One of the biggest challenges a Virtual Assistant (VA) faces is the perpetual need to find new clients. Businesses and individuals who hire virtual assistants are often looking for temporary help, and ongoing contracts can be tough to land. It’s a constant effort to bring in new and repeat clients.
I’ve been providing virtual management services for over 20 years and have worked with several virtual assistants. I’ve watched demand for digital services grow exponentially over the past few years, both globally and in Canada. Research conducted by The Creative Group Data shows more Canadian companies are hiring freelancers, and 66 percent of employers plan to increase the number of freelancers they use.
Evidently, there’s plenty of virtual work to go around. But how do we ensure we grab our share of it?
Before you do anything else, it’s really important that you have a website. The first thing people will do when they want assistance is search the internet. Plus, you’ll need to have somewhere to send leads to. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, just professional. If you’re offering website-related services you may want to get fancier, but even then you don’t have to do it right away. You can use a WordPress site with a blog template or create landing pages with a tool like Leadpages (or both).
How Successful Virtual Assistants Find New Clients
1. LinkedIn and other social media networks offer a place to both advertise your services and demonstrate your expertise through posts, publishing articles, and participating in groups.
Always go where your ideal clients are. For example, it’s great to join Facebook groups for VA’s, but if you want to work with self-published authors you’ll need to join groups they hang out in. Don’t be spammy, just be ready if someone is looking for assistance. I strongly encourage you to create a stellar profile on LinkedIn, it’s my number one source of VA leads.
2. Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to get more leads and convert those leads to clients. Virtual Assistants use email for newsletters, courses, sales funnels and cold pitches. Keep it legal by complying with Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL).
3. Networking events (online or offline) are designed to help you make connections and generate leads.
4. Business organizations, associations and networking clubs, such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce can be a wonderful source of leads. Small businesses may need an introduction to virtual assistance. Offer to give a presentation on the topic or just start talking to individuals.
5. Blog to demonstrate your expertise and to attract the right potential clients via search engines.
6. Guest posting has been reduced to a dubious link-building strategy in recent years, but its real value is in who reads it. Find relevant blogs and other content-based sites that accept guest posts, with relevancy being determined by the site’s reach into your ideal target market. Submit fantastic, unique content that demonstrates your expertise without sales copy.
7. Self-publish whitepapers, eBooks and other information products on topics that appeal to your target market. They can be used to encourage visitors to subscribe to your mailing list, generate traffic to your website, or become a new revenue stream. Information products can also demonstrate your level of expertise.
8. Testimonials should be on your website and posted periodically on social media. Scatter them around your site, rather than only placing them on one page. Make sure you ask clients for a written testimonial & reference letter. People have a way of disappearing online and their contact information can change.
References and testimonials can be from your “other life” as well, such as former employers. If you need references and testimonials, offer to help out a charity.
9. Referrals can come from current and past clients, friends & family, or anyone you’ve helped. A source that many overlook is other Virtual Assistants. Offer to take on their overflow or tasks they don’t like.
You can encourage referrals by offering a commission. Apply it to the invoice of long-term clients as a discount when you land a client they referred to you, or arrange to trade referrals with freelancers in complimentary fields and pay them directly.
10. Freelancer websites (like Freelancer) can be hit or miss and often the payment offered is low. They can get you started, however, and can turn into larger projects or repeated gigs.
11. Job websites can be a great source of leads, now that businesses are jumping on the opportunities offered by the gig economy. Indeed is a good place to look for legitimate Virtual Assistant jobs in Canada. When searching job databases make sure you also use task or project terms, as well as “remote position” or similar terms. You can try classifieds sites like CraigsList, but I’ve found more scams and laughably-low paying jobs on those sites.
12. Virtual assistant agencies can bring you a steady stream of jobs. It’s a fantastic way to gain experience and references. The pay can vary widely and you’ll probably earn more on your own, but the agency will usually look after the clients.
TIP: Make sure you’re ready for a response to your marketing efforts! Your website must be built to sell both you and your services, and you should have everything on hand to answer enquiries (such as a portfolio & references). Kick it up a notch with a video intro, skill presentations, industry-specific pitches, and anything else you can do to set yourself apart.
Learn more about becoming a successful VA in the post, How to Become a Virtual Assistant (VA) in Canada.
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