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How To Find Your First Client Today, Using The Beta Testing Technique – With A Real Life Example

Michelle Dale - Saturday, June 18, 2011

I always say that the best way to start doing business, is to “start” doing business. Finding your first client is as easy as what I am about to show you below. We all tend to want to focus on what we consider to be our ideal client, and with good reason, by working with the ideal client you will become successful in many ways, but when you don’t have a single client, and you want to start putting everything into practise, sometimes you have to value the experience of “beta testing” over obtaining and dealing with the perfect, most ideal client from the word go — to be honest, if you’ve never had a client before in your virtual assistance business, all you can do is really speculate what’s ideal anyway… How do you know who is ideal in your virtual business? You can base it on your offline experience, but are those offline clients the right ones now, and are they adaptable to your new online business?

Sometimes going out and finding an immediate client, under more flexible circumstances, when you have never had a client before is a good exercise, it’s like beta testing a new product or service, test driving your new VA practise, and the results can be positive when you select the right kind of people to test on. I did this on my VA Apprentice Programme offering free and low cost places on the programme, to ‘select’ people on a ‘pre-launch’, prior to my ‘actual launch’, and it really works, I am so glad I did it. It was simply a way of testing everything, proving to myself it all worked and functioned correctly, it was a way of getting testimonials and that all important “Social Proof” and it gave me the confidence, so that when the time came, I could easily charge the full price I wanted to, because everything was watertight. I was ready to rock, and I got the experience I needed to be able to do it during that beta period.

On a recent post in one of my forums there was a VA needing to find clients quickly to raise some money, that’s life, sometimes we need money, it comes in handy… She was willing to work for a lower rate than she would under normal circumstances, with certain terms and conditions in order to obtain that money, within a restricted time period. In these circumstances, when a new VA decides to do this, they can use it to their advantage.

  1. They can go and immediately obtain their first client. I’ll show you how below.
  2. They can put their systems, and procedures which are set up in “theory” in their business into practice, so they know they work. Treat it like beta testing, not selling yourself short.
  3. They can obtain a testimonial, very important when you don’t have any. Social proof brings about a certain trust, and more client options and opportunities.
  4. They can gain confidence, just the act of taking in a client, and testing yourself is enough to increase your confidence, to go out and get the next one. There has to be a first time for everything.
  5. They can earn some money, as opposed to not earning any at all, or sitting around for long periods of time waiting and hoping for the “ideal” client to knock on their door, so to speak.

After I read that post in the forum, I wanted to use it as an example on how easy it is to just simply “start working.” So I sat down on my computer and decided that tonight, I was going to find a potential client, who would be a referral for the virtual assistant. I was doing this for 2 reasons, I wanted to help the VA, and I wanted to still prove to myself I had the ability to do this, for me, it’s always vitally important I’m always on my game.

The Beta Testing Technique

Of course if your business is booming, going well, or you have a steady flow of enquiries, or you simply don’t need to start working because your circumstances allow you to wait, you won’t need to do this, but if your situation differs from this, then it may well be worth considering.

Step 1: Find Your Leads

I used my “fast track method” of finding clients to get the lead from social media. If you would like to watch the tutorial you can join The VA Passport, no obligation to stay, and you get instant access to the tutorial, plus loads of other free very cool virtual resources. If you’re new to all this, and working online, find a few potential leads and choose the most optimal ones to begin.

Step 2: Investigate

The lead I found which I thought would be a good one, had experienced several frustrations which I know would make some VA’s potentially upset if they read his tweets, but I could see this guy had no real experience of working with VA’s before, he was frustrated with his situation, he may have been told some nonsense about VA’s by someone else, who knows, but when I looked at his website and his photo, I read his interactions between his followers, I could see that he actually looked like quite a nice guy, so on my instinct, I thought, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and see if I can strike up a conversation.

This was the tweet that had potential – before you rule out anyone who tweets like this – check them out and do your homework, most VA’s will pass these opportunities by, while others may see the potential and do a little background research.

Step 3: Make A Connection

Below are the actual tweets made, captured from my Seesmic desktop – I have kept the identity confidential. I contacted the person, informing them I was willing to help them, I had an element of flexibility that the other VA’s he found didn’t have. I wasn’t looking for business, I was looking to simply help him out with his virtual assistant situation — I admit I was also curious as to whether my instincts were correct about him.

The Potential Clients Tweets To Me

My Tweets To Potential Client

Step 4: The Correspondence

He emailed me, as requested on Twitter. It was a very simple data entry project, I could see where his frustration came from, so I gave him 3 options. The most expensive option was for me to do the task at $40 p.h, the second option was for me to refer him to a VA who would charge around the $20-$25 p.h mark for the task, and the third option was a suggestion to look on oDesk.com. I explained the benefits of working with a VA at a higher price point, as he indicated he was new to this and needed the advice. So I took a few moments of my time, and gave him his options, and what I thought was most helpful to him in his present situation.

Step 4: The Outcome

He was extremely grateful for the help, and advice I gave him, I believe he understood that I was genuinely trying to help. I had made contact with a potential client who could change his tune on virtual assistant services altogether now. It’s the element of humanity that people take notice of, it took me no time at all really, a few messages on Twitter and a couple of emails.

He chose to go with my referral option, (please don’t forget this was the aim of the exercise, I wanted a referral for someone else). The VA and potential client have since been in contact with each other, it turned out that he was in fact looking to develop a relationship with a reliable virtual assistant who he could delegate tasks to regularly, so don’t ever take the “1 hour” thing too literally, in many cases people may want to “test the waters,” but never indicate that up front. He has confirmed that he will soon be sending tasks her way, and was very appreciative, thankful and polite (I saw the email he sent to her).

This is the type of thing that could develop into a nice ongoing business relationship. If the rate you’re going to charge while beta testing is lower than you would be prepared to stick with, it’s very important to inform the client that it’s a limited period offer for X number of weeks/months and it will/could increase later on. Make sure the client is aware you are simply doing the sensible thing by testing your company’s systems and support, and that they were lucky to connect with you when they did, before you begin charging your standard rates.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, I have my business at a point where I don’t need to actively search for clients like this anymore — they come to me, knowing fully what I charge, because it’s on my site, I’ll either pursue or refer — my point is, it’s your decision, and not alienating people when you really need the business can work out in your favour, in a “very big way.”

I saw the potential in this lead, he was a newbie, wasn’t understanding the structure of VA’s and simply needed a helping hand, he was actually a very nice guy, and communicated well in his emails. As a result of this short back and forth on Twitter, he immediately told one of his followers about me, despite my $40 per hour admin rate which was over his budget, but that didn’t matter… He was still willing to tell people about me.

If you are out of someone’s budget, it doesn’t mean to say that they won’t still tell people about you, and it also doesn’t mean to say that you will always be outside of their budget – make the connection, see where it takes you. Sometimes we simply need to assist, educate, learn, try, be human, be helpful and see what the situation holds.

It’s your business, you can be flexible too, when any new product is launched, it’s tested, use this as an opportunity not to feel like you’re doing yourself a disservice, but simply doing what all good companies do, and “beta test” their new offerings :) If you’re new to online business and you really need the money, then do some launch offers, it could simply indicate you’re a new company and the potential client happened to “be in the right place at the right time.” The nice thing afterwards is that when you do get your full paying clients, you now have complete confidence in yourself and your services, because you’re “tried and tested.”

It’s your decision, but doing at least some business in the early days, when your VA practise is on the shelf, can often be better than no business at all, and also don’t be so quick to judge, as sometimes the person willing to help when nobody else will, can be the person who benefits the most…

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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