Don’t Wait to Make That Connection

I recently hosted a conference for Virtual Assistants. When you plan an event, you call everyone you know to see if they want to attend, or if they can help or support you in some way.

At least I do!

It’s important to remember that everyone you come into contact with in your business can play some sort of role – to get the word out, to point you in the direction of great resources, to become your clients, etc.

Building your business depends on the connections that you make.

And yet, so many VAs I know don’t make those connections regularly. At least not consciously.

So at the conference, I kept making a point of telling the people in the room to really connect with the people they were meeting.

I will share four stories with you that I shared at various points during the conference:

1. In 2008 there was a VA Conference in Toronto that I attended. I remember I didn’t know anyone all that well. My son was 9 and my husband worked weekends so I brought my mom and my son with me to the conference. That allowed me to spend as much time with my fellow VAs as I wanted to, and not worry about my son. That conference allowed me to meet some VA colleagues in person that I had only known online. Many of those colleagues I am still connected to today – some are not VAs anymore, but they are still in my network. Erin Blaskie, Tawyna Sutherland, Mary Lou Ashton, Jamie Lee Mann. We had a lot of fun. And I also met Elayne Whitfield and Pam Ivey in person that year, who I would eventually buy the CAVA and GAVA associations from. So I am forever grateful that I decided to make that journey that weekend, because it was a very big part of bringing me to exactly where I am today.

2. In 2009 there was a VA Conference in Niagara Falls that I also went to. For that one, a new VA from Halifax contacted me to ask if she could stay in my hotel room because she didn’t know anyone coming. She didn’t know me either, so I’m still not sure why she asked me to share a room, but I asked my other roommate and she said yes. Kathy Colaiacovo came into my life that weekend and we became fast friends. We have actually become very close friends over the years, and we are also business accountability partners, as well as sounding boards for each other for all things business and personal. I am grateful that she asked to share our room, I am grateful that my other roomie said yes, and I am grateful for all the guidance and friendship she has given me over the years. This picture is of Kathy with Jan Whiting and Grace White, two other very special friends (and VAs!)

3. In late 2015 I decided to start doing some more local networking. I had mostly run my business from afar, seeking out clients that were in the US. I had bad experiences with local clients previously wanting me to work on site so that was my solution for that! But about two years ago I started networking locally again. I ended up going to Steve Lowell’s High Impact Speaking Showcase as a vendor, and I met Steve and Jayne Blumenthal and some other very solid local networking connections. We started seeing each other at various other events and relationships began to build. I continued to sponsor Steve’s events and I started to sponsor and attend many other local events as I built my new audience. When I hosted my own conference, Jayne and Steve repaid the favour and sponsored my event. That kind of support comes from continued connection.

4. I contacted Rhonda Scharf to be my keynote speaker for the conference because I had watched her for years. She didn’t even know it but I watched her build her consulting and speaking business. We never ran into each other at events, but I had an idea of who she was – at least I thought I did! When we finally connected – after I asked her to speak at my conference – we realized we had gone to the same high school a few years apart. I had not realized this – I had assumed she was from a different local Scharf family all along! But still I had watched her talk about business and write about business in our local newspaper and I knew I wanted to connect with her, but just never did. I was thrilled that she agreed to speak for my event. And now we are going to collaborate on some things moving forward as well. But this could have all started so many years ago if I only reached out to her. I never did, until this conference.

All of these stories are meant to say this: don’t wait to make that connection. Any connection.

It may not take root right away but there are people out there that you are meant to meet. You may not even know why at the time.

But what is important is not to wait if there is someone you want to meet.

I went to the VA conference to meet Elayne and Tawnya and Pam. They were pioneers in the VA industry and I was humbled by their knowledge. I followed them and knew that I could learn from them. 

Kathy stepped forward because she wanted to get to the conference. She reached out and it was one of the most important decisions of her business. She can trace more than $200,000 in revenue in her business directly back to that conference.

I made consistent efforts to connect with Steve and his people, and I met Jayne as a result. We have even referred business to each other. We have never worked together but as strategic partners we can effect each others’ business.

