Starting up as Virtual Assistant is an exciting step but, the next (and let’s face it, the most important) step is finding yourself some clients. This can take a while, and it is easy to get a little despondent while waiting for that phone to ring, or email to plop into your inbox so, we thought we would ask some other Virtual Assistants around the UK how they came across their first clients, to help you on your way.
Family and Friends
“My first client was my Dad! He needed a basic website for his business, so I built him a WordPress site. It was great to be able to use that as an example of my work. My next client saw my business name at the bottom of the website and looked me up; they contacted me asking me to maintain and update their website for them.”
Family and friends are the first people you tell about your business so, it makes sense that many virtual assistants end up with them as clients. There are obviously pros and cons to this. For the most part, it works really well because you have your first client, you gain experience, you get paid, you can get testimonials and word will spread about your services.
Before you begin working with a family or friend, think hard about how it may affect your relationship; are they easy to get along with? Will they expect you to be more committed to them than your other clients? Money can sometimes be an issue, are they happy to pay your rates and will they pay on time? It can get very awkward if you have to chase them for money?
I have worked for my Dad in the past, and it worked out very well. I still asked him to sign a contract, that laid out how I worked and what was expected of both of us.
So, working for family and friends can be a great way to get started but, do ensure it won’t compromise your relationship with that person.
Previous or Current Work Connections
“One of my first clients was an ex-colleague from my previous job. I mentioned that I was setting up my own business before I left and I ended up looking after her online shop.”
Ex-colleagues, bosses or former employers can make great clients because they know how you work. They know the standards to which you work and how quickly you can get things done; they are actually the perfect people to sell your services to because they know what you are good at. Get in touch with them and let them know what you are up to, let them know what you can do for them.
“My first client was a coach who was delivering a seminar that I attended, I introduced myself then met her again three month’s later. She said she had been thinking about what I said and when would I like to start? I worked for her for four years.”
“I met my first client at a networking event, his business was growing, and he needed some support with his own businesses administration. He had never heard of a Virtual Assistant before and was very inquisitive. I had a call from him a few days later, and he ended up being my first client!”
Networking is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. People like to know who they are going to do business with; it increases the element of trust and people will normally choose those they have met, over those they haven’t. Remember people don’t just attend networking to promote their business, they are looking for people who can help them too.
“I was getting impatient and decided to go hunting for my first client on Twitter. I typed in ‘#Typing’, and a journalist came up saying “Help, I need somebody to transcribe some interviews for me!” I got in touch with him, and he is still a client of mine today!”
Social Media can be a good way to find your client. Ensure you have your business page or website set up so, if you do get in touch with somebody then they can look you up and see what you are all about. You can do searches for #’s and words on Twitter and Facebook but, also look for online networking pages and events, for example, #CumbriaHour on Twitter, where you can have conversations with people and get to know them. Do remember though it is social ‘networking’ not social ‘selling’!!!
Keep active on online forums and message boards, so people get used to seeing you and know who you are and what you do.
“My first work came from another Virtual Assistant I met on a Virtual Assistant conference. She was overwhelmed with client work, so she passed work over to me as an associate. It was a brilliant way to gain experience and bring some money in. It also helped me to feel more confident when my own clients started rolling in.”
What better way to get started than to work with another VA? As other Virtual Assistants build their businesses, many pass work on to other Virtual Assistants. This means that the client is still using their business but, they can cope with the work load and still meet the necessary deadlines. You will need to sign an Associates Contract with the Virtual Assistant you are working with, and there are certain rules you need to adhere to but, it is a great way to get started, earn some money and build your confidence in the process. Speak with other VA’s at networking events, conferences, on social media or on online forums to see if they need any help with their work load.
Elance, Fiverr, UpWork, Freelancer, etc.…
“My first client was from Canada! They found me on Elance.”
Many businesses (and individuals) use the above sites to get quick tasks done for them, things like illustrations, logos, blogs, proofreading and so on. These sites are good to get you started however you will be in direct competition with those charging very low prices around the world so you won’t be earning the amount you would normally charge. While some Virtual Assistants have had great success with sites like these; some have not and it is all down to personal preference. As I said earlier, it is a great way to get started, gain some experience and get your first work but, if you want to earn enough to make a living or get long-term clients, it may not be the right place to get all your clients.
“My first client found me in the Yellow Pages! Of all the adverts I had put online, he had gone to the good old yellow pages and gave me a phone call.”
Offline directories have not yet had their day! Yellow Pages still deliver to every house in the country, and many people do still use them. Get yourself in there but, also get yourself in the online directories; Thompson Directory, Yell and all the smaller local directories. These are all free, and they are good for your SEO too! There are some directories out there that ask for money, be very careful with these, some are legitimate and are very good but, others can be a scam so do be careful what you sign up to online.
A note of caution: If you do sign up to online directories it does open you up to spam email and sales calls.
Everybody finds their first client in a slightly different way but, it is exciting nonetheless. It is easy to get a little despondent while waiting for that first client but, with time they will appear. Just remember you will get out of your business what you put into it, if you work hard to promote yourself, get to networking events, socialise on and offline and put yourself out there then clients will start to appear. We wish you the very best of luck and look forward to hearing your story of how you found your first client.
Please do share with us your story of how you found your first client in the comments below.
Thank you to:
Susan Dyson – www.firststopsecretarial.com
Gwen Backhouse – www.curlewsecretarial.co.uk
And all the other VA’s who told us how they gained their first client.