Are you someone who finds yourself not compatible with the corporate/cubicle culture, or wishes to see what reaches you can achieve on your own, or prefers to place your work around your family life rather than visa-versa? You may want to consider being a virtual assistant (VA) and be part of an increasingly popular industry. Clients interested in cutting costs take on virtual assistants as VAs must front the costs for their own healthcare and insurance, training, taxes, and equipment. As a VA, you are an entrepreneur who can work from home (remotely) providing services via technology to customers around the world.
Virtual assistants offer a wide range of services including secretarial services, bookkeeping, managing databases and projects, publishing electronic newspapers, doing event planning, Internet and social media marketing, designing presentations or websites, purchasing products, conducting research, providing customer support and answering telephones, transcription and translating, blogging, writing and editing documents, and assisting in real estate. If you have any of these skills and find the idea of being a VA appealing, there are numerous tips and recommendations on how to start your virtual assistant business.
Susan Totman, the founder of Elite Office Support, recommends these first actions:
- Figure out what are you good at and what services you want to offer. Maybe you have a specialty such as Web design, IT support, marketing, or translating which can increase your earnings. Don’t make your business niche too inclusive—limit it to three services.
- Decide how much commitment in terms of energy and hours you want to make to your business.
- Determine the need for your services in your local area, who the potential clients are, and how you will locate them. You can always expand beyond your local area once the business gets going.
- Always have your budget in mind. Consider your potential expenses and income. Some of these costs include among others self-employment taxes, printer ink, and the Internet and telephone costs. You may find using a spreadsheet helpful in doing this.
- Have a business project but know that it is a dynamic plan—it may need modification as your business grows.
- Figure out your work-space (ensure privacy and quiet), and create a professional voicemail message. Examine and possibly upgrade your equipment and software to make your work efficient.
- Complete any financial or legal aspects of starting the business before contracting with your first client. You may consider forming an LLC if you envision business growth.
- Always market your services. Use different methods to find customers.
There are some other things you need to know about being a virtual assistant. Some VAs have worked anywhere between 14 and 18 hours a day when starting up, and that includes weekends and holidays. How much will you make? Numerous VAs begin by billing between $20 and $35 an hour; however, depending on skill level, this rate can range to $75 an hour or more.
Here are some additional suggestions from those in the virtual assistant industry for creating a successful VA business:
- Join a networking group or a professional organization. Not only can you network with successful people, but you can also access knowledge for solving technical or other problems. Figure on paying $100 to $300 to join associations. One highly recommended Association is International Virtual Assistant Association (IVAA). Consider partnering with other businesses which have the same target market.
- Lyn Toomey, the founder of Virtual Market Support, states that “if you want to be taken seriously, you’ll need a well-designed website.” Web designers cost from $600 to $1,200 for a small site. However, you can also employ a professional template design from a web host for as low as $6 a month.
- Business cards and brochures are strongly recommended. 500 business cards cost between $40 and $60. You can design your brochure or trade them with other VAs. Count on paying $350 for professionally made brochures.
- Another idea for gaining valuable experience is working for a virtual assistant business as a subcontractor—but be ready to sign a “non-compete” clause which prevents you from marketing to their clients.
- If you join a freelance site where you bid for work, know that you could well be competing with virtual assistants in developing countries who offer extremely inexpensive rates.
- If you wish to bypass searching for the work, consider joining the platform Time Etc. This platform locates the work for you and manages your work quality and ability to meet deadlines.
These are some of the ideas to help get your virtual assistant business going and growing. Good luck in your VA venture!
Here are some additional resources on tools that you can use in your business.