All Clients Great and Small

26th July 2013:

This appeared in the December 2012 edition of PA Enterprise magazine



All Clients Great and Small


All VAs know the importance of attracting and retaining good clients.  But if you’re not the extrovert type, if your background isn’t in sales, marketing or PR, where do you start?  How do you push yourself forward to get noticed and get your business growing?


Luckily, there are as many ways as there are potential clients …


Talk the Talk

One of the more effective ways is to pick up the phone.  Once you know the company or organisation you wish to ‘pitch’ to (because that is exactly what you’re doing), ring and ask if they ever use Virtual Assistants.  If the answer is ‘yes’, you have a way in!  You can then find out what they need and discuss how you can help.  A ‘no’ and you’ll need to judge it for yourself.  If they’re interested, you can continue the conversation and give them more information about your business.  If they sound hassled, either ask if you should call back at a more convenient time, say you’ll pop a letter in the post – or just leave it.


Just remember: the worst they can say is, “no, not interested”.  That’s it.  Nothing bad will happen.


The Write Way

Ringing up total strangers and asking for work can be daunting, so why not write a letter?  Do your research, call to find out a contact name, and put your pitch in writing.  Make it professional, make it interesting – but make it YOU.  The client will be buying your talent and your expertise so the pitch has to reflect your personality. 


You may wish to use email, given that you’re a ‘Virtual’ Assistant.  But think about all the other emails that a busy business owner receives during the course of a working day.  Unless yours really stands out, your perfectly crafted words could get lost in the throng – or be delivered to the Junk Mail folder.


Working the Room

Halfway between ringing and writing is networking.  This can also be pretty daunting at first but choose the right group for you (and your preferred prospective clients) and it can be an excellent investment of time and money.


Everyone at a networking meeting is there to network.  They are all interested in your business and how you can help them.  With the added bonus that they get to meet you informally before deciding to offer you any work.   And you get to meet them before deciding to accept it!


It’s tempting to join lots of different networking groups – ones with breakfast meetings, ones that meet at lunchtime, ones for women only – but you may find you have lots of clients and no time to do the actual work.



Your website may be elegant, sophisticated and stylish - but it needs to earn its keep.  Make sure it does its job and gets out there, promoting you and your business.

Sign up to as many free online directories as you can.  There are hundreds of them – some local, some national (why not? you’re virtual, after all), some for the industry you specialise in, some for related industries.  There are also many free offline directories.  You can get a free listing in the Yellow Pages and Thomsons Local as well as dozens of local directories.  Whenever you find one that suits one your business, make sure you sign up to it.


Paid-for advertising can be expensive so tread carefully, picking the right publication for your target market.  Dip your toe in first of all and monitor the results. 



Sometimes things don’t work out.   You and your client may not get on, they may not like your work, they may not give you enough information for the work they’ve asked you to do, they may string you along and then not give you any work at all.  Issues such as these can knock your confidence badly.


It’s true that any and all of these things can happen whilst you’re in paid employment.  The difference is when you’re self-employed, you have to tackle it head on yourself.


If you and your client don’t work well together, either grit your teeth, get through to the end of the contract and don’t work for them again.   Or suggest that perhaps they would be better with someone actually working in their office, rather than virtually.  If you constantly find you don’t have all the information for you need, explain that the work may be inaccurate or delayed because of this.  In both cases, the problem could be that they are so used to a traditional PA in the office, they need educating in how best to work with a VA!


The key to resolving problems is to stay professional and keep the lines of communication open at all times.


And above all else, trust your instincts.  If a client or a project seems too good to be true, it very likely is!

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