A part-time income is desirable for many reasons for many people. Personally, I didn’t want to be broke or depend on my parents for pocket money. Why web design/development or Virtual Assistance a.k.a. VA work you ask? Simply because that’s what I know how to do.
Let me say a little bit about my background as a web designer/developer. I am completely self-taught. When I started learning HTML and CSS, I wasn’t really planning on making money by doing this. I dabble on photography, and because I needed a website to showcase my photos, I decided to learn and create a portfolio website myself. When I finished college a few years ago with a degree in Electrical Engineering, I didn’t find a job in my field right out of college. So, to get by and pay my bills, I found a job as a web developer. I worked at that job for about a year before my dream job came through. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it helped me pay my bills, be independent, while I took my time to look for the job that I really wanted to do. And the best part? I found out that I actually quite enjoyed coding websites!
About a year and a half ago, while attending grad school, I found myself needed a part-time income. To begin with, I wasn’t even sure where and how to find work. In the past I found some random gigs via Craigslist, so that’s what I tried first. Well, needless to say that didn’t go very well. And then, lo and behold, I found a Facebook group. Honestly I do not even remember how I stumbled upon that group in the first place. But I’m glad I did, because that’s what finally kick-started a somewhat regular stream of work.
And so, in this post, I will share with you 5 things you should do that will help you make a part-time income as a tech VA or even a website designer/developer. I do all three, but it’s easier for me to find more VA work than work as a designer/developer for fully custom sites. For now at least.
One: Create a Website for Yourself
Having a website for yourself makes you look like a pro. Even if you are not planning to make web design/development or VA work your full time job, bottom line is, people only want to hire professionals. Nobody cares whether you are a full time or a part-time in real life, but they do care about whether or not you look the part. The part that you play in which you know your crap, and you have it all together, and by the way, you DO have it together. But without your own website, you will appear as though you do not. So yeah, get that up ASAP! And make sure your site looks GREAT!
Two: Join some Facebook Groups and Engage
Facebook groups are great for finding clients. Join a few groups if you have not already. I am an introverted person, so for me, it’s easier to find clients virtually rather than going around networking with people in person (more on that towards the end of this post). Joining the groups ain’t enough by themselves though. You have to actually engage. And be willing to help people out. Sometimes people need help and they ask questions in the groups. If you know the answer, give it to them for free. DO NOT BE STINGY!! Help as many people as you can. This creates reputation! And a good reputation is monumental in this line of work. Set aside an hour or two every few days when all you do is go around helping people.
I have helped plenty of people I think, over the past year or so. In a few of those instances, people have actually offered to pay me (which is always great!), and in some other cases, when they ran into more trouble, they contacted me which led to paid work. Just last month, I helped a food blogger out by customizing some codes to her template. It only took me about 15 minutes, so I didn’t bother charging her or anything for it. A week later, she contacted me for 5 hours worth of VA work, paid of course! So basically, 15 minutes of free work led to 5 hours of paid work!
Now I’m not saying every free-work work will lead to paid work, but hey, good karma is nice either way! And also, as I mentioned, it builds up reputation. If someone likes you, they might refer you to others even if they cannot hire you for themselves.
This is how you go about it:
Sometimes people post about problems they may be having on their website. It’s useful to usually chime in, and either offer some free advice/help/fast solution if possible, or if the problem sounds like it may take more than 30 minutes of work, then send them a personal message (PM) and share your rate, your website, and how you can help them. If possible, tell them how long you think it may take to solve the particular issue. If you charge hourly, this gives them a ballpark idea of how much they are looking at for fixing their issue. You may also offer them a free phone/Skype consultation. Sometimes people find it easier to trust people with their money when they have actually spoken to them.
And now, below are a few groups where I have found clients. If you are just starting out as a tech VA, these groups always have people needing help with their websites. I’d like to mention here that I mostly prefer working with solo bloggers / small business owners, rather than big companies. These groups usually have my ideal clients hanging out there. This may not be the case for you, but if you are like me, that is, introverted, not good with big crowds, etc. Then do join these groups!
