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Take Three Steps to Get Your First Client

October 9, 2009

The #1 challenge new virtual assistants have is getting that first client. You know that if you could get just one client and wow them with your work that they will in turn recommend you to their friends. But how do you get that first client?

There are a variety of things you could do. Today I’m going to give you three different steps you can take to find that first client.

Step #1: Subcontract for an established virtual assistant. Find an established virtual assistant and build a relationship. Some virtual assistants need additional help from time to time and if you’ve established a relationship, they may call on when they need extra help. Be aware, though, that the rate as a subcontractor may be significantly less than the rate you would charge a client directly. This is to be expected since as a subcontractor you did not go out and find the client and are not directly managing the project.

Subcontracting is a good way to gain experience and make a little income. I strongly suggest you have some sort of written agreement or contract clearly defining expectations and rate of pay. I know virtual assistants who only do subcontract work and don’t want the additional responsibilities that come with managing the client directly.

Step #2: Trade or barter services. Especially in difficult economic times, many solo professionals are willing to trade or barter services. I’ve know life coaches, business coaches, massage therapists, chiropractors and other service providers that were willing to provide their services in exchange for a virtual assistant’s time.

If you could use one of these services, find out if they would be willing to barter. Again, this is a great way to get experience and may result in good word of mouth referrals. If the client is happy with your work, this is a great opportunity to ask for a testimonial to use in your marketing materials.

Step #3: Offer an hour or two at no charge. I know you’re wondering right now if I really just told you to give away some of your time without getting paid. Is that what I meant? Yes! However, I did not say you wouldn’t get anything in return. Let me explain.

You are brand new, just set up in business and have no clients, no testimonials, no proof you are good at what you do. So why would anyone want to hire you or retain your services for five or ten hours each month? But if you could get even one client, a glowing testimonial and begin your portfolio, then there’s a reason for someone to consider using your services. So how do you get that first client? Offer an hour or two for free.

Of course you still want to have a contract detailing the work you will do in that one or two hours. Be sure that both you and the client have the same clear expectations. Let the client know up front that you’d like them to provide a testimonial – if they are truly pleased with your work.

If you provide excellent service, you will find that the majority of clients who you gave an hour or two of time at no charge will want to continue using your services and will gladly pay your fee. I have never been disappointed with my return on investment when I’ve done this. I’ve found it’s very rare that a client uses their free hour or two and then never comes back.

Since many small business owners are still reluctant to use a virtual assistant and aren’t sure what we can do for them, offering a small amount of our time can break the ice. In my opinion, this is not much different than a business coach who offers a free report with the hope that you’ll then pay for the more extensive eBook or even pay for his business coaching.

If you’re reluctant to offer free services to someone you don’t know, you may find a friend or family member that you can do some work for to gain some experience. Of course, this can have challenges of its own.

So what step will you take to get your first client?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2009 9:16 am

    Hi Sue, in theory it is a good idea offering a free service in return for a testimonial – how many successful virtual assistants have done this recently? I would be interested in such case studies. I am all for bartering it is fun and can be beneficial to both parties. As for subcontracting that is also a great way to start out and very often lucrative if you are willing to do the hard yards.

  2. October 16, 2009 4:10 pm

    Hi Michele. Yes, bartering can be fun and over the years my husband and I have bartered several of our services. We each get chiropractic visits each month in trade for web work we do for the doctor.

    I’ve also used subcontractors to help them grow their business. One VA I subcontracted a client’s project to now has the client full-time as I decided to focus more on my coaching practice.

    Offering a few hours free in return for a testimonial has proved to be very valuable to the growth of my business in the last two years. In each case I received not only a testimonial but referrals to prospects that became paying clients.

    One of my coaching clients is brand new in the VA business and was willing to offer 3 hours of her time in exchange for a testimonial. I arranged this for her and the client has not only agreed to give her a testimonial but is now eager to pay her for additional work.

    Yes, offering a limited amount of time in exchange for a testimonial can be very valuable. It can result in referrals, paid clients, and gives the VA experience. Some prospects don’t want to hire a VA unless they know the VA has hands-on experience and this is a wonderful way to get started.

  3. November 30, 2009 4:16 pm

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    The sky is the limit.

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