Networking Archives - Global Alliance of Virtual Assistants (GAVA)

How I Landed My First VA Client

How I Landed My First VA Client

If you are still struggling to get that first Virtual Assistant client (or that first great client), this is what you need to do.

One of the things many Virtual Assistants struggle with is getting their first client.

There is so much anxiety around getting clients – especially that first one – that we can often be overcome and get paralyzed. And nothing happens.

We try to adjust our services. We try to adjust our rates. We apply for countless RFPs and hear nothing back.

Or worse yet, we take any work someone offers us because we don’t want to miss out on money – and we hate it.

The one thing that VAs who are struggling to get great clients are usually not doing … is having conversations.

Actually talking to people is what will get you clients.

It’s how I got my first client. And the one after that. And the one after that. And pretty much every client I ever got.

How I Got My First Virtual Assistant Client

When I was 7 months pregnant I was leaving my regular job. I knew I wasn’t going back because I lived outside the city and I didn’t want to pay for daycare and basically have my whole paycheque going to that and the gas for the commute.

My boss asked me when I could start working again, because the financial work I did was really important to him. He used to do it before I did, and he had only trained me. He knew I had the expertise and it would be easier to have me just do that work (and split up the rest of my job tasks to someone else) – and it gave me the opportunity to earn enough money each month to stay home and still contribute to my household.

A conversation about my boss’s needs and my needs got me my first client.

When I realized a bunch of years later that I was actually a VA, I joined CAVA and I got my ‘next’ first client by responding to an RFP. She was an editor in New York City who I signed after a GREAT conversation, and we worked together until I stopped doing VA work in 2018. She also sent me countless referrals over the years and became a great friend.

When I took my Virtual Events certification through VAClassroom (now FreelanceU), I started talking to my audience and connections about my new services – and I got another ‘first’ client. My first telesummit, that turned into another, that turned me into ‘Telesummit Girl’.

You see?

You will always be looking for a ‘first’ client of some kind.

Many of you are still looking for that actual ‘first’ client.

You need to speak to people in order for it to happen.

You will never know what clients need until you talk to them. Some of them you will be able to help, and some of them you will not be able to help. But then you just keep moving along to another conversation. The numbers are on your side.

The clients WILL come when you are talking to people about how you can help them.

And you will never get better at conversations until you start doing them.

I challenge you to make a list of people that can reach out to, to have conversations about supporting them. And then start reaching out to them. Build relationships daily. It is a great skill to build as a business owner, and one that not many VAs are using. Make it work for you!

To get more tips on networking to find clients, check out my free training videos on Youtube.

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in a many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here

How to Get More Virtual Assistant Clients through Networking

Improve Your In-Person Networking To Make Better Connections

Attending networking events is fun, and can be very rewarding, but are you making the most of your efforts each time you take time to go to one?

Think about your last five networking events. How many clients have you signed up? How many great connections did you make?

Virtual assistants sometimes avoid in person networking because so many of us are introverts. I always recommend learning to do it well, even if you find it uncomfortable.

Networking in person is one of the best ways to quickly build your VA business.

But when you attend a live event, whether it’s a casual meet up or a bigger event, remember that you are doing it for a reason – to get clients.

Now that doesn’t mean that you will go to an event and come home with 10 clients (wouldn’t that be great?). But you need to meet people who can potentially be your VA clients, and have conversations with them so that they know how you can help them with their business.

How do you do that? You need to have a strategy for every event you decide to attend. It might differ slightly from event to event, but you need to understand why you are attending, and know what you need to come away with.

Here are 5 tips to help Virtual Assistants strategically prepare for better results at live networking events:

1- Set a goal

The first thing you need to do is set a goal. That might be talking to a certain number of people, or finding a certain number of existing contacts and deepening your relationship with someone you already know, or collecting a certain number of business cards for follow up, or reaching out to someone for a partnership or referral. Your goal is personal and it’s up to you. But make sure that it’s very specific. By knowing exactly what you intend to get out of the event, you can better manage your time and activity while you are there.

2- Identify who is attending

You need to be aware of who else is going to the event. If there are no potential VA clients there for you, think twice about even going. Not all local events are good for you. Sometimes you can find out specifically who is attending if there is a Facebook event for it. Have a look at some of the people who are attending. You might even identify a few that you want to make a point of connecting with. Or reach out to them ahead of time and let them know you are looking forward to seeing them at the event.

3- Prepare conversation starters

The talking part is usually the most daunting part for VAs when networking. But it really doesn’t need to be. If this part stresses you out, consider preparing a few questions to ask people – ice breakers or conversation starters. Another idea might be to scan a few industry related blogs before you attend, so you can talk about those. There are so many great ways to begin or continue conversations, but sometimes it take preparing ahead a little bit, and it can be very effective to do so.

