One of the most common questions new virtual assistants ask is “How do I get started?”
What is the first step to starting your Virtual Assistant business?
Well to start you off I have to say the answer is not “It is easy and goes smoothly and happens overnight.”
The truth is building your business as a virtual assistant is no different than starting any other type of small business. You build it by hard work, networking, and sales. You have to get out and reach potential customers, people in your target market. Let them know who you are, what you do, what you offer clients and why people benefit from working with you.
Networking is one big way to start this out – whether you network in person or online. Personally, I believe in-person networking is how to start, not only will you meet people face to face, but you can really learn to practice and hone your elevator speech and get used to being in your own shoes and marketing yourself. Then you can take this skill anywhere – in-person or online.
When I started my business I joined a Business Breakfast Club, it was like a BNI and was a category based, referral networking group. We met once a week for breakfast and each meeting we had to:
- Introduce ourselves and share our elevator speech
- Go thru the business of the group (We had a President, Vice and Treasurer)
- Plan a larger event once every 12 months for all of the small groups to meet
- Someone would do a 10 – 15 min presentation on a topic that we could learn from
- Offer a referral to someone in the group OR share a tip
I got a lot of practice on my elevator speech and speaking to groups. This was worth the investment alone in the group.
As part of this process I did offer and receive referrals for business. So there would be people to reach out to and have a consult and determine if we were a fit to work together.
In my two year time with the group, I learned a lot about networking and best practices. If you are new to networking and marketing your business here are some tips you might want to consider… look at it as learning from someone who has been there!
- Have a few versions of your elevator speech ready and practice them – get comfortable in saying them. You will get better as you do it more often.
- Have a clear idea of who your ideal client is and remember this as you talk to people.
- Understand that not everyone will be a potential client, so don’t be in Sales mode for every conversation with anyone you meet.
- Look to network by learning about others… this way you don’t come across as salesy.
- Don’t go in looking to leave the event with more business cards than anyone else. Have a goal of making at least 3 – 5 good connections where you learn how you can each help one another.
If you are networking online within your social media networks – LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, there are some additional points to consider:
- Mix up your online groups – network with both peers and potential clients.
- Be aware of who is in the group. This is the most important tip -Don’t go in a group of peers and try to sell them on your services. These are colleagues not clients. Don’t treat these groups as possible clients and post updates that are salesy and promote you or your services/website. That is a sure-fire way to turn people off.
- Be yourself. Try to make your personality come across online by ensuring you write your updates as you speak.
- Do talk to people and network. Your online content cannot be all sales. Sales should be only about 2 of every 10 online updates – in each platform.
- See what kind of info they share and how. Check back for a few weeks or months to see how most people are using the group. Then follow suit. You risk alienating the group and your potential contacts if the group was made up of potential clients and not peers.
Networking can be a very powerful marketing tool for your business – if used effectively. Watch your activity whether in person or online and make sure you get the most from it by bringing something to the network table. And that something should not be any type of self promotion.
I believe that your own networking within online groups should be 100% sales and self-promotion free. Sell people on your advice and what you say – the link to ‘buy’ is your profile and the link to your channel online.
Have you any other tips for networking? If so, feel free to post a comment here and share.
Kathy Colaiacovo is a member of IVAA and has been working virtually since 2008. Her company Social 4 Business is located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, CANADA and specializes in Online and Social Media Marketing for service based Small Business Owners. You can learn more about improving your own online presence on her website www.social4business.com and feel free to download her free report the Top 7 Factors to Networking online to Attract Clients