And I look forward to collaborating with Rhonda. I can’t imagine what would have been if I had only reached out years earlier when I saw her weekly column in our local newspaper. We have so much in common and I feel like we have a really awesome relationship brewing.

These are just a few of the people I have connected with. There are literally hundreds of others that have also become important in my life and my business, and hundreds of others that could become equally important at one time or another.

Don’t wait to make your connections. Look for the quality ones and you will reap the rewards.

I know you will, because I have. And I think it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give you!

If I can help you with your connections and building your business, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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Do You Dream Big?

Have you ever made a vision board?

I attended a workshop last week that was hosted by a colleague – it was called Grilled Cheese and Girl Talk. Why on Earth would I not attend such an event?! (you had me at grilled cheese!)

The workshop was put on for us to make vision boards. And they even fed us, courtesy of MLTDWN. Wow. So good!

I am not a creative person. I honestly have done so many personality tests and brain tests and my creativity is almost totally stifled by my logical side of my brain.

So I never GOT what it was to do a vision board.

I have never done one prior to last week.

Sure I set goals and plan strategies and I can make things happen. But they never happened for me in what I considered to be a creative space. They were logical, researched and planned strategies.

I used to get jealous of people who could dream of things and then make them happen. Make things pretty. You know the ones!

And the ones who had big dreams for their lives, and clear targets for their business.

Many years ago I attended a Mastermind weekend with my business coach in Maine. (ah Maine, I must go back, so beautiful!)

We did an exercise – a very simple exercise – where we had to make a list of 100 things we wanted in our life. Anything, that we could work towards. Things that we could build our business to bring to us.

I watched in jealousy as mostly every other person in the room happily scribbled on their paper.

I stared down at my paper. I had maybe 10 things on it. They all had to do with very immediate things – pay off my mortgage, get a new car, save for my son’s education. We had 15 minutes to do the exercise. I was blank.

Clearly I was lousy at this exercise!

We started to read the lists out loud – people were saying they wanted a jet, a yacht, to travel here and there, and all kinds of things that were simply not on my list.

When it came to my turn, I read my measly 12 things, and my coach asked me why I didn’t have anything more on my list. I had no answers. I simply couldn’t think of anything that I wanted beyond the simple things in my life.

He actually called me out and asked me, ‘Who told you, you have to stay so SMALL?’. It was a very uncomfortable moment. If I was a crier I would have cried. Thankfully I’m not so I just kept saying, ‘No one. I don’t know.’

Gah! What a memory. I hate that memory. I felt really small then, that’s for sure! I didn’t even know what I WANTED in my life. At least I couldn’t articulate it.

We talked it through, the whole group of us (gosh, masterminds are SO valuable!). We figured out I wasn’t trying to be small. I just wasn’t trying to be any bigger. I didn’t know how.

So the whole group brainstormed with me. What do you like to do? Hockey! Golf! Food! Travel! I don’t have a lack of interests … I just didn’t know how to turn those into dreams or plans.

Here is what we came up with: hockey – I want to see an NHL hockey game in each NHL arena; golf – I want to attend the Masters, and golf at a beautiful course in Ireland and Scotland; food – I want to go to Bobby Flay’s restaurants;travel – I want to take my husband and son to Paris for the weekend … and much more!

It was easy once I got some help and saw how to dream for myself.

I don’t want a yacht, or a Ferrari, or a jet. I do want to fly first class sometime and I’d love a car that is not 8 years old!

At the vision board workshop it was much easier to get back into that frame of mind of ‘what do I deserve’ and ‘what would be amazing’ because I had put myself there once before.

My vision board still looked crappy next to most others (!) but I still did it. Actually it’s not quite done. I ran out of time (overthinking, shocker I know!) but I will get it done and I’ll share it with you – once my conference is over!

I now understand how to do one and how to use it – who knew, all I had to do was learn what they were all about!

Dreaming big is very serious stuff – and take it from me, you do not have to be creative to do it. You just need to know what you like, and what would make you happy. That’s not so hard, is it?

If I can help you with your vision and dreaming bigger, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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Say No to Get More Done

Do you ever feel like you are running so fast that if you stop everything will crash in on you?

It’s like that scenario of having so many balls in the air, and if someone tries to catch one for you, they will all drop.

