#VAin30 - Day 10: Getting References
1. Finding People to Recommend You
If at all possible, avoid asking relatives to give you a good recommendation. Unless you are slightly estranged or have different last names and no common acquaintences, this almost always backfires. Once a potential prospect learns that your mom or cousin was the one to recommend you, the recommendation is no longer usually taken seriously.
So, who can you ask? Even if you are just starting out, there are likely some people from your past (and a few current colleagues) that can vouch for your skills and your character. Try breaking your contacts into three groups to help make sure you have a good mix. They should include:
These are people who have seen you work, but may not have much to say about your skill level. They can be people you volunteered with, a teacher, a student, people from your church community, or someone you simply know personally, but who has high standing in the community (your town mayor or the head of a large company.)
People on this list should have personal experience seeing you work. It's better if they were the beneficiary of such work. A boss or someone you managed would be perfect. If you use co-workers in a similar position, make sure they can give examples of times you displayed leadership traits. A professor from college who has seen you do academic papers, head up a club, or can speak personally to your ability to solve problems is a good source, as well.
Character and Skill References
The best type of references is one who fits both of these categories. If you did work for the mayor, you're in!
2. Asking for a reference
If you use LinkedIn, and you are connected to them there, the Ask for a Recommendation feature is the best and easiest way to ask for kind words. The system makes it easy to request one and you can always go back and access the recommendation any time for copying to your website or forwarding on to a prospect. Plus, if you enable it, a good recommendation can show up publicly on your profile for everyone to see.
To do this, simply log into LinkedIn and click on your profile. Select the Ask to be recommended option from the View profile as drop-down.
You'll be taken to a new screen where you can choose which of your jobs you want to get a recommendation for (try to pick one as close to your current VA duties as possible). Then type in up to 3 people that can speak highly of your work in that job.
You'll then be able to confirm the sending of the request. If your contacts are willing, you'll get a recommendation in a few days that you can approve and publish to your profile!
What about people that aren't on LinkedIn? Use the old-fashioned method of emailing, calling of even connecting on Facebook and asking if they'd be willing to say a few words about your work. Tell them that you will use it on your website -- with their permission. Most people say "yes!"
References are very useful for establishing you as an expert, even if you're very new at being an independent VA. Start asking now, so that you have the groundwork set for when you go out and look for clients!