How to Become a Virtual Assistant and Build Your Own VA Business

Last Updated on March 12, 2021 by pf team

As a virtual assistant you could run your own business but didn’t need to worry about inventory, commercial leases, or managing workers? Imagine making your own hours and choosing your own clients while doing work you enjoy. It’s all possible as a virtual assistant.

virtual assistant
copyright: VadimGuzhva / bigstock

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is a remote worker who provides support services to businesses. The term virtual assistant, also known as a VA or virtual office assistant, can include anything from performing office tasks to writing to accounting, coding, and more.

We’re all good at something. However, nobody is great at everything and that’s where businesses find value in virtual assistants.

A VA can often do some tasks better and faster than the business owner. Additionally, by hiring a VA, the business owner or other staff can focus on other areas.

Why become a virtual assistant?

Becoming a virtual assistant may be one of the most empowering career moves you can ever make. If you have a can-do attitude, being a VA is often more productive and rewarding than a traditional 9-to-5 job. Here are some key things to consider:

  • You don’t need a specific license or college degree. Many types of jobs require specialized degrees or even require state licensing. As a virtual assistant, you don’t need either of these. Instead, you’ll rely on your unique skills and resourcefulness.
  • It’s easy to set up with a computer and internet connection. Forget the commute. All you need, most times, is a reliable computer and an internet connection. Depending on the type of work you’ll be doing, you may need some additional software. However, many times, you can work with web apps or free open-source applications.
  • You can create your own schedule. If you’ve worked a fixed-schedule job before, you already know how difficult it can be to get time off if you have an appointment or even if you just want to see your son’s first little league game. As virtual assistant, you often have a flexible schedule. As long as the work gets done on time, it doesn’t matter when you work.
  • You can work from anywhere in the world. If you like travel, you’ll love the possibilities a virtual assistant business brings. Work from anywhere you choose or even somewhere several time zones away.

What does a virtual assistant do?

The term virtual assistant conjures imagery of office-related tasks like digital filing, appointment setting, or calendar management. Those are all services that businesses need but VA work is broad in scope.

You can even specialize in a certain type of work. Your only limits are your aptitude and willingness to learn. At first, you can focus on a niche that’s in high demand.

However, if you’re superb in one area or you have training that others don’t have, it’s possible to build your own specialized market.

Plenty of businesses will pay more for someone knowledgeable in their industry. There are only so many hours in a day. You don’t need 50 clients. You just need a handful of good ones who appreciate your special skills.

Types of work for virtual assistants

virtual assistant yearly salary
Source: Payscale
  • Social media management: In today’s market most businesses need a social media presence. A virtual assistant can create content and even interact with customers on social media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.
  • Email marketing: If you know your way around an email campaign, your skills are in demand. You can set up autoresponders, design email templates, track response rates, or write copy as a VA.
  • Proofreading and editing: An extra set of eyes can save the day in many businesses. As a VA, you can edit or proof copy before it goes out to clients or gets published.
  • Content production: Nearly every business has a website these days. As a virtual assistant, your skills are in demand if you can write articles or blog posts to help grow the business. Maybe the business needs video content or graphics. Working as a VA lets you specialize and do work you enjoy.
  • Bookkeeping: It might surprise you to learn how many businesses put off doing bookkeeping or other paperwork. If you’re good with numbers and have an eye for detail, you’ll find plenty of opportunities as a VA.

What skills does a virtual assistant need?

The specific skills you’ll need depend on whether your VA business is specialized and which services you offer. However, several skills and traits are universal if you want your business to grow.

  • Organizational skills: You’ll juggle many tasks as a VA. Find tools to help you organize your time.
  • Good communication skills: Communicate clearly to avoid wasted time and disappointed clients. Have a question? Just ask. It’s faster than doing the job twice.
  • Tech savviness: Make no mistake. You’ll be working online. It’s important to know your way around a computer and the apps you’ll need.
  • Reliability: Your word is your bond. Strive to get projects done on time. Reach out to your clients beforehand if you think you might miss a deadline. Many clients are flexible if they have enough notice.

What is the average virtual assistant salary?

According to PayScale.com, the average hourly rate for a virtual assistant approaches $16 per hour. However, with specialization or hard-to-find industry knowledge, it’s possible to earn much more.

payscale graphic
Source: Payscale

As a caveat, you won’t get benefits in most cases. Expect to pay some out-of-pocket expenses that a full-time employer might cover.

Job satisfaction is remarkably high, however, with VA’s rating their satisfaction at 4.5 out of 5 on PayScale.com. Working at home and flexibility are both noted as leading factors among poll survey respondents.

How to become a virtual assistant with no experience?

Getting started can be easier than you might think, especially if you have some experience with office tasks or industry knowledge.

But even if you have no experience, there are some great ways to get started as a virtual assistant. Several respected virtual assistant training courses are available to help you through the first steps.

Any new venture brings its unique challenges but choosing a well-designed course taught by professionals can help clear the path for a startup VA business.

How to start a virtual assistant business?

young lady in front of a computer
copyright: Achi_Studio / bigstock

When you aren’t working for someone as a W-2 employee, it’s fair to say you run your own business. This is true even in your business location is a comfy chair by the laptop in your spare room.

