You’ve decided you want to become a virtual assistant (or a solopreneur or an entrepreneur).
You’ve created a business bank account and a business PayPal account.
You’ve chosen a few online tools to help you run your business smoothly.
So…where do you get clients to do all of the work that you’ve set yourself up to do?
Before I get into my suggestions, I’ll share how I got started, because that’s why I’m here, right? Right. Believe it or not, I signed my very first client on my very first actual day of business!
What in the world? How did I do that?!
Really, it was a combination of coincidence and opportunity. Meg Bateman is a social media manager and a former virtual assistant, and she’s not only the person who suggested that I consider becoming a virtual assistant but also mentored me and answered all of my many (annoying) questions as I worked on starting my business. (Thanks, Meg!) When I officially launched my business on August 10, 2015, Meg generously referred a former client of hers to me. This client had unexpectedly needed to let go of the virtual assistant she had and needed someone to step in right away. Meg thought of me and gave her my contact information, so there I was, sitting at my kitchen table in a t-shirt and athletic shorts, setting everything up to electronically sign my very first client on my very first day of business! I’m hugely thankful that this client is still working with me today, a few years later.
While I’m beyond grateful that my business started out the way it did, it was a struggle over the next few months to get more clients. I was already between jobs when I started my business, and no matter how many hours a client wants, one client likely isn’t enough to earn you a livable income (because many clients certainly aren’t going to be able to afford to give you enough work for full-time income). I did find a full-time job a few weeks later, and I held that job for almost a year while I grew my business. Growing my client list was a slow process that did eventually explode, leading me to be able to work from home full time. So, how did I get from one client to 13? How did I grow my business in little spurts until it could sustain me? Allow me to explain three smart ways to find new clients:
Referrals are my #1 recommendation for finding new clients. Of course, the catch with referrals is that you have to have a client first in order to get any referrals from one. However, ironically enough, I’ve actually had someone who was not a client of mine (although we did do a call to talk about potentially working together) refer at least one client to me, in addition to Meg generously referring not only my first client but also two more clients to me. That being said, there’s definitely a possibility to get referrals without having any clients, but you have to have connections first.
There are some other key points to consider when trying to grow your client list through referrals:
- You need to be providing your current clients with high-quality service that makes them want to refer other people to you.
- You need to have a system for thanking your clients (or others) when they refer people to you.
Man, Leslie, why you gotta bring the party down?! What do you mean, I have to actually do things in order to get referrals?!
Yes, my friend. It’s sad but true. Referrals simply won’t work unless you’re putting in the time and effort to make your clients rave about your service and unless you’re offering your clients an incentive to refer other people to you. You can also send a token of thanks to someone who refers a client to you but isn’t a client of yours–it could be as simple as a note of thanks or a gift card for a small amount. Who’s going to want to refer you if you’re not holding up your end of the bargain?
I’ve signed at least seven clients (and honestly, probably more!) thanks to referrals. I also get a number of potential clients thanks to referrals. Thus, referrals take the top spot on my short list of recommendations for growing your client list!
I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Like most people, I’m sort of obsessed with it and find myself checking it constantly, but I also get really sick of a lot of the content that gets shared there. However, as far as business goes, Facebook is extremely helpful thanks to Facebook groups. I’m in a few different groups for Teacher-Authors, and I’m in a couple of virtual assistant groups, as well as a few for entrepreneurs and female business owners.
How can Facebook groups help you? They’re an invaluable networking tool, in my opinion. When I was simply blogging (in the holistic lifestyle niche) before re-branding my business, the Facebook groups for bloggers that I was in helped me launch the traffic to my blog like nothing had before, thanks to joining group Pinterest boards and adding my links to round-up requests. However, they’re also great places to find clients or network for clients.
My personal approach for finding clients in Facebook groups has been to simply scroll through the discussion boards and see if anyone’s looking for a virtual assistant or just having a conversation related to virtual assistance. When I find these posts, I often comment on them letting the poster (and/or commenters) know that I’m an editor and inviting them to email me to discuss their needs. Sometimes I skip them–especially when my schedule is full or close to full, so I’m not actively searching for clients, but also when I see that there have already been several other recommendations made. If you’re really needing clients, then by all means throw your name in there. It’s a decision you can make from post to post.
Another way to get clients is to look for requests in any virtual assistant groups of which you’re a member. I know that in the group I’m in, there are regularly posts for people searching for a virtual assistant for a client. Why wouldn’t those people be taking on those clients? Likely it’s because the particular services the client needs aren’t in their area of expertise, so they offer to help out the client by finding referrals to virtual assistants who can do those things.
And…wait for it…Facebook groups are a great place for your clients to make referrals. 😉 Some of my clients have tagged me in people’s Facebook posts, and I’ve both emailed with potential clients that way and outright signed some thanks to my clients tagging me. All in all it’s a solid way to grow your client list.
Uhhh…Leslie…I’m a virtual assistant. How am I supposed to find clients through in-person networking?
It’s true: My clients are all over the country. I don’t know where some of them live, but I know I’ve got a couple on the pacific coast, one in the midwest, a couple in the southeast, and a couple in New England. How did I go about getting some of these clients?
I attended a conference in my target niche.
In fact, it was the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference that happens every July. I did my best to let the teacher-sellers that I met know that I was a virtual assistant and, in many cases, explained what a virtual assistant is. I gave out as many business cards as I could, and I tried to do this without being pushy or salesy. I’ve never seen this before, but at this conference, everyone left their business cards on the cabaret tables outside of the session rooms, so I left several business cards among a few of the tables, too. Thanks to my in-person networking at this conference, I signed four clients, and one woman who picked up my business card off of one of those tables emailed me!
Another way to find clients with this method is to let your friends and family know about your business. They care about you and want to help you, so have them spread the word about your business. Although it was only a temporary arrangement, I actually signed one of my friends as a client for about a month-and-a-half to help her get through a project! This is also a totally viable way to spread the word about your business and help you find new clients.
With allllllllllll of that being said, here are your key takeaways:
- Referrals are my #1 recommended method for finding new clients.
- Facebook groups provide an easy way to network and grow your client list.
- In-person networking at niche conferences and through friends and family leads to client list growth.
One last recommendation: Courtney Chaal of the Rule Breaker’s Club has a Facebook group called Get More Clients Club. I’ve found it to be an excellent resource for common sense, down-to-earth advice about growing your client list thanks to Courtney’s posts and live streams (both on her own and with guests) in the group.
Phew, that was a long one! Thanks for hanging in there with me. Until next time!
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This post was most recently updated in March 2019.