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This is a question I get asked quite a lot by newer virtual assistants.
Is doing the [insert specific tech tool/system here] certification worth it?
Will it help me reach more clients/make more money?
And the answer, like most business answers(!), is that it depends.
I’ve written this post to talk you through some of the main things you need to consider when deciding if you want to invest in becoming certified in a specific tech tool/system/software. (Please note I use these words interchangeably throughout!)
Why do you want to be certified in this specific tech tool?
It may sound like a silly question, but before any investment in your business you want to get clear on why. What are you hoping will be the outcome?
>> More Clients?
In my experience, the label of being certified has not itself really led to more clients. There are a couple of related things that may lead to more clients though, but they’re not guaranteed. Does the software promote or recommend its certified experts? If so – how actively/visibly? You may need to ask around about referrals, but how easily can you find a list of certified experts from the home page? Is there even a certified experts page? Beyond that, being certified is unlikely to bring you more clients unless you get out there and make the most of your status.
>> Increase prices?
You will likely be able to increase your rates once you’re certified. However, it’s totally possible to increase your rates without being certified as long as you’re effectively positioning yourself in the marketplace. The main factor in increasing your prices is you owning the fact you’re increasing your prices and delivering value at your increased rate. If you’re terrified to increase your rates, it’s not magically going to become easy to do that once you’re certified. You’ll just find another excuse why you can’t or you’re not ready.
>> Want to better understand the system?
This one varies hugely from certification program to certification program. Some are extremely comprehensive and well structured and will cover, in detail, everything about the system. Others are a lot more superficial or focus on specific uses of the system. In my experience, the best way to become a total pro at your fave tech tool is to work with as many different clients as possible. Real world experience is always going to beat a course. Another way to gauge the potential depth of a certification program is to see if there are any prerequisites. Some, for example, don’t require you to have ever worked with the system before.
>> Boost your confidence?
So here’s the thing… once you’re certified, you’re still the same person. You’ve still got the same experience. You’ve still got to get out there and market yourself. You just now might know a little bit more about your tool, you might have a slightly improved support network surrounding it, and you have a badge for your site. So whilst getting certified is something to be very proud of because you did put yourself out there (and for many of us it’s the first time we’ve done any structured learning with assessment since school/uni/college), it’s not a magic wand and nothing (much) changes. Confidence is an inside job.
How established are you in your virtual assistant business?
This is going to vary a little bit for everyone. Some VAs burst onto the scene and within a couple of months have doubled their rates and are fully booked. Others take a little longer. Both are totally fine and totally normal.
If you’re brand new to your VA business, and you’re in the stage where you’ll do anything for anyone and you’re super unclear on what you love to do… then I would probably hold off on getting certified for a couple of months. Things change fast in the beginning. A new client, who uses a new tool, could quickly change everything for you and you don’t want to have tied yourself to one particular tool.
But once you’re out of that stage, and once you’re able to decisively say ‘no’ to things you know you hate, then it’s the perfect time to consider a certification.
I would also argue that if working directly with a particular tech system is accounting for 70%+ of your business, and you’re comfortably getting clients, you’re charging premium prices, then getting certified is unlikely to noticeably help you. I can certainly think of service providers out there who are top of their game in particular tech tools but who aren’t certified in them (even though they do have certification programs).
What are the perks to becoming certified?
Perks in certification programs vary wildly so you’ll need to check the details for the one you’re looking at, but some I’ve seen include:
- Facebook group or community for certified experts to network and support each other separate to potential clients seeing their questions(!). You may also get referral work from these.
- Increased affiliate commission % or other affiliate advantages (e.g. being able to offer a longer trial).
- Being on a page somewhere with all other certified experts. This usually includes the opportunity to tell potential clients a little about who you are, what services you offer and then links to your site.
- A nice little badge that you can display on your site
- The ability to use your official title in marketing (e.g. I’m a ‘ConvertKit Certified Expert’ and my wife is a ‘Drip Certified Consultant’) – sometimes you may not like the word they use though!
- The actual certification program itself (often delivered in a course format)
- Direct contact with their Support team
- Ongoing support to grow/market your tech system services
- Sneak peaks and early access info to developments within the software
- Discounts or free use of the software
What are the negatives to becoming certified?
None of these are negatives, but the less fun stuff of becoming certified may include:
- The initial cost for the certification (which can range from $100s to $10,000s)
- Any renewal costs associated with your certification
- The time it takes to work through the program and complete the assessment (and the emotional roller-coaster that brings with it!)
- Having to be a little more mindful that you’re acting as an ambassador for your chosen tech system
- Feeling like you have to continue to work with that system even if you’ve found something better(!)
- Potentially having to let go of existing clients who don’t use the system you’re certified in and who you can’t raise your rates with.
Getting certified in a specific tech system is a really great route for many virtual assistants to choose, but it’s not the only option for becoming the go-to expert. And even if you do get certified, it’s often just the first step to niching in and scaling your business. How you position and market yourself, how you package your services, how you diversify your income streams – that’s what’s going to make all the difference. Many people get certified and still struggle to get traction. It’s unfortunately not a magic wand.
If you’re reading this and you’re on the fence about getting certified in a specific tech system or if your fave tool doesn’t offer a certification program, I invite you to take a look at my new 5 module/week course: Rock Your Tech Specialism. I’ll guide you through the process from only you knowing you’re the best at your system, to everyone knowing that you’re the best and begging to work with you. Oh, and that also means helping more people, making more money, and generally feeling some truly epic work satisfaction!