise, and will be interesting to your audience and potential clients. It’s easier than you think!

For some more ideas on what to write on your blog, check out this article: Five Ways to Find Great Blog Post Topics.

How Many Virtual Assistant Clients Do You Actually Need?

Getting clients can seem overwhelming until you look at the numbers.

The idea of getting clients is often the most daunting part of your Virtual Assistant business.

As support professionals, the thought of selling ourselves comes up in conversations as not a very pleasant task. And it often seems like something that will be never-ending.

It’s something that many Virtual Assistants don’t do well as a result.

When I ask VAs how many clients they need, they often don’t even know the answer to that question.

Or they get flustered and say, ‘One!’ and don’t think much farther than that.

But when you stop to think about just how many clients you need, it might make things just a bit easier.

How does that work?

Well let’s change hats here. Take off the ‘I’m not sure’ VA hat and put on your CEO hat for a few minutes.

Consider the revenue you need to earn in your VA business. Then consider how many clients you need to work with to make up that revenue. It’s simple math.

If you need to earn $2000 per month, how many clients does that translate to?
If you need to earn $5000, how many clients is that?

You need to just change the way you are thinking about earning. When we look at revenue from an open end, it is much more daunting.

Often we look for one client, then we look for another, and we bill them according to their needs.

But when you are proactive about it, you can plan better, and even be strategic about it. I promise, you will have less anxiety when the numbers are clearer.

For instance, if you know you need to earn $2000 per month, and you offer a package of services (or a suite of services) that is in the $500 range, that means you only need to find 4 clients to reach your revenue goal.

Or, if you offer a $1000 service, you only need 2 clients. For a $250 service, you need 8 clients. But a lower budget is often much easier to sell.

It seems less daunting when you look at the actual clients you need when you are planning how and where to find them.

Starting with your end goal and using your numbers to figure out what you need to do to fill your practice is the simplest way to manage your mindset around it.

If you realize you are only looking for 2 or 3 clients, how much easier does that sound than looking for an endless supply of clients?

It sounds a lot better to me!

And if you don’t have a solid idea of what your service offerings are valued at right now, then that’s where you need to do a little bit of work first.

Knowing how much you charge your clients is a key part of forecasting your revenue.

Look at the services you offer. How can you build a package of services that falls into that $250 or $500 range? Whether you charge by the hour or just by the package, identifying specifically what you can do for your clients and how much it will cost them is an excellent way to level yourself up.

Clients love clarity and all they want to know is what you can do for them and how much it will cost.

When you know that, you can figure out how many clients you are looking for.

And then go and find them!

Numbers are your friend in your business – use them in situations like this to map out your strategy, and your practice will be full in no time!

For more great info about getting clients for your VA business, check out my free getting clients video playlist for Virtual Assistants on my Youtube channel.

How to Get More Virtual Assistant Clients through Networking

Improve Your In-Person Networking To Make Better Connections

Attending networking events is fun, and can be very rewarding, but are you making the most of your efforts each time you take time to go to one?

Think about your last five networking events. How many clients have you signed up? How many great connections did you make?

Virtual assistants sometimes avoid in person networking because so many of us are introverts. I always recommend learning to do it well, even if you find it uncomfortable.

Networking in person is one of the best ways to quickly build your VA business.

But when you attend a live event, whether it’s a casual meet up or a bigger event, remember that you are doing it for a reason – to get clients.

Now that doesn’t mean that you will go to an event and come home with 10 clients (wouldn’t that be great?). But you need to meet people who can potentially be your VA clients, and have conversations with them so that they know how you can help them with their business.

How do you do that? You need to have a strategy for every event you decide to attend. It might differ slightly from event to event, but you need to understand why you are attending, and know what you need to come away with.

