Sharing my Business Journey
I started my work-at-home business journey when I was laid off from my corporate job back in 2010. I’ve been through so much since being my own boss and working online. There have been highs and lows, times when I was ready to just give up.
I’ve always been a hard worker, giving 110% at any job, but working for myself; I work twice as hard. And it’s definitely worth it!
So, I’ve been thinking about the lessons I’ve learned along the way since then. I’ve decided to share them with you, so you understand my why and a little bit about my decision to start the VA to the ResQ Academy.
Maybe something I say in these lessons will resonate with you. It would be awesome if you said, “Me too”!
Maybe it will help you avoid a pitfall or see something in a different light. Or maybe something in these lessons will inspire you to really go for it and make your business what you want it to be.
Whatever it sparks in you, I hope you’ll enjoy the following lessons from my business journey.
My History in the Business World
First, a little background history. Before I even started thinking about a business of my own, I had been researching on the internet about how to be a better assistant at work. There was always talk about layoffs, but I never thought it would ever hit our department.
When it did happen, I had been with the company for 10 years. I was, of course, devastated, I worked with my co-workers for most of those years together, and they were like family to me.
After trying for months to find another job with no success, I decided that I needed something to do to keep from going stir-crazy. So, after thinking long and hard with no job in sight, I made the decision to start my own business. My husband had his own business for our entire married life, so I was no stranger to what it was like to be self-employed.
When I was a stay-at-home mom with my 2 kids, I was the one to answer the phone and take messages from the many people that called to hire or discuss business with him. I was really good at it, too; I guess that’s where my natural customer service skills came from. It wasn’t long before I was doing his customer billing, scheduling appointments for him, doing our taxes, and all the many things that business owners do.
My skills also came from what I learned in high school because I always thought I wanted to be a secretary. But, my life turned directions, and that’s a whole nother story.
Now, let’s get on to the lessons:
Overnight success just doesn’t happen
When I started my online business journey, I spent three to four months researching and hoping to find a real work-at-home opportunity. I spent another few months figuring out that the virtual assistant industry was the way to go for me.
I ended up purchasing a course to teach me how to set up a successful virtual assistant business. After the course came setting up a website and getting it up and running. And of course, it was a DIY website, and I had NO CLUE what I was doing.
Once I had my website “live,” it took about another six months to get my first client. Even with that first client, it’s not like the floodgates opened and a never-ending stream of clients flowed in. I had to work hard to make connections and market my business.
I took a ton of “expert advice” on what to do and how to do it. I downloaded every freebie I could get my hands on. When you see other people online doing what you want to do, and you think they’re successful, know that they probably worked really hard to get there and that it didn’t happen overnight.
Stay in Your Own Lane
Speaking of other people, let me tell you something important–please don’t worry about how other people run their businesses. Run yours how it works for YOU!
Yes, find people that look like YOU’D like to be. But know that your circumstances aren’t identical. You are your own person with your own story, your own set of challenges, weaknesses, and strengths.
So, learn from people who are further along the path than you, but take what you learn and make it your own. That’s what will attract clients to you.
They will want to work with you for your particular skill set and the way that YOU do things.
If you’re still feeling afraid of putting yourself out there, read this article.
At some point, you have to stop learning all.the.things, researching all.the.things and buying all.the.things, and you have to start DOING something.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, done is better than perfect. Get the website up. Talk to that potential client. Slap a price on your services.
You can always tweak things later. Just get yourself out there. You’re going to make mistakes–but that’s part of learning and growing. The right mindset, planning, and taking action will propel you forward.
We learn A LOT in the doing of things.
Choose services and clients that you love
Otherwise, you will come to resent them and your business. This is YOUR business—so do what makes you happy! I know when you’re first starting out, the temptation is there just to get a client. Any client. Just one person who will pay you some money.
But if you put yourself out there and say you will do just about anything for anyone, you aren’t going to attract ANYONE. People need to “see” themselves in your marketing. They need to resonate with you. They need to know that YOU specifically can help them with exactly what they need.
The best way to do this is to specialize in either what you do (services) or who you do it for (target market). This will help you to make more money and be more successful.
But choose services and people that you enjoy.
And it’s perfectly okay to change your mind over time. Remember, this is YOUR business journey, and you should love what you do!
Build your business around your life–not the other way around
Being in business for yourself has so many benefits. A big one is the ability to leave time for the things that are important to you in life. Weave your business around and through what you want to do. If you’re just going to box yourself into a 9-5 schedule, work every night and all through the weekend, then why bother leaving the “regular” job that you hate, if that’s the case?