4- Know the answers

While you are having a conversation with someone, you will want to seed your expertise. We call it seeding because it is easy to do and is less ‘salesy’ than most VAs like to be. So when someone asks you how working with a VA works (for example) maybe you then ask them to give you an example of something they would outsource, and you can take them through how that might work. It’s relevant to their business and showcases your expertise at the same time.

5- Analyze each event

After the event is over, take a bit of time to analyze every conversation you had. What did you say that worked? What did you say that did not work? Did you get roped into a conversation you could not get out of? What could you do differently next time? Analyzing what happened and what you can change for next time is an important part of mastering your networking.

Networking is a necessary part of building your business. And with a bit of strategy and some preparation, you can make it work better for you, every time.

Take a moment now to look at your calendar. When is your next networking event?

Use the steps above to build a strategy for it. Figure out who is going, what you want to accomplish, and do your pre-work so you are prepared to have memorable conversations with the other attendees.

You’ll be more confident, you’ll make a better impression, and you might even find your next client!

For more great info about networking for your VA business, check out my free networking videos for Virtual Assistants on my Youtube channel.

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in a many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here

Avoiding Negativity Online

Networking online is a great thing. It helps you stay connected with your peers and can make working from home a little less lonely. However, there are some pitfalls to networking online.

On the internet you don’t have face-to-face interaction with people. You also have a larger amount of people to deal with at any one time. Most of the people you’ll meet are anonymous and this anonymity can often create a feeling of freedom in people. Meaning they may not moderate the things they say and often times may behave completely different to how they would behave offline. This can lead to a lot of negativity and often harshness.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid the negative situations that sometimes creep up in the online world.

#1 - Find the right networking group. If you love to visit a specific forum but find that you always leave there feeling worse than when you first logged in, it may be time to cut your losses and find a new group.

Some forums can be very exciting and fast moving but that also tends to draw a large variety of members. At the worst of times, people may get insulting or downright mean. This isn’t really a situation you want to be in, specifically when you need to stay positive in building your business.

The bottom line here is that if you don’t feel good, you should move on. Listen to your gut instincts about what you’re feeling and don’t worry if the specific forum seems to be “the place” to be – if the negativity is too much for you, you’ll be better off building your network elsewhere.

#2 - Read between the lines. Often times, when people write online what they say can be misinterpreted as “harsh” or “negative” when it may not be the case. Remember, online we can’t see people’s gestures or facial expressions so it may be worth not reading too much into what someone is saying.

If you’re in doubt you can always ask them to explain what they mean. You may find they didn’t mean to sound negative in the first place.

#3 – Find a mastermind group. Mastermind groups can be a comforting place to find support and build a strong network, as long as you choose a group of like-minded individuals. Researching and taking the time to find the right mastermind group is worth the time, as the right group may help your business grow in leaps and bounds.

A good mastermind group is worth its weight in gold. You’ll be able to connect with people who are positive and there to help each other. The negativity and playground games get left behind and you can get down to the business of building your business.

#4 – Ignore the situation. There is always someone who ruins it for others. Take the strength away from negative types by simply ignoring them. Enjoy your networking group and look over the few bad apples. With any luck, they’ll get tired and go find a different playground to spend time in.

#5 – Build yourself up. Negativity can be found everywhere we look for it. So perhaps it’s time to look the other way – to positivity. Work on yourself first by visualizing and living the life you want to live. Stay positive about your business and you’ll attract more like-minded people your way, making the negative ones seem insignificant.

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in a many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here

Getting the Most out of Business Events

networkingAttending business events is an important aspect of boosting your business's profile. Business events give you the opportunity to meet potential customers, clients, partners and more. It's important to keep in mind how to get the most out of business events as you choose the events to attend.

Remember Why - It's important to remember why you are attending business events. Knowing why you are attending will go far in helping you choose the right events to attend. Not all events will be right for your goals.

Don't Be Cheap - Take business cards that accurately reflect your business. It's not the time to get the free cards or to be cheap. Once you leave that event, all the people you make contact with will have to remember you from that card.

Be Prepared - Practice your 30-second elevator speech so that you can accurately, and on the spot, tell people what you do such that they understand what it is that you do. If you can come up with a memorable way to explain your business, all the better.

Take Control - They say that the person in the power position is the one who is going to put out their hand first and meet people. Not only that, it's important that you be the one to ask open-ended questions to the people that you meet. The more you let people talk about themselves, the more they will remember you.

Make Meetings Purposeful - Meeting fewer people is better than meeting a bunch of people that you won't remember. Try taking some notes on the back of each business card that you receive so that you can use that later to jog your memory.

Dress the Part - Each event has its own style, so it's important to do a little recon to find out how people normally dress. If this is an often-repeated event you can likely find photographs of others who have attended. For the most part, business attire is expected at business events. Dress to make an impression.