That was me, the last couple of weeks.

I have a lot going on, like most of us, and my life is busy and so is my business.

But it’s really not a good way to be all the time. You have to have ebbs and flows of activity. You have to be able to rest and then come back strong to work well.

I know this. I teach this. But sometimes I don’t do this.

I have a medical issue which I am having surgery for in a month or so, and so I have felt like the pressure is on to get myself organized before I have to be off for a couple of weeks.

I am also organizing a conference for Virtual Assistants, and that is consuming a lot of my time too (in a very good way!).

On a personal note, my hockey team is also in the second round of the playoffs and we have season tickets!

So with those few things alone, my days are busy.

But I also have very busy clients, and two of them are in launch mode for new programs. So the task list is quite full as well, and very full of details, at that.

It all caught up to me last week when I just didn’t have the bandwidth for more stuff to get crammed into my head.

One too many revisions to a work task, and I got upset with my client. I don’t usually do that. I’m the calm one. But this time I didn’t. I told her how frustrated I was with her expectations and constant changes. She retreated.

And that’s when I knew it was time to step back.

Not to say my client was right (she wasn’t!) but I knew I didn’t have the mental capacity to be calm and logical. And to top it all off, I had a headache all week, which I never get.

So I stepped back. I cancelled four things I had in my calendar. Some of them were work-related and some were personal.

I stayed home for almost four full days and did nothing. Absolutely nothing!

Well I actually went to the rink for a hockey game, but I came straight home (double overtime game, but we won!).

I ate well, I rested. I rested some more. I planned. I tinkered with some of my own work projects but I didn’t do anything for anyone else.

It worked!

On Monday morning I woke up rested for the first time in a very long time.

I had a clear vision of what I needed to do all week to get my tasks completed, and what else I could fit in without becoming too tired.

The thing is, I am not a stranger to self-care. I preach it! But I wasn’t doing it.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I know I will be off after my surgery, but what hope do I have of a quick recovery when I burn myself out before it ever happens?

The same can be said about anything in your business.

You must balance all the time. Up time, down time. Work time. Play time. Activity. Rest.

The body is an amazing instrument but it has limits.

Your business has limits too. You need the same kind of balance there. Up times, down times. Work times, reward times. Activity, rest.

If you are networking, keep these things in mind. You have to find new prospect and nurture the old ones. You need to find new clients and move the old ones on. You need to build in new services and you need to let go of old ones.

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do, this rhythm of business.

But you have to make sure to care for it – or it will not take care of you!

If I can help you with your business rhythm and getting more done, don’t hesitate to reach out! www.yourvamentor.com

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Getting Started is Hard

I have officially been in business for myself for 20 years.

I always remember it because I was 8 months pregnant with my son when I was leaving the office to be off for a while, and my boss asked me when I could get back to work. I worked for a local restaurant chain’s head office.

I sort of motioned to my big belly and said, ‘Um, having a baby here, not sure how you expect me to come back to work.’

And he suggested that I could do my work from home whenever I was able, and as soon as I was able.

He needed the work I was doing to continue, and he just said to track my time and invoice him. Voila. My VA business was born (though I didn’t know it at the time). 

It was an odd request but ended up being one of the best conversations probably of my entire life. He valued what I was doing so much that he wanted a plan in place to ensure it could continue.

And it did! When my son was 4 months old I realized I needed to get back to work and so I did about 10 hours a month starting then, and by the time he was 18 months old he was in daycare half days, then full days, then school. He is finishing his first year of college this month. Time goes so quickly!

But I digress!

Although I was very lucky to have someone like my old boss to help me get started, I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t end up applying for any type of maternity benefits, because I started earning on my own. I knew how much money I needed each month to contribute to my household and that’s what I worked under. I billed him at what had been my salaried rate per hour plus ‘overhead’, which worked out to $18/hour.

No business plan, no business sense either, and I just happily worked for him and billed the company each month.

I was super comfortable doing the work for my old boss. I knew it well, I knew him well, and I acted like I was in charge of it. I took charge of it. I told him what I would deliver and when, and I billed him. Just like a real business owner!

Fast forward to dealing with other clients. I didn’t have that same relationship with them. It was more difficult.