- Maybe you have a family, and you want to spend more time with them.
- Maybe you have kids, and you want to make it to more of their school functions.
- Maybe you enjoy volunteer work.
- Maybe you love to travel.
You can do all of that and run a successful virtual assistant business.
Remember the things that are important to you in life and build your business around those things.
Break it down
As you’re building your business, there will be times when you’re going to feel quite overwhelmed. There’s so much to do on the back end of setting up your business. You must think about a business name, a website, taxes, a client intake process, and marketing.
And then, when you get those clients, you must figure out how to juggle client work with continuing to build and market your business. It never ends! Make sure that you’re having the best business journey that you can possibly have.
When you feel overwhelmed, break things down.
Instead of having 50,000 thoughts swirling around in your brain, 3 lists, and 25 sticky notes, simplify it all and break it down.
Here is a process that will help:
- Think about your goals and what’s most important to accomplish.
- Look at your schedule in blocks of time. Mark off blocks for personal time, business building time, marketing time, client work, etc.
- Take those bigger goals that are overwhelming and write down all the things you need to do in order to achieve them.
- Use that list and turn them into to-do items that need to be accomplished in order to achieve that thing or goal.
- Then, take those to-do items and schedule them into your time blocks.
Doing it this way will really decrease the overwhelm.
Whenever there are too many things, or you have a goal so big you don’t know how you’re ever going to achieve it, keep breaking it down into smaller and simpler pieces. And then schedule those things on your calendar.
It takes a little while to get used to scheduling things if it’s not something that you’ve done before. But if you’re looking at a busy life with client work, marketing, things you need to take care of on the back end of your business, plus everything else that’s going on in your life, having some type of schedule that works for you will save your sanity.
No person is an island
Doing this whole entrepreneur business owner thing by yourself is hard. And it can get lonely. You’ll have times when you second-guess yourself. And times, when you might miss having co-workers and talking to other people, live and in person.
But just because you’re running a business by yourself doesn’t mean that you must be alone. Get out there and network with other business owners like yourself. This can be at in-person networking meetings where you live. It can be online virtually.
First, it makes you feel less lonely. But it also shows you that other people “get” it and go through the same things that you do. Sometimes you just need a sounding board. And sometimes you need advice on how to handle a particular situation. It can also help create some accountability.
Finding online or in-person networking groups of fellow VAs and business owners is a great way to get that help. You never know what you’ll get out of it. Maybe you’ll get a new referral partner. And maybe you’ll get a new best friend. It’s the best way to have an awesome business journey.
Find yourself a Good Mentor
Also, if you’re looking for guidance or a way to stay on track and really move your business forward, consider getting a mentor.
When I first started out, I didn’t know anyone online at all. And I didn’t have much money to invest in myself or my business. (But I quickly learned the importance of doing so.)
Before that, I found some online forums where I could talk to other VAs. Then I became friendly with someone who became my mentor in a Facebook group. It made a huge difference in my business and how I went about things.
You can work with mentors one-on-one and in group settings. You can get something valuable out of each situation. Whatever way works best for you right now, connect with people who can support you, hold you accountable and guide you.
And, in turn, be there for others. If you’re in a forum or a group and you can answer a question or help someone out, do it. Remember that you were just like them at one point, wishing someone would extend a hand and help you out. It feels good to pay it forward.
If you’re looking for some guidance and support, to be with a group of other people who “get it” and can help move you forward, I’d love you to consider joining my Facebook group.
Also, if you’re considering a mentor, join me in one on one mentoring or my group mentoring program.
Thank you so much for reading. I’m sure you’ll get there with your business too! Just relax and do what’s most important for you.
Happy Business Journey! And GOOD LUCK!
The History Behind the Virtual Assistance Industry
So, what is the Virtual Assistance Industry? Let me explain a bit about the history behind this term. Being a secretary was the very beginning of The Birth of Virtual Assistance. Since the ’40s, the profession has evolved to include a wide variety of different services. Today it is referred to as administrative, but this is not the only category of services that belongs to this new & exciting profession.
The Virtual Assistance Industry has a rich but little-known history of individuals and organizations that saw an opportunity. The opportunity in the work-at-home arena to develop and grow businesses that could support and sustain families. Many women and men walked the walk and talked the talk that propelled the industry to become the small business resource it is today.