Be a Resource - One of the best ways to ingratiate yourself to those that you meet is to become a resource for them. If you can recommend another person to do a job for them, even if you can't do it yourself, they'll call you again.

Follow Up - After each event, always follow up with an email, note or card. Find them on LinkedIn.com, or other business-related social media. Googling people you meet is not stalking; it's going to help you learn more about them so that you can know how to approach them when it comes to getting business.

Evaluate Yourself - After each event, look back on your performance and write down what went right and what could have been better. This is an important component of any business event because it will make you better.

You cannot understand the value of attending business events unless you can understand the value of networking. You also need to understand the market you are in and the value that the people within that market place on business meetings.

There are so many different business events today to choose from, so be sure to do your homework before attending just any meeting. Find out if your target audience is there, or if there are people there who offer complementary products or services to your same audience before you bother wasting money on attending. If you do all that, you'll be successful at every business event you attend.

Networking Tips for Introverted Entrepreneurs

Written by: Milissa Harding

Although networking is an important aspect of building a business, many quiet-natured entrepreneurs cringe at the thought of attending networking events, and would actually prefer to skip out on going to another event instead of enduring the uncomfortable, awkward and sometimes "fake" atmosphere that many of us have experienced.  I know, because I used to feel this.  One of the reasons why introverted entrepreneurs dislike networking events is because there are simply too many people! There's the pressure to talk with everyone, get to know everyone, "work the room" and collect all of these business cards, but it can feel so inauthentic and pretentious.....UNLESS you know how to navigate the scene in the right way that feels good, and most of us haven't been taught how to do that.

This week, I want to invite you to let go of the need to interact with everyone you meet at a networking event.  You don't need to have a conversation with everyone. You don't need everyone's business card.  You don't need to end up exhausted and drained from trying to connect with everyone.  All you need is ONE.  All you need is to connect with just one person, and to feel good about that connection.  That's it.  Imagine creating a community over time of people that you have come to know very well, as a result of investing your time and energy wisely in those relationships.  I don't know about you, but I would prefer connecting deeply with one person at a time instead of casually getting to know a whole bunch of people. Here's how you do it...

1.  Before attending your next networking event, create an intention around how you want to feel during and after the event.

2.  Get clear around the type of person you would enjoy connecting with at the event.  This could be a referral partner, potential client, a service provider you need, etc.

3.   Remind yourself that you are focussing on connecting meaningfully with just one person at this event.  Of course, this doesn't mean that you're planning to ignore everyone else 🙂  , but having this intention will allow you to feel more in control and confident, which in turn will help you to enjoy getting to know this person much more.  Positive connections are key!

To receive the rest of the 5-part series on this topic of Networking for Introverts, sign up at www.embraceyouandyourbiz.com.

Milissa Harding is a Mindset Coach for Introverted Entrepreneurs. She supports shy and introverted entrepreneurs through her step-by-step system which shows them exactly how to grow a business in a way that fully aligns with who they are, instead of what they've been taught that they "should" do. As a result, her clients experience the ease, joy and success in their business that they truly deserve. Learn more at www.embraceyouandyourbiz.com

Effective Networking

by Lori Padgett

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a network is a “group, system, etc. of interconnected or cooperating individuals.”

Choosing An Event/Group

  • Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Notice the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Many groups will allow you to visit two times before joining.
  • Attend events consistently. Going just once every few months is almost a waste of time for networking purposes. Building business relationships takes time and patience.

Being Prepared

  • Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes you special or different from others doing the same thing. You must first have a clear understanding of what you do before you can articulate it to others.
  • Establishing and building relationships, not hard selling, is the key to successful networking. Be prepared to share your expertise and contacts.
  • Crucial to your success is that you treat networking as an exchange of ideas, information and experience. You are not selling or simply telling or “sponging” off of others for your own benefit only. Be generous in sharing your talents, experiences, and ideas, and always be respectful of those around you.
  • Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
  • Make people feel important, in order to make yourself important to them.
  • To avoid being tongue-tied when you try to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, prepare a self-introduction that is clear, interesting, and well delivered. It shouldn’t be longer than 8-10 seconds. Although practicing your introduction might at first seem silly and artificial, it will eventually help you make an introduction that sounds natural, confident, and smooth.
  • Dress for the occasion. This could mean dressing the way that your customers dress or dressing the way that they expect you to dress. First impressions are made in a matter of seconds.
  • Have your own name tag with business name made up – it’s inexpensive and shows professionalism. It also shows that you are prepared and pay attention to detail.
  • Organize yourself. Always carry a pen and paper with you during an event to jot down miscellaneous information that you may need to remember. (i.e.: a reminder to send a contact further information about your product or services). Never, never, never, write on a business card that a contact has given to you. Many people view this as disrespectful and bad manners, and you can never tell if the person that you have just met will be someone who views it this way.
  • Never leave home without your business cards!

