I’ve received a lot of Q&A messages recently from social media followers. One of which is this. “Hi, Paul! I’ve bought your book, read it and even constantly await your new tips and ideas on your blog and social media. I’m a newbie virtual assistant. I’ve set up my virtual assistant business weeks ago. Setting up is easy, but I’ve been struggling to find my first client. I would like to know how to get your first client.”
The truth is my career shift, how I got my first client, and how I became a successful virtual assistant was “by accident.” I had no clue what I was doing back then.
A little backstory:
I started as Pa-ul(.)Net, a hobby blog where I shared all about my passion in contemporary arts, how I create my art, tips, and ideas on how to market art, and I even shared how I paid a part of my debts selling my masterpieces.
Blogging introduced me to many creative skills in digital media and online marketing which I’ve learned. This introduced me to many extremely talented and smart people within the creative digital space. Even though we only knew each other online - I started to build a lot of friendships with people, learn from them, eventually landing my first client, a reputable established psychiatry clinic in the United Kingdom as an admin assistant through their referral.
That referral changed everything for me.
One day, I received a Skype “invitation to connect” message from the client. I was interviewed, ask a couple of questions, and ended up being hired.
But I WAS SO NERVOUS and backed out twice.
I had never helped a client with admin assistant tasks. I do not have the experience yet in virtual assisting.
But then, the client was so kind. She insisted and proposed that she will train me. So, I grabbed the opportunity and offered a minimal monthly fee.
Bravely, I committed to working as an online admin assistant for two years. It had improved my skills in doing a multitude of tasks. Among other things, I got to meet a lot of people online like doctors and their patients. But I worked there solely as an inexperienced virtual assistant.
A month after, I changed my website to PaulHafallaCom to focus on my newly found passion and career as a full-time virtual assistant.
This whole thing still makes me giggle a bit. I got a referral from someone. I didn’t even offer any services to clients or know what to include and charged way too little for my first client.
How Can You Get Your First Client?
“Cool Paul, you have this inspiring story about your first client, how do I recreate that.”
Oh no, you can’t recreate that on purpose. That’s a matter of luck and a referral from a friend I’ve met online. But here are some ideas:
1. Network Offline
Why until today my business exists? Simply because of networking. The power of networking cannot be underestimated. Nothing will happen if you just stay over there or scared. I was like that an introvert, but then I changed it. Get out there and meet people. It’s part of the business.
One of the best ways to do this is to go to Eventbrite or Meetup and search for events happening in your area. Also, you may Google search for local business events. You can also join groups on social media that held events. Be active on other social networks where you can meet people like church, gym, or volunteer on charity events.
2. Join Freelancing Sites and Job Boards
Fiverr, UpWork, Linkedin Jobs, Freelancer, JobStreet, Guru, BestJobs are among the many freelancer and job board websites that you can join. I have written a complete list of these virtual assistant and freelancer websites on my previous blog post.
What to do? Sign up or register, create your profile, create gigs to offer, then start bidding on jobs or tasks posted by clients on freelance websites and apply on posted jobs on job board sites. Take note, there are so many freelancers bidding on the same job as you, so my tip is to start bidding low. Why? Your goal here is to establish a good reputation by getting more and more client reviews and testimonials.
A lot of clients read reviews before they decide to hire someone. So, start building your reputation first. Gradually, increase your bid as you develop a good reputation from testimonials and reviews of clients on those freelancing websites. Another important point to do is to impress the client with your cover letter message or task description. This must be concise and straightforward.
3. Reach Out to Your Existing Contacts
My second client was my sister, Anita. She started a photography business and knows nothing about digital marketing. I told her what we needed to do and why. So, I started building her a website.
When I say reach out to your existing contacts, it’s not just family, but also friends and folks in your contact list or address book. Message them on social media or shoot them a quick email and say, “Hello (first name). I started a new online business as a freelancer and/or virtual assistant helping people with digital or online marketing. Feel free to send my way, if you come across anyone who might need something like that.” Rewrite this message so that it wouldn’t come off spammy to them.
