Are you struggling to find a balance in having a job, making the money they deserve, and having enough time left to enjoy living your life? We live in a time where you don’t have to make sacrifices to be content with your job, income, and happiness. If you have the motivation to start your own virtual assistant business, you can work a job you are happy with, decide what you are paid, and work hours that fit your schedule best.
I had the motivation to get my business started and worked hard to make it happen! I’ve always had the entrepreneur bug inside of me. I have a very small Etsy shop and I’ve done “virtual assistant” type work in the past. But, when I was doing that work, I had no idea I could make a business out of it. When I decided I wanted to work remotely with the valuable skills I already had and during the time that worked best for me, I started researching “work from home” jobs. I stumbled upon becoming a virtual assistant and I knew I could make this happen if I made it a priority, with guidance from others who successfully created their own virtual assistant businesses, and by spending a lot of time researching.
I’m going to breakdown all the steps you need to take to start your own business and the resources you should use to get your business up and running to either make this your full time job, or just earn extra money on the side. This is what you’ll learn about:
- How to setup your online business (or side hustle)
- The services you should provide
- Deciding who your ideal client is
- How to create and price your packages
- How to create a portfolio
- Tool training
- How to develop an online presence
- How to start pitching and building relationships
- How to turn a potential client into an actual client
- Preparing for taxes
- Review if you have what it takes to be a virtual assistant
- Tips and suggestions
- Difference between working for yourself and a virtual assistant company
- Essential virtual assistant links and resources
Difference between working for yourself or a virtual assistant company
Once you decide you want to become a virtual assistant, you can either work for your own va business by following the steps outlined above. Or you can work for a virtual assistant company like Delegated.
- If you work for yourself within your own company, you will have to do your own pitching, find your own clients, and you can charge the rates you decide on.
- If you work for a virtual assistant company, you won’t have to pitch yourself, you will be given clients, and paid the amount that the VA company decides upon. You'll also need to embark on a small job search to likely be hired as a team member of that firm, depending on how they staff.
Carving out time in my busy schedule to create my own virtual assistant business was absolutely worth it and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I no longer work full-time from 9-5 every weekday, instead I work when it best fits my schedule. I no longer have to worry about the corporate company’s business plan, instead I focus entirely on my own goals. I’m no longer told how much I will make that year, instead I set my own rates that can increase when my skills have reached the next level. By creating my own small business, I can work at home and feel like I'm making a greater impact for companies that I actually feel passionate about.
How to setup your work from home virtual assistant business
You’ve decided you want to start a virtual assistant business. But, how do you actually get started?
The first step is to decide what you want to name your business. I don’t suggest getting too fancy with your name. If your business’s name is too specific and you decide to pivot down the road, you’ll have to change all of your branding which is time consuming. For example, if you name your business “The Ultimate Virtual Assistant” and next year you realize you really love helping your clients with website creation, then your business name would not fit and you would have to rebrand to show you are a website creator. I think it’s best to name as generically as possible. For myself, I used my first and last name for my business name, website, and email address.
Creating a legal business
You want to make your business legal from the start and I recommend speaking with a professional for them to advise you on how to properly get set up. But you have a couple options on how to get started:
- A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business that is owned by one individual where the individual is responsible for any debts or liabilities. It is the easiest and least expensive business to set up.
- A limited liability company (LLC) for your business is created by filing an Articles of Organization with your Secretary of State and you’ll pay a filing fee. You might want to consider an LLC, if your business might face risk of lawsuits or debt. It protects the members of the company since they are not personally responsible for any debts or liabilities.
You can complete these processes through a service like LegalZoom where all the work will be done for you (at a bit extra cost of course) or you can work with a tax professional to help you set things up.
New email address & phone number
You’ll be making lots of new accounts on many different platforms and you want to sign up with a new business email address to keep it separate from your personal account. Keep this email address simple and easy for a potential client to remember. Try to use either your business name, your personal name, or an easy combination of your business and personal names together. You can go with a generic gmail email account, or get one provided with a new website so you have firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also look at buying a phone number for use specifically for your business as well with services like Grasshopper, or another virtual phone system provider.
What services you should provide?
