How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business
Welcome on your new journey to become a Virtual Assistant (VA). Arriving here at the largest network online for VAs (the market leader in the Virtual Assistant Industry since 2003) is a sure-fire way of learning all about becoming a VA.
There are many qualities and variables you should have to start-up a successful Virtual Assistant business, from a having solid history of administration work experience to having a strong network of likeminded business individuals to learn and share business knowledge with. Every potential Virtual Assistant’s scenario will be different and it is seldom two are the same. This makes us so unique to one another which is why this is such a non-competitive industry to be in and very profitable.
It’s not always easy to switch from a real-world corporate administrative working environment into the virtual world but once you do, you can be making anywhere from $25-$100 an hour depending on the services you offer. For example, I am a specialty Internet Marketing VA and earn $125/hr. At our FREE training blog, we have some resourceful suggestions to making this corporate to virtual transition less confusing and very simple for any entrepreneur just like yourself.
Starting up a Virtual Assistant business requires a person who has an entrepreneurial spirit, is passionate about working from home and loves what they do for a living. These are the true tell-tale signs of a successful Virtual Assistant business in the works who just needs some inspirational instructional help to encourage and make it happen.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a highly-skilled, independent professional who remotely provides administrative, technical and/or creative business support services. (Source: VAnetworking.com)
What Services Can I Offer as a Virtual Assistant?
The easiest way to figure out what services you can offer to clients is to make a list. Draw out 2 columns, in the first column write what you excel at. In the second column write down what you actually like doing. You might be really good at bookkeeping, but hate doing it. You don’t want to do something that you don’t enjoy doing or it will make it hard to go into your home office each day.
Once you create your list, think about if any of your skills are desirable. Do people need the service you are offering?
Now it’s time to decide who you want to work for. You may want to write out another list. Write down what type of clients you’d like to work with. If you don’t enjoy working for certain types of people or in specific industries, it’s important to avoid them. Don’t target a client type that you don’t respect because if you do, you’ll hate working for them and won’t be motivated to earn your full potential.
Remember, this is YOUR business. You get to decide what services you offer and who you work with.
Here are 15 services that you can offer clients as a Virtual Assistant
- Customer service
- E-commerce site setup
- Email management
- Email marketing
- Graphic design
- Launch support
- Sales page creation
- Social media marketing & management
- Travel planning
- Video editing
- Webinar support
- WordPress services
Need more ideas?
Click to download our list of 200 services that you can offer to clients.
What Equipment & Software Do I Need to Start Up a Virtual Assistant Business?
The equipment required to start up a virtual assistant business will vary depending on the services that you will offer. One thing you will need for certain is a computer and an internet connection. Don’t go out and buy every hot program, wait until you need it. Most programs offer monthly subscriptions which can really help when starting out on a low budget. Stop on by our forum and ask what programs you should have for the specific services you are offering clients.
It’s good to stay organized with your expenses from the get-go, so we recommend either using a simple spreadsheet or an accounting program such as Freshbooks or WaveApps (free). Trust us, you’ll thank us at tax time.
How Much Does it Cost to Start my Virtual Assistant Business?
Luckily for you, if you already have a decent computer, the start-up costs are fairly minimal. You can write out a list of items you think you’ll need for your business and get a fairly close estimate. You’ll want to factor in things such as, a computer, internet, web hosting and any programs you might need etc.
Once you’ve registered your business, set up a business bank account so you can keep track of your income and expenses. If it isn’t in the budget yet you could set up a separate free savings account attached to your personal account just to stay organized.
Do I Need a Business License?
You may need to get a business license depending on the rules of your country, state, city or county. You can do a search for business licenses for small businesses within your city name to get more information on this. You can also ask in our free VA Forum as we have over 40,000 members from all over the world.
Do I Need a Website for My VA Business?
A website is an absolute must for all Virtual Assistants. You are ‘virtual’, your website is your storefront. Your client will not only search for your website to solicit your business, but they will refer back to it to obtain contact information, service options, prices, and other relevant information about your business.
As a Virtual Assistant, it’s imperative that you create a website that gives your ideal clients the information they need to make a decision to go the next step whether that’s purchasing your services or joining your email list to get more information. Everything starts and ends with your website. It’s the center of all your marketing activities.
Setting up a website isn’t that difficult and has a minimal cost. We recommend that you set up a Self-hosted WordPress.org website so you have full control and ownership of your website.