When it came time to grow my business, I needed more clients and my un-plan did not work. I didn’t realize it right away, but $18/hour would not cover anything that I needed to pay for.

I also tried to find more restaurant clients and realized all too quickly that other restaurants were not run the way my amazing current client’s business was run. They didn’t have any spare money to pay people like me. They didn’t understand the value of the cost analysis work I was doing. It was a hard sell.

It was an impossible sell actually. I could not find good clients.

To make ends meet, I worked as a contractor for a liquor inventory company with many bars in the city. I did inventory counts for restaurants and bars. I also travelled to help people open new restaurants. I contacted other chains in my city to try to avoid travel, to run the same kind of analytics for them, and they didn’t bite.

It was hard. I worked nights, weekends, holidays. I was chasing clients for payment. One client told me 5 times that there was a cheque waiting at the bar for me, and 5 times I drove into town and it wasn’t there. (I drove straight to his house on that last trip, and waited for him to write it out). I knew it was going to be hard to run a business, but I just didn’t expect that.

And finally, one night I was standing in the basement of a well-known hotel downtown, counting wine bottles in their wine cellar at 3 in the morning, and I realized there had to be a better way to make a living.

I loved being my own boss, but I wasn’t being a good boss at all!

I knew I had to change markets to make my business into what I wanted it to be.

I had to figure out how I could use my skills with a different clientele so that’s exactly what I did.

Getting started is more than just hanging out your shingle and starting to work.

It’s about honouring yourself, and what you want to do to be in business.

Getting into business and staying in business are totally different!

And that’s why so many business owners don’t stay in business – and so many VAs.

If you just do what others tell you to do, you basically are just in a job.

To run a successful business that stimulates your mind and that makes you happy and proud, you need to make the decisions.

Or I should rephrase that … you GET to make the decisions!

You decide what you do, where you do it, when you do it.

And – trust me on this one – when you act like a successful business owner, your clients will pay you for it. They will be happy to pay you for it.

When I changed industries, I was sad. I won’t lie. I love the hospitality industry. But I can’t build a business there. It’s not viable.

You have to figure out where you can fit, and where you can showcase your expertise.

So I looked into my own experiences. I had previous jobs in journalism, so I found a publishing consultant as a client.  I started doing transcription and meeting notes. I did training manuals and procedure documents. I built a great base of clients using different skills I already had.

I had training as an EA, and I put those to use for a referral to a business coach. I helped them with their client care and their on-site events (from afar!), creating their workbooks and doing their communication.

Then I took some business courses and marketing training. And I changed my clientele again. As I grew, my business changed.

For those clients whose EA I had been, we brought on someone else to manage that part of the business, and I moved into the marketing side. We grew together.

I started working only with business coaches. I loved what I could do with them and I have had a referral-only business since about 2009.

Finding your place is essential to staying in business.

So when I tell you to start with what you know, it’s because it’s the fastest way to get clients.

When I tell you to work within your expertise, it’s because it’s the best use of your skills.

When I tell you to learn what you don’t know, it’s because that’s how you grow.

And when I tell you to find an industry or a market that you can really serve and support, it’s because that’s where your business will take off.

I hope that gives you a bit of insight into my journey. It was not an easy start and that’s why I teach the shorter path now!

If I can help you on your journey, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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7 Simple Tips to Building a Sustainable Business

This week I am celebrating my 7th anniversary of Your VA Mentor.Onceuponatime

It’s very exciting, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should share my tips with you, for how to remain in business long-term.

They are simple tips, and they are ones that I have lived by over the last 7 years. Now granted I have not run Your VA Mentor full time up until now, but I have spent a lot of time and money keeping it in business to serve you – and I’ve done it by using the tips below! 

1. Start with your passion. Whatever you decide to do in your business, know that you will have hard times. You will face challenges. You will not get up and be excited to go to work every day. So you need to have a basic passion for what you are doing – a deep feeling that you know you are helping someone else have a better business, or a better life. When you know that deep down, you will find the perseverance to push through the tough days to the better ones ahead.