Here are 5 tips to help Virtual Assistants strategically prepare for better results at live networking events:

1- Set a goal

The first thing you need to do is set a goal. That might be talking to a certain number of people, or finding a certain number of existing contacts and deepening your relationship with someone you already know, or collecting a certain number of business cards for follow up, or reaching out to someone for a partnership or referral. Your goal is personal and it’s up to you. But make sure that it’s very specific. By knowing exactly what you intend to get out of the event, you can better manage your time and activity while you are there.

2- Identify who is attending

You need to be aware of who else is going to the event. If there are no potential VA clients there for you, think twice about even going. Not all local events are good for you. Sometimes you can find out specifically who is attending if there is a Facebook event for it. Have a look at some of the people who are attending. You might even identify a few that you want to make a point of connecting with. Or reach out to them ahead of time and let them know you are looking forward to seeing them at the event.

3- Prepare conversation starters

The talking part is usually the most daunting part for VAs when networking. But it really doesn’t need to be. If this part stresses you out, consider preparing a few questions to ask people – ice breakers or conversation starters. Another idea might be to scan a few industry related blogs before you attend, so you can talk about those. There are so many great ways to begin or continue conversations, but sometimes it take preparing ahead a little bit, and it can be very effective to do so.

4- Know the answers

While you are having a conversation with someone, you will want to seed your expertise. We call it seeding because it is easy to do and is less ‘salesy’ than most VAs like to be. So when someone asks you how working with a VA works (for example) maybe you then ask them to give you an example of something they would outsource, and you can take them through how that might work. It’s relevant to their business and showcases your expertise at the same time.

5- Analyze each event

After the event is over, take a bit of time to analyze every conversation you had. What did you say that worked? What did you say that did not work? Did you get roped into a conversation you could not get out of? What could you do differently next time? Analyzing what happened and what you can change for next time is an important part of mastering your networking.

Networking is a necessary part of building your business. And with a bit of strategy and some preparation, you can make it work better for you, every time.

Take a moment now to look at your calendar. When is your next networking event?

Use the steps above to build a strategy for it. Figure out who is going, what you want to accomplish, and do your pre-work so you are prepared to have memorable conversations with the other attendees.

You’ll be more confident, you’ll make a better impression, and you might even find your next client!

For more great info about networking for your VA business, check out my free networking videos for Virtual Assistants on my Youtube channel.

Where Do I Find Clients for my Virtual Assistant Business?

Are you struggling to find clients for your Virtual Assistant business?

Many VAs struggle with this, not only at the beginning of their business, but all the way through it.

Why? Because they don't have a plan or a strategy to get clients.

Some of us start our business with our old boss as our first client (I did!). Or a husband, a neighbour, a friend.

So we don't get used to doing any marketing.

For marketing to work properly, you need to have a plan and do it consistently.

Getting clients is not difficult if you use a system that works for you.

But how do you figure out what works for you?

Think about the clients you have now.

If it's your old boss/friend/husband/neighbour, what made them hire you? How did that conversation go?

Who else do you know who has a business like theirs that you might be able to offer support for?

That's the beginning of your plan, and it's a great way to start thinking about who you can support.

Ask yourself these questions:

What services do I offer?

When you are trying to get clients, you need to be crystal clear on what you offer people. If you offer a laundry list of services, you aren't speaking specifically enough to anyone - and your message will fall flat on (almost) everyone you tell it to - whether that's in person, in your social media, or on your website.

Your message needs to talk about the services you provide - so that your client will know you can help them.

Do you provide general admin services? Awesome. Every single business owner out there needs admin help. 

But, if you target real estate agents, for example, you can tell them you will update their online listings, you can help schedule appointments with clients, do their follow up after open houses, and so on.

It's far more specific and it speaks to the client in language that could move them into action to work with you.

How do I help my clients?

What is that you allow your clients to be, do or have, by doing the work you do for them?

For instance if you do social media work - how does that help them in their business?

It gives them more exposure (so more people can learn about their business).

It can help them bring in new prospects (who can become their clients).

It showcases their expertise (when you post about what they do, their clients get to know them better).

