How I Found My First Client

Today I’d like to answer the question ‘How did you find your first client?’

It’s a question I get asked every now and then, and I remember being fascinated by this question when I was doing research into becoming a Virtual Assistant. I too wanted to know how others had started out and how they found their first client. It gave me hope that it could really work, and this is what I want to give you today.

Back in 2002, at the start of my journey to becoming a Virtual Assistant, I had invested in some transcribing equipment so I could start out offering simple transcription services from home. I’m assuming you know what transcription is (it’s when you listen to a voice recording and type what is being said. The finished document is formatted, spell checked and returned to the client).

I figured there would always be a need for this kind of work. Even if people can type themselves, often they don’t have the time or the inclination.

I’ve been asked whether voice recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking could potentially reduce the need for a transcriptionist.

Voice recognition software allows the spoken word to be automatically converted into text on your computer. However, in reality, the software needs to be trained to recognise your own voice, and you also spend valuable time correcting its ‘mistakes’ afterwards. Plus, it’s no good if you want, for example, an interview with more than one voice to be transcribed.

I put an ad in my local newspaper and crossed my fingers. The very next day I had a call from a lady nearby who had about 5 hours work of court recordings she needed transcribed! I couldn’t believe it as I was expecting to wait a long time before hearing anything.

The work involved a legal case that was going on for about 6 months – so she turned into more than a one-off client.

So, that is how I found my first client and the type of work I did for her. There are many legal firms that require help with transcription, as well as medical professionals, consultants, speakers, focus groups… you get the idea.

Digital transcription is really in demand as well. This removes the need for sending tapes back and forth. All you do is receive an mp3 digital file onto your computer. This gets transcribed using a headset, pedal and free digital transcription software.

Have a look at the ebook I wrote about transcription work from home:

http://www.hometranscriptionwork.com

Digital transcription really opens up the possibility of working with clients all over the world, seeing as it can be done purely over the internet.

As for finding clients, there are lots of ways of finding transcription clients. In fact, advertising in the local paper may not be the most effective way of putting word out about your services, but it did help me get that first client.

Other ways of marketing your transcription services could include networking on small business forums, social media e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, networking at local business events, ranking your website in the search engines, to name a few.

Do any of you have any experiences with offering transcription as a service? Or do you have any questions about offering transcription?

17 Comments

  • Nathalie says:

    Hi Lisa

    I have just started with my virtual assistants business, still waiting for my website to be finished but we are getting there. I am an experienced audio typist and has been for the past 9 years. I would appreciate it if you could send me some more info on how to advertise and which is the best market to go for etc etc etc

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Regards
    Nathalie

  • Hi Lisa

    Thanks for this little piece of inspriation. I used to do audio typing for a firm of accountants, many many years ago when I found started out as a secretary. I must admit I found the work very easy to do, as Im quite a fast and accurate typist – and I found I could type what was going into my ear and still manage think about other things – like how I could finally get into my dream job!

    So, while I have put audio/transcribing down as services I could offer – I never really thought of it as a potential market niche for me! Now after reading your advice Im going to put a little more thought into it, as it may be a good market for me. Im especially going to look into the digitial transcription services.

    So thanks – again – for your ever-useful advice!!

    Best wishes
    Carolyn

  • Debbie says:

    What is digital transcription? I have years of experience with transcription, but I have not heard of digital transcription nor am I familiar with how it works. Is there special equipment that is needed? If so, how much does it cost? How does digital transcription work with the internet? I think this might really increase my marketing results, if I am able to figure out how it works.

  • Deby Fillman says:

    Hi Lisa,
    What wonderful luck for you! I started my business in 2001, had some personal issues with physical illnesses with my husband and got scared and went back into the workforce. I got laid off last June and decided to do it again. I fell into the mobile notary business and got certified as a notary signing agent and am now doing loan closings simply by signing with signing companies online. What a blessing! I met a woman who does this and started asking questions and through her explanations of the business I was able to start my business back up. I now have one steady client that I do mailings and data entry for, I am hoping to get more. I have done some transcription work before but am not an expert at it. Do you have any suggestions for me, I would like to do transcription but I’m afraid that I do not exhibit a confident forefront when it comes to that.

    I do look forward to hearing more from you on that subject. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Deby

  • Lynne says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Just wanted to comment on how you found your first client. I worked as a legal secretary for over 25 years and am now marketing my virtual assistant business. However, as many lawyers that I know, they are still quite reluctant to “let go” and work virtually. I find they prefer to have someone physically there on a daily basis rather than working via the phone or internet. However, I was lucky enough to land a position with a law firm that was thrilled and quite impressed with my experience both as a legal secretary and virtual assistant. Unfortunately, due to the situation with the economy, they had to cut back in November 2008 and have not needed my services since then. Although, the office manager has told me time and again that I will be the first person she calls once they start hiring again. I was interviewed by three separate law firms who would have hired me that day had I agreed to go back to working 9-5:30, Mon-Fri. In order for me to do that, I would have to change so much about my life, e.g., commuting costs, dog walker, after care, summer camp, etc. The expense for me to go back to work in an office is not worth it. I’d be working all those extra hours to pay for services that I could simply avoid by working from home! I love having the freedom to set my own hours and work from my home office. I get outside with my dogs and talk long walks on tree-lined trails. I have the opportunity to volunteer at school and attend EVERY school event, show, concert, etc. I am on a quest to land more clients and grow my business because working in this capacity is how all offices will eventually be run. I want to grow enough so I can hire other assistants. I will not give up and give in to having to go back to a 9-5 job! I’ll keep you posted as to my progress.

    Thanks for your support and encouragement to keep positive and work hard at growing my business.

