You did it. You made the decision to go for it and put yourself out to the world as a Virtual Assistant and build something amazing for yourself. And, if you’re like most people, you worked through some fears and “what ifs” in order to make that leap and commit to your path. You may still be, in fact!
Once you shift that inner voice from “I’m not so sure” to “I can totally do this!” it’s an exciting and motivating place to be. You start thinking more about the possibilities and potential that lie ahead for you, like having control over your time and finances and doing work you know you’ll enjoy day in and day out.
And then comes the next mental hurdle… “How will I find my first client… and the next, and the next?” Remaining anchored to the incredible potential that exists for you as a Virtual Assistant is powerful – and important. But where we see a lot of new VAs get stuck and let their fear of the unknown inhibit their progress is worrying about how to get clients.
Sourcing and Pitching Clients Is the First, Most Important Work You’ll Do In Your Virtual Assistant Business
Until you have a full roster (and even beyond then!) lead generation should be the primary focus of your efforts. Aside from delivering services, sourcing clients and pitching them should take up the majority of your time. But you need a couple of things first…
#1. The right mindset and belief that you can, and will, find people to pay you for your services. There are a ton of businesses out there with lots of different kinds of needs and they’re contracting out for those at an ever-increasing rate.
#2. You also need a client getting system to make the process of finding, pitching and landing clients as turnkey as possible. We’ve set up our cornerstone course, VA Foundations, within The #FullyBookedVA System to provide a step-by-step path to doing just that.
In this post, we’ll provide you with an overview of that journey, i.e. how to find clients and build a long-term, sustainable and scalable Virtual Assistant business.
How to Find Business Owners That Need a Virtual Assistant
Before you can pitch and land clients, you need to find them. And not just any old clients, by the way! The early stages of your business is a time of exploring what services you enjoy and are good at, as well as what kinds of clients you’ll resonate with most.
Keep in mind that you’re crafting a business by your design, and that means calling the shots when it comes to what you’ll do and who you’ll do it with.
Having said that, part of that exploration means trying things out. Building a Virtual Assistant business (or any business!) is all about gathering experiences and information and making decisions based on those.
When it comes to building your client roster, that often translates to taking on clients and work in the beginning that you may or may not be totally in love with. It’s important to keep an open mind, remember that nothing is set in stone and to embrace the opportunity of trying new things and learning.
So to get back to the burning question of “how to find my first client,” let’s start at the beginning – finding quality leads!
Opportunity is Everywhere
Believe it or not, there are a lot of different strategies for sourcing potential clients. The biggest thing to keep in mind as you approach this oh-so important aspect of your business is that opportunity is literally everywhere.
Approach the world around you from the lens of having a valuable service to offer – because you do, and if you’re not completely confident in that yet, it’s okay. You will be and oftentimes all it takes is investing in yourself and getting some experience under your belt, even if it means practicing your service on yourself (for your own business) or for friends and family.
Your Immediate Network
We see many Virtual Assistants initially address the question of how to get clients by looking to their immediate network. That doesn’t mean hitting up all your friends and family for work (awkward!) but it does mean reaching out to relevant individuals to let them know about your new venture.
If they don’t have a need for your help, they may know someone who does. Asking someone to keep you in mind doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable or weird, especially if you’re approaching the conversation as just that – a conversation. It’s an equal exchange in which you’re genuinely interested in listening to and connecting with the person you’re talking to.
You can use a simple but powerful outreach strategy that involves identifying 5-10 people to reach out to, drafting an email to authentically connect with them and asking for referrals. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and yet it can be an excellent way to find quality clients.
And while your immediate network is a great place to start, it’s certainly not the only place when it comes to that client getting system we mentioned earlier.
Find Your People
When you’re approaching the marketplace, i.e. businesses that may need your services, the first step to finding rockstar clients is deciding what kinds of clients you want to work with. Who are your ideal clients? Another way to think about this is, what is your target market?