2. Be positive. It’s just that simple. You have to remain positive in the face of adversity – or when you are tired, which can be often when you are a business owner! Maintaining a positive attitude can be tough on your own, so seek out and build a support network. Find someone you can call when you are having a difficult day, or when you need to vent or even celebrate. Just because we work alone during the day doesn’t mean we need to do it all alone.

3. Be generous. If you are working with clients, get invested in their business. The more you become part of the fabric of their business, the more you can do for them – and the more they will do for you. That way in your normal travels if you notice something that could potentially be of benefit to their business, you will notice it and bring it to their attention. There is nothing that can build your business faster than helping someone else to build theirs. Share your best resources when you are networking. People appreciate great resources no matter where you go.

4. Be yourself. Although it’s not necessary to cross our business and personal lives, I think it’s essential to bring your personality into your business. People will do business with you because they like you – so let your personality shine. It will be the truest form of yourself that you can be, and it’s so easy to maintain when you don’t have to think about who you have to be in any particular situation.

5. Be consistent. Consistency in marketing and message are the most important pieces of business at times. If you disappear for months at a time because you get busy doing client work, you will have to work that much harder to get back into the minds of your potential clients. Whatever you are doing to network or market your business, make sure it is manageable so that you can keep it up. Visibility is everything, at all stages of your business.

6. Get support. If you don’t know how to do something, you must learn how to do it, or get someone to do it for you. If you consistently try to teach yourself every last thing in your business, you will lose valuable time which should be spent networking, looking for new clients, or working with your existing clients. Getting support can be outsourcing some of your own tasks, or it can be your personal development through training or coaching. I highly recommend implementing some of each in your business. It just takes a little planning and you will see results in all areas!

7. Do what you say you will do. When you take on a project or a client, get the job done. Nothing will build your business like having happy clients. If you don’t like working with someone, then transition them out, but always complete your tasks to the best of your ability. When you do this for others, you receive the same in return.

I could go on all day, truly. These are simple tips but sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Sustainability comes from being stable, being yourself, and consistently marketing and networking – and from not trying to do it all yourself.

No matter what size your business is, you simply can’t do it all and remain in business long-term. Either lack of revenue or burnout will get you in the end.

We think we have to do everything ourselves and we end up getting far less accomplished than we expect to.

We end up not having enough clients because we are too busy doing things that aren’t bringing in any money.

Start with a few simple tips like this, and implement them one at a time.

When you determine your passion, write it out and post it on your office wall, to serve as a reminder every day of why you are doing what you are doing.

Check in on yourself to be sure that you are maintaining a positive attitude. Find that colleague that you can buddy up with to support each other.

Don’t keep your tips a secret. When you learn how to do something or when you find something useful, share it with others. They will remember and respect you for it.

Share your personality in all of your interactions – with clients, in your networking – business is so much easier when you are not pretending to be someone else.

Never disappear. When you commit to doing something like posting to your Facebook page daily or doing videos, or writing blog posts or sending newsletters, do what you say you were going to do. If you need to adjust your schedule, do so, but always keep moving forward. People forget you when you are not around consistently.

Consider investing in training or coaching if you are stuck or struggling. If you have not done so yet, you don’t really know the value you can get from a good coach or trainer.

Be a good VA. Work within your abilities and complete work according to deadlines. Sometimes this is the biggest downfall of VAs who do not succeed. Give yourself a chance and others will too!

I hope these tips are helpful to you. Step back, look at the ones that could be impacting your business, and make a conscious effort to implement change.

You will see the difference it makes in your business – success is within your reach. Longevity in business comes from taking little steps in the right direction, every single day.

Take your first few steps starting today! If I can help, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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5 Reasons to Attend a VA Conference

Working as a solo virtual professional, we sometimes run the risk of having a little too much solitude.

Sometimes networking mainly consists of water cooler-type conversations with our colleagues, and then jumping back to client work.

That’s why it’s important to seek out opportunities to get out there in person.

Live networking events are a great way to have actual conversations with people. It’s a great place to learn and grow, and basically refine your art of conversation.

I am hosting the first VA conference in Ottawa, Ontario in May! Are you coming?

 The VA Conference in Ottawa - May 2017

The VA Conference will be a great place to connect with your colleagues and take time to work on your business (instead of just working in it!)