As a business owner, you’ll have some executive decisions to make. Although the order may vary, here are the steps to take when getting started:

  • Set up your business: You can run your business as a sole proprietor or you can form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). With either structure, you can deduct business-related expenses. However, an LLC can provide some additional protections. Your LLC is a separate legal entity, which may have some value if you’re concerned about business liability.
  • Decide which services you want to offer: As your own business, you can choose what you want to offer. Focus on areas where you are better than average or even exceptional. Occasionally, you’ll have to do some work that isn’t the most fun you’ve ever had. However, by choosing your services and your niche, you can make your VA workday more enjoyable.
  • Create a pricing structure for your services: Much like in the analog world, you have to start somewhere — and that usually isn’t at the top. When pricing your services, it’s often better to grow into higher prices after you’ve proven your mettle. This is especially true on freelance platforms where there’s more transparency and clients can see what you’ve earned before or if you’ve ever earned anything at all. In time, this transparency can become a tool because every job you complete successfully becomes social proof that you’re a safe bet for future clients.
  • Choose a business name: If you think you’ll form a business entity, the name of your business can be a big part of your marketing plan. It’s helpful to look for matching domain names and social media names when choosing a business name. If another site already exists at the logical domain name for your business, you might lose potential clients. Some people like to include the services they offer in the business and domain names but be careful of length. Shorter domain names are better.
  • Choose a web host : A web host is a server where your website lives. It also pulls double-duty in providing a business email address so you don’t have to use your personal email. Look for a webhost that’s been around for a while, like BlueHost, HostGator, or SiteGround. You don’t need the most expensive plan, but you probably don’t want the cheapest host you can find either.
  • Build your website : WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world. It’s also free, which is the right price when you’re just getting started. Many hosting companies also offer website builder apps. However, these apps have limitations and force you to stay with that host. WordPress makes your website portable as you grow your business and now it’s easier than ever to build a site using WordPress. Check YouTube for videos if you need a quick way to learn the ropes.
  • Promote your business: Building your website is only a first step. You also need to get your name out there. Build a LinkedIn page and look for networking opportunities both online and offline. Chances are good that someone you already know can use the services you provide. Create awareness through your social media channels and give some business cards to friends. You never know where a great client might come from, so you want to use as many channels as you can.

How to find virtual assistant jobs?

young asian girl working on a laptop
copyright: champlifezy / bigstock

Your website becomes a hub for your business over time but when you’re just getting started, don’t expect clients lining up to fill out your website contact form. A little marketing can help build your business in the interim.

Consider freelance websites

Several trusted online marketplaces bring together businesses and service providers. Flexjobs.com and Upwork.com are among the better-known options and both have a wide selection of potential clients.

Some VA businesses also offer services on platforms like Fiverr. Be sure to check the feedback of prospective clients before applying. Just like in the analog world, some clients aren’t a perfect fit for your business.

Online freelance marketplaces often charge fees. Calculate the cost of fees before quoting or bidding on a project. As a business, fees are usually tax deductible but they still represent a percentage of your earnings you’ll never see.

Join an organization

Networking is also a great way to build contacts and find new clients. Consider joining an organization like the International Virtual Assistants Association or VAnetworking.com.

Both organizations offer ways to connect with clients or submit proposals. Also, consider local networking groups. There are probably several business owners in your area that would benefit from having you as a virtual assistant.

Maybe they only need someone 10 hours per week and can’t commit to hiring a full-time worker. That sounds like a perfect fit.

Promote your business on social media

It’s a big world out there and working as a virtual assistant removes boundaries. You can work from anywhere and accept work from anywhere. That means you’ll want to create more online awareness using social media.

Most of your clients won’t find your website until you’ve already made contact in another way. Maybe they find your post on Instagram or LinkedIn.

Your post should direct to a page on your site that speaks about whatever you mentioned in the post. If your post mentions a specific service you offer, direct visitors directly to a page that describes your service and asks them to reach out to you.

Many times, your website homepage is too general for this purpose. For Facebook, look for groups for virtual assistants. On Instagram or Pinterest, consider making a new profile to match your business.

It’s often best to separate your business and personal lives online as much as possible. For LinkedIn, include keywords that a client would search to find services you offer.

You don’t need to market yourself on every platform. Instead, choose the social media sites you think your potential clients use and focus your presence there.

Check local businesses

If you have experience in a certain industry, reach out to local businesses to build a network of clients. Remember, a no isn’t always a no. Sometimes no means not yet.

You’re planting seeds. Some will grow. If you have office skills or like to talk to customers, reach out to local businesses that might need a helping hand.

Make discovery calls

Cold calls (or cold emails) are another way to find clients. Start with companies you’d like to work with. Don’t take it personally or become disheartened if you don’t sign a client right away.

Building a business takes time and prospecting is a numbers game. Dust yourself off and see what you’ve learned from the experience — as well as what you can improve.

Escape the 9-to-5 by becoming a VA assistant

Starting your own business as a virtual assistant puts you in the driver’s seat. Not only do you gain more freedom than you’d have in a traditional job role as an employee, you’ll also be able to choose who you work with.

You’ll no longer have a boss. Instead, you’ll have clients, and you both share the same goal of delivering excellent work. Getting started as a VA isn’t overly difficult, but you’ll want to consider the steps in this article to help build your success.

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