Starting any small business is, for lack of a better term, a challenge. You can’t just jump into it without plenty of thought and research.
Running your business is a never-ending roller coaster of good days and bad; ups and downs; rewards and failures; all from which we learn. An even bigger challenge is starting a business in an industry that is still very young and filled with competitors who have similar skill sets and who are vying for clients in the same target market as you.
The Virtual Assistance industry is an example of this. It is still trying to make a name for itself and the entrepreneurs that make up the industry have similar professional experience and similar prospective clients. But, that doesn’t mean that this type of business can’t be viable and successful. It takes a lot of work but the opportunities are endless. Think about it… as VIRTUAL workers, and with so many advancements in technology, it is much easier to offer our services to a wider market. We are no longer limited to advertising to local markets. The Internet makes it possible to expand our markets and our creativity.
So, what can we do as entrepreneurs to ensure our businesses are successful and to stop the doubts we have any time business is slow whether this business is viable?
Tops on the list is … MARKET, MARKET, MARKET. As small business owners we need to be in “marketing mode” all the time, no matter where we are or what we are doing (well, almost ALL the time :-). Our brains need to be trained to make us think like we aren’t in business mode but if we spot something or hear something that may help our business to build and succeed, a light bulb should go off. An idea should start building and our creative juices should start flowing.
We also need to be shameless self-promoters. If the chance comes up to mention your business, go for it. And, as shameless self-promoters, we can’t be afraid to ask. When you are talking to people, be sure to mention something special that you do or offer. For example, let them know where they can read your articles and that they are free to re-publish them if they have a newsletter or other publication that could use some content. It works for me 🙂
Speaking of articles, this is one of the best ways to market your business. It is a process of writing, locating areas where you can have them published, and then waiting for people to take notice. It then starts all over again. But, writing articles helps to establish yourself as an expert in your field. I wrote my first article about 4 years ago and I wrote about what I knew…. what it was like to be in the startup phase of running a business. As I experienced different and new aspects of my business and my industry, I wrote about those too. I then offered my articles to editors of online and print publications. After 4 years, I look back at my writing and see that it has gotten better (IMHO) and I still see some of my earlier articles show up in publications.
And don’t forget to make a page on your website where you can highlight your articles.
So, pick up your pen or warm up your mouse and write about what you know. If database design and management is your specialty, write about the capabilities that most database programs offer. I bet you that a lot of people have no idea how much a good database system could help streamline their business. If newsletter design is what you do best, write about the benefits and the options that people have for offering an online newsletter. Be creative!
Another great way of marketing yourself and your business it to “toot your own horn”, cause if you don’t, who will? The big companies have PR departments but as a small business owner, that is just another one of the hats we have to wear. If you win an award or obtained a certification or any other newsworthy accomplishment, let others know. Announce it on your email discussion lists… share your good news.
You can also toot your own horn by putting announcements on your website. Find a spot on your homepage and make a special box or graphic to highlight the achievement. If it requires more of a description, make a page that your homepage special links to and put all the information there.