Here are five quick reasons for you to think about getting out from behind your computer to attend a live event:

1. Expand your network. By getting in touch with people face to face, you can come across people that you might not see online. When people gather at an event, the common thread is the event itself. Everyone is there for the same reason!

2. Improve your conversation skills. In this age of digital conversation (140 characters!), it’s nice to have long conversations with people about business and life. If you are shy, this can be a great place for you to practice your networking skills. Share best practices with your colleagues – you’ll be surprised what you will come away with!

3. Learn something new. If your event is a training session or a workshop, take the opportunity to learn as much as you can. Then come back and implement what you have learned in your business. Having someone present an interesting topic to you LIVE (where you can actively ask questions!) is a breath of fresh air!

4. Solidify relationships with colleagues. When we connect with VAs online, we can grow great relationships that usually turn into sounding boards for business or personal issues. Why not go and meet your friends in person, and really build those relationships!

5. Help yourself be better. Not only can you meet new people, learn how to articulate, build new skills and get to know your colleagues better, but attending a live event with people in your industry will really help you improve yourself as a business person. You will be focusing on your business – something many VAs do not do on a regular basis.  Kick yourself up a notch by dressing the part and treating yourself like a business owner!

Bonus Reason to Attend: I am hosting it! I’ll be running the mastermind workshop on Friday (an optional intimate event but you will want to attend!!) :) and I’ll also be speaking during the main event on Saturday about why analytics are so important in various areas of your business.

Attending a live conference is a fun, motivating and exhilarating experience. Ask anyone who has attended a conference in the past … they will tell you it’s one of the best investments they have made in their business.

For more information about this event, visit: www.TheVAConference.com

I hope to see you there!

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Where Are You Finding Your Clients?

Where are you looking for new clients?

This is something that I come across often – and VAs tell me ‘everywhere’.

I’m here to tell you that ‘everywhere’ is the wrong answer if you are asking yourself that question.

When you are in business, you always need to be on the lookout for prospective clients. That’s a given! But looking everywhere is a waste of time and not the same thing at all.

I’ve heard people complain:

“I’m networking all day long and there are no good clients out there.”

“I spend all of my time looking for clients but I don’t have any.”

“I am ready to give up. All clients want to pay a VA peanuts:”

Have you ever said any of those things … or anything like them?

I have. I know exactly what it feels like to think those things. All three of them as a matter of fact.

But do you know what the problem was? ME!

If you are networking all day long and can’t find good prospective clients, you are looking in the wrong places.

If you are spending all of your time looking for clients but you don’t have any, you are not connecting in the right way.

If you are ready to give up because the people you are in contact with are cheap, you are speaking with the wrong people.

These are FACTS. Getting New Clients

New VAs often lack the ability to network and market their business properly. It is so worth getting some training or guidance on this part of your business. It will save you so much time when you know how to do it right!

If you have heard yourself saying or doing any of the above items, here is how to change gears:

Are you looking in the wrong places? Where are you looking? The best plan is to determine who you can best support, and then figure out where they are and go there to connect with them. In the marketing world this is called finding where they ‘hang out’. Why? Because they are being themselves. They are asking for help or getting advice from colleagues and others in a public forum, whether that’s online or offline. Look in the right places and you’ll find better prospects.

Are you actually connecting with people when you are ‘out and about’? If you are a lurker who is waiting for someone to come up and ask you if you want to help them, you will not get clients. You must speak and actually connect with them. You have to learn the art of conversation – and practice it – a lot. The more people you talk to, the more clients you will get. It’s simple math. When you have conversations with people about how you can help them, you develop really good skills in this area. Do more of what works for you, and do less of what doesn’t.

Are you speaking to the wrong people? If you find yourself educating people about what a VA is, you have your work cut out for you. I would cut bait and run from that group. It’s too much effort. You have to find industries that are already working with VAs so all you have to talk to them about is specifically how you can help them. Trust me on this one, you will see success much faster when you do this. I spent years trying to let people know how great hiring a VA was and I suffered low income as a result. I know what I speak of here! Focus on a great market that uses VAs.