It gives them back time (if they are doing the social media creation & posting themselves now).

and so on...

Knowing how your services help your clients on a tangible level will help you with your own marketing message, and in your networking situations.

Where are my clients hanging out?

When you are seeking out places to get clients, go where they already are.

That might be on Linked In, it might be in a Facebook group, it might be at a local event, or you might have to travel to an event.

The key is to go and seek them out where they already are. Why? Because chances are they are hanging out with their colleagues (like we do in the VA groups). And wherever they are, they are probably talking about their business - what they love about it, what they are struggling with, and what they need help with.

Professionals usually spend more time on Linked In for their business. Creatives might be in Facebook groups. Small business owners might be at local business event gatherings. Business coaches or speakers might gather at larger events.

The point is, think about who they are and where there are a large group of them. After all, we don't just ever want one client. We want lots of clients!

Then you just have to put it all together.

To find clients, you just need the answers to these three questions.

What do you do, how does it help them, and how you can get in front of them?

When you go where they are and build relationships with them, you learn more about what they need and you are in a better position to build service packages that are easy to sell and make sense to them.

If you are struggling, ask yourself these questions.

If you don't know the answers, that's the problem.

But with the answers, you are already more than halfway to new clients!

 

How to Get Your First Virtual Assistant Client

Are you still searching for that elusive first Virtual Assistant client? (or the first good client!?)

Starting your business brings excitement and anticipation. That can quickly be extinguished when you look for clients and don't find any.

The first piece of advice is to make sure you know your service offerings and your rates.

Clients want to know what you can do for them and how much it will cost them. Tell them. Figure out a clear way to convey this message. 

When you are searching for clients, if you don't know those basics, you won't be putting out a very confident message to those you are connecting with.

Once you know what you can offer and how much you charge, then it's really a matter of connecting with people who can a) potentially use your services, or b) tell people they come into contact about you.

That probably makes it sound like it's simple to get clients. It's not. It takes hard work and persistence.

Here are a few tips that should help:

  1. Talk to people about how you can help them. Be specific. Do not talk about being a VA. Talk about what you do to help business owners.  Whether you are talking to people online or in person, be sure to focus on how you help.
  2. Connect with communities - online or offline. Local business associations are great places to connect face to face with people to talk about business. Even if you want online clients, networking in person can do wonders for your business conversation skills. Live interactions often result in getting clients faster.
  3. Make your efforts consistent. Reaching out to a few people a day consistently will bring you better results. When you do, you develop good habits. You can tweak what you say, how you say it, or even fix issues with the actual services you offer. Connect with people every day and the clients will come.
  4. Check your online profile bios. Be sure that the message you are putting out there is the same across your profiles. When people connect with you online or in person, they often go and check you out. Be sure that what you want to put out there is what they see.
  5. Make a list of everyone you know that might be able to either use your services, or might know people who do. Strive to get a list of 100 people on that list. Reach out to them, a few at a time, to let them know about your business and how you help your clients.

Getting clients is about making connections. Once you have these basic tips in place, reach out to that list of people consistently - and add to it as you come into contact with other people. Creating a steady pipeline of connections is the key to getting clients - whether it's your first or your fiftieth.

3 Tips to Help You Find More Virtual Assistant Clients

Are you looking for Virtual Assistant clients and coming up empty?

The first thing I would ask is where (exactly) are you looking for them?

I come across this problem often – and VAs tell me they are looking ‘everywhere’.

I’m here to tell you that ‘everywhere’ is the wrong answer if you are asking yourself that question.

When you are in business, you always need to be on the lookout for prospective clients. That’s a given!

But looking 'everywhere' is a waste of time and not the same thing at all.

These are some of the responses I've gotten:

“I’m networking all day long and there are no good clients out there.”

“I spend all of my time looking for clients but I don’t have any.”

“I am ready to give up. All clients want to pay a VA peanuts.”

Have you ever said any of those things … or anything like them?

I have. I know exactly what it feels like to think those things. All three of them as a matter of fact.