Knowing who your ideal clients are will help you streamline your efforts in finding them, versus casting a wide net out to the online universe and hoping for the best. You can ask yourself things like:
- Where do they hang out online?
- What kinds of services or products do they offer?
- What kinds of services do they need?
6 Places to Discover Leads
Once you sort out the “who” of looking for clients, it’s on the topic of how to find clients. Remember how we just said that opportunity is literally everywhere? It is, and here are some places to identify businesses to approach.
- Social media – This is another place we consistently see new Virtual Assistants finding and landing their first clients. It’s all about a quality presence (i.e. presenting yourself professionally) and networking to really make the most of social media when it comes to finding clients.
LinkedIn, for example, is a place where professionals are connecting with a view to networking and doing business. So, it’s kind of a no-brainer when it comes to using LinkedIn to find prospects to pitch!
- Online (and offline) networking events – While the pandemic has put a damper on in-person events, this won’t last forever. As well, in response many professional networking groups have taken things online and there is a lot of opportunity when it comes to connecting with other professionals and learning about their businesses.
- Agency and job listing sites – This isn’t our number one go-to when it comes to finding clients, but many VAs do source sites like Upwork to find their first client or two. Checking out sites like this can also be a good opportunity for finding out what it’s like out there in the marketplace and what businesses are looking for.
Keep in mind that with sites like these, a portion of your pay often goes to the “middleman,” i.e. the agency or job listing site, and therefore the rates of pay can be lower than if you were sourcing clients yourself.
- The #FullyBookedVA System – In our comprehensive, step-by-step system we provide a steady flow of leads to our students. These are both our own proprietary leads (business owners coming to us specifically looking to hire our graduates) and an ongoing round-up of quality online remote job listings.
We offer a free service to business owners looking to hire a virtual assistant (i.e. our graduates) and have zero financial involvement with these leads. We provide them to our students as a major “perk” of being a part of our program to help save them time, money and effort when it comes to marketing themselves and finding qualified leads to pitch.
- Your local community – That’s right! You likely frequent businesses all the time that may have needs for your services. Keep an eye out for opportunities and come from a place of service when connecting with business owners in your community (or any business owners, really!).
- Google – If you have the “who” of what kinds of businesses you’re looking to connect with, a good ‘ol Google search can yield plenty of opportunities. Again, to make the most of this strategy, though, you’ll want to be streamlined in your search to save yourself from endless hunting around online.
How to Find Clients as a Freelance Writer
You may be coming to this awesome world of freelancing as a freelance writer or perhaps a Virtual Assistant looking to provide writing services. We’re kind of partial to freelance writers around these parts as this is how Horkey HandBook was started.
When it comes to finding freelance writing clients, there are some specific strategies to keep in mind. And, just like with VA work, ideally you want high-paying writing clients versus just any ol’ clients, right?
When you’re sourcing quality writing clients, specialization is king (or queen!). There are a lot of writing specialties out there like B2B, copywriting and case studies, for example, and the more you can narrow down a niche, the higher rates you can command for your writing.
It’s also a good idea to consider having a website dedicated to your writing services. Again, this is how Horkey HandBook started – as a place to display Gina’s writing samples. Having a website as a writer is a great way to legitimize yourself as a professional and to showcase the quality of your writing.
One of our favorite places to find writing clients is Contently. Clients are paying hundreds and even thousands of dollars for articles there, and setting up a portfolio on Contently is fairly straightforward. Keep in mind that it’s a long game, meaning it’s not likely you’ll land clients there immediately (although you could) but rather it’s a matter of consistency and building a quality portfolio.
Beware that there are a lot of low-paying “content mills” out there, but there are also quality sites to source freelance writing work like ProBlogger and Contena, for example.
The same strategies we just shared for sourcing Virtual Assistant clients apply to finding freelance writing clients as well. Tons of businesses need writing services, and there is a huge opportunity for freelance writers and Virtual Assistants offering writing services.
