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.
Things to Know About Onboarding Clients
There are a few things many online business owners struggle with and onboarding is one of them. So, we are going to discuss things to know about onboarding clients so YOU don’t struggle.
Just like the word “funnel,” this can mean different things depending on where someone is in the process. Onboarding new customers? Or long-term clients? Onboarding potential clients or prospects?
It can be confusing, but here are just a few ways to sharpen up your onboarding processes:
* Keep Your Promises – If you say something, not only should you do it and stick to it but you should also do it a little better than they expected. Don’t promise an easy refund and then make it hard. Don’t promise a “complete” anything that is not really complete. You want your new customers to trust you at your word, and the only way they can do that is by example.
* Respond Quickly – When a customer has a question, you need to answer them as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have an answer to the question, you can let them know that you’re researching it and you’ll get back to them in a defined time.
* Show That You Care – Whenever you can do just a little thing extra to let your customers know you care, you should. For example, why not collect phone numbers and call everyone who purchases your biggest product or package? You should do this within the first couple of weeks to ask them how it’s going?
* Price Your Products or Services Simply – Don’t confuse your audience by giving too many choices on prices and services or projects. Stick to a few simple ideas and steps. Your customers will be more likely to convert. Have only 3 to 5 package choices. Too many and it gets confusing.
* Make the Sign-Up Process Simple – The fewer steps you have in your onboarding process, the better. You don’t want your audience to get upset about what you’re putting them through to become your customer. Make it as easy as possible.
Relationships are the MOST important thing in this business. If you follow these best practices, you’ll be able to maintain your relationships with your customer and learn more about them so that you can create even more solutions for them. After all, as we all know, it’s a lot easier to keep a client or customer than to get a new one.
Check out our course on Relationship Marketing. It will help you make decisions for your business growth for your future.
3 Strategies to Help Reach Your Goals
Are you where you want to be in your virtual assistant business right now? Did you set goals at the beginning of this year, only to tuck them away and never look at them again? Below I’m going to show you the 3 strategies to help reach your goals.
If that’s you, don’t beat yourself up about it. Today is a new day, so course correct and start working on what you really want your business and life to look like.
Here are 3 ways you can start working on your goals right now:
- Set Goals that are Measurable
I don’t believe it’s ever too late to create goals and a plan to achieve them. Yes, some people like to take time at the end or the beginning of the year to work on their goals (I’m one of those people.). If that’s you—or you want it to be—continue to read this article to help you with your own plan.
There is really no “right” time to work on this kind of thing. I think it’s less important when you do it and more important that you just do it. Get started and keep checking in with yourself along the way.
That’s how I like to tackle it. Yes, I create goals for myself at the end of the year, but then I keep them somewhere I can see them every day. I work on tasks that will make those goals happen. And then I regularly check-in to see if I’m making progress.
- Start the Day with Intention
I have a quick and easy way that I start my day so that I’m in the right mindset and stick with tasks that will help me reach my goals. I’ve always wanted to be that person who starts their day out with meditation and then takes 20 minutes to journal, sitting in a quiet space with a cup of coffee. Is that you?
But let’s face it—that’s not my life. First of all, I’m NOT a morning person. As much as I’d like to be, I’m just not and that’s ok.
My Successful “Start my Day Plan”
Here’s what I do when I start my day. First, I grab a cup of coffee and then get on Facebook on my personal profile to welcome everyone to a new day. This has become a ritual that I started a few years ago and everyone knows that if I don’t do that morning post, something is definitely up with me. They get worried and ask me if everything is alright.
After breakfast and getting myself ready for the day I go to my office to really begin my day. One of the first things I do is open my personal email to look for my email from “Notes from the Universe”. I love my “Notes” because they are so perfect for my goals and intentions for my business.
If you need a little more help to switch your mindset around to that of a successful entrepreneur, you can try this:
Changing from the Employee Mindset
- Believe That You Can
If you want one more way to really tap into making things happen for you, I highly recommend you have a “Goal Journal”. Here is an excellent place where you can put your goals you can reference to keep you on track. I go through mine every quarter to make sure I’m doing what I need to do to get to where I want to go. This is a valuable tool you can use year after year.
So, here’s a quick recap. Set goals. Work on them daily. Start your day with intention. Believe that you CAN achieve your goals.
What are your thoughts? Have you tried any of the strategies above? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you.
How to Get Clients
How to get clients – let me show you the 3 easy ways you can do this. But first, get out your notebook and take notes on this process. Then you can do this for every prospective client in the future.
