A chance comment from a VA on a forum during the week prompted me to think about the message they were conveying. They gave the impression that they only networked now and then for their business when they ran out of work, but not often otherwise.
Before I started my business I had been attending seminars and events for personal and professional development back in the early 1990s and one of the things that was constantly re-iterated, was the need for networking, in order to get ahead. This was for the corporate world as an employee – how much more important is it for us as self-employed business operators? I bought books about networking and read constantly. Much of what I learnt back then still applies today.
During that time I met Australia’s networking guru, Robyn Henderson who wrote Networking for $uccess and a multitude of other books on networking. In fact I kept in contact with Robyn, letting her know how much I enjoyed her books and what I’d been learning, and do you know what happened? Robyn became one of my clients a few years later! Networking even occurs in simple written communication, in this case letters and cards as it was pre-Internet.
I strongly believe that networking isn’t something to be carried out when work has dried up (which was this VA’s problem) but rather something that is continuously worked upon, every single week. It doesn’t matter how busy you are, something constructive should be done regularly towards the building of your business. Otherwise, a few weeks or a couple of months down the track you’ll find things quiet again and wonder what’s happened?
You stopped networking, that’s what happened!
Networking can happen both online and offline and, in fact, I believe it’s important that both are carried out equally. We may operate virtual businesses but clients can still be found locally and quite close to where you live and work. Why ignore this potential client base?
Make it a habit to network regularly every week and over time you’ll find a constant stream of enquiries and client contact happening which will keep moving your business onward and upward. And if you get too busy, you can then outsource or sub-contract to other VAs, or simply pass the work on!
Kathie is the owner of VA Directory and is former past President of the Australian VA Association. She founded the Virtual Assistant industry in Australia in the mid 90s, having already been operating a home-based secretarial service. Today the VA industry covers a multitude of office-based services for clients worldwide.