Your Client Finding Mindset
As you begin searching for those first clients, it’s important to keep in mind that you need to put yourself out there. Clients won’t come looking for you (at least not yet) and if you don’t go find them you won’t have any!
Many new Virtual Assistants struggle with “imposter syndrome,” meaning a fear that they don’t know what they’re doing and that people will see right through them.
Keep in mind that everyone has at least one skill, right now, that can be translated into a service to offer. The reality is that pretty much everyone starts off with zero VA experience, and that you do have experiences, skills and perhaps even some training in how to support businesses with your services.
And, there’s no one out there with some arbitrary measuring stick regarding who knows their stuff and who doesn’t. It really comes down to stepping outside your comfort zone, being authentic and mostly, being confident that you have something valuable to offer… because you do!
Consistency is Crucial
When it comes to pitching and your super-streamlined client getting system, consistency and frequency are key. It’s really a numbers game, and the more pitches you send out the more likely you are to land clients. Set a goal of sending a certain number of pitches each day/week and stick with it.
As you maintain your consistency, you’ll see that your pitching efforts will have a cumulative effect and that seeds you’re sowing will begin to reap a harvest. Keep it up and remember that you may not see results right away, and that clients reach out weeks, months and even years later – we’ve even heard of up to two years later!
That also doesn’t mean it will take forever. We’ve heard (many times) of new VAs landing clients with their first pitch. It does happen!
Having said that, if you’re pitching consistently and not seeing results, take a look at your pitches and consider switching up your approach. It can also be helpful to ask for some feedback, both from potential clients who have said no and from a trusted friend.
Remember that this whole adventure is a learning process, and all your efforts – even the “small” ones – add up to a bigger picture of success.
Now that you have some ideas about how to find clients , let’s get into some pitching best practices.
How to Write Pitches That Land the Client
Pitching clients can feel intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s really the first opportunity in your business to “step out from behind your computer” and make direct contact with other business owners.
Once you start pitching, it becomes easier with time and can even be fun! It’s an opportunity to practice presenting yourself professionally and to connect with others, and as soon as it starts “working” it’s even more rewarding and energizing. Promise!
Use these strategies on a consistent basis and you’ll be on your way to landing your ideal Virtual Assistant jobs in no time.
Coming Up With a Long-Term Strategy to Pitch Clients
There are a few ways to approach pitching Virtual Assistant clients. The first of these is to think in terms of “courting” prospects. Specifically, this means identifying an opportunity through one of the sources we covered in the previous section (or any others you come up with!), making an initial connection and nurturing a relationship.
While this may feel like a long-game approach, it’s powerful and effective. What this might look like would be identifying an opportunity and initiating a conversation by responding to an email from someone you subscribe to or engaging on a social media post from a business or brand you’re interested in working with.
Once you get on someone’s radar you can build a connection with them, learn more about their business and potential needs and yes – pitch your services to them. This approach doesn’t have to be as long-game as it sounds, and if you’re out there establishing and building these connections consistently it begins to add up.
Think of this approach as sowing seeds that will reap you a harvest of great clients if you stick with it!
Creating Authentic Connections With Prospects
As with any networking, don’t approach potential client relationships with a mindset of “I need to find work” but rather of creating authentic connections. If the business owner you’ve connected with doesn’t have an immediate need, their experience with you might just result in them referring you to someone in their network who does.
Another approach to pitching is seeing an opportunity and jumping on it right away! If you come across someone who is actively seeking help or has identified that they’re struggling in their business, don’t wait. These are those golden opportunities to step in and offer your help and they are definitely out there, whether it’s through a job listing or a business owner voicing their overwhelm and stress via social media or an email newsletter.
Pitching Hot and Cold Leads
Business owners who are actively seeking help are considered hot leads, while approaching someone who may not realize that they need help yet (but who you’ve identified as someone who could benefit from your services) would be considered a cold lead.
Pitching a hot lead can be easier in that they’re already looking for help, but harder in that the competition to land the gig may be higher. Pitching a cold lead has its benefits in that there are no end of leads to pitch and the competition is often next to none.
