Lesson 9: Network – on and offline!
Join networks: online and off – and engage in networking. Apart from the benefits of marketing your business and SEO enhancement of your site if the network offers links or a directory, belonging to a network of like-minded people gives you a sense of collegiality, opportunities for learning, and peer support – not to mention leads.
But do not rely on these networks exclusively for getting you work. You are still responsible for marketing your business and attracting clients. That’s part of being a business owner!
And whatever you do, do NOT advertise your services to other VAs there until invited! Even if you are a subcontractor. You join these groups to learn, have a sense of belonging, and to contribute. Job leads will come if you get known – and sometimes these groups will have email lists or days (with Facebook groups for example) where you can keep an eye out for requests for help. But please – do not join these groups and then start with the posts – “This is what I have been doing, I’ve just started my business, if you’re looking for XYZ then I’M your VA!”
Unless you are specifically setting up as a subcontractor, other VAs are rarely your target market. Once they know you they may refer work to you but do not go begging people for work who are likewise trying to market their services.
When you attend in-real-life networking events don’t become a business card shark – you know, the person who circles the room throwing around their card like confetti and collecting all the cards they can with no real engagement. Aim to connect with maybe two or three people. Find out what you can about them. Be a good listener. Don’t push your services to everyone in the room – sometimes this works – sometimes it can get you clients quickly but in my experiences that is only if that person is there looking for just what you are offering.
If I find something topical in the news that I thought might be of interest to one of there people I met at the function after what I learned about them, I’ll send it along with a note saying “Saw this and thought of you. I recall you said you were interested in ABC”. These sorts of personal touches make you stand out from the person who is clearly just fishing for work and not interested in connecting.
Remember being a VA is about connecting with your clients, being a partner in their business success.
The next event you attend you aim for the next two or three contacts and so on – and in this way you build your list – a group of people you have met and who know you, who you can begin to market to via your newsletter etc. But remember: with privacy legislation don’t just go adding people to your marketing lists! You need their permission first! If they give you a card with an email address on it this implies consent but you should always check!
© Lyn Prowse-Bishop – www.execstress.com