Do these three (3) things:
- Spend time researching
Let the potential client know that you will be sending them an email or private message, but then spend some time researching their business. Take time to read who they are and what they offer.
What have they posted about previously in this same Facebook group?
What do you like about their website or the programs they offer?
What do you see immediately that you can help with? You’ll only know this by taking the time to research them.
research [ˈrēˌsərCH, rəˈsərCH] VERB researching (present participle) investigate systematically. “she has spent the last five years researching her people’s history” · [more] synonyms: investigate · conduct investigations into · study · enquire into · make inquiries into · look into · probe · explore · analyze · examine · scrutinize · inspect · review · assess · read · read up on · pore over · delve into · dig into · sift through · check out discover facts by investigation for use in (a book, program, etc.). “I was in New York researching my novel” · “it’s a piece of work that’s carefully researched, strongly argued, and beautifully written”
- Make it personal
When you email the client – make sure to give them a compliment on what they are doing or tell them what you like about their products. Is there anything that connects the two of you? Maybe you grew up in the same state or have the same kind of dog in their profile picture.
Find a way to connect and make it personal.
- Give value first
What if you took an extra 30 minutes to SHOW your potential client what you could do for them? In addition to sending them a general portfolio of your work, is there a way that you could show off your skills for their business personally?
Here are some ideas of how this could play out:
- The client: Wants help with Pinterest
Give value: Go ahead and create an image that they can pin for their most recent blog post
- The client: Is looking for someone to help them with blogging
Give value: Write out a very detailed outline for a post you would like to write for them
- The client: Wants help with scheduling tweets
Give value: Make a list of 50 tweets that you have pre-created for them
- The client: Wants help growing their Instagram account
Give value: Layout a personalized plan of the exact steps you’ll do for them to increase their followers and engagement.
People aren’t doing this. It takes time. It takes you doing work without getting paid for it. However, if this is a client you really want to work with (which you’ll know since you’ve done your research), isn’t it worth it to take time to make sure your proposal actually gets noticed?
SO LET’S RECAP
Building a business isn’t easy. It will take work. It will take structure, planning and saying “no” to other things.
However, when you land your first client (and then another… and another… and another) it makes the hard work 1000% worth it.
Here are the steps you’ll need to land your first (and future) clients for your Virtual Assistant business:
1. Reserve at least an hour a day to market your business
2. Send out a friends and family email
3. Make Facebook groups your new best friend
5. Make your proposals stand out from the crowd
And remember, there are usually quite a few applicants trying to get the attention of the business owner that is looking for just the right person for their business needs.
Stand out from the others by going that extra mile. It will help you acquire those clients every time.
Need more information? Consider taking our Relationship Marketing Course.
Go here for all the details ➡ ➡ RELATIONSHIP COURSE
How to Name your Virtual Assistant Business
Coming up with a name for your virtual assistant business can be stressful and agonizing for some people. You brainstorm and come up with ideas, but nothing seems right to you.
You want something that reflects you personally as well as your business and what you do. It’s this big, important thing. It will be the name of your website and social media profiles. You’ll write it on tax forms, business plans, and your email signature. So you want it to feel and sound good.
And, for most virtual assistants, this will be the beginning of it all for you, the way that people will come to know you and your business.
So, it’s only natural that it’s a place where many VA’s become stalled when it comes to setting up their virtual assistant business.
So What’s In A Name?
Don’t make it so hard and here are some great tips for you:
- Know the rules and laws
Your business structure and where you are located may affect what you use for a business name, such as using part or all of your name or certain terms. Make sure to check first. Better safe than sorry.
- Don’t make it too hard
Don’t use something too hard to spell. People will find it difficult to find you and your website. Just because you know how to spell it, if it’s not a common word or phrase, others may type it wrong when searching for you.
Do a Brain Dump on Names
- Play with words that relate to your services
Consider using a name that relates to the services you provide for your clients. Use a thesaurus to come up with different words that have the same meaning.
Here’s what Caroline Davidson, Owner at The Functioning Executive had to say about her experience with this:
I didn’t want to use my name so I took the term, “Executive Functioning,” and put a spin on the words. Executive Functions, simply put, is a term used for the cognitive skills a person needs to plan, organize and complete tasks. My business name is “The Functioning Executive”. I function in a support role for busy executives!
