I’ve found, from my own experience, and from hanging around the virtual assistant forums, that most virtual assistants don’t start their businesses with an advertising budget.
In fact, I’m sure that there are plenty of small start up companies out there in the same boat. In this economy it’s all about bootstrapping. Especially for micro and small service businesses.
Yet, in order to get clients, one must get the word out somehow.
There are low-cost alternatives out there that many of us are taking advantage of like blogging and social media. But have you ever considered bartering?
bar·ter [bahr·ter] :
-verb (used without object)
1. to trade by exchange of commodities rather than by the use of money.
Exchanging your services for advertising could be just what you’re business needs to give it the exposure it deserves. Trust me, magazines and newspapers are feeling the economic pinch too. Hiring freezes and cut budgets are leaving people overwhelmed. They might not be able to contract with a virtual assistant due to the cost, but they still might need some additional help.
Now, don’t go e-mailing Ladies Home Journal. I’m talking local magazine and newspapers here.
My suggestion is that you attend a few local networking meetings and pay particular attention to the newspaper and magazine editors in the crowd. When you get a chance to talk with them, ask them about the administrative challenges they are facing in the down economy. Chances are this will open the door for you to let them know what you could do to help. If they seem interested, make sure you exchange information with them and then contact them the next day.
Don’t make your sales pitch at the meeting, just entice them with information about how you could make their job easier.
A day or so after the meeting, follow up by contacting them. If you’re lucky, you may find someone that can pay your rates and sign on as a client.
On the other hand, if they seem like they want the help but can’t afford it, this is when you bring in the bartering skills. Offering your services in exchange for a small ad in their publication may just open the door to getting your business advertised.
What if that’s not a possibility either?
Obviously they were interested in what you do and the services you offer. Mention to them that their readers might be too and ask about the possibility of having an article published about what you do. The focus of the article would depend upon their readership. For example, some publications would benefit from an article focusing on the ‘green’ aspect of using a virtual assistant, while another might be more suitable to a money saving focus.
Regardless of your advertising budget or lack thereof, it’s worth the time and effort to connect with your local media markets. And who knows, you may barter your way to success.