It’s important to take some time to list out everything that you have experience in and where your strengths are. These skill sets will help shape the services you’ll offer when you first start your virtual assistant business. Take time to reflect on these skills, read through them a few times, and see how they might fit into a virtual assistant service.
The first mental roadblock many people run into when creating this list is “what could I actually offer a business owner…I have no helpful skills!”. You might currently be a nurse, a teacher, a cashier, or a mom. All of these jobs have translatable skills that make you a perfect fit to become a virtual assistant. Anyone can become a VA! For example:
- A nurse is patient, a critical thinker, a multitasker, good under pressure, and displays great customer support.
- A teacher is organized, a content creator, creative, a planner, creates engagement with students, researches, does data entry, and dedicated to others.
- A cashier has a customer support background, uses technology, is good with numbers, and is patient.
- A mom is organized, a planner, constantly researching, a problem solver, creative, and creates activities to entertain.
Now that you’ve written out your skill sets and strengths, it’s time to decide what services you can provide. For example:
- Planning skills = project management, travel arrangements
- Organized = email management, file management, administrative tasks
- Writing skills = blogger, transcribing, editing, proofreading
- Creativity = graphic design, photo editing, website creation
- Customer support = answer phone calls, email management
- Content creator = social media platform management, course creator
It might be extremely clear to you what direction you should niche down into. If you have that clear path, run with it. On the other hand, you might feel like you don’t have one set expertise that someone would hire your for. You can try out a few areas that you think you might excel in or you can start as a virtual administrative assistant which will encompass many tasks that will help you learn, grow, and figure out exactly what you like working on. You are never stuck once you decide on a service to provide. As your business grows over time you will figure out what you’re good at and what tasks you enjoy working on.
What are some common areas for growing your skill set or offering?
Being able to help clients with their product management or editing their listings on amazon may be a popular option to get more clients and expand your offerings. Social media management is also a fairly common area to expand and grow your relationship with clients, thus becoming familiar with a platform like HootSuite would likely be a smart move as you can manage multiple platforms from that one client. Alternatively, the real estate industry is another great potential area you could assist. Managing MLS listings (actual property listings) could be another area of growth. This may also involve managing listings and postings on other platforms like Craigslist or Zillow, etc.
Who is your ideal client?
You’re just starting your business and you’ll be thinking “I’ll work for anyone who wants to pay me!”. But you need to get specific, so you aren’t marketing yourself to everyone out there. You want to make a true connection with a potential client. This doesn’t mean you have to turn down someone if they don’t fit into your ideal client checklist. It simply helps you narrow down your searching so you don’t feel overwhelmed and it will also help you stand out in the stack of applicants that your potential client receives.
If you’re a mom, you might feel like you can connect with other mom entrepreneurs who are struggling to keep up with their business during the naptime hustle. If you go to the gym every day and are a wonderful cook, you might want to look into the health, wellness, and fitness industries. If you studied business in school and are always inspiring your peers, you might want to work with business coaches. The list of industries that you could assistant with, is endless.
Once you identify who you ideally want to work with, you should block off some time to research them and the industry they are in. This will help you recognize what tasks they might need help with (social media, blogging, travel planning, administrative, etc.). It will also help you feel more prepared for when you start chatting with prospective clients.
Create and price your packages
You’ve taken the time to brainstorm your skills and have thought about what specific services you will provide. Now it’s time to decide on your pricing structure of your service packages. Most virtual assistants will have an hourly rate between $20-$50. When you’re setting your rates, you want to take into account how many hours you want to work (full-time or part-time) each week, how much you need to make to be financially secure, and how much your expertise is worth. Here are some examples:
- A virtual assistant who needs to make $2,000 per month and only wants to work for 20 hours per week.
- $2,000 / 4 weeks = $500 / 20 hours = $25 per hour
- A virtual assistant who needs to make $4,000 per month and only wants to work for 20 hours per week.
- $4,000 / 4 weeks = $1,000 / 20 hours = $50 per hour
You might decide to charge by the hour, by the project, or create a retainer package each month. You can start out at a lower rate for your first client, but I advise to raise your rates between $3-5 per hour after every 1 or 2 clients you take on.
