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Top 20 Ways to Land Your First Client

Editorial Team

One of the most common questions new Virtual Assistants (VAs) ask is, “How do I find my first client?” That first client is so important—to build your confidence, your portfolio, and jumpstart your new career. We turned to the experts to offer you the inside scoop on building your business.

Here the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) brings you their top twenty suggestions.

1. Sub-contract: Get to know other VAs online or near your home and ask if they have any work to pass on to you as a sub-contractor in exchange for a reduced rate. This also builds your reputation, gives you valuable experience and may generate referrals down the road.

2. Generate and Submit Press Releases. Create press releases announcing that you have opened your doors, attained certification, taken a class, been elected to a position, added a new service, etc. Send them to local publications (newspapers, business journals, and TV & radio stations) as well as via online Press Release distributors.

3. Personalize your Vehicle with Signage: Using magnetic signs or vinyl lettering to post your company name, phone number, URL and tag line can help spread the word about your business.

4. Volunteer: When you serve on a committee, others get to know you and the quality of your work. They may be able to give you business directly or recommend you to someone who needs your help.

5. Respond to Requests For Proposals (RFPs): Check the RFP boards in IVAA and other virtual assistant organizations you belong to. That’s how many successful VAs landed their first clients.

6. Join a Local Leads or Networking Group: Choose a group that fits your personality and time schedule. Attending consistently builds relationships and referrals within the group. Make sure to refer back as often as you can.

7. Look to Your Own Personal Network: Most VAs will tell you that their first clients came from people they already knew or from a referral from an existing contact. Send announcements to your network and then follow up with personal calls and follow-up mailings. Let them know you have opened your doors and you are taking on new clients.

8. Create an Intriguing USP(unique selling proposition)andUse it Often: Utilize USPs in networking discussions, your IM “away” message, your signature line and so forth. Your USP should leave prospects asking, “Tell me more!”

9. Do Some Social Networking: Join LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, etc. Make time each day to post updates and reach out to people in your online social circle.

10. Attend Conferences (Online and In Person): Attending industry-related conferences (for the VA industry and for those industries you support) puts a face (or voice!) to the name. Use the opportunity to show your personality and professionalism.

11. Speak Free: Offer to speak to local networking and service groups (Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, leads groups, etc.). Speak on a topic you are an “expert” on and that will have relevance to your audience. Your first client may be in the audience listening!

12. Grab a Cup of Coffee: Find the local coffee shops where work-at-home business people go to get out of the house. They’re readily visible by their laptops and Bluetooth headsets! Introduce yourself, strike up a conversation, and exchange business cards.

13. Be Active in Industry Forums and Message Boards: Lurking won’t cut it – you must actively (and appropriately) answer questions posed to the group to show you know your stuff. Also ask intelligent and creative questions to start discussions. Don’t forget to put your biz and contact information in your signature line!

14. Attend Free Teleclasses and Webinars: Just being visible and asking intelligent questions gives the impression that you’ve been around a while and are someone to look at. Find a topic that interests you and would attract potential clients and join in!

15. Seminars: Host your own live or online seminar on a topic that you’re an expert on. Research what challenges your target prospect’s industry suffers
from and then host a free teleclass or webinar on ways that VAs (including you!) can “ease that pain.”

16. Blog or PodcastRegularly: Start your own podcast or blog. Your subject matter expertise will open dialogues with people who need your services or know someone who does.

17. Participate in Trade Shows: Set up a booth at a SOHO (small office home office) trade show. Be sure not to skimp. Have a professional-looking setup. Be friendly and offer a prize or giveaway in exchange for prospects’ contact information. Don’t forget to follow up!

18. Finesse Your Elevator Speech: Know what you do, what problems you can solve, and what services you provide so you can pitch yourself to a potential client on-the-spot!

19. Build Alliances: Align with other VAs to cross-sell services. If you specialize in graphic design, find a VA specializing in website copy writing to cross-refer work.

20. VA Know Thyself: Take the time to groom yourself for those great clients before they arrive. Preparation is key. Be honest with yourself and know your strengths, weaknesses, what type of clients you want and don’t. That will make finding your first clients easier.

You certainly can’t implement all these options at once, but why not commit to trying one each week? Some of these options won’t get your clients overnight, but they will lay a strong foundation for building a client base over time. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for help and advice. Networking with fellow virtual assistants is a great way to shorten your learning curve on your way to becoming a highly successful virtual assistant!

The International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) is dedicated to the professional education and development of members of the Virtual Assistance profession, and to educating the public on the role and function of the Virtual Assistant. Visit or call (888) 259-2487.