Getting clients – good clients – takes strategy and action. If you know what you are doing wrong, take steps to correct it. You can actually find clients by networking for just 15 minutes a day, if you are talking to right people, in the right place, and saying the right things.

If you need some help putting this into action, check out my training video: Goal Setting to Get Clients.

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What Will You Do This Week to Find New Clients?

Do you need a new client?

Most VAs will answer YES! to that question without hesitation.

But do you know where your next client is going to come from?

If you don’t answer that question as quickly as the first one, then you need to get a plan in place!

There are many places you can find your next client.

The best thing to do is to build a system into your business where you can find new clients easily in a few different places.

And then you need to network!

Online, offline, start getting out to events and really connecting with people to fill your pipeline.

If you talk to just 2 people a day about your business (and theirs), that is 40 to 60 people in a month. That’s so many leads! Surely you can get 1 client out of that many conversations.

So you have to start the conversations. And to get the conversations you have to start to build that pipeline.

getclientsIf you are just starting out, or if you don’t have that system in place yet, then here are a few ideas for you!

1. Ask your current clients if they know anyone who they might be able to refer you to. If you are doing a great job for them, they might have a suggestion. Some clients don’t like to give away the babysitter’s number, so to speak, but most will probably come up with a name or two.

2. Put a note out to your family and friends – let them know specifically what you do and ask them if they know anyone who might need your help (often our friends and family have no idea what we do until we articulate it well to them). Almost everyone can find at least one client this way!

3. Connect with your strategic partners – these are people who serve the same market as you but they don’t offer the same services. For instance, maybe a bookkeeper or a website designer might support similar small business owner clients, but you don’t do the same things for them so it’s an easy referral.

4. Connect with people in your social media groups. You should be posting to these groups regularly, so don’t just pop in if you have been a lurker and say ‘hey does anyone need a VA?’ – that is rarely effective! But you can reach out to specific people you have been in touch with before and ask them if they have a need, or if someone they know might.

5. Ask old clients (if you liked them!). Often I have parted ways with a client because our businesses went in different directions. An old client that you liked but maybe wasn’t a good fit at the time can be a great new client.

6. Seek out a local networking group if you are looking for a local client. Many times there are few, if any, VAs who go to those groups. You could corner the market, especially if you offer a service like social media management, which is a service that many small business owners need but often don’t understand or care to do for themselves.

7. Do a social media search. Hashtags and keywords are our friends. You can often find people who are posting that they need help by simply doing a quick search in a group or on a social media platform. These can be the fast way to cash because there is an immediate need.

8. Follow up with people whose business cards you collected at events you have attended. Follow up is the one thing that is statistically proven to get you clients. So many people attend an event, meet some potential clients and then never follow up with them. Reach out and reintroduce yourself, and see if they are looking for someone.

9. Join social media groups if you haven’t already. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Answer questions. Get involved in conversations.VA groups don’t count – your clients are not there! Find groups that have people in them who would use VAs – you can find groups for everything including services that those clients might be using that you can use too. Think outside the box!

10. Ask your current clients if they need any additional work. If you keep doing what you do for them, you can stay where you are. But if you have some new training you can even increase your billables with the people you are already working with.

How many of these have you tried before?

How many will you try now?

What can you do to get new clients this week?

Now you know where to start!

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What Will I Find If I Google You?

What will I find if I Google you?

As Virtual Assistants, our online presence is a very important part of our business.

People like to do business with others that they know, like and trust. And while sometimes this can come by way of referral, most times (especially when you are getting started), it will come from people checking you out online.

If you actually Google ‘Google Yourself’ you will find a lot of stuff about unwanted information and how to clean up your online reputation. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

What I mean is that when people are deciding whether to work with you they will seek out your online profiles – and you want them to be impressed when they do!

So you want to make sure that whatever comes up for you online is relevant, current and looks amazing!

Here are a few tips to help you ensure that you look professional and polished when people look you up:

1. Make sure your website, if you have one, is current and looks good. That’s not to say that you need a $10,000 website though. But if you have a blog, make sure you have current posts. If you have service offerings listed, make sure they are congruent with the services you are offering your clients now. It should be easy to navigate so that someone can find whatever they need easily.

