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How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business in 6 Steps

With all those small businesses and startups out there, virtual assistants have become more in-demand. When clients hire a virtual assistant business, they’re looking for someone to handle ad hoc tasks and have admitted to their overwhelm. A virtual assistant business comes to the rescue, following up on more menial tasks so you can focus on what you do best.

How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

Let’s look at how to start a virtual assistant business of your own, so you can make money from home.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant business handles specific and miscellaneous business tasks. Often, these tasks include calendar functions, calls and emails (usually sales-related), and information gathering and research. They can also include more specialized tasks like proofreading or social media management and scheduling.

How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

Before you begin, you should focus on your strengths as an assistant. This can include:

  • Working with a particular niche: Do you have previous experience in law, medicine, home-based businesses, or even working with pets? If so, you can target your services to these particular businesses, since you understand their needs.
  • Specific tasks: Do you like making those phone calls other people hate? Maybe you’re great at organizing emails or transcribing, or don’t mind following up with prospects about potential sales. Perhaps you’re more of a personal virtual assistant, best at organizing information for executives. Maybe you’re great at sorting scanned receipts. Each of these talents has value, and it’s a matter of focus for you. “Virtual assistant” is a broad term, and it’s up to you to define it for yourself.

Step One: Choose Your Virtual Assistant Services

Writing out a formal business plan can help you here since part of writing your business plan involves conducting market research and examining the competition. When you know more about what other online virtual assistant businesses are doing, you can figure out how you’ll position your business differently. Common services you can offer business owners include:

  • Email management
  • Writing or proofreading blog posts
  • Branding services
  • Social media graphics and account management
  • SEO services

You can also offer more specialized services, if you find people looking for what you know.

Once you’ve decided on the services you’ll offer, it’s time to set your rates and start finding clients.

Step Two: Get Your Online Business Legal

You can start as a sole proprietor, but we recommend becoming an LLC, the cost of which can vary depending upon your location.

It usually costs around $150 and presents you as a legitimate business. It also protects you from personal liability, unlike a sole proprietorship. Our guide to business structures can help you decide which route to take.

Even if you start without a legally separate business entity, you may still need certain business licenses to operate, depending on where you live. Your state’s Secretary of State office or Department of Revenue can help determine your requirements. Some cities may also have local requirements, too.

After you’re covered legally, securing business insurance is not a bad idea. This protects you if something goes wrong and you’re sued. You can do this with various companies, like Hiscox, Next, and the most well-known auto insurance companies.

Step Three: Set Your Rates

When starting to charge for your services, it’s important to do some research first. Look at what other VAs in your area are charging for similar services and use that information to help you set competitive rates. It’s also important to remember that as a VA, you’ll be responsible for paying your taxes and Social Security contributions—so make sure to factor those costs into your rates as well.

You should have your contracts, terms, and prices clearly set. Virtual assistants often fall victim to scope creep and lose money—that means the client expects more than the defined services for the amount they’ve agreed to. Clearly define your rate and services, whether you do hourly or project-based work.

Step Four: Find Your Clients: How to Get a Virtual Assistant Job

There are several ways to find clients as a VA. You can start by reaching out to your personal and professional network of contacts. You can also create a profile on a freelancing platform like Upwork or Fiverr. These platforms are great because they allow you to showcase your skills and work with clients worldwide.

Another option is to start your own website or blog and use SEO strategies to attract potential clients searching for your online services.

Step Five: Get Organized

One of the most important things you can do as a VA is to stay organized. This means keeping track of deadlines, maintaining clear communication with clients, and using project management tools like Trello or Asana to keep your tasks sorted and organized in one place. Being organized will not only help you perform your job well—but it will also give your clients confidence in your ability to handle their projects effectively.

Step Six: Stay Up To Date

The world of technology is always changing—and as a VA, you must stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments to better serve your clients’ needs. Make sure you’re taking advantage of resources like online courses, webinars, and industry-specific news sites to continuously learn and grow in your role.

Startup Costs and Resources for Starting a Virtual Assistant Business

The best news about a virtual assistant business is that the startup costs are minimal. If you’re like most people interested in this field, you probably already have a computer, phone, and internet connection. While you might require access to copiers and faxes, most office supply stores can help you there—and remember, you can upcharge for those services. Generally, the more things are virtual, the more you can do for your clients.

We recommend familiarity with the following:

  • Canva
  • Tax software
  • Google Drive
  • Skype for Business
  • Slack
  • Social media sites
  • Project management software like Trello, Asana, and Teamwork

You’ll need to search for work and carve out time to find it. We suggest using LinkedIn and FlexJobs to find legitimate opportunities.

Lastly, a robust network is important. Harness local and virtual network connections to get your first clients and grow your business. Make sure to collect recommendations and publish those testimonials with specific, measurable results (with client permission).

How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average hourly pay for a VA is $21/hr. It’s entirely up to you how much to charge, based on the nature of your work and the cost of living where you are.

Pros of Starting a Virtual Assistant Business

If you’re a natural organizer or you’ve worked as an assistant before, you probably feel confident about your skills as a virtual assistant. If you have an assertive personality (but also take instructions well), you could find a lot of satisfaction in this job. Plus:

  • You create your own schedule.
  • You can work from anywhere.
  • Does feeling organized bring you a sense of professional happiness? This may be the job for you.
  • You don’t need education to get started. There are certifications available, if you want them.
  • Virtual assisting has been around since the 1990s, and it has less stigma than other virtually performed professions.
  • This is an inexpensive business to start.

Cons of Starting a Virtual Assistant Business

Being a virtual assistant means you’ll also hit some snags. You’ve still got to manage yourself and your own business—in addition to all those tasks you’re doing for your clients. It’s more than a handful of information.

  • If you’re not the best at setting boundaries, it’s easy to burn out.
  • Early on, setting the boundaries you need to succeed means losing clients. That early stage, particularly when dealing with clients looking to pay lower rates, constitutes a lot of necessary growth and heartache.
  • You’re competing with people from around the globe. If you live in the US, your competition lives in part of the world where the cost of living is much lower than yours.
  • Lots of businesses hope to underpay or present scams. You’ll have to evaluate and steer clear of those.

 FAQs

Start Working as a Virtual Assistant Right Now

If the idea of striking out on your own right away seems daunting, start by creating a profile on UpWork or Fiverr. Browse the platforms to see the available gigs to get an idea of what you can get paid to do.

As you start getting more comfortable, grow your business and aim to get clients of your own without relying on those platforms.

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