The Birth of Virtual Assistance began its early beginnings with secretarial services during the forties. It’s safe to call secretarial services as the mother of virtual assistance. However, throughout its history, the virtual assistance industry strived to create a distinction from its “mother.” By making it a separate profession yet belonging to the same type of industry.
Collectively they are called administrative professionals. From their separation, virtual assistance has grown. It has advanced until it has become the global preference of business owners. So this is the birth of a profession that has become a worldwide phenomenon. It has permanently changed the world’s view on business ownership.
The Early Beginnings: Secretarial Services
It all began with shorthand when Sir Isaac Pitman invented the shorthand method in the early 1800s. He founded the first school for secretarial services. Only men were admitted to the school, and they were the only ones who could perform the said tasks, given the political climate during those days.
During that time, women were confined to only doing household chores. Not until a decade later, when typewriters were invented, were women finally joining the industry. And around 1930, the number of men in the secretarial services started to wind down. Can you imagine what women of the past would say about the Virtual Assistance Industry today?
The Next Steps
In 1942, the National Secretaries Association was born. It was founded to foster professionalism among secretaries in the US. And less than a decade later, the first exam called Certified Professional Secretaries was administered. The CPS Examination was a three-part exam covering the areas of office technology, management, office systems & administration. More than 66,000 people have achieved this rating since 1951.
It was in 1952 that a special day called “Secretaries Day” was created, which later in the year 2000 changed to “Administrative Professionals Day.” The decision was made to recognize all individuals working in the field with different title names.
Nearly three decades later, the National Secretaries Association was renamed Professional Secretaries International. Six years later, the Professional Secretaries International has renamed to International Association of Administrative Professionals, IAAP.
The Birth of Virtual Assistance
Anastacia “Stacy” Brice began working virtually as a full-time home-based contractor with an international client. She provided administrative support, arranged travel plans, and provided personal assistance. Back then, the most prevalent medium through which people did administrative assistance from a remote location was by using the telephone and fax machines. It was only in 1994 that the internet was utilized to assist business owners from other places.
The term “virtual assistant” was born in 1996. It commenced from a simple conversation between Anastacia Brice and life coach Thomas Leonard when the latter coined the term. This took place during a phone conversation they had together. With the idea already in Brice’s mind, she borrowed the term to name the new emerging profession, and in the next year, she witnessed how the profession was formalized.
It was in 1998 that Anastacia Brice opened the first organization for virtual assistants called the AssistU. The years have had many more developments in this industry. In 1999, the International Virtual Assistants Association was created to respond to the growing number of people involved in the business. And just like any organization, it helped represent the profession to the world.
The Growth Phase of Virtual Assistance
Virtual assistance has grown and created a unique distinction that has marked its identity worldwide. From being simply a sub-category of secretarial services, it equaled the profession. Later it surpassed it in measures beyond its beginning. Today, the work of a virtual assistant is getting more in demand in the business world.
More and more business owners prefer the services of virtual assistants over hiring a personal secretary. Here are the two economic reasons why:
1) Hiring a virtual assistant is cost-effective, and 2) work efficiency is achieved by the many different types of virtual assistants on the market today.
Your Growth, Your Future
Knowing your history helps you understand your foundation. Where you came from, and most importantly, WHY you can build a long-term, sustainable business. It’s because of those that came before you, 10, 15, 20, 25 years ago – people who walked the walk and talked the talk. The people that spent many hours answering questions and overcoming obstacles. These people have paved the way for you to be in the Virtual Assistance Industry you’re in today.
Please don’t forget where you came from because so many people went through challenging situations to get where they are in today’s world.
Your History is Your Future!
What is a Virtual Assistant?
So, what is a virtual assistant, and where did the title originate? Does it mean the same thing as a secretary or personal assistant? Let’s delve into the subject of virtual assistant and see where this modern word originated.
The term originated in the 1990s as the ability to work remotely due to the internet and the ability to share documents made it a reality. You can read more about the history in this article.
A virtual assistant is a person who provides various services to entrepreneurs or businesses from a remote location. There are a host of things that virtual assistants can do, including:
- Social media management
- Event management
- Managing calendars, appointments, and emails
- Preparing reports
- Personal tasks like booking hotels and restaurants
- Simple digital marketing tasks
And it can be a never-ending list!
Some business owners who hire a virtual assistant can be confused about what a VA is. Often, VA/Client relationships turn sour because of misconceptions about what a VA does for a client and how they do it.
