In this four-part series, I have covered the first two topics associated with starting your own Virtual Assistant (VA) business, Part 1: Where do I Begin? Selecting your Specialty, and Part 2: Equipping Your Home Office. In this installment, I provide suggestions for marketing your business to build your clientele.
While working from home may be your ultimate goal, you may need to do some legwork to get the ball rolling. Here are several ideas to get you started:
Online job boards. Online job boards, such as www.VirtualAssistants.com are valuable resources for home-based businesses. Seek out more than one job board; the more visible you are, the more work you will generate. Remember to do your homework: ensure you are looking at reputable sites by searching for unbiased reviews or articles, and checking out the Better Business Bureau if you are unsure about a company’s credibility.
Scan job postings to determine if there is a fit for your skills. Apply only to those for which you are truly qualified, and respond as directed in the posting.
Next, post your own listing that potential employers can search. Make yourself easy to find by including key words that illustrate your professionalism and uniqueness. For example, any experienced secretary can type a letter in Word, but are you an Expert in the MS Office suite of products? Be specific about your familiarity and skill level with software programs. Program certifications may help you stand out from the crowd.
List yourself in the Yellow Pages. If you think the Yellow Pages has gone the way of the dinosaur, think again. There still exists a market that has not totally embraced technology. This is exactly the demographic that may need your skills for tasks such as typing, writing articles, making travel arrangements, etc. A listing in both your local business edition and online is another way to get your name in front of your target audience.
Join a local networking group. Join your local Chamber of Commerce or other networking group to market yourself as a viable resource. Create a professional-looking flyer to distribute at meetings or other networking events (if permitted). Find a group that matches your target market. You never know when someone knows someone…who knows someone…looking for your skills.
Canvass your local area. Small businesses are always seeking ways to increase sales without increasing advertising dollars. If you can create eye-catching flyers or interesting newsletters, perhaps the local florist, baker, or stylist could utilize your services to promote their business. Present a professional-looking sample flyer that sells you as a crucial element to their success. Ask if you can leave some business cards on their counter. And don’t forget to go back and refill the stock to track the success of your efforts.
Read the newspaper. And I don’t just mean the employment ads. Place an ad under Jobs Wanted; you may be surprised at the number of individuals and small businesses seeking help who don’t want or need a full-time employee. The Metro section may lead you to a new start-up business in your area. The Real Estate section may highlight a new senior living community, to whom you may be able to market your services. Don’t limit yourself; opportunities are all around you.
Ask for Referrals. One of the best – and easiest – ways to increase your business is through referrals. Surprisingly, it’s also one of the least used methods. If you did a great job for a customer, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals! If they can’t provide a referral, ask for a testimonial. People like to work with people they know, or someone a friend has worked with. Nothing lends credibility to a potential client like a referral from someone they trust.
Follow these simple steps and you should be on your way to building a lucrative virtual assistant business. The key is to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities everywhere you go and with everyone you meet. Join me for the fourth and final installment of this series, Modifying or Expanding Your Services, to learn what to do once your business has taken off.
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