I like to keep up with new VA’s and I find forums a great place to go to read about the difficulties they are having, I try to create helpful blog posts from personal experience, based on their concerns, problems and overall difficulties they are having when starting out.
I came across a recent thread, basically where a new VA wanted to know how to get clients, let’s take a look at the context of the question posted on the forum.
“I just wanted to know from other people who have embarked on
this path, how did you go about getting your first assignments. Did you
post flyers and adverts or did you approach companies directly and
arrange a meeting face to face.”
There was also another question…
“I thought I could advertise my services in the local papers (there are two) and also target some of the businesses in the area, maybe go and see them in person. Do you think this is the way to go about it all? “
And here are a handful of responses…
“I would have thought getting hold of the Bar Association or whoever it is who can tell you where the one-man-bands are, then targetting them, or their meeting places, with business cards. Joining the Small Business Federation, the Rotary, the Lionesses, the WI, the Chamber of Commerce.”
“A good business card, a short cover letter and a smart suit goes a long way.”
“Contact your local small businesses, by phone or by calling on them.”
***Just to keep you in the loop, nobody actually addressed the question of how they actually got clients, e.g. “I got a client from doing this,” to me, the responses sounded more like those you get when you are looking for traditional employment.
Now first, let me tell you something, I don’t do offline networking, I dabbled in it early on when I didn’t know any better and got nothing from it. I did business cards, flyers, local adverts, newspapers and magazines, it was costly and got me nowhere. When I was printing my flyers I felt like I was putting myself in the ball park of a rock band trying to sell tickets to a concert, or advertising special offers on washing powder for the local supermarket… It just didn’t feel right to me as a virtual business owner, perhaps sending out the wrong message. After 3 weeks I decided that the only way to get online clients was online, and I gave up the offline networking entirely, as there was clearly a flaw, the offline local businesses were simply not ready for the virtual concept of hiring, they were sceptical, untrusting, closed-minded and couldn’t really grasp how it was possible – and to be frank, I didn’t want to waste anymore time, money and effort educating the offline business community. I started seeking clients online, and within a week, I was hired.
All the clients in VMF have come from sitting in my home office behind my computer. So I cannot say whether the suggestions on the forum will work, but from my own personal experience, they don’t. My advice is that if you try it for a month and if you don’t get a result, move on because it’s not a good return on investment.
Time for a wake up call.
Okay, so moving back to the forum thread, I was reading the responses, I was seeing a pattern emerging, that not a single person had suggested to this newbie VA any form of online networking, the fact is, the virtual world has literally millions of potential clients, and you can reach a much wider audience, in a very small amount of time, from the comfort of your own desk chair — doesn’t that sound better than wasting money on printing, time on getting all dressed up and introducing yourself to people like a door-to-door salesman, all to reach no more than a few hundred local businesses, who may have never even heard of a virtual assistant, let alone be ready and willing to hire one. The entrepreneurs hanging out on the Internet are actually searching for virtual assistants, they know what they are, they understand the benefits, they may have even already been working with them, the online market is primed and ready for you to make your entrance.
When you are creating your marketing plan, or client strategy, do whatever you feel is going to work for you, the best thing to always do is try what you think will work, then learn from experience, but keep in mind that the offline world is not as receptive as the online world, and no matter what your previous vocation, from a legal secretary to a marketing assistant, looking for your potential clients online, and sending an email is far easier, and far more likely to get a response than walking around the streets with flyers and business cards.
On a final note, I am not saying at all that it’s not possible to obtain clients offline, I am saying that the online world is quicker, easier, cheaper and infinitely more convenient!