Whether you are a VA or a client looking for a VA, this article will tell you all you need to know about the dos & don’ts and the expectations a business owner can expect.
What a VA is…
- an independent contractor, remote worker, freelancer, or business owner
- skilled at what they do, they don’t need micro-managing
- reliable and hardworking
- able to work well on their own, they don’t need constant supervision
- a home-based business owner, although some VAs prefer to be location independent, they don’t work with clients in their offices
- VAs helps other business owners in their business with tasks they don’t have time for or with skilled services they don’t know how to do
- business owners who are committed to helping other business owners make a success of their business
- a person who deserves respect
What a VA isn’t…
- an employee of the person who contracts them
- a miracle worker, they can’t fix a broken business
- not mind readers; they need guidance from the person who hired them
- a punching bag when things go wrong
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a business owner and understands how important it is to protect and nurture the reputation of the business owner who hires them. VAs help and assist business owners with their daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and can be a great asset.
Although VAs often meet with their clients on a video call or in person, they don’t physically work in the client’s office. They are not personal assistants, secretaries, or assistants. Sometimes their duties might overlap with these but being a virtual assistant is a different profession entirely.
A Virtual Assistant deserves respectful treatment. Business owners that incorporate saying “please” and “thank you” goes a long way.
Why do people decide to become VAs?
It all starts with this question. WHY! WHY is the pivotal point of any decision. Here are some of the most common reasons people decide to become VAs:
● Most likely, they want to stay at home with their children while being able to earn a living
● They want to be able to work flexible hours
● They always wanted a business they can call their own
● Maybe they like to help people and earn money
● And, because they want to make their own choices, be their own boss, and have freedom in their work environment
We will discuss mindset issues in the next article, but if you want a head start, you can check it out now.
The 19 Things You Should Know Before You Start
Updated on 9/2/2022
When I started my first business, I knew I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know! If I could go back in time and teach myself, there’s so much I would want to say. Before you start your business, just realize that you won’t be perfect in the beginning. There is always something to upgrade, change,
Here are 19 of the most important things that I would try to explain to myself as a newbie entrepreneur.
1. The more organized you are, the less you’ll have to work
When I’m disorganized, time flies too fast. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next. I don’t know where to find the thing. I don’t know who I’m supposed to connect with. I don’t even know why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Spend more time keeping things simple, and you’ll spend less time spinning your wheels. (You’ll also enjoy your work a whole lot more!)
2. For the sake of your sanity, CONNECT with others
The #1 thing that makes the biggest difference in my happiness, optimism, and progress is connecting with peers. Find those people who do the same sort of thing as you and have positive attitudes about the challenges along the way. Talk to them regularly. Motivate them and let them motivate you. Support them and let them support you. Community is everything.
3. Taking action solves everything
You can have the best plan in the world, but if you don’t act on it, then nothing is going to happen. Don’t wait until your plan is “perfect” (it never will be). Consider your options, do a reasonable amount of research, and then GO! You can correct your course along the way.
4. Plan, but then RELAX
As an entrepreneur, things won’t always go as you expect or hope. Embrace the flow, and learn to be flexible. Better to be relaxed and enjoy the journey than be so stressed out about not being in control of every little detail.
5. Systems save your sanity
Trying to do all the things and be all the people will make balance impossible! Focus on creating systems that enable you to delegate and get more done in less time. Give your work focused, regular attention so that when you AREN’T working, you can be fully present with your family and friends.
6. There will be seasons of less sleep
When you own a business, there are busy seasons, and then there are busier seasons. During the former, you might have it “all figured out” and feel very balanced. During the latter, you WILL get less sleep. You’ll stay up late working on your launch, or wake up early to write your blog post in time — or both. Embrace the season of busyness, but create plans for rest and recuperation as well.
7. The more prepared you are, the more successful you’ll be
This goes for launching products, and services, giving speeches, teaching classes, going to the gym… anything really. The more time you take to be fully ready, the more you’ll get out of the experience. (That being said, don’t overthink it. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time, put in the work, then call that good and GO.)
8. “Everything is figuroutable” — Marie Forleo
She said it, and it’s true. You can figure out ANYTHING that you need to figure out to make your business successful. If someone has done it before you, you can learn from them. If not, you can figure it out on your own (which might take a little more time, but it will be more worth it).
