It’s one thing to decide you’re going to quit your day job and take up the free-roaming lifestyle of a virtual assistant; it’s quite another to land enough reliable clients to make this dream a reality.
Not only are there a plethora of work-from-home scams to look out for, but there are also plenty of people who want to pay you as little as they can get away with.
In addition to evading these time-wasters, you need to be on the hunt for the unicorns of the work-from-home world – clients who want to pay you what you’re worth and establish a long-lasting, mutually beneficial business relationship.
Though the prolific nature of scammers and cheapskates does make these dream clients seem rare, there are plenty of them out there. Here are the best ways to find them:
Word of mouth
Ask any freelancer in any industry and you’re likely to find that at least one of their best and most reliable clients came through a word of mouth recommendation.
In fact, a couple of the virtual assistants I know actually fell into this line of work because they had the skills and were offered an opportunity by a friend of a friend.
People love to help out. So, if they know someone who needs a job done, and someone else who has the requisite set of skills, they’re often happy to make the connection.
For this to be possible though, your friends, family, and wider social network need to know that you’re looking for work. They also need to have an idea of what skills and experience you have to offer.
Don’t be afraid to share your dream of becoming a self-employed virtual assistant with your network. You never know where that first client may come from. It’s often a hilarious chain of connections, like your friend’s brother-in-law’s best friend’s cousin (seriously). Once again, this comes down to the rather sweet instinct we humans have to help each other out.
Give something = gain something
Speaking of the human desire to help, another way you can harness it to your advantage is to be the one who offers assistance. Do some research via social media, particularly sites liked LinkedIn, and make a list of people you’d like to work for. Then be bold and send them an email with a proposal for what you can do for them.
The best way to approach this is to offer them a free trial of your services, so they can see if you’re a good fit. Another option would be to target people who have a specific project they’re working on and offer your assistance for its duration.
Even if these clients don’t offer you paid work at the end of your trial period, they will be incentivized to write you a glowing testimonial, and in the virtual assistant world, positive testimonials are so valuable they’re almost a currency in and of themselves.
You could also consider approaching charities and non-profits to donate your services. From this, you will gain experience, improve your skills, earn some positive reviews, and in some countries you may even be eligible for government support in exchange for this work.
Of course, you don’t have to offer your services for free to gain success from contacting the people you’d like to work for. If you’re already supremely confident in your skills and experience, feel free to approach your ideal clients with a proposal outlining how you can help their business grow.
To do this, it’s worth going as deep as you can with your research to ensure your proposal is in line with their company’s vision and objectives. Prove your worth in your proposal, and you may be able to land a contract as a virtual assistant through this cold canvassing technique.
Just be sure to focus on what you can give and how it will benefit the person you’re contacting. Though you can mention what you need and what you’re looking for, if you make yourself the focus, you’re far less likely to find success. The way to spark someone’s interest is to show them all the benefits they’ll get from working with you.
Network with other freelancers
Using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and even a good old Google search, you can find other freelancers in complementary fields to connect with. Even other virtual assistants can be valuable connections because the field is so diverse you probably won’t be in direct competition with them (check out our guide to becoming a virtual assistant for more details on this).
Making connections with talented and successful freelancers will plug you into the bank of high-quality clients, allowing you to build up to a full-time income while also giving you the chance to help out your fellow freelancers with work opportunities when they arise among your client-base.
The freelance writer you connect with may have a client who’s in need of a virtual assistant. Down the track, one of your clients may need some web content written, allowing you to return the favor.
As a bonus, treating your freelance life this way is also a lot more fun – you get to meet all sorts of fascinating people and it will lessen the sense of isolation that often accompanies the sudden change from a bustling team environment to a solitary home office.
Create a professional online presence
Depending on your personal preferences and budget, this could involve creating your own website or simply building professional profiles on platforms like:
Though the more proactive approaches listed above will boost your chances of getting your first client quicker, it’s still important to dedicate some time to building your professional online presence. Not only will this allow clients to come to you, but it will also act as your hub for posting positive reviews and glowing testimonials.
Finding clients as a virtual assistant: final thoughts
Though most of these strategies will take a bit of courage, that tends to be the norm when you’re stepping out of the 9-5 lifestyle and into the less predictable realm of working remotely.
If you’re uncertain as to whether the benefits will be worth the work it takes to get up and running, take a look through our list of all the pros and cons of being a virtual assistant.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and we’ll get back to you with an answer.