But do you know what the problem was? ME!

If you are networking all day long and can’t find good prospective clients, you are looking in the wrong places.

If you are spending all of your time looking for clients but you don’t have any, you are not connecting in the right way.

If you are ready to give up because the people you are in contact with are cheap, you are speaking with the wrong people.

These are FACTS. 

New VAs often lack the ability to network and market their business properly. It is so worth getting some training or guidance on this part of your business. It will save you so much time when you know how to do it right!

If you have heard yourself saying or doing any of the above items, here is how to change gears:

Look in the right places.

Where are you looking? If you are constantly coming up empty, you could be looking in the wrong place.

The best plan is to determine who you can best support, and then figure out where they are and go there to connect with them. In the marketing world this is called finding where they ‘hang out’. Why? Because they are being themselves. They are asking for help or getting advice from colleagues and others in a public forum, whether that’s online or offline.

Look in the right places and you’ll find better prospects, guaranteed.

Connect with people.

Are you actually connecting with people when you are ‘out and about’?

If you are a lurker who is waiting for someone to come up and ask you if you want to help them, you will not get clients. You must speak and actually connect with them.

You have to learn the art of conversation – and practice it – a lot.

It's really just simple math - the more people you talk to, the more clients you will get.

When you have conversations with people about how you can help them, you develop really good skills in this area. Do more of what works for you, and do less of what doesn’t.

Talk to the right people.

Are you even speaking to the right people? If you find yourself educating people about what a VA is, you have your work cut out for you. I would cut bait and run from a group like that. It’s too much effort.

You have to find industries that are already working with VAs so all you have to talk to them about is specifically how you can help them. Trust me on this one, you will see success much faster when you do this.

I spent years trying to let people know how great hiring a VA was and I suffered low income as a result. I know what I speak of here! Focus on a great market that already uses Virtual Assistants. 

Struggling to Find Clients for Your Virtual Assistant Business?Correct these mistakes and you'll get clients.

Getting clients – good clients – takes strategy and action. If you know what you are doing wrong, take steps to correct it.

You can actually find clients by networking for just 15 minutes a day, if you are talking to right people, in the right place, and saying the right things.

If you need some help putting this into action, I invite you to watch this free training I did through Your VA Mentor: Goal Setting to Get Clients.

What You Need to Know About the GDPR (and Why!)

Is your business GDPR compliant?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock lately, you have probably heard about the GDPR.

The GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulations that are coming into effect for people living in the European Union (EU) beginning Friday, May 25, 2018.

Here is what you need to know*:

What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for anyone living in the European Union. (Which countries make up the European Union? Click here). The regulation also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU - so, wherever you live.  The GDPR gives control of their personal data to the citizens of the EU. They have the right  to know who has their data, why they have it, what they are doing with it, who they are sharing it with, and how to access it and delete it.

The GDPR actually came into being in April 2016, but there has been a two-year transition period in place. It becomes enforceable on May 25, 2018.

Why is it important?

The GDPR is important to residents of the EU because of the rights they will now have regarding their own personal data worldwide. It is important to those outside the EU because if you are collecting, processing or holding the data of someone in the EU and they have not consented for you to have it or use it, you could face stiff fines (up to $20 million pounds or 4% of your company's worldwide income). This is a law, and it is enforceable, so that is what makes it so important to understand. 

What kind of data is included?

The regulations include what is called "Personal Data". Basically, the main purpose of the GDPR is to protect the personal data of EU citizens. Personal data is anything that is identifiable to a specific person. It's not just about email addresses. It's about IP addresses of computers, names, addresses, credit card information, and more.

How will it affect my business?

If you are not connecting with or marketing to residents of the EU, you could be safe. However, this doesn't mean that you have EU customers. This includes your customers, your email subscribers, your website and blog visitors, anywhere you have contact with EU citizens is affected. If you are using custom audiences for your Facebook Ads, you will need to be sure your mailing list knows. And if you are using Google Analytics or Facebook pixels on your website, you are collecting cookies and that needs to be made compliant (for EU citizens) as well. 

