Even though this is written for a virtual assistant, you can apply these strategies to absolutely any business.
1. Hang your shingle.
Despite the easy-to-manage start up costs, there is some work and costs that need to be handled first. Get a website – while it doesn’t have to be a $10,000 job, it shouldn’t be a free website nor should it be something that looks like your neighbours kid did it in his spare time. Don’t be afraid of getting started. (Seriously – do what you can … just take a look at some of the examples from my 5 year old business to see what I mean)
Set up your social media sites. If you’re not sure where to start, grab a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. If you’re industry happens to be something that relies heavily on photos (think: photographers, graphic designers, crafters), add Pinterest to that list too.
You also need to start updating all these things. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT start by selling. Start off by posting some things that your audience is going to find educational or funny. You want to give them a reason to start to follow you.
2. Power search on Twitter
This is what worked really well for me when I started. I spent a lot of my time searching Twitter for people who used the term “virtual assistant”. Every time I got a hit, I checked out the tweet and if it looked like a hot lead, I immediately checked out their website to see what they were all about. At first, I would send an email that went something like this:
I’ll bet your recent post sent a flurry of activity to your twitter account. Please feel free to visit my website: http://www.mondaymorningva.com. You can pick up a copy of my free eBook Going Virtual that will help you determine how you can best use a Virtual Assistant. In the meantime, if you’d like to try our services, please accept this coupon for 10% off our services!
Shortly after this tactic (which worked well and I did snag a handful of clients), I started creating a template that had all my information in it, but was easy enough for me to whip up quickly to personalize the communication. These also did remarkably well. I’m sure most people realized that I didn’t type the entire thing up a few moments before sending it, but they appreciated the extra bit of time and effort it took to create them. They looked a little something like this:
The last version of these looked a little more like this. The main difference between these two is that the one on top was used in reply to someone who was looking for a VA, but who didn’t actually come to me first. The bottom version was used when people had contacted me and set up an appointment to talk about working together.
3. Word of mouth
Let your family and friends know what you’re doing. You never know who they might know. This is where I had the least luck but it may work better for you. This works really well for people you used to work with, especially if it’s in the same type of industry of the clients you’re going after. On that same thread, I’d stay away from working for family and friends. It often doesn’t work out the way you’re hoping and someone is going to be in an awkward position if they have to fire the other.
4. Plain ole’ advertising
You don’t have to be a big shot to start advertising. You can get crazy inexpensive ads on Facebook which not only helps you with your social media building, but it’ll bring the right people around your websites. I’ve had business cards for the entire time my business has been open, but for me this just didn’t work. I still recommend people order some, but try to keep the information as generic as possible so you can use it for a long time. Unless you’re doing in person networking, you just aren’t going to go through many of them.
Your turn: how did you get your first client?