9. Focus on ONE thing at a time
The more focused your attention is, the more progress you’ll be able to make in that one area. That success can then make other things much easier! For example, on social media platforms: you can try to grow a following on five different platforms at once, and gain 1000 followers on each, or you can focus your attention on just one, and gain 5000 followers there (or perhaps a lot more, since you’re more focused). Those 5000 followers can then be directed to your other platforms, and many of them will easily go.
10. Consistency is the key to gaining momentum
Want your business to GROW? Be consistent. Show up consistently as the same person and brand. Publish content consistently. Stay consistently in your niche. Preach your message consistently.
Dripping water all over the place won’t accomplish anything. Dripping water into the same bucket continuously will fill your bucket to overflowing.
11. Solve real problems
Nice things are nice, pretty things are pretty, but problems take precedence. Problems have to be solved. People pay money to have their problems solved. Focus on helping your customers and solving their problems, and they will cling to you.
12. Outsource; it’s so worth it
The other day, I was delegating my time: deciding how much time I wanted to spend on each activity of my business and how much time I really wanted to be working at all. I realized that I could spend 8 hours/month posting to social media, or 8 hours/month putting out a podcast (or both, or neither). I didn’t really want to spend the full 16 hours, so I chose to outsource the social media posting because anyone could do that for me. Only I can host my podcast show.
Spend your time doing those things that only you can do. Outsource all the things that anyone can do. You’ll get so much more done, make so much more money, and provide employment for someone else in the process!
13. Take the time to keep records
Keeping records is no fun. It’s my least favorite part of running my business. Well, almost. Really, my least favorite part is when I don’t keep records, and then I need something and can’t where I put the information I need. Create systems that make keeping the essential records simple, and then make those systems into habits.
14. Take a break BEFORE you are burnt out
Don’t kill yourself working for 17 days straight and then never want to look at your website again. Take at least one day each week completely off. Take some time every single day to slow down and really separate from your work. Paint your nails, walk the dog, watch your favorite show, or make a beautiful dinner. ENJOY life while you are growing your business, or else you will come to hate your business.
15. Know your focus
What is that one thing that you specialize in? Get extremely clear on exactly what your “offer” is, who it’s for, and why people need it.
16. Practice pays off
Practice your speech a dozen times before you give it. Practice writing the copy for your website. Practice connecting with people.
If you aren’t good at something, either decide to outsource it or practice. Being bad at something sucks, but you don’t have to stay bad at it. Keep doing it (in fact, do it way more than you have to), and do it intentionally. It will get easier.
17. Appearance matters
Whether you like it or not, people DO judge books by their covers. That’s just the way the world works.
People will judge you on whatever they perceive. They will judge you on how you look and sound. They will judge you on what you create and how you create it.
Does that mean you have to be perfect? No. Does that mean you have to cater to everyone? Definitely not. But, what it does mean is that you need to show up how you WANT people to perceive you, and you need to care about the details. What you wear matters. Your grammar matters. Consistent branding matters.
Keep things simple, high quality, consistent, and focused on what your customers actually want. Then, ask some of your trusted peers how you could improve.
18. The money is in the list
To make money, you have to sell. To sell, you have to have an audience and a way to be able to connect with them. Focus on building that audience and creating a relationship with them. Your audience must trust and appreciate you. Your audience is your most valuable asset.
19. You can be happy TODAY!
Happiness doesn’t come as a byproduct of success. Happiness is a choice you make every day. Happiness is gratitude for everything you HAVE and curiosity about what you will be able to create next. Don’t deprive yourself of the enjoyment of the journey.
So, before you start your business, get excited, get motivated, physic yourself out, whatever you have to do, and go do it. Just remember, that we are here for you if you get stuck on anything.
Book a call to get started right here.
For some of us, the idea of asking for a referral conjures up the same feelings as networking. Feelings like “I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole” or “Please let there be another way to find clients.” Asking for a referral is scary as heck for an introvert like me. Sometimes you just have to put your big girl panties on and just do it!
But never fear. Just as there are many different types of personalities and business niches, there are many different ways to ask for a referral. You can tailor your referral system to match you and your unique business.
In the Referral Marketing Success Course, co-founder and instructor Craig Cannings discusses two types of referrals. Indirect and Direct. Indirect referrals include Facebook Page & LinkedIn Recommendations, Website Testimonials, and Video Case Studies. Direct referrals involve someone directly passing your name on to another relevant contact either in person or through an email, phone call, or social media message.