You can also show up as a superstar to cold leads by potentially identifying ways you can help that they didn’t even know about!
Stalk Your Leads
Okay, well not literally… But kind of! When approaching businesses to pitch, it’s important to take the time to do a little recon and learn about them. That can be as simple as spending some time with their website and or social media presence so that you can personalize your pitch with some observation or comment and really stand out.
This is an opportunity to make a connection with some of the details you’ve gathered about your prospect and use the needs you’ve ideally identified to make them an offer they can’t refuse!
Pitching VA Clients Via Email
When we’re talking about pitching potential clients, it’s typically done through email and could even include a short, personalized video introducing yourself and offering your services. You can create these videos using a free service like Loom, your phone, or your computer and put the finishing touches on it with a free online video editor.
Pro tip: Video pitching is super powerful! It’s a way to immediately establish a connection and kick off that “know trust and like” factor that business owners are looking for when considering bringing someone into their business.
In some cases, you may be pitching clients via a form or application through a website, but for our purposes we’re going to focus on crafting quality email pitches for those ideal clients you’ve identified.
Keep in mind that business owners are… busy! And more than likely they receive a lot of emails on a regular basis. When it comes to how to get clients, it’s important to craft a high-quality pitch that will get noticed.
Here Are 7 Pointers on How to Pitch Services to a Client:
#1. Use a good subject line – You want your email/pitch to get opened right? Use a subject line that will get noticed, something catchy but professional and whenever possible, personalized. “Hey [first name] you and I would make a great team!” is a good example.
#2. Personalize whenever possible – As we just mentioned, it’s always best if you can send an email directly to a business owner or other identified decision maker in the business you’re pitching. An email that uses a first name has a much higher chance of being received and responded to versus one sent to a business’s name.
Keep in mind that it’s not always possible to hunt down the name of the person you’re pitching, and that’s okay. Send that pitch anyway!
#3. Keep it short and professional – Be succinct in your email/pitch, don’t go on and on… and on. No one has the time (or desire) to read super long emails and if you can get straight to the point it will be appreciated… and better received!
Be personable and professional in your language, and let your personality come through in your writing. Remember that your pitch is your first opportunity to present yourself in a professional light, and while business owners are looking to connect with a person it’s also important to put your best foot forward professionally.
#4. Keep it focused on them (and how you can help them!) – Business owners are impressed by someone who can speak to their “pain points” from the perspective of how you can help them. Find a way to present your skills and services so that it speaks to their needs, versus going on and on about yourself. “I can help you ______ by doing ______,” for example.
#5. Be confident – This is your opportunity to really own what you do as a Virtual Assistant and your confidence will go a long way with business owners. It can be a big deal for some people to bring someone into their business, especially if they’ve been doing everything themselves and/or have never worked with a VA before.
Your confidence in your ability to help them will aid in putting any anxieties at ease and will also communicate that you’re a legit professional that knows your stuff!
#6. Always follow instructions – Some hot leads, i.e. someone actively looking for help, will identify clear instructions regarding how they want to be communicated with. It may be using a specific subject line, submitting specific information, etc.
Again, this is your first opportunity to present yourself as the awesome professional you are, so don’t blow this first set of instructions and follow them precisely.
#7. Provide a CTA (call to action) – Make it super clear in your pitch what your potential client should do next. The theme here is that interacting (and hopefully working) with you is as smooth and seamless an experience as possible.
Tell them what they should do next to move things forward, whether it’s “hit reply and let’s continue the conversation” or “here’s a link to my calendar so we can schedule some time to talk and find out if we’re a good fit.”
We recommend coming up with some email templates that you can modify and personalize to the type of pitch you’re sending. That will save you from reinventing the wheel each time you pitch (which should be often, and a lot!) and get you in a good pitching flow.
Here’s a great cold pitching template you can modify and use, as well as some examples of what to do and what not to do.