There are a few things to remember when setting your rates:
- You’re not an employee of your clients so you get to decide on how much you’re being paid. If you decide to raise your rates and your client can’t afford you, then you will unfortunately lose them as a client, but you will have freed up time to find another client who can afford you.
- You are a freelancer who will be paying your own taxes, health insurance, etc.
- You aren’t receiving any benefits from your client (sick days, vacation days, health insurance, retirement contributions, etc.).
- You are providing your own equipment, tools, software, and office.
A fair potential client will understand the extra costs you are incurring as a freelancer running your own small business. If they are being stubborn, then they aren’t the right fit for you! You should never under-price your services because of what a potential client says about your rates. There is always another business owner out there who will be willing to hire you for what you deserve.
Also consider that some projects, tasks, or clients may require more time and effort on your end, and for more involved work you may be able to charge a higher rate, and for more routine tasks you may opt to charge lower rates.
Create a portfolio
If you were to apply for a corporate job, you would need to apply with your resume and a cover letter. You’ll need to supply something similar to a business owner when pitching yourself or applying to a virtual assistant job. The business owner will want to see your experience, skills, past work, and testimonials. You can easily create a portfolio using the free tool Canva. This website and app have templates you can edit (if you aren’t great at design) or use as a base (if you are a design pro) to beautifully create a comprehensive and cohesive portfolio. Here are a few things to consider adding to your portfolio:
- Cover letter
- Tools & software you have experience with
- Visual samples
- Links to your work
- Contact information
Depending on what service you are offering you’ll need to know how to use different types of tools and software. There are some tools that will be helpful to learn when first starting out your virtual assistant business. Many of these tools have extensive instructions on their website to help you get started. If you ever get stuck, I suggest looking for a tutorial on YouTube or by typing a question into Google. Here’s a list of some basic tools that will help you get started and they are all free (unless you upgrade for more features):
- Google calendar – As a freelancer you'll most likely have more than one client and need to remember all the different tasks you are completing for each client. It’s helpful to plan and block out time in your schedule for each of your tasks and for personal appointments.
- Acuity – You set up your availability in this online scheduling app and it will be super easy for business owners to click and book a time slot to chat with you. You can add your personal Acuity link to your portfolio or website.
- Zoom – You can schedule video calls with potential clients so you can start building a more personal connection right away.
- And.co – This website will help you set up and keep track of proposals, contracts, and invoices.
- Canva – This tool will help you to easily create graphics, worksheets, and much more with their thousands of beautiful templates.
- Trello, Asana, Basecamp – These project management tools will help you and your clients stay organized and on the same page.
- Planoly, Hootsuite, Later, Loomly, Buffer, Tailwind – There are many different social media scheduling tools. If you take the time to plan and schedule out your posts, these tools will keep your own and your client’s social media presence active throughout the month.
Develop an online presence
As a virtual assistant, you will be working entirely online from your remote location. You’ll need to create an online presence so your potential new clients can find you, learn about you, and get in touch. There are both free and paid ways to promote your business and gain visibility.
- Create a Facebook business page that explains your services and pricing. You can add in testimonials and post regular content to showcase your skill set.
- Post information about your business on your personal Facebook account to let your friends and family know about your business and what you can offer them.
- Create an Instagram business profile where your potential client can get to know you better and you can showcase skills like graphic creation, caption writing, hashtag research, and engagement.
- Join Facebook groups in your niche and engage in the posts. Take time to answer people’s questions that you have expertise in, so they know you are the go-to person for that task. If you see someone add a hiring post, be sure to comment with your portfolio and ask if you can send them a personal message.
- Create a digital portfolio/resume using the tool Canva. When you apply for a job your potential client will want to learn about your experience, skills, and see some examples.
- Update your LinkedIn account to drive traffic to your page.
- Create a website (Squarespace, Wordpress, Wix, etc.) that includes information about you, your skills, your packages and pricing, testimonials, and a portfolio of past work.
- Create an ad campaign on Facebook.