    Lynne J

  • Lynne Davren says:

    Lisa

    I have been temping for the past 3 years as I can’t find a permanent job. I feel I now want give my own VA business a go. I feel audio transciption would be a really popular service to offer but I am unsure about the transcription software. As I am just starting, if I go and purchase transciption software, how will I know if my client’s files will be compatible or not?

    Lynne Davren

  • Susan Dagg says:

    Hi Lisa
    Pleased you are back in the land of the living!
    My first customer was through networking and i just thought he had one business, but he informed me he had three businesses after working with me for a week!
    He said he was just testing the water with me and now we look after all three businesses.
    I love meeting new people and thats how i do my networking.
    At every opportunity i try and sometimes it can be something i need that leads to an opportunity.

  • Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty and desire to help others. I too am looking into doing transcription work as a VA and you just helped me out so much. Be Blessed and continued success.

  • Deb says:

    I also agree with you entirely, Lisa, about the Dragon Naturally Speaking software and how it will NOT replace transcription services.

    I have experience with Dragon Naturally Speaking versions 8 and 9. The software is very intelligent and provides a very useful service for some (with the correct amount of time and training), but will never actually replace the objective human transcriber.

    The Version 8 software came with a Digital Voice Recorder that I purchased. For various reasons, I did not use the software, but I did try it when Version 9 was released. It was better than 8, but not completely useful (without errors). I am not a public broadcaster (with a fabulous voice), so the software had an imperfect subject to “learn”.

    I now download the dictation to my PC, and transcribe it myself when I have time. The notes are not making me money, so it isn’t feasible to hire someone else to transcribe my TO DO LIST and random thoughts for articles!

  • Lisa Taliga says:

    @ Nathalie – Congrats on starting your VA business. On this blog I’ve written alot of free articles about how to get clients for your business – http://www.virtualpabusiness.com/blog/category/marketing/

    Any of my marketing tips can be applied to a transcription business.

    @ Carolyn – Yes, transcription really can be a viable niche for a VA. It sounds like you have great skills and experience for it too!

    @ Debbie – I’m putting together a resource on digital transcription which should answer most of your questions. I’ll post it on this blog when it’s ready!

    @ Deby – Re: becoming more confident at transcription – you’re right, you do need to feel confident within yourself to offer a particular service. The best way of gaining the confidence is to start out small. Offer your transcription services to family, friends, friends of friends. You’d be surprised how many people know other people who might need that service. You can even offer to volunteer your transcription services for a short period of time in your local community (think ‘not-for-profit’ organisations). I know that the nature of volunteering means that you don’t get paid for the work initially, but if you do a good job it will snowball from there. The small amount of free time you invest at first will pay off very quickly.

    @ Lynne J – You’ve given a very accurate portrayal of what it’s like to work for yourself! It sounds like you’re very in touch with your ‘reason why’ you want to work for yourself. Staying in touch with your ‘reason why’ will help you exponentially to achieve the success you want!

    @ Lynne D – Re: the transcription software, the one I recommend is free. It will be compatible with your client’s files because it handles mp3′s and wav’s which are universal file types for audio.

    @ Susan – Glad you missed me! Absolutely right, networking always leads onto other opportunities!

    @ Michelle – You’re welcome, and good luck with getting into transcription. I’ll be making a free video to expand on the topic soon.

    @ Deb – Yes, Dragon Naturally Speaking, while a useful tool, is a completely different ‘animal’ to a live transcriptionist!

  • Viv @ Virtual says:

    Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for info on the transcription services. I have looked at this and did transcription many years ago (the old way!) and I wasn’t sure about doing it as I did not want to spend any more money on new software at the present. Thanks so much for the tip on the free software and I will look at it for advertising on my website.

  • Lynne D says:

    Lisa

    Thanks very much for your help. Your blog has been most informative and helpful.

    Lynne D

  • Glad to see you’re ready to Blog On! again, Lisa.

    Just short remark about newspaper ads. Despite the fact that most people “cringe” when you suggest placing an ad in their local newspaper as a marketing strategy … I’m a firm believer that newspaper ads work. And you’re a prime example of authentic proof!

    I’m still in the “consideration” mode about becoming a virtual assistant. I’ve got administrative assistant skills and I treasure any moments in life when I can serve and support others. Your newsletters and wealth of knowledge have been helpful and encouraging.

    I think the ONE factor that’s holding me back is that I’m a single mom and the sole bread winner with no addendum support. I’m currently working two part time jobs outside the home and, believe me, with today’s economic downturn I’m not in a financial position to walk away from either one of them.

    Any viable way to gently dip my toes into the virtual assistant waters without getting myself in over my head at first? In your estimation, what would be the best approach? Is it possible that some clients have a need for just one or two specific tasks?

    THANKS!
    ~Melanie

  • Grahame says:

    Hi Everyone,
    I am looking for someone to transcribe teleconference calls in to a readable format and thought rather than go to elance one of you might be interested ?
    Grahame Rees

  • Hi Grahame

    Would love to help you out, if possible. My website is still under construction (two weeks to go!) so you cant see the details of my company (Im a brand new VA, just at the starting block)! But I do have the digital transcribing materials now, and Im all set to go – only minus a website!

    If you need my help, am happy to send you my cv or futher info if you need it.

    Best wishes
    Carolyn (CarrieOn.com)

  • Liki says:

    Hi!
    I´m also starting providing my skills and services online. My primary location is Europe, The Baltic States. I do speak-write Estonian, Russian, English, Finnish. I also have a bachelor’s degree in office management.
    So if somebody of PA-s around US would like to co-operate, do not hesitate to contact me! We could share experiences and knowledge!
    Greetings to all!

  • Good article. I amm going through some of these issues as well..

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