The GDPR regulations are for data processors and data controllers. , etc. the basis of the GDPR is that it includes data processors and data controllers. The official definitions of these two are:

Data controller:  Article 4 (7) ‘controller’ means the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data; where the purposes and means of such processing are determined by Union or Member State law, the controller or the specific criteria for its nomination may be provided for by Union or Member State law;

Data processor: Article 4 (8) ‘processor’ means a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller;

Data controllers are you, and anyone else who works within your company who has access to the data that is being collected. 

Data processors are the businesses or services you might use to process the data that is being collected.

Simple example: If you have an opt in on your website, and you use Aweber as your email service, and you have Google Analytics activated on your website, YOU are the data controller. Aweber and Google Analytics are the data processors. Make sense? So your data processors are your ecommerce/bookkeeping systems (or services), your email system, etc. 

What do I need to do to comply with GDPR?

Review your processes and update as necessary:

  • Maintain records of the data you are collecting and processing (or having processed on your company's behalf). 
  • Make a list of those who are processing your company data for analytics, mailing lists, marketing, payment processing, online storage systems, web hosts, website, etc.
  • Ensure that you have proof of consent for personal email data (ie mailing list). If you can't prove consent, obtain fresh consent.
  • Implement a system for people to choose the way you can use their data (ie allow them to opt out of any and all forms of retargeting, marketing, segmentation, and communication).
  • Develop a plan to remove stale data from your company's records.
  • Be certain that your business's data processors are GDPR compliant.
  • Educate your employees, subcontractors and partners on your procedures if they are handling your data in any way, or provide a Code of Conduct for them to adhere to.
  • Update your Privacy Policy on your website to include GDPR compliant language (or add a special GDPR addendum to your existing Privacy Policy if you prefer and link it to your existing policy). Add a link to this page on every page of your website, and on your data collection forms (order forms, email opt ins).
  • Update your Terms of Service on your website to include GDPR compliant language. Link your terms page to your Privacy Policy page.
  • If you do use analytics or a Facebook pixel, install a notification (pop up) to tell people their data is being collected when they visit your site.
  • Ensure that your contacts are able to contact you easily if they have they questions about their data that you may be in possession of, or request for their data to be deleted from your possession ('the right to be forgotten').
  • Develop a system to handle a data breach, should it occur.

Get more information:

If you want the whole shebang in plain English, this is the best article we have found to explain it clearly: Varonis (Michael Buckbee): GDP Requirements in Plain English

Suzanne Dibble is a UK lawyer who provides excellent information about GDPR compliance. She has a free checklist here: http://globalava.org/gdpr . She also runs an excellent GDPR specific Facebook group (download her checklist to get an invitation to join it), where you can get specific help.  She also sells a GDPR Compliance Pack that provides all the forms you might need to become compliant, if you want a handy little package (the webinar is very helpful too!) 

The Bottom Line:

Whether you are actively marketing to EU citizens or not, these are good changes to make to your business. It probably won't be long before something like this is rolled out by other countries as well. Data protection is a huge topic of discussion in all areas of business. Don't avoid the whole thing and hope you don't get caught. Do what you need to, to become compliant. Know what data you are collecting, develop good procedures to handle, process and store it, and make sure your connections know that too, and you'll be just fine. 


Disclaimer: The Global Alliance of Virtual Assistants (GAVA) is not an official GDPR resource. GAVA is a educational website and blog, and the information contained within this site in no way constitutes legal advice. Any person who intends to rely upon or use the information contained herein in any way is solely responsible for independently verifying the information and obtaining independent expert advice as required to become GDPR compliant.

*Article sources: Suzanne Dibble (UK Lawyer), Information Commissioners Office (ICO), Varonis Systems Inside Out Security, Europa EU, Wikipedia (definitions),