- Join an online virtual assistance agency (such as Delegated.com)
Start pitching and building relationships
You’ve done all the behind the scenes work of getting your business started. But you don’t truly have a business until you land your first client. You need to start pitching yourself online and build relationships in order to find clients. In the beginning you will be networking and marketing yourself every day on many different platforms. I’ve landed clients through a family connection, a friend connection, a Facebook group hiring post, someone finding me through my Instagram account, a referral from a current client, and by email cold pitching companies that I thought could use my help. My clients have been obtained in so many different ways. If you are struggling to find a client, try switching how and where you are pitching your services.
Where to start searching for virtual assistant jobs?
- Facebook groups
- Local business networking groups (like a BNI meetup)
Sending out a cold pitch
Cold pitching someone can sound pretty intimidating. You might not want to bother them, or you might be thinking that they don’t need any extra help since they are running a thriving business already. But you really don’t know what they are struggling with until you at least try to reach out to an ideal potential client. Here are the steps I recommend to take when email cold pitching:
- Research and read everything you can find about them. Review their website, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, articles they’ve written, and anything else you can find. Knowing everything you can about them will help you to craft an email and prepare you in case you get on a call with them eventually. You might also notice areas that they need help with. Maybe their website needs a refresh, they haven’t posted on social media in over 3 months, or you’re finding typos in their blog posts. These type of observations will be great to add to your cold pitch!
- Write out your email cold pitch:
- Start you email off by providing some feedback about how much you enjoy their business or mention that you’ve been a long-time fan of them.
- Tell them what you do and how you think you could help them.
- Provide some experience about how you’ve helped other clients achieve this in the past.
- Attach your porfolio or provide your website link.
- Let them know that they can schedule time to chat with you.
- Thank them for taking the time to read your email.
- It’s great if you hear back from them right away! If you don’t hear back, try following up in about a week. At this time you can offer to do a small trial task if they want to see how you could help assist them.
A potential client is interested in you! Now what?
You’ve heard back from a business owner after they reviewed your portfolio or website and they want to schedule some time to talk with you. Let’s go through the next steps to landing this client.
Schedule an initial discovery call for about 30-45 minutes. I suggest having a video call so you and the business owner can get a better sense of each other. During your call, if you reached out to the business owner you will be leading the call. If they reached out to you, they might be in charge of leading how the call goes. Either way, it’s best to talk about these topics:
- Introduction of yourself and your business
- Ask them for a general overview of their business (make sure you do research before the call to learn about them and their business in case they ask you)
- Ask for their business goals
- Ask what they need help with
- Ask if they have a budget in mind
- Ask if they have any questions for you
- Wrap up the call with your observation of what they need help with
- Conclude with next steps (you’ll create a proposal, send over samples, or anything else you discuss)
Proposal, contract, and invoice
Create a proposal using Canva, in a word document, or in an email. Your proposal will include the areas you’ll be focusing on, the scope of work to be completed, and your suggested pricing. After you send the proposal, your client might respond back to change the scope of work to either fit their ideal budget or to request additional tasks.
Once your proposal is approved, it’s time to draw up a contract. If you use a website such as And.co, you can use their contract template and tweak it to fit your needs. You and your client will be able to digitally sign it and download from the website. Another alternative here is ApproveMe which offers free trials for electronic signatures and also has some sample contract templates.
The next step is to send over your first invoice. Again, if you use And.co you will be able to use a quick and easy template. You can manually send invoices or setup a reoccurring payment plan. If you decide not to use And.co, you can create an invoice in Canva by modifying a template each time you wish to invoice your client.
Follow-up with a tracking system
Once you respond or apply to a hiring post, track it in your project management tool. After 5-10 days, follow-up with your potential client. Small business owners and others who are in need of your services are extremely busy! They might need a little bit of nudging for you to receive a response. They’ll also appreciate your initiative to take the time to follow-up with them. It’ll help initiate a possible conversation where you can try and get a discovery call planned.
Preparing for taxes
As a business owner you need to keep track of everything related to your income and expenses. It doesn’t matter if you write it down on paper, in a spreadsheet, or in a bookkeeping software. Just make sure you track it!
It is smart to open a new bank account to keep track of your business finances. This will keep your business money separate from your personal account.
