Why do you want to be a Virtual Assistant?
Before getting started, this is the first question to ask yourself. And the reason I stress the importance of it, is because over the last few years, the industry has boomed.
Meaning now, it’s not necessarily a quick and easy career move.
The problem is that many people see VA work as something anyone can do. You’ve just been made redundant? Become a VA. You’ve just had a baby? Become a VA. You don’t want to work for someone else? Become a VA.
But these aren’t good reasons. Or at least they shouldn’t be the only reasons.
So why do you want to be a VA?
Passionate about helping small businesses? Highly experienced in a specialist skill such as social media marketing? Have ambition, drive and determination to succeed on your own?
You’ve got these qualities and you enjoy working independently, like to be in charge of your own workload, are self-disciplined, proactive, business-minded, then you’ve certainly got what it takes to be a successful Virtual Assistant.
Now we can move on to getting started.
1. Do your research
Before jumping in feet first, take some time to do your research.
1. Research you
- What’s your background? Skills? Experience?
- What do you enjoy doing / dislike doing?
- What kind of industries are you interested in?
- Is there a specialism you’d like to offer?
- Do you have a preferred target market?
- What hours do you want to work? And at what time of day?
- What equipment do you have, or are you willing to get?
- What communication methods do you prefer?
- Are you targeting national and / or international clients?
2. Research opportunities
- What skills are in demand?
- What industries are regularly using VA’s?
- What tasks are often outsourced?
- Local networking events
- Where your target market hang out
3. Research your competition
- Who’s doing what you want to do?
- How many other VA’s are in your local area?
- Are they busy?
- What services do they offer?
If possible, find a VA who you admire. Check out their website. See what services they offer. And assuming they aren’t nearby, compile a list of questions you could call or email to ask them so you can get further insights about the industry, market and everyday life as a VA to make sure it’s right for you.
2. What are your financials like?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking as soon as you set up as a VA, clients will come knocking. It can and does happen, just don’t count on it.
Do you have enough cash to cover you for around six months? As it can take that long before you have a steady, regular income.
Then make sure you’ve laid out all your monthly outgoings so you know the minimum you’ll need to earn each month moving forward.
Be realistic and honest with yourself.
Being a VA means no regular paycheck, unless you’re going to solely offer packaged-up services … which I don’t advise, certainly not when first starting out anyway. Which means, one month you could earn more, one month less. Being prepared for that from the outset will ensure no surprises, or stress, when the bills need paying.
3. Getting setup
Do you have a computer, phone line, internet, email? The primary essentials of working for yourself online.
Get those in place immediately.
Then you need to think about being found – have you got a website? Domain name? Hosting? What platform are you going to create your website on? How tech savvy are you? Do you need to get a designer / developer involved? Do you have social media accounts for marketing? Etc.
Once those are in place, you need the Virtual Assistant fundamental- software.
- Microsoft programmes
- Online storage & file sharing
- Photo editing software
- Project management solutions
- Time tracker
- Invoicing systems
At the bear minimum. You’ll soon add to these once you know what your clients need and you become more familiar with the tools available.
4. Becoming legal
Don’t forget to register for tax purposes.
If you’re based in the UK, you’ll have to pay National Insurance along with taxes. Are you going to be a sole trader or a limited company? Do you want to register for VAT?
All these things need to be considered and completed early on to ensure you remain above board.
5. Decide on your services and rates
Most VA’s will tell you to specialise. And yes, that’s a great idea … if you have an area of expertise already. If not, don’t worry too much about it at this stage. There are plenty of VA’s who offer a broad range of services and are very successful.
But do think about it for your long term plan.
Having a specialism brings many benefits including targeting marketing opportunities and less competition. So once you’ve found your VA feet, think about what you enjoy, what you’re good at, what your clients are asking for, and see if one of those could be your new specialise.
Then learn it well.
- Website development
- Social media management
- Spreadsheet or presentation design
- Newsletter creation
The list is endless.
Find out what you like and become an expert in it. Then when it comes to your rates you’ll be able to up your charges too!
When starting out however, whilst you don’t want to work for peanuts, do bear in mind that you’re just starting out. To attract new clients, think about offering introductory rates.
Then once your client base grows, up them.
Those that love what you do will stick with you, those who only want cheap labour will go elsewhere – which is a good thing.
6. Start marketing & networking
Now the tricky part begins.
The key to marketing and networking is to know who you want to target. What type of business are they – sole trader, online / offline business, large / small, local / national / international, etc.
Then find out where they are – online forums, social media sites, local or national events … and go there.
Set up detailed profiles on relevant sites. Attend networking events. And start talking.
Don’t jump straight in offering your services, develop relationships first. Help them out, for free, by answering questions they may have. Any way you can add value to the conversation, do.
The more you do this, the more of an authority you’ll become, the more likely they’ll think of you when they decide they need business support.
Contact all your friends, past colleagues, family … spread the word about your new business and offer an introductory rate. Or, a one-off piece of work in exchange for a testimonial. Don’t think of it as offering to work for free, think of it as a way of promoting your services without paying high advertising fees.
The more testimonials – proof – you can showcase, the higher your chances of other businesses wanting you to support them.
Another great method for getting more experience is to contact established VA’s to ask if they need an Associate. Yes, the rate will be lower than if you were to work with the client directly, but to get work, gain experience and develop skills, this is a fab way to get yourself on the ladder.
And don’t lose heart.
You will have days when you’ll think you’re getting nowhere – we all have them, even after working in the industry for years – but know that once it starts happening, it’ll snowball. As long as you continue to put the effort in.
Getting started as a VA takes hard work, perseverance and thick skin, but it’s a truly rewarding and exciting career to have.
Just remember these key points:
- Do your research
- Know your financials
- Get the essentials
- Check out the legalities
- Know your offer
- Get ‘out there’
Need more help? Check out these articles for some more great advice:
- Building up your Client base
- What Services Are You Selling?
- What to include in your Client Agreement
- How to network
- 10 Questions You Should Ask When Talking to Potential New Clients
- Landing the right clients
- Growing Your Business
Oh and one last thing, don’t forget to download our free VA Resource Kit – found in the right hand column on the homepage of VA Pro Magazine.