2. Anywhere you have information that talks about you, make sure it is actually about you. Many VAs put in information about their business, services offered and so on, but in order for someone to decide to work with you, they need to know your personality is a fit for them. Make it easier for them by letting them find it – and always use first person language. You don’t have to give personal information, but you can say things like ‘I love to support business owners doing … I started my own business because … I use my experience from X industry to help ….’, that type of thing. Let your personality shine through in what they read about you.

3. If you are using any social media profiles, ensure that they are current and professional too. It’s not necessary to use your personal Facebook profile or your Pinterest account for business. If you have a profile that is not business-related, don’t include it in your business website or your email signature or other profiles. Connect the ones you do have for your business (page, LinkedIn, Google+ etc) so that people know where they can find you and connect with you. And decide where you will spend your time networking, and keep that (or those) profile(s) looking great.

4. When writing your content like blog posts or social media posts or even your newsletter, use your voice and your personality as much as you can. Conversational writing always gets more feedback and interaction than staunch business stuff. Not to say that you can’t be business-y when needed, but in general, this is another area that you should let your personality shine through. I love the quote from Oscar Wilde, ‘Be you, everyone else is taken.’ It’s so true. And it’s easier to be yourself than to try to be anyone else, isn’t it?

Working online can be such a great benefit in so many ways – we can connect with people around the world, we can work with as many clients as we want to – but the limitation comes with that personal contact.

Your online presence is really important to help people get to know you, like you and trust you. Be yourself, show your professionalism and polish, and you will be more than on your way to having an online presence that you are proud of, and that makes your potential clients stand up and notice you!

Google yourself, and see what you (and others) see – and make these simple changes where necessary!

You can check me out on my website, blog, and Facebook page!

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How To Start Conversations with Potential Clients

One of the things I see VAs struggle with is how to start conversations with potential clients.

Whether it’s online or in person, a simple networking conversation is something that can stop a lot of VAs in their tracks.

But when I teach someone how to start a conversation, a light often goes on.

Why?

Because once they know what they should be talking about, things become so much easier.

Here’s an example: You are headed to a live networking event full of potential clients. You prepare your elevator speech and off you go. The first person you meet introduces themself and then asks you what you do. You launch into a one-minute rehearsed elevator speech that they have to follow, and you don’t give them a chance to talk for a full minute. Then you get to the end of it and they say ‘Neat!’. Sound familiar?

It’s happened to me, so I know what it’s like.

Through much trial and error, I realized that while there is a place for an elevator speech, it’s not in an introduction to someone who doesn’t know you.

Here’s what I do instead …

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*photo credit Fox News

I meet someone and they say ‘What do you do?’ and I say, ‘I’m a Virtual Assistant, what do you do?’. The ball is immediately back in their court, and then I am ready to ask them questions.

They tell me what they do ‘I’m a financial advisor.’

And then I am set to seed my services in the conversation.

I might ask them if they have an assistant already.
I might ask them what they need help with in their business.
I might ask them if they are sending a newsletter or using social media, and what services they are using for these tasks.
I might ask them what they would love to have someone else do for them.

You get the idea. It becomes a conversation. And I’m in charge! I ask them questions and they answer. Simple.

I don’t need to tell them what I do because I can ask questions to get the real information I need from them.

Networking is nothing more than a conversation – and the more naturally you can converse with someone, the more comfortable you will both feel.

The best networkers are the ones who can talk to anyone.

I know many VAs who get nervous because they think they will say the wrong thing. But how can you say the wrong thing when you just ask someone questions?

Once I started doing this I felt so much better in every situation. I got far more information from my prospects. I learned about their business so much faster. And I got more clients easily.

And here’s the most important part to remember: if you want them to buy from you (or hire you, if you will) then you have to make the conversation about them.

New VAs instinctively want to educate people on how using a VA can save them time and money – and they often try to do this in an introductory conversation. And while it is true that you can save them time and money because they don’t have to hire full time help, it’s simply not the fastest way to get them to outsource their work to you.

Clients want to know two things:

1) What you can do for them (specifically), and
2) How much it will cost them

That’s all they want to know. They don’t actually care HOW you will do it.

So tell them!

For more tips on effective networking, click here.

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