Networking For Your Business
You must Sell Yourself
Networking For Your Business is an essential skill every successful home based business entrepreneur must have.
Clients will not just come to you; you must go out and find them. Remember, there are plenty of busy, struggling business people who need your services yet don’t even know you exist. You have an invaluable service to provide, so go out and promote yourself with pride!
If you had experience in sales or marketing before you decided to become a virtual assistant, then networking my come naturally to you. You are lucky that you already possess this skill and you just need to go find networking opportunities.
Others may have less experience with business networking and maybe your virtual assistant business is your first attempt at self-employment. You may find the thought of networking a little intimidating at first and not sure how to begin.
The first thing you want to keep in mind is that networking your business is very much like social networking.
You want to concentrate on building business relationships. You never know which contact you make will connect you to your next client.
It may be easier for you to keep in mind that you are providing a service than many people need. You don’t need to be pushy or try too hard to “sell yourself”, just get the work out about your services and let the relationships you build naturally bring you to clients.
Where do you network?
Basically you network your business online and offline. Fortunately there are plenty of networking opportunities in both venues.
For offline networking a good place to start is your Chamber of Commerce. Find out what networking events they offer and attend as many as you can. You may have an opportunity to share your business card or brochure with them for further promotion.
Your local Chamber of Commerce and library are great places to find out what business organizations exist in your area.
Look into networking associations in your community. There are groups for small business owners, women business owners, as well as many professional networking groups. There are business luncheons and after hours networking events.
You may be nervous at first as you walk into one of these events and face a room full of strangers. Just keep in mind many people are nervous in this situation and push yourself to do it despite any apprehensions. Everyone is there to promote their business and to make contacts with businesses that have services they need. Remember that your business is providing a service that can actually help others.
Start small and try to connect with a few people at your first event. Make sure you are prepared by dressing professionally, having business cards ready and having rehearsed your “30-second commercial”.
Sales people have used this trick successfully for years. Since everyone today is busy in our fast-paced world, imagine you are in an elevator and have only 30 seconds to tell the other person about your business.
Another way to network offline is to visit small businesses. Look for small businesses in your community that may need your services. Small shop and salon owners, massage therapists, new business start-ups and self-employed professionals are great clients for virtual assistants. If you have specialized services, such as legal secretarial experience, then pursue legal professionals who are likely to need your expertise.
Have professional business cards and brochures created for your business and see if you can leave them with the business owners. Many businesses have places where you can leave promotional materials. If the business owner does not need your services, perhaps one of their clients will.
Be creative when looking for opportunities for networking your business.
Public speaking opportunities can be a great way to promote your business. You can talk about any aspect of running a business and establish yourself as an expert in the business community. Perhaps you can you be a presenter at a business networking event? Look for business organizations that are looking for speakers. Look into local Rotary and Toastmaster clubs. If the thought of public speaking terrifies you, you are not alone! Toastmaster clubs are great for helping people overcome their fear and develop their public speaking skills.
If the thought of public speaking is too daunting for you, another great method for networking your business is teaching a class at your local community college or adult continuing education school. Many large cities and universities have “free universities” which are always looking for teachers to teach on popular topics, and work at home opportunities are always popular? These classes are usually fairly small and it may be much more comfortable to speak to a more intimate group.
There are many good Virtual Assistant Associations that have forums and message boards where you can network with other virtual assistants. Build relationships with other VAs and you may be able to refer work to each other. Share tips with others in the forums but be sure you follow the forum’s rules on advertising. Offer real help in areas of your expertise and don’t just join in to promote yourself.
There are many opportunities for networking your business, both online and offline. Look for and participate in as many networking events as you can. You will find that it gets easier with some practice, so get out there are tell everyone about your business!