If you build your website yourself your costs will be minimal. , You will have to purchase a domain name and hosting. A domain costs about $12.00 and hosting is less than $10 a month. You can decide to use a free WordPress theme and save money, or you can get a paid one for anywhere from $30-$90.
A website offers low-cost advertising and marketing, increases your visibility, and makes you accessible to your audience. Thus, enabling you to get more clients and make more sales.
Don’t want to set it up yourself? Let us help you get your website online quickly with one of our affordable Virtual Assistant website packages. Click here to learn more.
How Do I Find Clients as a Virtual Assistant?
I am asked this question all the time so thought I’d share my 20+ years of experience in this area working as a Virtual Assistant…
When I first started out it was feast or famine for me as I had 3 kids to provide for and personally I preferred feast! That meant I really had to work long, hard hours to get my client base full in the beginning. (I’m talking 50-80 hours a week). It was not easy!
First off, you’ll want to sit down and write out a few marketing campaigns for ways to find clients. Write out each marketing strategy and then break it down into easy to handle tasks that you can check off and complete. Develop and implement different marketing campaigns every season to help you maintain your blueprint for success.
Here are 10 marketing campaign ideas to get you started
- Set up a newsletter
- Start blogging
- Set yourself up on a social network (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) and start networking through it
- Join some online groups/forums where your market hangs out and start networking online.
- Make videos to attract clients
- Develop your website
- Optimize your website for SEO
- Advertise locally in print (business cards, flyers, newspapers, etc.)
- Join networking groups locally
- Attend and/or get a booth at Tradeshows and conferences your market hangs out at.
I did a ton of networking both offline and online but found that it takes some time (usually months) to see results. Forming a relationship (which is what netWORKing is all about) doesn’t happen overnight.
Getting clients is HARD WORK and takes up a ton of your time!
It didn’t take me long to learn that my time was worth money in my hands. Just 40 hours of me marketing myself @ $50/hr (my hourly rate at the time) was costing me $2,000!
I wanted an easier (and cheaper) way to find clients!
So I did some research and found out there were job boards where prospecting clients came to hire Virtual Assistants. HOW COOL IS THAT? These websites did all the marketing for me (saving me all kinds of time) and all I had to do was pay a small fee and I’d have access to their job board to easily fill up my client base.
As much as I didn’t think I had the money to part with (being that I had no clients yet LOL), I also knew that starting up a new business wasn’t going to come without spending a bit of money on it. I don’t know one business out there that doesn’t have overhead expenses so why should my VA business not have them?
I had to immediately switch my mindset from “I can’t afford this” to “I need to invest in my business”. Plus it was just common sense to spend a bit of money to make a lot more money in a shorter amount of time.
So my advice on how to get a full client base in your Virtual Assistant business?
Consider upgrading your FREE membership to the VAinsider Club membership which includes everything from business templates/contracts and training webinars to VA eBooks and group coaching plus FULL access to our BUSY job board where you can find NEW clients! You can read more about the benefits of being a VAinsider by clicking here.
How Do I Set my Rates as a Virtual Assistant?
Setting your rates and billing clients as a Virtual Assistant might just be the most difficult part of setting up a business, besides finding clients. There are a few ways you can set up your rates and charge clients.
Hourly – Pay as you go
It is perhaps the most common pricing method for service-based businesses. The only problem with hourly pricing is that you are limited by the number of available billable hours in a day. It also does not account for the speed you have developed over time and as a result of this you must increase your hourly rate to account for expertise and experience.
Retainer pricing is based on your hourly pricing. Most people that have retainer pricing provide a discount as an enticement for people to “sign up” for more hours.
For example, your hourly price may be $40 and you may set up retainers as follows:
A – 5 hours – 5% discount $190.00
B – 10 hours – 10% discount $360.00
C – 25 hours – 15% discount $850.00
You get the idea. If you determine you will provide retainer pricing there are a few things to consider. How quickly must the retainers be used? Do the hours expire? Will you provide a refund? Must retainers be paid in advance? Do extra hours revert to old rate or does this guarantee the new rate?
Here’s an example of mine…click here
This pricing determination is based on services rather than time. Keep in mind that when you tell someone your price they are thinking like this …
“It takes me 10 hours per month which is $400 per month – I can’t afford that”. They do not realize that these same tasks would take you only 5 hours to complete.
When providing package pricing you simply provide a list of products you will provide within that package and the price it will cost. You determine this price by estimating the time to complete these services each month and multiplying it by your hourly rate.