Pro tip: Set up your own Virtual Assistant client pitching challenge – it’s a powerful and fun way to establish some discipline around pitching and get results!
Pitching Your Writing Services
Lastly, if you’re pitching your writing services, be sure to include some samples with your pitch, such as a PDF or a link to your website/blog. Keep in mind that your email is actually a sample of your writing, so be sure to tend to grammar, punctuation and readability.
And if you don’t have the right samples a writing lead is looking for, don’t fret. There are still ways to craft a great writing pitch with the samples you do have and get noticed using the pointers we just shared.
How to Follow Up After Sending a Pitch
If you’re trying to figure out how to get clients with great pitches that will get noticed, but aren’t following up with your leads you’re almost wasting your time. As we mentioned earlier, business owners are busy and may not respond to your initial email for any number of reasons.
Email Follow Up
Following up shows that you’re serious about working with the potential client and aren’t just some spammy spammer taking up space in their inbox. Keep in mind that 80 percent of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact!
Just like your initial email, keep your follow-up concise and to the point. Remind them of how you initially contacted them and the date of your first email so they can find it easily. Don’t resend your initial pitch, but rather succinctly remind them of who you are and how you can help them.
Slide Into Their Social Media Direct Messages
You can also follow up by contacting potential clients in other ways, like via social media. Again, mixing things up in this manner is a great way to show that you’re tenacious and serious about working with them. Keep in mind that tenacious doesn’t mean obnoxious, but more often than not business owners really appreciate someone hanging in there with them and following up.
We’ve heard countless stories from VAs who have landed gigs because they followed up – and in some cases were the only ones to do so!
How Much and How Often to Follow Up
A good general rule of thumb for following up is to touch bases the first time about seven to ten days after your initial pitch. After that, try once a week for a couple of weeks, then every couple of weeks for a month then once a month, until you’ve followed up about ten times.
It may feel like a lot, but it’s worth it and you can put aside any concerns or fears about “bugging” someone – as long as you’re sending short, to-the-point and professional emails and messages that is! Following up is industry standard when it comes to doing business and the majority of business owners understand and appreciate this.
Once you start sending out pitches following up can be a lot to keep track of, so track your pitches and set reminders for yourself for circling back around. Following up is truly a “secret weapon” when it comes to pitching and landing clients!
Pitching Specific Media Outlets
If you’re a writer pitching your services, then why not go big and pitch to a magazine or big name online publication? You just never know, and it’s not unheard of for newer writers who have some sweet skills to get published in “bigger name” media outlets early on in their careers.
And, as with all pitching, if you don’t ask the answer is always no!
Gina used this approach and was published on the Huffington Post early on in her freelance writing career. It was a great experience that lent her credibility as a skilled writer and was something she was able to refer to when pitching other writing clients.
We’ve talked to several writers over the years who have great advice about how they pitched – and landed – writing gigs on various media outlets. Some of these include:
Curious about how they did it? Each publication is unique and there are tips and pointers to pitching them effectively. Spend a few minutes with any of the posts listed above to get the juicy details!
Ready to Say, “I found my first client?”
The most important part of pitching is to get out there and do it! It will become easier with practice and you’ll become more confident as you put a consistent routine into place. Oftentimes sending out that first one is the hardest (and scariest!) but it really does get easier with time.
Use the strategies outlined in this post, stay consistent and definitely follow up. But most of all, don’t give up!
We see some new Virtual Assistants expecting to send out their first few pitches and land clients… and becoming discouraged after not seeing immediate results. While landing clients right away does happen sometimes, keep in mind that pitching is literally the lifeblood of your business and that sticking with it is crucial.
If you’re finding yourself lost when it comes to sourcing and pitching clients, consider investing in yourself and your business with training and a mastermind community such as The #FullyBookedVA System. If you’re serious about this whole freelancing thing, then taking the time to deep-dive into learning more as well as engaging with a community for support, accountability and direct feedback through coaching is well worth the investment.
Now get out there and get your pitch on!