Every VA needs to find clients, but unless you come from a marketing background, you’ve probably never promoted yourself before. In fact the thought may fill you with complete horror! Well I’m sorry to tell you that you may not like putting yourself out there, but people can only hire you if they know you exist! Worry not though, I’ve got you covered.
How to promote your Virtual Assistant business
A great way to get the word out about what you do is to go out and meet people. Even if these aren’t initially your target market, networking raises your profile in your local business community and people often refer clients to you later.
I sometimes go to local freelancing events and meetings and, even though there are other VAs in my local area, the other freelancers tell me I’m the only VA they know about because they haven’t met the others! Being around other freelancers also provides a place to discuss issues that your non-freelancer friends won’t have and to get free techie advice.
Read my article on how to network for more detailed advice, get my free networking info sheet to hand out at events from my downloads page, and sort out your elevator pitch so you can tell people what you do for a living.
2) Get some cool business cards
Get some cards that create a bit of interest. Make them stand out and add a strapline that creates a bit of buzz and discussion. I personally use Moo.com as they have some really cool cards and the design process is really simple.
Read this article I wrote on common business card mistakes and think twice about using free ones cos they usually look shonky as hell. You don’t have to buy loads, just order 50 at a time and Google ‘creative business cards’ to get some inspiration.
3) Pimp your email signature
Include any social media accounts and website URLs and consider adding a tagline so people know what you do (eg: “I give business owners more hours in the day”). My own email signature says I’m an ‘Anti-Chaos Technician’ which gets a lot of positive comments.
You can use lots of free and paid email generators now including Wisestamp and Hubspot.
4) Arrange meetings with online contacts
You’ve probably got loads of online contacts – people in your email address book, LinkedIn contacts, Twitter followers etc but I bet you’ve not met half of them. Make it your aim to meet two people a week (Friday afternoons are good so you don’t lose valuable work time), buy them coffee and find out more about their business and the challenges they face.
People do business with people they know, so market your Virtual Assistant business by getting to know your contacts better and staying on their radar.
5) Ask for LinkedIn introductions
I can’t stress enough how important LinkedIn is when it comes to marketing your business. It forms the main part of my DIY course as well as my guide on how I get my clients. Many of the trainees on my DIY VA course have gotten work just by having and using an excellent LinkedIn profile so it really does work.
In fact, if you’re not getting work from your LinkedIn profile then you’re definitely doing it wrong!
A good tip is to ask for an introduction. So if one of your LinkedIn connections has a first-degree contact that fits your target market perfectly then ask them to introduce you explaining why you might both mutually benefit from knowing each other.
If you think your profile is good but it isn’t leading to paid work, then consider having it audited by a LinkedIn expert to find out why.
6) Run a Google Adwords campaign
I’ve had some good results with Adwords in the past but it really does help if you not only know who your target market is, but you also research how to use Adwords! It’s like a dark art and quite complicated but Google often offer vouchers (you spend £25 and they give you an extra £75 for example) and they have a fantastic free help service too.
Keep an eye on your spend cos they sometimes mask how much they’re charging you.
7) Run a Facebook ad
Again, you need to research, know your target niche and read up on how to run a campaign. As with all your marketing, you’re trying to get your info in front of the right people so know who they are and get a targeted ad for your business in their face.
Facebook ads are way cheaper than Adwords and you can get your ad in front of some really specific audiences.
8) Run some Twitter ads
Twitter ads are awesome because you can put your ad in front of people who follow specific Twitter accounts. So if your target market are lawyers for example, then they’ll probably be following the accounts of the big law magazines, the Law Society and other professional bodies they’re members of as well as law conferences etc.
You don’t always need to blog and if you haven’t got anything to say and no time to write, then I wouldn’t bother. But blogging is great for SEO purposes (the consultant who wrote my Ultimate Guide to Local SEO recommends it) and a good way to showcase your knowledge and skills.
I have some case studies on my own Freelance PA website which show how I have helped solved the problems of my clients which demonstrate to potential clients how good I am at my job and how I work.
I also have a post called ‘Do you need a blog and what should you write about?‘ to help you. It even comes with 30 example blog post titles!
10) Print flyers
Get some flyers made then pin them up in strategic and specific places your target market might be such as co-working spaces, serviced offices and community boards. You could also take them to places you know your target market are going to be such as meet ups, exhibitions and other industry-specific events.
