Finding clients (and keeping them) is the one thing you have to be really good at if you want to have a successful business. And it’s also the one thing new VAs seem to struggle with the most.
Today I asked my panel of experts what they wish they had known about landing clients in the early days of their business, and what advice they’d give to virtual assistants today.
Lisa Wells of Coast2Coast Virtual Assistant Training says…
The one piece of advice that I wish that I had known about attracting new clients is that not everyone is my ‘ideal’ client.
I know it’s hard when you are first starting out and you need money. Say you meet someone at an event who seems interested or someone sends you an email inquiring about your services and it’s really exciting! You tell them all about what you do, how you can help them, and when you can start… and you spend zero time asking yourself, “is this person my ideal client?”
My advice is to spend some time making sure you are marketing yourself to attract your perfect client. If your target market is in a certain industry, make sure your marketing materials reflect that. If you specialize in a certain skillset, such as graphic design or video screencasts, make sure to add that as well.
Because if your website is a generic, non-descript, “I help people save time” type of site, then you’re not going to attract the right person for what you do. So take a little time and make sure you are marketing to your target market – hone in on your niche so to speak – and you WILL find not only clients, but your ‘ideal’ client.
About Lisa: Lisa established her online business, Coast2Coast Business Support Solutions, after 15 years of working with people, helping them use computers to be more productive in their day-to-day work. She partners with entrepreneurs to manage and build their online businesses. Of her role as a virtual assistant, Lisa says it boils down to just one thing: “To free you up so that you can focus your time and energy on the things that only YOU can do in your business.”
Alicia Jay of General Transcription Bootcamp says…
An important thing that took me some time to learn (and I wish I’d known sooner) is that it doesn’t have to be a hard sell and that it’s about relationship building. I never enjoyed the sales aspect of my offline job before I started my virtual assistant business. But that’s what I knew of sales and getting new clients—what I learned in the offline world.
It took me a little while to learn that it’s more about getting to know someone and establishing that know, like and trust factor. Here’s what didn’t work too well: “I’m a VA. I can do XYZ. Do you need someone to do XYZ? I can do it!”
Meeting people where they’re at and relating to them on a more personal level worked so much better with attaining new clients. I realized that it could be as laid back as a conversation, seeing what we have in common, and often, what they need right now will surface. Then I’d step in and say, “I love doing things like that.” I could offer a solution to their problem without being pushy or salesy while at the same time establishing that I’m a real person who can be trusted.
About Alicia: Alicia specializes in helping service-based business owners leverage their existing content, saving them time and making them more money.
She works with coaches, bloggers, speakers, online business managers, and more.
Stephanie Watson of Virtual Assistant Moms says…
When I first started, we didn’t even have the term “Virtual Assistant” and in fact there weren’t even many people outside of professors blogging. But, the one thing I wish I had realized about attracting new clients is that I need to be very specific about who that customer is before I start attracting them.
Back in those days I focused on offline clients, but I wasn’t specific about which offline clients I wanted, just as long as I got some. This meant that some of the time my clients and I would clash. They would have a very different vision than I did, and even question my bills to them. Once I learned to identify who I want my ideal client to be, I stopped having those issues completely.
So, in order to attract new clients create a persona of your ideal client and make all your marketing messages directly to that persona. Let everyone you connect with know that you’re looking for that specific type of client. Then when someone contacts you who doesn’t fit that persona evaluate whether they’re right for you or not before accepting them. Remember, if you leave room in your schedule for your idea client you won’t have to work with people who aren’t ideal.
About Stephanie: Stephanie has been working from home providing services remotely since the mid 90s. She has worked as a Virtual Assistant, Community Manager, Website Designer, Affiliate Marketer and other online positions.
Stephanie provides content development, management and support for her clients. If it’s content related, she does it.
Loretta Oliver of Transcription Crash Course says…
When I first got started doing virtual assistant work and then later when I first started taking transcription clients I was so focused on getting *new* clients all the time that I failed to see the value of existing and repeat clients. I quickly realized what I was doing and hit reverse on everything. I took the time to focus on existing clients, make sure they were getting what they needed, made sure they were happy with the services they received, and asked them what I could do to improve their experience along the way.
Then I only took on new clients when I knew I had enough time in my schedule to treat them with that same kindness and respect, allowing me to keep a sort of balance between long term clients and new folks. I wasn’t always in “get clients” mode, and that was a big turning point for me. I actually found that by not being “open for everything” all the time I was getting a better quality client when I did take on new clients, building relationships that made sense and that were based on more than just doing work and getting paid – though, of course getting paid is always nice.
I suppose all of that to say that I wish in the beginning I had known more about finding and building those relationships instead of just finding jobs and paydays. Finding jobs is often quick and easy, but building long term relationships and finding amazing clients to work with is the gold in the bottom of the river. It takes a little longer, definitely requires a bit more effort, but the results are great and the experiences are priceless.
About Loretta: Loretta is a mom, affiliate marketer, writer, friend, cross stitcher, transcriptionist, blogger, wife, and finder of little boy’s lost shoes…
At Teleseminars Transcribed, her goal is to provide accurate and reasonably priced transcripts of all sorts. Her experience in the transcription industry has included work for insurance companies, journalists, internet marketers, large transcription firms, podcasters, bloggers, small businesses, authors, and even a police department investigation team.
Cindy Bidar (me!) of EducatedVA.com says…
This is without a doubt the most common question I get from new – and even seasoned – virtual assistants. Turns out there is no trick or magic client-attraction spell you can cast, but there are some things you can do to keep business coming in.
- Figure out who you want to work with. “Everyone” is not a market. If you think it is, you’ll end up far to scattered to be effective in your marketing.
- Network. Go where your client is – whether that’s online forums, LinkedIn groups, Facebook, or live events – and talk to them.
- Blog. When I opened my virtual doors (officially) back in 2010 I wrote a series of blog posts about how to use Digital Access Pass. Three years later I still get regular inquiries for help with that specific software.
- Build a mailing list, and when business is slow, a quick email with a special offer or simply a note that says “Hey, I have some hours available, what can I do for you this month?” can dramatically improve your cash flow.
Here’s something else that’s important though: always be marketing. Just because your client roster is full doesn’t mean you can stop blogging or posting to your Facebook page or mailing your list. By staying in touch, you’re keeping your name in front of those most likely to hire you later, when you need it.
Need more ideas for finding and keeping great clients? Grab a copy of 31 Ways Successful VAs Attract and Keep Clients. It’s full of fun, practical tips you can use to start or grow your virtual assistant business.