THE VALUE OF A REFERRAL
Now, the question is, what is the reason? When broken down, the referral happens because of several things:
- The desire for a flexible lifestyle
- A strong work ethic
That sounds like a lot for someone to know about! But in the course of time, our existing clients can learn similar things about us. And our inner circle of friends and family (and even our acquaintances and colleagues) can learn enough about us to recommend our services to wonderful clients.
In his article, “How to get more freelance clients by becoming ‘referable,’” Benek Lisefski says that the deeper reason to encourage referrals is that “referral clients trust you more.”
He describes the value of referrals this way:
“When that referral client comes to you, they come pre-loaded with trust. They already know you’re the person they want for the job before you’ve even tried to sell your virtues. Half of your trust-building has been done for you. Now all you have to do is meet or exceed that expectation.”
And when the referral client respects the person who referred you, even more of that trust will come pre-loaded. The quality of your referrals begins with the quality of the people you associate with. The clients you work with should be a reflection of the referrals you want to work with. The boundaries or lack of boundaries you have with them are likely the same sorts of boundaries or lack of boundaries their referrals will expect.
WHEN TO START ASKING FOR A REFERRAL
Now comes the part that makes some of us break into a cold sweat. When do we start asking for a referral, and how do we do it?
- DON’T ASK. JUST BE.
You may like the first answer. In the article above, Benek Lisefski says he takes a more indirect approach by making himself as “referable as possible” so his clients use their own initiative to refer him when it best suits them, rather than him having to ask for a referral.
So, one method is to begin by making yourself someone people want to refer to! In a FreeU blog post, “How to Find Ideal Clients (in Your Own Backyard),” they describe their local network as a series of circles. The inner circle is the people you know best (family and friends). The middle circles are colleagues and acquaintances. Whether or not these people need your services, they can refer you to potential clients if they think favorably of you. You can boost their opinion of you by maintaining healthy relationships with past and present colleagues and lovingly supporting your family and friends in their own endeavors.
In the same way, you can encourage referrals from existing clients by doing the best work you can and maintaining a healthy client relationship with them. Remember the quality of the referral will reflect on them too.
- CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME TO ASK.
Sometimes you need to take a deep breath, swallow your pride if necessary, and simply ask for a referral. Even if you’re delivering stellar work to your clients, they may not know you’d like to be referred until you ask them.
Megan Taylor’s article “5 tips to asking for referrals (and a sample referral email),” provides some helpful guidelines for timing your request. This depends on whether you’re doing one-off projects or long-term projects and retainer agreements. She advises waiting to ask for a referral until after the client has given their final sign-off if you’re doing a one-off project like a brand redesign or content for an eBook.
And if you’re doing ongoing work as part of a retainer agreement or long-term project, she suggests using your gut feeling and checking in with your client for feedback. Then “ask once you know you’ve provided unparalleled value.” At the same time, she warns against asking for a referral in your freelance invoice.
HOW TO ASK FOR A REFERRAL
As mentioned above, you can choose the referral request method that works best for you, your clients, and your local network.
Here are some options:
- CONTACT PAST OR PRESENT CLIENTS DIRECTLY
Here’s where we could use the Nike slogan “Just do it.” Once you’ve decided on the correct time to ask, contact your existing or former clients in a way that most resonates with them:
- Personalized email
- Phone call
- Zoom or Skype video call
- Social media message
- Whatever is most appropriate for your relationship
Susan Ward recommends asking face to face in her article, “How to Ask for Referrals and Get More Clients.” She says, “People will always be more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them.” But she adds, “It is acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if you work under conditions where face-to-face meetings are uncommon or very difficult.” In this case, a Zoom or Skype video call could serve as an in-person meeting.
- ASK FOR A TESTIMONIAL OR VIDEO CASE STUDY
An indirect way of asking for a referral is to ask for testimonials or video case studies that you can post on your website and share on social media. This article has some wise advice if you don’t want to directly ask for a referral:
“Ask for a testimonial instead. That way you still have something you can use on your website or in your marketing materials… plus you’ll get your client thinking about what a great job you did.”
They might even offer a referral on their own!”
How To Guide People
- OFFER INCENTIVES.
