What to do when a potential client doesn’t know what they need

Annoyingly, you will regularly be contacted by people who have absolutely no idea what they want you to do. They know they need help, but they’re often so busy they can’t think straight and really aren’t sure of the best way to use you. You obviously need to fix this or you won’t end up doing any work for them at all!

I’ve been in this situation a few times. The potential client seems to think you’re a mind-reader who can see exactly how their business works, what they need doing and how you can help them.

How to help a potential client that doesn’t know what they need you for

Personally, I prefer to only work with highly organised people, but before I perfected my direct contact method (this is where I locate, research, qualify and contact people I want to work with), I used these techniques to help potential clients work out what they needed to outsource:

Technique 1

  • Ask them to write down every task they do over the next few days
  • Then mark in red everything only they can do
  • They mark in orange things that they’ll keep doing for now but might pass over to you later
  • Everything else on the list can usually be outsourced

They don’t need to colour-code everything of course – they can just mark or highlight the different things. I’m just a big fan of lists and traffic-lighting stuff!

Technique 2

  • Ask them to write down every task they do that takes longer than half an hour.
  • Then highlight things on the list they don’t like doing or don’t really need to do themselves.
  • Then write down things they want to do but don’t have time for – their wish list. These may include business development, trying new marketing avenues, giving their existing clients more value or attention, spending more time with their family, writing an eBook, developing a new product or service etc.
  • You can then either take care of their wish list for them or take care of their other tasks so they can tackle their wish list themselves.

Technique 3

Ask them some probing questions such as:

  • What things are on their ‘other’ to-do list? This is the long-term list of things they never get around to doing because work keeps getting in the way.
  • How many emails are in their inbox?
  • The one thing would they do straight away if only they had more time.
  • How they get their clients and whether they have enough of them.
  • Whether they do follow-ups with their clients, get testimonials or case studies from them, connect with them on social media, do feedback sessions or have any other relationship-strengthening processes in place.
  • Where they see their business in one/two/three years’ time and if they’re on track.
  • Whether they had a goal for this year – and if they met it.

Technique 4

Tell them that all their work can be categorised into £10 tasks, £100 tasks and £1000 tasks. Business owners who want to go to the next level need to outsource £10 tasks so they can focus solely on the higher ones.

£1000 tasks are huge business-progression things like connecting with business partners, strategy and creating courses. £100 tasks are (for me) things like marketing and creating content. And £10 tasks are everything else.

£10 tasks still need to be done – just not by them.

They should be focusing on the £1000 tasks and some of the £100 ones. They are totally wasting time, energy and money by doing £10 tasks.

** The numbers here do not reflect what you charge btw. £10 is a figure of speech, it’s not an hourly rate!

The core purpose of a Virtual Assistant

These potential clients need to think about what their core role is. What it is they actually do for a living, the value only they can provide their clients, and why they went into business in the first place.

Because a Virtual Assistant’s core purpose is to enable their clients to get on with what they do best.

People hire VAs because they want to make money, save money, save time and/or save their sanity.

Remember, after you give them the exercises you HAVE to follow up on them otherwise they’ll just wander off. So agree on a mutually convenient time to contact them, schedule it in your calendar and then do it.

My experience has been that they will still often disappear and you never hear from them again, so don’t be too disappointed if this happens. There is only so much you can do and actually, you probably just dodged a bullet!

You don’t – and nor should you – take on every enquiry that comes your way. If you’re not a good match then it will be a very stressful experience and it will knock your confidence. And you don’t want this to happen at the beginning of your VA career.

Use these techniques at networking events

Use these exercises to compile a handout for networking meetings. This will ensure you stand out and also demonstrate your problem-solving and marketing abilities.

The handout is especially useful if you’re at a networking event where you have to give a short talk about what you do – pop your questionnaire handout on each chair and then talk about how you help business owners level up in your talk.

Ask them to complete the exercises at home (or before/after your talk) and make sure your contact details are on each sheet!

Wanna nail every client consultation?

Your first client meeting can be a little bit daunting. But don’t worry because I have a checklist of what to say and do before, during and after your consultation with a potential new client.

You can find it here on my Downloads and Training page.




Hi Jo,

Thanks so much for these tips. I’m also just new in your space and been bingeing as well with the group posts on Facebook. I’m learning so much!
I just landed with a start-up hoping to grow with them. Looking forward to learning more from you.

Alcy xxx


Great tips again. I’m up and running and working my way through your site to help me get my first Client. Excellent advice.


I love you…

You give practical advice I can relate with in my every day living as a VA. Thank you so much for these.



Thank you very much. Looking forward to using what I learn from your handbook on how to get clients.


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