Dear Gritty VA:
Hello! I’m in the beginning stages of starting my own Virtual Assistant business, but the information on the Web is a tad overwhelming. I’m well-qualified with eight years of administrative experience within various fields (marketing, accounting, constructions and the military). I have so many questions!!! My first question is how do I find a niche and is it necessary to my business’s success? Where do I find clients and should I pay a fee to do so? –MT
Generally speaking, I would say no to paying a fee to find clients. I’m guessing that you are referring to job referral sites and such, and those places just do not bring the kind of clients with the proper mindset to pay professional fees. Mostly they are looking for project work sourced out to the lowest bidder. You can’t build a VA business like that and they’ll have you working for $1-$10 an hour. Seriously. If that makes sense to you, you of course have that option, but if you’re truly looking to build a business that will yield a livable income or better, you’ll want to save your time, energy and efforts for better avenues.
Determining a target market (another term for niche) is one of things you can do to make everything less overwhelming and give you some direction as far as finding clients. When you know who you are directing your message to, you can write a clearer, more compelling message that will resonate with them. When you know who your audience is, you can create your offerings specifically to meet their needs, which in turn will make them more attractive to clients. When you know who your market is, you don’t have to wonder how to find clients. You simply figure out where your target market hangs out online and off, and then look for opportunities to network and interact with them. Knowing who your intended market is will make all the work of figuring out what their common interests, goals and challenges so much easier.
There’s not really a secret to determining a target market. Some people start with what they are familiar with, meaning they might choose a target market because they’ve worked in that particular field or industry before, they know what it’s about, how those businesses are run and can easily identify the kind of administrative support they can give to professionals in that field.
Some people might choose a target market because it’s one that already has established history of working with Virtual Assistants. For example, the coaching, speaking, real estate and legal fields are industries with a long history of utilizing Virtual Assistants. Those industries are already familiar with ours, they know the drill, so to speak, and you can be pretty sure there are plenty of clients to go around and they will be easy to find.
Other people might end up with a wild card–a client who works in an industry they weren’t familiar with before. In those circumstances, they might find they really have an affinity for the field and the kind of work clients do and really enjoy working with folks in that industry.
You might switch target markets several times throughout the life of your business, but the point is to start somewhere as it will give you much needed direction and focus for your efforts all the way around. In choosing a target market, the most important criteria it must meet are:
- It must be an industry that has a need for the solution you are in business to provide;
- It must be an industry where there are plenty of clients who have a need for your solution and who are easy to find and network with;
- It must be an industry/field where the business owners are making enough money to afford professional fees (you can’t work with people who can’t afford you).
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