4. Create or Update Your Online Profiles
Besides manually reaching to people on your contact list, you need to update ALL your online profiles. Update your profile on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) and job board sites. Check your profiles and update information such as website, bio or about title and description, CV, contact details, address, work history, etc.
5. Be Active in Online Communities
Join online communities in Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups on the same niche, job board communities online, forums, or Q&A websites like Quora or Yahoo Answers. A potential client might be browsing for a question with answers from group members. The best answer to a question will always be listed on top, always be liked, or received more follow up questions. The client will remember this thinking you’re an expert, then will try to reach out through a message, and might end up becoming your client. So, do your best to give the best possible answer.
6. Work for Free
Did I just say “free”? Yup, I did!
Reach out to someone you know, offer to do something for them for free in exchange for a review or testimonial - if you have no clients, no experience, and no way of getting clients.
A lot of people are not convinced about free work, but most of the time you’ll get a yes and some no’s too - that’s normal.
7. Ask for Referrals
A while ago, I’ve mentioned some tips on getting more referrals. Ask for referrals to your family members, current clients, past clients, and people you met in social or networking events.
8. Reach out through email or phone call
Find a client that you are willing to help, let’s say a local chef. Use online browsers and search for chefs in your area, write all their information especially their email address and phone number, then go to the next pages. Write a compelling email letter or call them. Let them know what you’re offering and how it will benefit their business.
9. Partner with Other Businesses
One of the best ways to exchange referrals to drive business with each other is people with businesses in similar niches. For example, a web developer could partner with a marketing agency. The marketing agency can send out clients to the web designer and/or the web designer can refer marketing clients to the marketing agency. Be creative!
10. Be a Guest
Start writing an article for a blog with the same niche, host or be a guest on a podcast, and be guest on someone else's YouTube Channel. Reach out, offer some tips and ideas that will benefit their audience that is worthwhile, valuable, and relevant.
11. Set up a Landing Page with Ads
Not a lot of people understand how to create a persuasive ad, set up a landing page, or run ads to it - that’s why I’m not a huge fan of this. Paid advertising can be useful only if you know what you’re doing.
To get leads - create a quick landing page, explain what the client will get, add in the benefits of hiring you, and mention your price or price range. Send paid ads to your potential customers.
12. Go to Coworking Spaces
Spend a day or two in a coworking space nearby. Google search to find some today. This is a good place to network and meet people which might turn to be potential leads. Take note, most coworking spaces offer free coffee and free day passes.
13. Attend Conferences
A conference is a place where you might find potential business partners, meet people in your industry, and hopefully find new clients. Not only you’ll find potential leads, but also learn new ideas from speakers. Take note, not all conferences are created equal. I’ve been through a lot of conferences before. Some speakers are just rephrasing or paraphrasing topics that already been mentioned online or in similar conferences, but some are interestingly new ideas.
14. Follow Up with Past Clients and Prospects
We all have past clients and some prospects who did not hire us. Whatever the reason why they ended using our services, try to swallow your pride and reach out to them. Genuinely ask how they’re doing. It might remove barriers that had been placed. You might win their business back. But, if you ended things in bad terms, reaching out is not a good idea. But if there is a glimpse of hope - I will do it!
15. Hold Your Event
Sometimes it’s best to hold your conference because some conferences are not worth it as I have mentioned. You can speak, invite speakers, and gather people on your targeted audience. To attract people you want to reach, promote it as an event teaching ABC about (your services). You’ll be gathering a lot of potential leads in a room and it's a good way to meet people.
Offer Value to People and Be Creative
Depending on what services you are offering - aside from above, there are so many other ways to get your first client.
There are tons of other ways to get your first customer, and honestly, it’s going to depend on what kind of services you’re providing. Build a relationship with clients. Ensure to offer value. Always follow up. Reach out to new people you meet. Use up all your contact lists in search of your first client.
SO, WHAT'S NEXT?
Hi, I'm Paul. If you enjoyed reading this post you might like to check out:
Some tips on how to work with a client, or learn some ideas on how to keep your clients at my blog's homepage.
I would greatly appreciate if you could kindly share this article to people whom you know will be interested to read this.
Finally, subscribe to my newsletter to get a free sample page of my book and email updates so you're never out of touch.