Updated: Nov 5
Let’s face it… starting your own business is super exciting. I remember the feeling only too well. That rush of adrenaline when, after all the preparation and hard work, you are finally ready to launch your precious new business and get started!
For many of the people coming through VA Institute's VA Startup Program, they have a traditional employee background, so setting up a business is a whole new thing for them – and sometimes (quite understandably) there is a sense of fear and trepidation. Even some second-guessing themselves around whether they’re actually up to the task – all totally normal feelings I might add (and, yes, as long as you have the skills and background in the Key Services you’re offering, then you are definitely up for the task!).
And, after the initial flurry of activity leading up to launching their bright shiny new VA business, some VAs struggle with actually getting clients through their virtual door.
… and for some, this is where the panic sets in.
If this is you, I want you to take a deep breath, stop stressing, and keep reading!
First up, it’s important to understand that regardless of how beautiful your website and socials are, you cannot rely on them alone to magically bring clients in for you. Granted, you might be lucky and get some enquiries that turn into clients, but generally you need to be a little bit more proactive to build your business successfully.
Our research through our VA Institute survey tells us that the majority of VAs obtain their leads through word of mouth referrals.
Now, that’s really important to know… and I want to unpack that for you a bit further.
You see, the reason that word of mouth referrals are such a great lead source comes back to the fact that people generally buy from businesses or individuals they know, like and trust.
So, the obvious question is; how does anyone get word of mouth referrals or personal recommendations? The answer is pretty simple really… the more connections, the more opportunity for this to occur.
When you’re starting out, we recommend you make a list of all your connections (friends, family, past work colleagues and past employers) and then get out there and speak to absolutely everyone on that list.
Now, a lot of people make the mistake of triaging their list … separating those they think would be interested and supportive from those who they’ve decided would not be interested or supportive, and then announcing their business only to those they’ve deemed ‘appropriate’.
Want to know why that’s a mistake? Well, here’s the thing… you couldn’t possibly know ALL the people that each of those people are connected with, and even though they might not be interested, the often overlooked fact is that perhaps they know someone who would be.
Bottom line is that regardless of what you think a connection’s reaction will be, let them know what you’re doing. Allow those who know you to support you… give them the opportunity to cheer you on in your endeavours, and to recommend you!
And make sure you make it easy for your connections to check you out by providing them with a link to your website and / or socials.
Launching a business is very exciting, so it’s a perfect opportunity to shout it from the rooftops. You could send your contacts an email, a LinkedIn message, a personal invitation to ‘like’ your Facebook page with a short message about what you’re doing, or even send an instant message (WhatsApp / Messenger etc) with links and a bit of a story.
One thing is for sure, if you don’t tell people, no one will know!
Time and time again, when we do follow ups with our VA Startup Program graduates, we hear them recount how their first clients came from a recommendation or word of mouth referral, so it’s incredibly important to bear this in mind – and, don’t forget that if nothing else, it’s a FREE way to promote yourself!
Beyond that, here are a few more pointers that we often suggest to startup VAs:
Know who your ideal client is (or isn’t)… that way you have more of an understanding of who you are targeting and where they ‘hang out’.
Join online and in-person networking groups, and focus on building relationships rather than selling (which is an outdated sales approach that doesn’t work). Add value in those networking groups, and give generously of your advice when topics come up that you can comment on or contribute to. Your goal should always be to build a relationship, not sell your service/s.
If you are not sure about how to network effectively, or are challenged by the thought of going to a physical event, get in touch with someone who can talk you through it because it’s seriously one of THE best ways to gain client referrals.
Connect with established VAs… start local if you can so you can really build connections. Why? Because as well as building great connections, these VAs might have overflow work, or are approached to do a task that is not in their scope. If you know these VAs personally, they are more likely to know, like and trust you enough to pass work over to you.
Be active on LinkedIn and build connections with ‘ideal’ clients – again focus on building relationships.
Join free Facebook joblead groups such as Virtual Assistant Network (Australia) Jobleads.
Join paid joblead networks such as Find a VA.
Create a free profile on Upwork and / or Airtasker.
Set up a search on SEEK that will email you every single day with prospective roles.
In the early stages, commit to doing one thing each and every day towards lead generation, and don’t stop!
Spread your net far and wide, and don't make the mistake of relying solely on one platform for leads.
In summary, building and running a successful business requires a level of proactivity, which often comes down to being focused and never giving up. Yes, it's a numbers game, so use the connections you have to gather some momentum. The more people you know, the more connections you have access to. But remember that it's often NOT the people we know, but their connections!
Go out and get your clients... they are out there just waiting for you!
Also check out our YouTube channel with stories from new and established VAs who share their startup journeys -