When my first client hired me in March of 2016, I had no idea that in August I would be handing in my two weeks notice and be running The Social Walker Agency full time that September. No idea. What started as a way to learn the world of online business (after my first attempt in 2015 failed), quickly became something altogether different. In the video at the bottom of this post you’ll find the first three things I recommend doing in order to start your business. But today, I want to break down a few other areas to help you kick-start your business.
My First Client
For the first few months I only had one recurring client and a one project-based client. I had already learned how to use Canva, so I put together a new business special. It went something like this - “the first 2-3 people to purchase 10 hours of VA work in March would get 2 hours free!” (I tried to find the actual graphic, but that seems lost in yesteryear). I posted this in Heather Crabtree’s Facebook group (thanks for the rec, Jessica!) and had one person bite - Jodi!
When I got that first email I was ELATED! We chatted over a few days, and all was set. But y’all, even with all the work Jodi had me doing, it took 3 months to use up all 10 hours. I’m not saying that to brag, I’m saying that because it taught me that I needed to re-package all of my offerings and made me realize that tracking 10 hours of work even with Toggl is very tedious. It also wasn’t until late May that I got my second monthly client.
So you’re probably wondering how I left my job 3 months later, right?
Getting My Name Out There
Over the next few months I joined a few other Facebook groups and learned a whole lot from others in the groups. Although, not an expert in the online world, I knew I also had things to share. I started blogging and sharing the blog posts when the weekly prompts allowed and tried to answer any and all questions when I could. After years of being a receptionist, coming from a family of business owners, and being a self-proclaimed planner, I knew some things about the admin side of running a business and I was trying to learn as much as I could about the social media world.
Also, any time someone posted about needing a VA, I would try to throw my name into the running. I was checking and searching those Facebook groups like it was my job for people needing and wanting assistance, because well, I wanted that to be my job!
**Now, I’ll admit, I may have been checking some of those groups while on the clock at my 9-5, but I’ll get into that in a few weeks.
By the start of July, I had 5 monthly clients. A few of these were referrals from Jodi (which always warm the heart), two were because I responded to their Facebook requests, and another said she found me on Facebook answering someone else’s requests. Y’all, people are watching what you are doing, so make it good, and make it consistent. I’ve even had some referrals from people who have never hired me but we’ve connected on social media.Then more referrals kept coming in and I was saying yes to any and every client that came my way. At that point I knew I wanted to quit my 9-5 (which is a whole other story) but I can say that I had zero nightmare clients this last year, and I hear that’s rare!
There were a few that I only worked with for one-off projects (which are super fun and keep the creativity flowing) and some I worked with only for a month trial to see if we were a good fit and we weren’t business-wise but nothing has ever been personal.
Each of my clients have taught me some amazing things and one I always try to implement is from Samantha over at Hype Social Strategies - “Schedule out everything through Monday, so that you can relax on Sunday. Then on Monday, start working on Tuesday and you’ll always be a day ahead.” This is serious gold, y’all, especially if you don’t have a content calendar that runs more than a week or two weeks at a time.
Client Care (a brief run-down)
I think I should do one whole post on client-care and referrals because my brain has a million things to say on it, but this is one area I know I’ll always be trying to improve upon. Taking great care of the clients you have will lead to more work down the road - either with new clients or more work for the same clients. Quality communication, support and hard work are the top 3 things I’d recommend to get started with your client-care. Treat every client like as if they’re your only client. I do wish I had implemented client gifts in the beginning, and again, this area is always evolving for me, but even a simple, hand written note can go along way in today’s world.
The first one I already mentioned was that sometimes hourly just isn’t the best (for me). I don’t want my clients to wonder if we’ll run out of hours by the end of the month or how to handle rollover minutes (early 00s cellphone commercial anyone?). I also pride myself on being efficient and competing with the clock to get more and more done (done right the first time as much as possible.
Another one I’ve already mentioned too is client gifts. A few months after working from home and getting settled in that routine, I sent all clients - past and present - a little gift as a way to say thank you. Sending a note later is better than never, so this is your excuse to go buy pretty thank you cards at Target!
My final lesson for today is this: even if you need the money, truly evaluate every single opportunity. If you have a 9-5 then you technically don’t need to say yes to every inquiry, and if your business is your sole income, then I recommend this even more, because you don’t want to get in a situation where you’re dependent on a contract that you don’t love doing. When client relationships have ended for me this past year, either by me or by the client, it was always on good terms because we were open and honest during the process.
It has been one crazy year to say the least, and I'm loving revisiting it through this case study! I’d love to hear how you got your first client in the comments below!