Based on the number of VAs in the subcontractors group, I think we all need ideas about how to find clients. Can anyone share ideas? What do you do to find clients? What is your marketing strategy? Where do you seek them?
Finding clients...the Virtual Assistants forever enigma...Well, I think it depends on you and how you market yourself. I think that everyone has their area of strengths when it comes to marketing. I know that I'm really good at face-to-face marketing and social networking. What am I not so great at? Blogging to market myself...I have the hardest time scheduling to write at least one time a week. So, I find clients by using the things that I know that I'm good at and I continue to work on finding time to learn more in the areas that I need more assistance.
I have found the majority of my clients through promoting my website and by networking on various websites. Most of my clients have found me because of my website. So, if I had one piece of advice for fellow virtual assistants, it would be to develop a website and market it as much as possible!
Do you have your website highly optimized (SEO) or do you literally promote your site with links? Why I ask is because I think your system of pointing people directly to your site is better than waiting for someone to google it? Would you agree?
Regarding Web site marketing and optimization, I think you need to do both direct linking and SEO. A site that is well optimized to match your practice niche. SEO can get complicated so it helps to have someone help with the initial learning curve. I know Jason Murphy, one of our members has helped a few members get listed and ranked well in Google which has translated to clients.
I also worked the system as much as I could through elance, guru and odesk when I started out. I think it's a great way to find work if you are willing to creatively market yourself so you stand out from everyone else. Many people are directed to these sites to find help, so you shouldn't discount finding actual jobs on these sites. I landed my first Virtual Assistance job this way and still have them as a client to this day.
I promote my site with links and work some with SEO. It's something that I need to learn more about. Because I do most of the work myself by linking and self-promoting, I think I have been quite beneficial to myself! I only have one client who has found me by searching and all the others have found me through links that I have sprinkled here and there throughout the world, ha ha. So yes, from my experience (or maybe lack of when it comes to SEO) I think that self-promoting is often the way to go!
I would say networking. All of my clients have come through either networking or referrals, both online and local. The trick to networking is that you have to be active and visible in multiple locations. Although networking is a great, it can be slow going at first, because it takes time for people to get to know you, but the more you put yourself out there (and stick with it) the higher return you will see. Another benefit is that the only investment networking takes is time.
I do no advertising other than setting up profiles on various sites. So, I can't really say it is the best way or a fastest way to get clients. When I first started I attempted the usual avenues like, guru, elance, craigslist, etc. but it just wasn't for me. I no longer respond to RFP's or job adds, its just not my style. I prefer the clients to come to me instead of having to go out and search for them. The downside to this is that getting clients is a slower process, but the upside is that you get a better quality of client and because they sought you out (instead of the other way around) you have more leverage.
Thank you for the input. I agree completely with what you say. Elance et al are not what they used to be, and I have advertised on Craigslist only to get spammed like crazy by others selling their wares. Drives me crazy! Networking is the way to go for sure.
If anyone would like an overview of the Fast Pitch Networking site, go to http://www.thesavvyva.com/ and sign up with the opt in box. You will receive my free EBook. I believe this site has overtaken LinkedIn and I know it was nominated for a Web 2.0 award recently (maybe even won?). They have attracted extremely technologically advanced online business owners because they are so advanced with technology. check them out.
I will add my thoughts on this. In the beginning as any other new business it's about finding clients and using RFP's and job ad's is how you start. BUT - the key is to always be thinking and acting with the thought of not how can I find clients but how can clients find me.
So in addition to the RFP's and Ad you need to be heavily marketing your business so clients can find you.
I have been advertising my business everywhere I can think of including Universities and Nursing Homes. I had a walk around my nearest Uni one Saturday morning and saw that in their Print Shop they had a A4 plain sign saying that they did a typing service. I found their email address and offered my services. They gave me a price for outsourcing which I though was pretty fair. They took me on their "books" but said there really wasn't a big demand for the service. A week later I had a phone call saying that had some urgent work that needed to be done and was I available? I certainly was and was able to get the work back to him very quickly. He was happy with my service and have said that he will use me again when he gets more work in!
So my advise for getting clients is basically to try everything and anything and be to persistant.