An example of package pricing might look like this:
Article writing – $XX per article
Monthly social marketing package – $XXX per month
– includes 12 blog entries
– includes 3 daily tweets
– maintenance of Facebook page
Even though these packages are based on how long you think it will take to do these services and is still based on your hourly price, your client simply sees the bottom line and what they will get for those services. The client is not left guessing how many hours they may need – they simply know what services they want and how much it will cost. It is great for them for budgeting purposes. It also allows you to make more money as you develop speed without having to increase your package pricing.
Keep in mind that as you learn your client’s business and their needs you will undoubtedly get faster. Hourly pricing does not allow you to benefit from this … package pricing does.
On your website tell your potential client that you can customize a package to fit their needs and their budget.
Project (one time)
So often I see the question “I have a potential client that needs me to do xyz, has anyone ever priced something like this?”
Some examples of things you might find a request for project-based pricing include one-time customer projects, mass mailings, calling projects, database entry, etc..
Project pricing works similarly to package pricing. In essence, the client is simply looking to be able to budget how much a particular project will cost.
Next time you are asked to provide a project price, here are two quick and simple ways to determine the price:
– Industry Standards – research what the industry standards are. For example, transcriptions are based on a 1:4 or 1:6 ratio. You can usually do 100 letters of a mass mailing per hour including addressing and stuffing. These standards are available if you do the research.
– The “test” … take a small sample of the project and then multiply your results
The biggest problem with project pricing is that until you become familiar with how long something actually takes it can be hard to come up with a fair price. Many VAs tend to underestimate the amount of time something takes, especially when it is something they enjoy doing. If I was to ask you how long it would take to type 40 handwritten pages what would your answer be? For each person the answer is different. For this reason, you can see why project pricing can be very difficult.
Don’t be afraid to overquote a project if you are asked to quote a project. I will often say that I will set a $300.00 budget for the project and track my time. I let the client know that I will track my time and charge them my hourly rate but not go over the set budget of $300.
Project pricing is a great way again to allow yourself to be paid for your speed and expertise. As with package pricing, the client is simply looking at the total cost the project will be and whether they think that is a feasible amount to pay to outsource the project.
Keep in mind, as I have stated, that hours to complete a project are subjective … often times those that are not in our industry haven’t a clue how long something will take. If, for example, you were to have someone build a house for you and they said they charge $100 per hour including costs … what on earth would this mean to you? Do you know how many hours it would take them? Probably not.
Do I Need a Contract?
Whether mail, email, or otherwise, keep track of all communication between you and the other party when it comes to issues of finances. Confirmation numbers, names of persons you speak to, and any information you can gather can come in handy if an issue comes up that needs to be addressed.
When you work for someone else, you never have to worry about how you will get paid. You just expect that it will happen. All of that changes when you go into business for yourself. As a virtual assistant, it is up to you to make sure that you are getting paid what you are worth for your services. You are the person in charge and that means you have to make sure you are covered from the start. The first thing to do with any new client is to get an agreement into place in writing. Define what your client gets for their money, how you get paid and how your business operates. Contracts help to avoid disputes later on if there is an issue. Protect yourself by having a contract in place and by keeping all correspondence with your clients during your working relationship and for some time after.
Which Social Networks Should I Use?
It’s important that you’re using the right social media networks so that you aren’t wasting your valuable time. Most VAs will jump right in and set up every since social network, this is not necessary, nor is it an effective marketing practice.
By now you should have figured out who you’d like to work with. Now it’s time to see what networks your ideal client is actively hanging out on. Wherever your target market is, is where you want to be. Don’t waste all your time networking in virtual assistant groups, you’re target market isn’t there.
Hang out where your target market is.
Need More Help? Enroll in the Virtual Assistant Career System
If you already have some administrative work experience, then I highly suggest looking at investing in the Virtual Assistant Career Startup System (VAC)
The Virtual Assistant Career start up system is for the entrepreneur who is more frugal, is the do-it-yourself type and just needs the knowledge to start up a VA business in a step by step guide without someone cracking a whip over their head to complete it. The VAC System includes everything you need to get your business up and running quickly and efficiently in the least amount of time including a website! If you are a person who disfavors lengthy reading and writing – be rest assured – this entire Virtual Assistant Career (VAC) system was designed with SIMPLICITY and PRACTICALITY in mind. An easy balance between short reading passages, writing exercises, helpful tips and over 130 templates and checklists will keep you both visually and intellectually stimulated on your journey to entrepreneurship.
Have a look at what is included in the VAC by clicking here.
Also, CLICK HERE to download our free VA Startup Checklist and a sample of the training you can expect when you join our Virtual Assistant Career training program.