- Don’t pigeonhole yourself with a name
While I do encourage you to brand your business based on your services, don’t niche the name down too much. For example, maybe right now you offer social media services. That’s your main focus. So you call your business Susan’s Social Media Boutique.
Six months into working with clients, you decide that you are much better at—and love—project management. But your business name says “Social Media.” Now you need to start a full re-brand, purchase a new domain name, and possibly pay to change some business paperwork.
It’s not that you CAN’T change your name. It’s certainly not impossible. But it’s best to think ahead about your business plans and goals and create a name that encompasses that.
Naming your Virtual Assistant Business Should be Relatable
- Focus on the outcome of what you do for clients
What kinds of results do your clients get from working with you? Think about physical as well as emotional outcomes. If they can relate, they’ll want to know more about you and be interested in working with you.
Here’s how Kat Salonga, Owner of Virtual, At Last! decided on hers:
My business name is Virtual, At last! As in “my business is goin’ virtual, at last!” I decided on it since it has the word “Virtual” and I figured it might be good for SEO. I also wanted my clients to feel relieved and thankful that their business is finally launched online; my customers are usually non-tech savvy female entrepreneurs. It represents the feeling of triumph after all the hard work.
Check Out Different Names Using a Google Search
Here’s another great explanation to get your wheels turning from Sencery Clemente, Owner at Tailor-Made Virtual Design:
I started by writing down all the words that I wanted to be associated with my business. When I think back on it now, it was a list of values that I wanted my business to be founded on.
Then I started thinking of experiences I had in the past when dealing with service providers and wrote down the good and the bad about those experiences – those were mostly emotions of how the experiences made me feel.
After that, I looked at the lists and started to think about how I wanted my future clients to feel when they interacted with me and worked with me. I want them to have a unique and specialized experience because we are all different in what we need/want/desire for our businesses.
- Keep it simple- Use your name or initials
If you’re struggling and nothing sounds right to you, then keep it simple and use your name, initials or some variation of that. Again, just keep in mind the rules and regulations for where you live. In Georgia where I live, if you’re a sole proprietor, you don’t need to register the name if using your name in your business name. In other states, however, if you brand your business with your name, you can’t sell it in the future.
Here’s what Jessica Scotten, Owner at Pineapple Relations, had to say about this when she was coming up with her business name:
I have no idea if I want to sell in the future, but future me can’t make decisions like that today, so I’ll plan on being prepared.
Use a Great Tagline
- Never underestimate the power of a great tagline
If you decide to use a simpler name or your name, use a tagline to explain more about what you do. Sometimes coming up with the tagline makes figuring out the business name easier.
And, if you change up your services or your market over time, you can tweak the tagline to match while keeping your business name the same.
- Make sure the name is available
When you come up with something, Google it and perform a business name search to make sure it’s not already being used. Then search to see if the domain is available.
Here is how Julie Hoflin, Owner at Your Versatile VA, handled it when setting up her business:
I checked the free trademark search websites to ensure it wasn’t already trademarked in either the US or Canada, and once that was done, I officially registered the name in my province. In my jurisdiction, by registering the name legally, a deeper trademark search is completed and I felt so much better knowing if/when granted, I could rest assured I wouldn’t suddenly be told to stop using this name after investing time, money and effort into branding and establishing my biz under this name.
So there you have it. My best tips for coming up with your virtual assistant business name. If you’re working on your name, or if you’ve already established your business, comment below and share your process!
I want to give you one more reminder to always check the laws for your area—depending on your business structure and location, different rules may apply when it comes to naming your VA business.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
So, what is a virtual assistant and where did the title come from? 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 back in the 1990s as the ability to work remotely, due to the internet and having the capability 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
It’s a never-ending list!
Some business owners who hire a virtual assistant can be confused about what precisely a VA is. Often, VA/Client relationships turn bad because of misconceptions about what exactly 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 do’s & 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 VA’s prefer to be location independent, they don’t work with clients in their offices
- a VA 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
- a business owner who is 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
- a mind reader, 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. VA’s help and assist business owners with their daily, weekly and monthly tasks and can be a great asset.
Although VA’s 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 to be treated with respect. Business owners that incorporate saying “please” and “thank you” goes a long way.
Why do people decide to become VA’s?
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 VA’s:
● They want to stay at home with their children while being able to earn a living
● They’d like to be able to work flexible hours
● They’ve always wanted a business they can call their own
● They’d 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 be discussing Mindset Issues next on the blog, but if you want to get a head start, you can check it out now.