As we approach a new year it’s time to think about how you can increase your business and increase our clientele. In order to choose the best strategies for you and your business, you first need to define your specific goals. It’s not enough to say “I want more clients” or “I want my business go bring in more money this year.” How many new clients do you want to add to your business this year – 1, 6, 12? How much more income do you want this year – $1,000 more per month, $10,000 more this year? Write your specific goals down. Now you need to decide on the strategies to meet those goals. I’ve used many strategies but t there are four specific strategies I’ve found most successful.
1. Network in person.
Networking in person has always been a very successful way to grow my virtual business – particularly when I was new to the business. Many times virtual workers find this strategy challenging. They chose to work from home because they didn’t want to go out to an office or wanted to stay home with their children. So going out to networking events and having to find someone to watch the children when you do so may not be something you really want to do. However, until you establish your business, and if you want to continue to grow your business, meeting people in person will be immensely valuable.
People want to work with others that they know, like, and trust. Or at least others that have been referred to them by someone they know, like, and trust. The best way for someone to get to know, like, and trust you is to meet you i person. We can tell a lot about a person when we can see them face-to-face and watch their facial expressions, eyes, and mannerisms.
Even if the people we meet in person don’t need our services, they may know someone else that does. When I first started actively networking in person I only had a couple of clients. In less than six months I added another six client and within a year over a dozen. Those were all people I’d either met in person at networking events or people who had been referred to me by those I met at networking events. One of those people I’ve been working with for over six years now. I’ve also had four generation referrals (the initial person referred me to someone, who then referred me to someone, and that person then referred me to someone, and so on).
To find networking events, check with your local Chamber of Commerce for networking mixers. Online you can check meetup.com for local groups that meet regularly. If you can’t find anything, you can start your own group.
2. Network online.
Online networking can also be very successful. I’ve had some great clients I met online and never have met in person. It’s important to do this right if you want the best results. When you set up your online profiles, be sure to be as detailed as possible in your bio, description, education, and work. LinkedIn is a very good place to create a detailed online presence. There are groups you can join related to your specific skills. When you join these groups, share in the discussions and add value to the group. Don’t just promote your services. That’s going to turn people off if they don’t yet know you well.
When you do reach out to connect with other people in the groups to add them to your network, make the invitation personal. Don’t just use LinkedIn’s automated invitation. In the message let the other person know why you want to connect. You may say something like, “Hi Donna. We both belong to the Social Media Networks group here on LinkedIn. I saw in your profile that you specialize in Twitter management. I’d like to learn more about that. Let’s connect. Sue”. This message lets them know how you know them and that you’re interested in them – it’s not just all about you!
Other online networking can be done by joining appropriate Facebook groups and Google+ communities. Always reach out by sharing something of value – a tip, a short report, your current blog post, etc.
3. Ask for referrals.
Most of my clients are word-of-mouth referrals. Don’t underestimate the value of referrals. You may be hesitant to ask for referrals. But if you’ve done a great job for your clients, you’ll find they want to refer you. Let your clients know that your business is based on referrals and ask if they would mind referring you to someone they know. I don’t pay for referrals but I have offered a discount on a client’s fee for a referral. Plan to ask your clients every six months if they know of anyone they can refer.
4. Work ON Your Business
This may be the most important strategy you can implement to increase your business. Too often we get so wrapped up in doing client work that we forget to work ON our business. This is essential for business growth. I take time at the end of every year to work on my own business. Clients are informed that I’ll be taking time off and I put into place a backup plan if they need something urgently. During this time I review what worked best the previous year and what didn’t work well. Then I create a plan for the new year. Write a one to two-page business plan with your specific goals and the strategies you are going to use to reach those goals in the new year. Now is the time to find those in-person networking events and scheduling to attend one or more monthly. Update all of your online profiles. Reach out to new connections. Ask for those referrals.
These are just four strategies that have worked for me and that you can use to increase your business. There are many more. Take some time now before the new year begins to decide what your successful strategies will be and then put a plan in place to succeed!
I’m often asked to recommend tools that a virtual assistant should for their business. Here are my 10 favorite tech tools to use in my business.
1. Basecamp – https://basecamp.com/: This is a very simple, web-based, project management tool. You can store files and create task lists with due dates that can be assigned to different team members. You can share folders with clients or choose not to show certain files to clients. It also has a calendar. There is a free trial and the basic monthly fee is $20.
2. Dropbox – https://www.dropbox.com/: This is a file-sharing tool that can be synced with your computer. You can share links with colleagues and clients and invite them to a shared folder. It’s very easy to use and serves as a good backup for files. There is a free version as well as a more robust paid business version.
3. Google Mail, Drive and Calendar– https://www.google.com/: I use Gmail for all my email needs, as well as all of Google’s tools such as Drive, formerly known as Google Docs, and the calendar. With Drive you can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. These can be shared and downloaded. You can upload your Word documents and Excel spreadsheets also and they convert very nicely. The calendar can also be shared so other team members know your availability.
4. Skype – http://www.skype.com/: This free tool can be used to speak with anyone else who has a Skype account. For a small fee, you can make calls to landlines and cell phones as well. There is also video conferencing. There are also free tools you can use to record your conversations if needed.
5. Jing – http://www.techsmith.com/download/jing/: Jing is a free tool that allows you to create videos and take screenshots. This has been very usefuly in my virtual assistant business to show a client or team member where to find something on a web page or to provide instructions. Videos are limited to five minutes.
6. Evernote – http://evernote.com/: The free version of EverNote has been plenty for me. I can synch it across all my devices – computer, phone and tablet. I can keep track of notes and to-do items. My lists can be updated from any device and then synched so it’s available on all of them. There is also a great search feature. Now if a client calls while I’m away from my computer, I can just make a quick note of it in EverNote on my phone.
7. WordPress – http://wordpress.com/: If you don’t yet have a blog and, you should set one up at WordPress. It’s easy to use and the perfect way to show off your expertise.
8. EchoSign by Adobe – https://www.echosign.adobe.com/: The free version of this web-based tool has been all I’ve ever needed to get contracts sent and signed by all parties. The perfect tool for any virtual assistant who needs to get their contract signed quickly to commence work.
9. QuickBooks Online – https://qbo.intuit.com/: A great tool I use to track all my income and expenses. I can use it from anywhere since it’s a web-based tool.
10. HootSuite – https://hootsuite.com/: The free version of this tool is all you need to manage your entire social media presence from one place.
Using your Facebook business page to share your message is just one piece of the marketing puzzle. Of course you want to reach as many people as possible with your Facebook business page so your potential client pool is increased. A word of caution though – don’t pay to get more people to like your business page.
A business person I’ve worked with is Phil Wrzesinski. He’s a retailer in Michigan and always has great business advice – not just for the retail industry. He recently wrote a great article on growing your Facebook reach I want to share. It’s not often that someone in the retail industry ‘gets it’ so well that I’d share with my virtual assistant community. But Phil gets it!
Enjoy Phil’s post and please leave a comment at his blog!