- The Rising Tide Society
- Being Boss
- Freedom Hackers Mastermind
- Virtual Assistant Savvies
- Online Business BFFs
Three: Create a Portfolio
If you are offering web design/development services, you definitely need a portfolio. There are more than one way to build a portfolio, but if you have made your own site as I mentioned above, then you already have something to share with your potential clients. Your personal site is the first indication of your own aesthetics. Afterwards, you can add on to your portfolio by 1) Making dummy sites 2) Making sites for actual clients. Let’s talk about #2 first. Getting the first couple of clients is always the most difficult part. My very first client didn’t pay me a dime, but I liked her and figured, why not? I did her site, learned a few things in the process, and had a real client website to add to my portfolio. My second client paid me $250. My third client paid me $500. You see where it’s going?
As for #1 where you make dummy sites, you see, I have unlimited hosting with my provider, so I can create as many sites as I want! I created a few sub-domains, and just designed and developed WordPress blogs. Here I am doing two things. I am adding content to my portfolio, and I am selling WordPress templates on my Etsy shop. More about my Etsy shop in the next section, but my point is: even if you do not have an actual client, it is possible to create a portfolio.
Four: Branch out! You Never Know Where Someone will Find you.
So, I hang out on Facebook groups to find clients. But as I mentioned above, I also have an Etsy shop, as well as a shop on Creative Market, where I sell Blogger and WordPress templates. I have not marketed my stores enough (which I should, and one of these days I might), but occasionally I do sell a template here and there. There was this one time where a person contacted me to see if I could create a custom Blogger template for them. Personally I do not enjoy Blogger as much, and after chatting with her for a bit, I managed to convince her that a Squarespace site may be ideal for her, which it was! I found a client, and she walked out with a great site that’s not Blogger (no offense to Blogger).
Lesson learned: you never know where your next client will find you, so make yourself available in as many platforms as possible. It doesn’t hurt!
Five: Do not Lose Yourself in Self-Promo
When you are on a Facebook Group, adhere to group rules, and do not just always talk about how amazing of a designer or developer or VA or all three, you are. Actions speak louder than Words. Again, help people. By helping or offering solutions, and actually solving others’ problems you are establishing yourself as an expert. no amount of “I’m such and such, and so and so” can compare to the action of actually solving a problem.
It is the same with using social media. Before you start scheduling content 20 times a day in 5 different platforms each, figure out what kind of social media works well in your niche service. Since I have already mentioned joining Facebook groups, why not focus on Facebook to start off? Create a Facebook page for your service. When you interact with people on Facebook groups, it is most likely they will click on your profile. And when they do, they will look for your business URL on your Facebook profile page. A smart thing to do would be to link your Facebook business page on your profile, and then your actual website URL on your business page.
For engagement, if you have a blog, you can share the link of your blogpost on your Facebook page. If you do not blog, then you can use the Facebook page itself as a mini blogging platform. Usually blog posts are longer, but Facebook posts can be just a couple hundred words where you can write about your service related helpful things. For example, if you are a tech VA, may be you can write about SEO for websites. Not a novel on SEO, but just one thing non-tech-savvy (or even tech savvy) people can do to improve SEO.
BONUS: Network with People in Real Life
It’s not easy for me, and I have never done that. I am an extreme case of introvert, so yeah. But if you do not weird yourself out just by saying “hello” to other humans, it can be a great way to find clients. Go to meetups, or speak to your family and friends about what you do. Often people find amazing clients by networking with people they have met in coffee shops or farmer’s markets! How crazy is that! Also, The Rising Tide Society has local chapters throughout various cities across the world, and they meet once every month. You can find a chapter near you, and start networking that way too!
Let’s Chat Now!
Well, that turned out to be a long post! If you have stuck around till the end, THANK YOU! If you have pointers to add to what I have said already, feel free to do so in the comments 🙂