When I started my virtual assistant business, I was blessed enough to just have my first client land right in my lap. I didn't have to do any marketing, no cold calling, no low-balling my rates just to land a client. None of that. Everything was going very well until the real estate client I worked with suffered a huge loss when the real estate market tanked and I was suddenly out of a job. Man, I was thrown for a loop. Lesson number one: don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Well, it was time to put on my big girl panties and get to work to find another client. And fast. You see, I hadn't put aside any of the hard-working money I had made in my business. Lesson number two: put aside at least 20% of your income for a rainy day. A client may suddenly experience a sudden setback in their own business and can't afford to pay you. Or a client just might decide they don't want to pay you for some reason and bail, leaving you in the lurch. Yep, it happens, unfortunately.
So, I set out to find a new client to replace my first and only one at the time. And because I was so desperate at the time to find a replacement client, I marketed my services any and everywhere. I found the majority of my clients on Elance (now known as Upwork, after a merger with the other mega freelance site, oDesk). I'm not gonna badmouth Elance, oDesk or any of the other freelance platforms out there. What I will say is long-term, those platforms didn't work for me.
How freelance platforms work
If you're not familiar with how freelance platforms likeUpwork operate, here you go: after you create an account, the next step is to create a profile. It's kind of like a resume, where you'll list all of your relevant skills, experience, and portfolio if you have one. You'll take a few skills tests to show potential clients that you really do know what you've listed in your profile. For example, if you list one your skills as a Microsoft Word expert, you would take the Word skills test. A score will be computed after you finish the test and it will be added to your profile.
Once your profile is complete, you're all ready to bid on available jobs.
What is a niche?
The problem wasn't finding clients on the hiring platforms. My problem was not defining my niche. What is a niche?
In short, a niche is a job or activity that a person is really good at. For example, my dad worked in the broad area of construction before he retired. The construction industry can cover a wide variety of jobs, like carpentry, electrician, concrete finisher, you name it. My dad's speciality, or niche, was bricklaying. He was a master at his craft. He could probably do other stuff in the construction field but bricklaying is what he was really, really good at. It was what he became known for and what homeowners requested from him.
What happened when I didn't define my niche
I had a bomb freelance profile, if I do say so myself. Clients were contacting me left and right with offers without even having to send out proposals and I was accepting these offers, without doing much due diligence or any other checks. At the height of one particularly busy period, I had ten clients! Yes, ten! And I was doing all sorts of things: sales calls, social media, administrative work, data entry and transcription. On any given work day, I was doing all of these tasks. I had to shift from task to task constantly and I felt as if I never really achieved anything. My focus just wasn't there and by doing all sorts of different jobs, I began to really figure out what I was just mediocre at and what I truly enjoyed doing.
What did I learn?
I found out that I don't like making sales calls. I don't care how much the hourly rate is, I don't like making calls. I don't like doing data entry. I did find out that I truly enjoy writing and creating social media content. I like being the voice of clients and making their business stand out. I love working with nonprofit organizations and faith-based entrepreneurs. I truly enjoy creating graphics and images, especially to be shared on social media. I began to focus on the things I really liked doing and letting go of stuff that I just didn't care to do. I also had to get comfortable telling clients "no." With a defined niche, that part of it actually became pretty easy to do.
I also learned that stacking clients like firewood just to make a quick buck doesn't work. If you don't like what you're doing, your clients will be able to tell. I know only focus on social media management and social media graphics. That's my niche. When you cast a wide net, you're bound to reel in anything. But when you narrow your focus to what type of specific services you want to offer, you attract the type of client you really want to support who needs those particular services.
If you're ready to launch your virtual assistant business, I highly suggest taking Gina Horkey's free 5-day course. You'll learn all about what makes a great virtual assistant, how to find clients, how much to charge and a whole lot more. It's free, ya'll! Nothing to lose and everything to gain.
In the meantime, if you're a virtual assistant, what is your niche? Share your services in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!