I recently had a new VA email me about joining the network I manage. She asked a number of the usual questions but then also asked the question which is the subject heading of this post.
Interesting question and one I thought I would share here.
I know that whenever anyone starts up in business they are looking for value for their money. They want to spread the word about their business as far as possible without it costing them an arm and a leg. I wanted to do the same when I was first starting out, although at that stage there weren’t any VA networks, but rather mainly business networks.
It is important to look at the member benefits of any network you choose to join, VA or otherwise, and weigh up what the benefits would be to you, and your business. One of the most obvious would be ‘exposure’.
How well exposed is the network you are planning to join? Because, once you become a member, and if they have made available online their directory for the public to view, then you will benefit from that exposure. Your membership fee could almost be seen as an advertising cost and this becomes ‘cheap’ advertising for you. Some of the VA networks have in place extensive web advertising, write publications that are read by a large audience, and some even have Yellow Pages advertising in place for the country in which their head office is based. Add to that the collaborative advertising various members of that network do and suddenly your $$ is spreading much further than you could manage on your own.
With the network I manage, not only do we get job requests almost every day of the week and some days we get several, but clients also contact team members direct without coming through my office. The only time I hear about this is when a member contacts me to tell me about a client they’ve been working with, who came through the ACS website. I’m always pleased to hear about these stories because it’s good to know the system is working.
But that’s not the only benefit, although it would probably be the number #1 on most people’s lists. Many of the networks have chat or board forums for its members and this is where so many of the VAs learnt to develop their businesses. They learn from others who are already operating. They can ask questions, make comment, seek advice and just join in. And then, depending on the network, there will be other things such as web hosting, training and coaching, possibly things such as insurance, stationery discounts and so on. Some of these benefits can only be country specific as it’s relatively obvious that some items cannot be offered on a global basis.
I found when I was first starting out I looked at local business networks to see what benefits I would get as a member. Some worked out great, others I only remained a member for a year and moved on. It’s important for VAs to remember that VA networks aren’t your only choice for promoting your business – you need to look at what other networks are out there that would help you advance your business. And be prepared to join in – the more other members get to know you, the better it is for you with regard to possible work referral, job sharing and so on.Â KMT