In the Referral Marketing Success Course, Craig Cannings suggests five types of incentives you can offer in exchange for referrals:
- Referral fee (e.g. $50 – $100 value)
- Service credit (e.g. a specific number of hours or monetary value credited toward future services)
- Service discount (e.g. 5-10% discount off existing or future services)
- E-Gift card or other Gifts (e.g. $50 – $100 online Amazon gift card)
- Free training or resources (e.g. courses, training, or eBooks provided at no charge)
At the same time, he outlines the pros and cons. On one hand, incentives offer both clients and non-clients a tangible motivator and make it easier to ask for referrals. On the other hand, they can make the referral seem less natural and authentic. They can also devalue the referral if the potential client finds out that the referrer received an incentive. So, be sure that incentives are right for your business before using them.
- ASK FOR LINKEDIN RECOMMENDATIONS
LinkedIn provides an option to ask connections whether they’re willing to write a recommendation of your work. Simply navigate to the profile of a 1st-degree connection, click the “More” button, and select “Request a recommendation.” Once the connection has been written, you can display this recommendation on your LinkedIn profile.
In an article titled “How to Ask For The All Important LinkedIn Recommendation,” JoAnne Funch suggests requesting a recommendation immediately after you complete a service for your client.
She also advises personalizing the request:
“It is important that you NEVER send the default request for a recommendation. This doesn’t help you and you are not helping the person you are asking to take their time to recommend you. Your goal is to make it easy for the person you are asking to respond in a timely manner. In your request write a sentence or two about the service they purchased, the results they gained from your service and the benefits of working with you.”
Robin Ryan suggests another strategy in her article “How To Get Valuable LinkedIn Recommendations And Endorsements.” Instead of requesting the recommendation, she suggests first writing a recommendation for your connection. The LinkedIn system will notify them and ask if they’d like to write a recommendation for you in return. She then suggests writing your connection a personalized email and letting them know what you’d like them to discuss in their recommendation for you.
- ACTIVATE FACEBOOK RECOMMENDATIONS (FORMERLY FACEBOOK REVIEWS)
Another effective way of indirectly asking for a referral is to turn Recommendations on for your Facebook Page. By doing so, anyone who’s logged into Facebook can see your Page’s rating, see other Recommendations that were shared with a Public privacy setting, and publish their own Recommendations to your Page.
According to the Facebook for Business site, these Recommendations are also discoverable across the Facebook platform when people are searching for your business or talking about it. It’s easy for people to leave a recommendation by answering “Yes” or “No” and choosing text, photos, or tags to explain why they’re recommending it.
In her article, “Creating an online review management strategy,” Jenn Chen stresses the need to identify which social networks you’re going to focus on and then respond to both negative and positive reviews.
“To find the most opportune networks for your reviews, it may be best to set up a social media listening strategy that will bring up online chatter about your business. If you start seeing more reviews from one network, maybe it’ll be time to join it. Plus, with listening, you’ll be able to find other sources of valuable feedback about your business across social networks.”
WHAT IF YOU RECEIVE A REFERRAL THAT DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT?
Referrals are like blind dates. Sometimes you meet the person and know that despite everyone’s good intentions, this client relationship is not going to work. Although you don’t want to miss valuable opportunities, it’s important to steer away from accepting referrals that are not good for your business. Focus on developing your intuition to determine whether a certain referral is a good fit and have a clear picture of your ideal client.
Here are some ways you can accept the best referrals for you and your business:
- DEFINE YOURSELF AND YOUR SERVICES CLEARLY
Word-of-mouth referrals for business owners are sometimes like the game of telephone. This is where the information gets confused and changed along the way. People can become frustrated if they find out you don’t do what the referrer said you did. And if you change your niche, be clear about what your new niche is so you don’t disappoint people. They might think you still do the previous work.
- LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
Learn how to say no gracefully, and don’t say yes to something that doesn’t feel right. Keep a list of other quality business owners you can refer to if the task is too far outside your niche. If I receive a referral that isn’t right for me, I often recommend one of my colleagues, LinkedIn connections, or freelancers listed in the Freelance University professional directory.
I’m forever grateful for the referral I received that launched my small business journey. Although it can be nerve-wracking to ask for them, referrals are a crucial part of building a business with high-quality clients. Choose the method that works best for you, and wholeheartedly thank your referrers.
As Leah Kalamakis says in her article “10 Ways To Get More Referrals,”
“Tell them how much you enjoyed the client they sent your way and how much you appreciate them for making it happen. When they feel appreciated, they will likely want to continue sending more.”
And now we’d love to hear from you! Have you received business as a result of referrals? Which method of asking for referrals works best for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.