Prior to the Event

  • Let preparation and practice be your guide. Spend some time planning your conversation generators.
  • In many networking events, you will find yourself with time to “mingle” among the other attendees before the formal program begins. It may be beneficial for you to spend some time planning and preparing how you will “work the room” to get the most from your efforts.

At the Event

  • Arrive early. It’s much harder to break in on conversations when you arrive late.
  • Wear your name tag on the right side to provide an easy sight-line to your name when shaking hands.
  • Not sure how to approach someone? Simply smile, nod your head, walk forwards with hand stretched out and say, “I just wanted to come over and say hello.” (Sounds daft but it works.)  Say your name clearly. “My name is (your name in full). It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
  • Approach and introduce yourself to people standing alone, or groups of three or more. When two people are talking together, there is a possibility that they know each other and are engaging in a personal conversation. However, their body language (i.e.: are they facing each other as they talk?), will give you a good indication if they are approachable.
  • Have an effective handshake. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of at least one “bone-crusher” and one “limp fish.” Practice your handshake to avoid giving one of those yourself! Also, always keep your right hand free, and hold drinks in your left hand to avoid cold, wet greetings.
  • Start with small talk.
  • Use an “elevator” speech: describe who you are or what you do in ten seconds or less
  • Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
  • Ask “feel good’ questions like, “How did you get started?” or “What do you consider a challenging project?” You will learn a lot about your contact’s business, while showing interest in them as a person.
  • LISTEN CAREFULLY, and don’t monopolize the conversation.
  • When appropriate, offer a business card, and ask the other person for one of his or hers. Sometimes, it is more appropriate to exchange business cards only when you depart from one another. Whenever you give a business card, ask for a business card. When given one, don’t just take it and place it in your pocket. Make the person feel important by looking at their card for a few seconds. You might see something that could be a topic of discussion. . Confirming the information is a nice way to engage. Then place it in your wallet or in your jacket pocket.
  • Some people give 2 business cards as standard practice. That way, their contact has one card to keep and one card to pass on to someone else, or perhaps to keep in a different location.
  • Don’t stay too long in one place. After eight to ten minutes of conversation with a contact, excuse yourself with a pleasantry such as, “It was nice meeting you …
  • Again, take your business cards absolutely EVERYWHERE! Maximize every “per chance” meeting. You never know when you might meet someone who can help you. Family or friends social events could produce unexpected encounters with people. So you’re going to a birthday party for your friend’s child. You never know who you might meet there.

After the Event

  • Once the event is over, your networking doesn’t stop! Be sure to follow up with those people you’ve met, keep in contact, share information and offer to help in any way you can.
  • Be sure to send a written acknowledgement or “Thank You” note to your networking contacts.
  • It’s also a great idea to send a “Thank You” note to the host or sponsors of the event. You will be remembered for it.
  • Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas. You want to build the relationship, so take the first step!
  • Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.

Tips For Sit-Down Events

  • Some networking events will provide a meal. It is crucial to practice good table etiquette to make the best impression.
  • At a sit down affair, don’t sit as soon as you get there. Keep moving around and networking as long as possible.
  • At the dinner table, introduce yourself at the beginning of the evening to everyone at your table.  If you are familiar with the others at the table (whether you knew them previous to the event, or have just met them), make the introductions. Proceed as if you are the host of the table.
  • Listen to learn. Start the conversation by asking questions, such as why people are there, what they hope to gain, how they found out about the event, etc.
  • Keep your business cards handy, but not on the table. Do not deal them out impersonally.

Additional Thoughts…

  • Consider volunteering to help out at various networking event. This puts you in a better strategic position for meeting people and passing your business card along. Others might view you differently, if they know you are willing to go the extra mile in helping them. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you.  Zig Ziglar, one of the most successful sales trainers in the world says “if you help enough people get what they want in life, you will get what you want in life”.
  • Risk rejection – it’s not the end of the world.  Rejection happens to everyone at one point or another. Some individuals may not respond to your introduction in the way you would like. If that happens, don’t take it personally. Politely move on. Maintain an outgoing and friendly attitude and always keep your sense of humour!
  • Never make assumptions about the person you are talking to. Everyone has friends, colleagues, relations and contacts, and one of them might be just the person you need to speak to.
  • Do not hand out anything other than your business cards at an event. If a contact is interested in more information, send them a brochure or other information after the event. This provides you with a great opportunity for a future follow-up with them.
  • Networking involves WORK. With preparation, effort and enthusiasm, you’ll get a great deal out of it.
  • Don’t feel intimidated. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. You are dealing with a person. They have the same hopes and fears that you have.
  • Remember you have one mouth and two ears. Use them proportionately and you’ll be well on your way to being a successful networker!

Lori Padgett is the Owner of Apex Administration and can be contacted through her website at:  http://www.apexadministration.com