Working as a virtual assistant can be an excellent way to boost your income. You set your own hours, work from the comfort of your home and can even work in your PJ’s if you really want to. I’ve been working as a VA off and on for a few years and often get asked how I got started. If you want to learn how you can become a virtual assistant, read on and I’ll share my advice for starting your biz, planning, and finding your first clients. But first things first…
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely from a home office. -Wikipedia
What are the benefits of working with a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistants can handle tasks that clients don’t have time to do, or don’t have the know-how to do, allowing them to focus on building their business and giving them more free time.
Since VA’s are independent contractors and not employees, clients don’t have to pay for benefits, taxes, or training. Plus, everything they pay a Virtual Assistant is a deductible business expense. This can be a cost-effective way to get work done without hiring more employees.
Some services a viritual assistant might offer are:
Purchasing – Gifts, Equipment, Supplies
Proofreading and Editing
Website & Blog Design
Website & Blog Maintenance
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Management
Search Engine Optimization
Newsletter Creation & Management
Book Launch Support
Product Launch Support
Course Launch Support
eBook Design and Publishing
The first major step in starting any business should be your business plan. You may not think you need one, but having one in place can help set a clear path to your goals. It doesn’t need to be some crazy 50-page document, but having some sort of plan in place can help keep you and your business organized and on track. Check out the SBA for some awesome resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Take some time to research other virtual assistants to get an idea on the many different niches, ways to do business, what to charge, etc. Take lots of notes, then decide what works best for you.
Some other things to plan and document before taking on client work include:
Rates / Pricing structure – Will you charge per project? Offer monthly hours packages? What hourly rate do you need to make to cover your expenses and be profitable?
Services to offer – A great place to start here is to research other VA’s to find out what services they offer. Then, make a list of the skills you have. Write down everything. Skills you learned in college, on the job, or as a parent. Now, narrow down that list to what you are really good at and, more importantly, what you enjoy doing!
When you’re available to work – it’s a good idea to have business hours and set clear boundaries. It’s okay to be flexible, but don’t burn yourself out! Set days and times of the week that you’ll work on client work, and times that will be for behind the scenes stuff, like website maintenance, bookkeeping, marketing, etc.
Invoicing and Payments – What forms of payment will you accept? What software will you use to invoice your clients?
Choose a business name and structure
There are pros and cons to each different type of business structure. When you’re just starting out, you may decide to be a sole proprietor, but as your business and client base grow, you may decide that an LLC is the better option. The Small Business Administration has a ton of amazing resources for entrepreneurs and can help you decide which business structures is right for you. I also recommend speaking with an attorney and /or account before deciding on your business structure.
There are a few things to consider when choosing your business name – has it been claimed by another business? Is the name trademarked already? Is the domain available? This is another instance where the SBA can help. Check out this page for tips on choosing a business name.
Set up business accounts
Bank accounts – Keep your business accounts separate from your personal account from the start. This will make tax time much easier on you and your accountant.
Email – having an email with your own domain is a plus, but minimally, you should have a separate email account for your business (gmail is fine and free if you don’t have your own domain yet).
Social Media – Set up profiles on all the major social networks. You don’t necessarily need to be active on all of them, but social media is often the first place people look for information and it just makes it easier for potential clients to find you. After your initial setup, I recommend choosing a couple networks to be active on and focus on those. Pinterest and Instagram are the two I focus on, as well as being active in a couple Facebook groups (more on that in a minute).
Dedicated Business Line – Skype or Google Voice are popular and inexpensive options
Email Market Service – Mailchimp and Convertkit are popular options
Bookkeeping and Invoicing – Paypal, Quickbooks, Freshbooks
Post Office Box
Build a killer website
It pays to invest in a professional site with a professional name. The most popular website platforms today are WordPress and Squarespace. For a small investment, you’ll get your own domain (you don’t want to have .wordpress or .blogger as part of your URL) and have access to better features for designing and protecting your site.
I’ve used WordPress for many years and love the features it offers, but it does require some tech knowledge to get a fully customized look. If you’re less tech savvy and want to do it yourself, you may want to go with Squarespace.
Finding your first clients
There are many different avenues you can take to find clients for your VA biz. Here are a few that I found to be most helpful:
HireMyMom – Fantastic job board for work at home moms. Membership is $29.95/quarter or $99/year and is worth every penny. This is where I found my first client.
Upwork – A worldwide online workplace. Employers post jobs and you submit a bid or proposal if you think you’re qualified. You can take tests to showcase your skills and potential employers can invite you to interview for their jobs. One drawback is that these are global websites, so they can be highly competitive.
Facebook Groups – Facebook groups can be a great way to connect with potential clients. Join groups where your ideal client might hang out. For example, you might join a group of online entrepreneurs if you’re looking to work in graphic design or website maintenance. Chime in on conversations, give advice, and be an active member of the community. This is a great way to showcase your expertise! One of my favorites is Alison Marshall’s Creative Superheroes.
Local Businesses – Building a name for yourself in your community can be a great way to get referrals. Try stopping in or emailing managers and owner’s of local businesses to introduce yourself. You never know, maybe they’ve been putting off that website redesign and your email could be just the push they need to get started! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.