You legally need to report all income when you file your taxes. You will be sent a form called a 1099 at the end of a year from a business owner if your services are totaling more than $600 in one calendar year. This form is a way for the IRS to track who is paying who. You might also get a request from a client to fill out a W-9. This form simply tells your client what your name is, what your tax ID (or SSN) is, address, and how you will be filing your taxes. If you don’t want to write out your SSN, you can get a free EIN tax ID number by clicking here.
As you are paid throughout the year, it’s best to set aside money for your taxes. Every freelancer will need to withhold a different amount for their taxes depending on how much they profited and which state they live in. I recommend saving between 20%-30% of the money you make. It’s unlikely you will have to pay more than 30% and by saving a little bit extra you’ll hopefully have a little “tax return” at the end of the year.
As a self-employed business owner, it’s your responsibility to send in your taxes once a quarter throughout the year. You need to start paying your quarterly taxes after you’ve had your business for a year, you’ve filed a tax return on your business, and you’ve owed money when you filed.
Keeping track of all your expenses throughout the year will benefit you when it comes time to pay your taxes. Here’s a list of all the things you can write-off :
- Online courses
- Office supplies
- Client meals (only the meal you bought for the client, not yours)
- Business travel (meals, hotels, flights, car rental, Uber, etc.)
- Paypal, Wave, and WePay fees
Do you have what it takes to become a work from home virtual assistant?
Everything that’s been explained so far might seem a little daunting. Are you excited about the possibility of creating your own virtual assistant business? Do you think you have what it takes? I encourage you to take some time to reflect and decide how you would answer the following questions:
- Are you self-motivated?
- Can you manage your time?
- Can you risk the possibility of not having a regular income?
- Do you have strong communication skills?
- Are you willing to keep learning new skills?
- Can you handle constructive feedback?
- Can you follow instructions?
- Can you do your own research when you get stuck?
- Do you need to have your hand held through most tasks?
- Do you enjoy helping other business owners?
A virtual assistant work from home job isn't easy. But if you are the right person for this career path it can be life changing.
Tips and suggestions for virtual assistant success
I’ve had my virtual assistant business for over a year now and I’ve learned so much already. I’d like to share some of my knowledge and advice:
- Be honest about your skill set.
- Keep learning new skills and tools (whether in social media, freelance writing, accounting, etc).
- If you mess up, fix it and don’t charge for it.
- If you don’t know how to do something, research it and don’t charge for it.
- Find an accountability partner to bounce ideas off of and to help keep you motivated.
- If you have an idea on how to help your client, suggest it.
- Each of your clients will be different so you will have to adapt to their expectations.
- Keep communication regular and be upfront.
- Sometimes it doesn’t work out with a client and it’s okay to let them go or for them to let you go. If it’s not working out, don’t force it. It’s not the right fit for you and your business.
- Raise your prices once you become an expert.
- There is always a business out there that needs the support you can offer.
Essential virtual assistant resources:
Take a course to learn how to become a virtual assistant:
- I took Micala Quinn’s virtual assistant course: https://micalaquinn.com
- The Virtual Savvy: https://www.thevirtualsavvy.com
- Horkey HandBook (via Gina Horkey): https://horkeyhandbook.com
Facebook groups to join and network in:
- Living the Laptop Life: https://www.facebook.com/groups/933267120089964/
- Virtual Assistant Savvies: https://www.facebook.com/groups/699202366887797/
- Virtual Assistant Tribe Job Board: https://www.facebook.com/groups/275348265972185/
- Virtual Assistant Jobs: https://www.facebook.com/groups/229361207231512/
- Freelancing Females: https://www.facebook.com/groups/521845388203729/
- Boss-Moms: https://www.facebook.com/groups/960492677336904/
- Women Helping Women Entrepreneurs: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2125964544295641/
Business podcasts to subscribe and listen to:
- The Live Free Podcast with Micala Quinn: http://livefreemama.libsyn.com/rss
- RISE podcast: https://feeds.megaphone.fm/rise
- The Goal Digger Podcast: http://goaldiggerpodcast.libsyn.com/rss
- Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield: http://amyporterfield.libsyn.com/rss
Tools, software, and applications: