In my field I get requests for help almost every day from those who want to be VAs or those who have been trying to get their businesses going for a while but not getting anywhere. In most cases there are some fundamental things missing in their approach to develop business and two of those things are: networking and having an online presence.
They pay out money here and there for what seems a great opportunity and promise of lots of work, and then find nothing happens, except their money is gone. When, in fact, perhaps checking with others or looking to see what others do is what should be done first.
Networking is most important â€“ both online and offline, via business and VA forums, industry associations, perhaps software launches if the services you provide require the use of particular software (what better place to meet prospective clients?), and through any number of other avenues. But if a business advertises at all, then it is important they advertise online too and develop an online presence â€“ I know that sounds like a â€˜duhâ€™ statement, but youâ€™d be amazed how many people contact me who do not yet have an online presence. Advertising with a web based directory alone is not the way to do it â€“ especially if there are no links to click on but only a phone number to dial.
There are several components required in the exercise of being online and I outline them here for the benefit of those who have not yet gone down this path.
- Buy a domain name. What is a domain name? Itâ€™s that address used to point people to your website, i.e. www.yourname.com. There are many places you can buy domains â€“ just key in â€˜domain registrarâ€™ into Google or your favourite search engine and hundreds or more will be listed. I prefer to use www.godaddy.com personally as itâ€™s easy to access, I have full control over whatâ€™s happening and their prices are good â€“ plus they have lots and lots of additional services such as webhosting, shopping carts, email services, and so on if required. Or you can find someone to do this for you – preferably someone helping with your website.
- Get a webspace to house your website â€“ most ISPs provide a webspace with your email account and itâ€™s already paid for. So, unless you particularly want separate webhosting services, this is a good place to start with no extra cost. I do my own webhosting these days but this is how I got started. Your website address will be something like www.yourisp.com/~yourusername. You can get your domain name pointed to that address so that when people click on www.yourname.com it actually takes them to www.yourisp.com/~yourusername. There are other things that can be done that will disguise where people are really going but for now, Iâ€™m giving you a quick simple way to get an online presence.
- Next get your website designed â€“ this is not something that should be done with Publisher, Word or any other program not designed for website development. Either be prepared to spend the time and money learning how to use a program or pay someone to do it. If you are prepared to spend money on decent looking business cards and brochures (Iâ€™m assuming you would), then please do the same for your website. A simple 4 page website does not have to cost the earth but if you are planning to do regular updates and add information then finding someone who does continued maintenance without heavy cost is a good way to go, or perhaps a web designer who has the facility for you to log on and make changes to the content after the initial design is worth considering too. Itâ€™s important a website is kept up to date and appears to be a live document â€“ which in fact it is.
- This is the next most important thing â€“ promote your website. There are so many ways to do this but unless itâ€™s done people will not know it exists. Here is a list of things that could/should be done:
– Register with search engines (there are services that can do this for you but you can learn how to do it also).
– Include the address (www.yourdomain.com) in all forms of advertising, on your brochures, letterheads, business cards, etc.
– Create a signature block for your emails and include it in your emails.
– Make sure the web address actually shows up on your website too.
– If you enjoy writing, submitting articles online to article submission sites (for others to use) or submitting articles to business magazines is a good thing to do â€“ include your web address at the end of your bio.
– Develop an email list from your database and via online subscriptions at your website so that you can promote specials, products, services, sales, etc.
- Use an email address that reflects your domain name and not your ISP. If people see your email address listed somewhere they will often call up the domain to check out your website.
Whilst all of what Iâ€™ve outlined above seems simple and straightforward, there is actually a reasonable amount of work required in achieving the above and it takes time. I keep tweaking and updating my website and itâ€™s been online since early 1996. Each year I give it a new look so I donâ€™t get bored with it, but so my visitors can also see evident changes. I produce monthly newsletters for which people can subscribe at my site.
There are many more things that can be done in relation to the development of your website such as keyword descriptions, meta tags, search engine optimisation, Google Adwords, etc â€“ I wonâ€™t go into detail about everything else here. The purpose of this article is to prompt you to realise that if you donâ€™t yet have an online presence you should be considering it.
Generally businesses that donâ€™t yet have an online presence are run by people who may not have an understanding of what the Internet can do for their business. I urge you to reconsider and seek the advice of someone you know and respect who is already online. There is an audience here you are missing!
Final point – when you do have an online presence don’t make the assumption that floods of work will come in. It won’t – it’s a gradual process. You need to make sure you are networking, networking and networking some more – but that’s another article! See http://vadirectory.blogspot.com/2005/12/networking-information-and.html and http://vadirectory.blogspot.com/2005_11_01_vadirectory_archive.html – the last article on the page called Network, Network, Network