Over the past decade, virtual assistants have become more well known on the internet, as well as the benefits they can provide. The type of tasks and scope of work is as varied as the types of clients that are looking online for an assistant, either for regular and steady work, or for a specific project or assignment.
This ninth article in our ongoing series of ten steps focuses on what I think can be one of the most important steps in building your client base – referrals. Frequently overlooked by small business owners or independent contractor, their value is immeasurable. Remember that your ultimate goal of having a roster of clients who will provide you with as much work as you are looking for, who have tasks that are suited to your skills and interests, and the ability to earn an income doing work that you find satisfying and enjoyable, and what better clients to have than those referred by a customer who you already have that satisfying relationship?
Of note: This particular series of articles is written from a perspective of someone who is currently a virtual assistant or has the specific skills to become one, and would like to add or obtain new or additional clients. If you are interested in being a virtual assistant but would like training or instruction, we will be adding additional resources and sites where training can be obtained, as well as sites where you can register yourself as a virtual assistant available for hire.
#9 – Getting Referral Clients For Your Virtual Assistant Business
It should come as no surprise to you that referrals are typically the number one way that top virtual assistants and service providers get new clients.
Just thinking about how we live our daily lives gives us real examples of this in action. If you want to have Chinese food but are new in town you will probably ask your neighbors the best place to go. Or if you need a new dentist you probably won’t just pick one from Google, you’ll likely ask around first. People like to know that someone else has used that service and are happy with it, and they like it to be someone they already know and trust. In fact, entire websites, some very large and making a lot of money, have been built solely on the fact that the average person prefers a referral before choosing a provider or service company. That is the power of referrals.
So how do you start building your business on referrals?
Well quite simply, you must ask for them.
Now, some clients will start referring you naturally but others may not be so quick to act in this manner, and sometimes it is simply because they just don’t think about it. However, one common reason some clients won’t refer you out is because they’re afraid you’ll get too busy to serve them. In order to calm their fears you should have a plan in place should you get too busy and share that with your clients so they never worry about losing your services to a newer client.
Partnering With a Virtual Assistant
One way to avoid getting overbooked is to partner up with another virtual assistant. You can both share overflow work as it comes up so that you never have a client waiting too long. This can work really well if you have a good arrangement and can actually be a great benefit to the client as well because they know they have a backup ready should anything happen to you.
Asking a Client For Referrals
When asking your clients for referrals you may want to sweeten the deal by offering some sort of reward for sending you new clients. This could be in the form of a percentage of the services you provide, a one-time finders fee, or an offer of a free services (ie. One hour of time per client they send). Motivate them to tell others about your services and you’re likely to get more referrals.
Finding Related Service Providers
If you provide transcription services, for example, you’d be smart to team up with a virtual assistant who specializes in podcasting. You can both refer out the services of the other and expand your businesses through the partnership. Find other businesses or service providers who you could get referrals from and find a way to make it beneficial to them. You’ll probably be pleased with the results.
- Make sure that any of the options listed above are well known to your clients or to customers who are considering hiring you. List this information on your website in an easily viewed position, include it regularly in your newsletters, or provide it to your prospective customers in any literature you send to them.
- Testimonials are an important tool and are a form of referral. Don’t be afraid or feel insecure about asking a regular customer for a testimonial that you can post on your website or use in your business literature, because they most likely will not offer one without being approached. Testimonials provide credibility, and also are a good indicator that you meet or exceed your customer’s expectations. Make sure that the testimonials you use on your website, provide to prospective customers or use in your advertising are honest, sincere, and very specific. Once you have more than one or two, you can start rotating them in your use of them, and continue to ask for and collect them, even after you receive one or two or more.
Getting referrals is a matter of creating relationships and building trust. Some of the best clients come from referrals and the easiest sales because there’s no convincing once they contact you. Don’t ignore this highly beneficial way to build your clientele and you just may find yourself booked up much sooner than you expected.