How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

If you’ve worked in admin positions or as an office manager, it’s likely you already possess many of the skills needed to become a virtual assistant.

Running a virtual assistant business comes with a lot of benefits, but it’s not the ideal job for everyone, so you need to be sure it’s the right choice for you before you hand in your notice and move over into this field.

The benefits and drawbacks of being a virtual assistant

Being a virtual assistant brings with it flexibility, allowing you to manage your workload around other commitments such as childcare.

However, if you offer your services worldwide, you could be working across different time zones, which may result in clients expecting you to be available during irregular hours.

Virtual assistants usually work from home, you’re saving time and money by eliminating the daily commute.

But, most virtual assistants will work alone, and some find it a rather lonely existence after spending years working in a busy, friendly office environment.

The work is very varied, and it’s likely you’ll work for several clients at once.

This makes the job interesting, and it also means that if you have that one tricky client, the difficulties are diluted, and of course, being your own boss, you can discontinue working for a client you don’t gel with, without jeopardising your entire income.

However, you should bear in mind, that this is also the case in reverse.

As a virtual assistant, you don’t generally have the protection offered by many full-time, permanent positions and you could find a contract cancelled at short notice, often through no fault of your own, as the client’s situation changes or they no longer require your services. 

Making the first moves to becoming a virtual assistant

Once you’ve decided that starting a virtual assistant business is definitely something you want to do, it’s time to get motivated.

Running your own business is very rewarding, but it also takes a lot of work.

Self-motivation and excellent time management skills are vital if you want to succeed.

There’s no time for procrastination!

First of all, find out what the legal requirements are in your area.

It’s likely you will have to register your new business for tax purposes, and you will have certain obligations with regard to your accounting.

In addition, you may be required to have certain insurances in place, such as liability insurance, should your work adversely affect a client and they decide to sue you for their losses.

Having everything in order will give you peace of mind.

Be clear on the services you do and don’t offer

Make a list of everything you can offer to a potential client.

This will likely include the basics of office administration such as dealing with correspondence, organizing schedules and booking travel, but depending on your skills your services can be expanded to include more specialist offerings such as copywriting, proofreading, social media marketing, accounting etc.

These niche skills will make you stand out from the crowd in this competitive industry, so it’s well worth wracking your brain to think of anything you can offer that other VAs may not.

However, you should also be honest with regard to those services you cannot offer.

For example. if you don’t have web development experience, then it’s unwise to offer to keep the client’s website updated.

But of course, this a skill you can certainly begin to learn so eventually you can add this to your list of services.

Transparent pricing is a must

Decide on your rates and make sure they are clear.

Be upfront about any extra charges so there is no confusion.

Setting your rates can be tricky. Will you charge by the hour? Or perhaps per task?

Requesting that a monthly or weekly retainer be paid can give you a little extra financial security but it could deter some clients who are initially unsure of how much work they’d like you to take on.

It’s a good idea to check the rates offered by people offering similar services to yourself.

You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but you also don’t want to undercut the industry average so much that you fail to make a decent living.

Once you have your rates decided, you’ll need to determine the payment options you will offer.

Having all these details ironed out in advance will ensure you appear professional when these questions are asked, and you have all the answers at the ready.

Create your online presence

Now it’s time to showcase your skills and market your new business.

A website will give you a space to highlight everything you have to offer and give potential clients an easy way to decide if you’re a good fit for their needs and a simple way to get in touch with you.

Make sure your site is easy to navigate, holds all the information anyone may need, and above all is free from errors.

Attention to detail is vital when you’re a virtual assistant, so it reflects badly on you if your website has spelling errors or other mistakes.

Get marketing your business

Of course, you’ll also want the make the most of all the most popular social media channels, exploring every avenue that could get you your next client.

You may also want to register with freelance portals.

It may be a good move to hire a professional to help you with your online advertising, but also, never overlook what might be right under your nose.

Ask around and always carry business cards wherever you go. Get in the habit of mentioning your business to anyone you meet.

Spread the word, your friends or family may know someone who is looking for virtual assistant services.

Sometimes opportunities arise close to home, at other times they could be on the other side of the world.

The life of the virtual assistant is always changing and often filled with interesting surprises.

Don’t take on too much

There’s a fine balance to be found, especially when you’re first setting out as a virtual assistant.

Finding your first clients can be difficult, so once your business starts to gain momentum, it can be tempting to never turn anyone away.

However, juggling multiple clients can be confusing and stressful. It’s far better to offer a great service to a few clients than a mediocre one to many.

It’s better to charge more for a high level of service for a select few than burn out trying to satisfy the demands of a multitude of clients.

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