11) Use Twitter
Get a Twitter account and learn how to use it. I get a lot of referrals from Twitter actually as people say they can see that I know my stuff, I add value and I offer useful advice without asking for anything in return.
A Twitter presence also raises your profile amongst local business owners and generates traffic to your website. Use Buffer App to schedule static tweets and save time and keep an eye on people who follow industry-specific or local accounts such as your local newspaper, Chamber of Commerce etc.
12) Tap your business network
Market your VA business by contacting all your old colleagues, tell them what you’re now doing and ask them if they know anyone who might need your services.
Also contact previous work clients (as long as you’re not breaching any legal contracts), tell them what you now do and ask if there’s anything you can help them with. These are warm leads – you already know each other and you understand their challenges so are in a good position to help.
A lot of VAs first clients are actually people they used to work for or with.
13) Tap your social network
Tell all your friends and family what you’re doing, ways in which you can help people and ask them to keep their ears open for opportunities and leads. As with job hunting, the more people who know what you’re looking for, the more likely you are to find it.
Here are the three best ways to find your first client.
14) Scout online job boards
Look at companies offering part-time admin jobs and offer them a virtual solution instead. They might never have heard of a VA before and love that there’s no associated employee costs with using a freelancer.
15) Answer questions on LinkedIn groups
Keep an eye on discussions in the groups that your target market are members of (as well as local business groups) and post useful advice in response to questions. If you provide solutions to problems then you’ll quickly get on people’s radars. They’ll appreciate your generosity and will check out your profile.
16) Use Gumtree
Gumtree (Craigslist in the US) is a great place to post and reply to job ads. You can list what you can do for businesses as well as keep an eye on job vacancies to approach the company about your services.
Gumtree is also excellent for SEO purposes, so a free ad once every 4-6 weeks can help bring you up in local search results when your website is still in its early stages and isn’t being ranked yet.
17) Add your business to Google my Business
If someone types in “admin support (name of your town)” then Google will list you near the top if you’re listed on Google my Business because they obviously give preferential treatment to people using their services. You don’t have to provide your full address if you work from home.
18) Add your business to free online business directories
Although you’ll often receive a fair amount of sales calls from these companies wanting you to place a paid ad, a free listing in these directories will help your SEO ranking. In fact, any website like LinkedIn, Gumtree, Yell etc will have better SEO than your own website especially when you first set up.
Remember to update each site if and when your services change and always ask people how they found you so you know which sites are working for you.
19) Join your local Chamber of Commerce or Federation of Small Business
Not only are these groups full of potential clients, they also offer lots of networking events, talks and training sessions that will benefit your business.
Remember to claim the membership fee as a business expense.
20) Attend trade shows and exhibitions
If you attend events your specific target market will be at then you’re putting yourself right in front of a captive audience. Research the event to find out who’ll be attending (or exhibiting) if you can, take loads of business cards and work the room.
21) Exhibit at trade shows and exhibitions
This one can be expensive but also very effective. Having (or even sharing) a trade stand at business events is a good way to raise your profile and tell people what you do and how you can add value to their business.
22) Run print ads in local business publications or directories
People can’t hire a VA if they don’t know what one is or where to find one. Quite a few of my clients had never heard of a VA and hadn’t realised the service even existed. I’ve found that referred work can come from surprising sources but nobody can refer or hire you if they don’t know you exist.
23) Run print ads in your target market’s trade mags
As always, you need to target your niche wherever possible and put yourself in places where they are going to physically or virtually be. Address their specific problems in your ad and outline how you’re perfectly suited to help them or direct them to a place that does.
Your LinkedIn profile and website should demonstrate your relevant industry experience and have case studies, projects and testimonials as evidence.
24) Offer to write an article for your target market’s go-to publications or websites
This should always be a solution-based article telling the reader how to solve a problem they have. It could be a general article on what a VA is and how they help people, or an article on an industry-specific problem and how it can be fixed – so a way in which they can use tech to work better or how to organise their systems etc.
Share what you know for free and people will check you out.
25) Leave tips and advice on industry-specific forums and blog posts
People use forums to find answers so be useful and solve their problems. As above, if you share what you know and provide solutions (which is what a VA does for a living!) then you’ll get noticed and people will want to connect with you because they see you as valuable.