If you are looking for a way to make money from home, using the skills you already have, then becoming a virtual assistant (VA) may be right up your alley.
Before we get into how to become a virtual assistant, let’s first take a look at what a virtual assistant is and what they do.
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What is a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant is an independent contractor that provides services to individuals or companies to help them in one or more areas of their business.
So, for example, if your local boutique store or salon owner needs help maintaining their social media, their email inbox, onboarding employees, etc, they can hire you to help them virtually.
Working with brick and mortar employers may take a bit of education, on your end, as the world of virtual assistance may be new to them. However, as more people move online and remote work becomes popularized, the idea of virtual assistance isn’t as foreign.
There are also plenty of bloggers, content creators, podcasters, online coaches, influences, etc. that have a better grasp on the role of virtual assistance. And they could just need the help you can offer them.
Is a virtual assistant a real job?
Yes, absolutely! Although, it is not a job as in what you may have now or have had. As a virtual assistant, you work from home and operate as your own company, and NOT as an employee. I want emphasize this again. You are not hired as an employee.
Therefore, making you responsible for things such as insurance and paying taxes. But, it also puts you in control of the time and hours you work, services you offer, the pay you receive, etc.
(You could technically work for a VA company as an employee, but for the sake of this article, I am speaking on what it takes to create your own virtual assistance business).
What exactly does a virtual assistant do?
A virtual assistant can offer any number of services to clients. It can include everything from administrative tasks to more specialized tasks, such as social media marketing. Here is a list of things to give you an idea of the types of tasks a virtual assistant can offer:
- Social Media Management
- Email Management
- Email Marketing
- Sales Funnels
- Facebook, Instagram, Google Ad Creation and Management
- Facebook Group Management
- Customer Service/ Call Center
- Pinterest Marketing & PIN Creation
- Booking Appointments
- Setting Up Autoresponders
- WordPress/ Website Management
- Shopify, BigCommerce (shop platform) Assistance
- Graphic Design
- Internet Research
- Human Resources
- Calendar Management
- Blog & Article Writing
- Project Management
- Data Entry & Collection
- Accounting, Bookkeeping
- Online Course Assistance
- Video Editing
- Podcast Editing
- General Administrative Tasks
The list above is not comprehensive, by any means, as there are countless tasks you can do as a virtual assistant. Essentially, anything that does not require you to physically be on site can be offered as a service.
And as you may have noticed, becoming a virtual assistant does not equate to only administrative tasks either. So, if that is not your cup of tea, there are so many other services you can offer or choose to specialize in.
And, if you looked at that list and felt a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry! You can always start as a general VA, find what you love and excel in and then create services around that.
How to Become a Virtual Assistant
Setting Up a Virtual Assistant Business
First and foremost, before becoming a VA, there are a few items that you will absolutely need. Those include a computer/laptop, phone and reliable, fast internet. Once you have secured these items, it is time to set up your business.
Services you will Offer
You will want to take time and write down the services that you plan to offer as a virtual assistant.
As time goes on, you may learn that you absolutely hate a particular service, while falling in love with another. It is perfectly fine to make adjustments to the types of services you offer.
Determining your Business Structure
As you are just starting out your virtual assistance business, the most common business structures are either operating as a sole proprietor or as a Limited Liability Company (LLC).
Please note: I am not a CPA so I will be speaking very generalized on the two business types.
A sole-proprietor is going to be the easiest route when it comes to setting up your business. With that said, you will also not have any liability protection. Which means should your business acquire debts or other liabilities, your personal properties could be affected, should a lawsuit be put against you. This is because you and your business are one of the same.
Should you decide to operate as a sole-proprietor to start, you may also need to file a DBA or “Doing Business As”. So, let’s say for example, you wanted to name your business “The Virtual Workplace”, you will file a DBA for “The Virtual Workplace”.
Now, in some areas, a DBA is not required if you are using your own name, so you will want to check your state for the legalities on that. For example, if your name was Sarah Johnson and you named your business Sarah Johnson’s Virtual Help, you may not need a DBA to operate.
In addition to filing a DBA, you may also want to apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number). As a sole proprietor, in many cases, you can operate under your SSN; however an EIN is free and easy to get and comes with it’s own benefits. Primarily being able to protect your SSN.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
If you decide to operate as a sole-proprietor to start, that is a-okay. However, once you have the funds, it will be wise to reinvest in your business and operate as a LLC.
One of the biggest benefits to operating as a LLC is that you are going to have liability protection. This is because the LLC is a separate legal entity from yourself.
BONUS: It is always a wise idea to operate a separate bank account then that of your personal bank account. When it comes to opening a business account, there will be some additional documents you’ll need to provide. However, it is relatively painless to set up. If you’ve got questions, you can always contact the bank beforehand to see what is required from you to set up an account.
Create a Legal Contract
Creating a legal contract is an absolute must for all virtual assistants. This is what is going to outline your scope of business and relationship with your client. I, personally, would not take on one client without a contract in place.
An example of some things to include in a virtual assistant contract:
- Description of Services to be Rendered
- Time Zones, Days Off, Schedule/Hours
- Payment Information & Terms
- Termination Clause
- Working Relationship (independent contractor)
- Confidentiality Clause
- Liability Clause
- A Customizable Virtual Assistant Contract
- Instructions for the Virtual Assistant Contract
- A Customizable Subcontracting Agreement
- Instructions for the Subcontracting Agreement
- A Mock Portfolio Example Template
So, it doesn’t have to take you months or even weeks to draw up a professional contract to use with your clients.
Branding & Website
Creating your brand and website does not need to be done before you start taking on clients. As a matter of fact, I would almost say to wait until after you have your first few clients before setting this up.
Otherwise, all it will cause for you is distraction. It is so easy to get caught going down the rabbit hole of branding and website building. And if this is something that does not come easy to you, you will waste hours just trying to set it all up.
However, when the time is right, there are a few platforms I recommend.
- WordPress – I absolutely love WordPress.org for building out all types of websites. It is a bit more complicated up front, but the customizations you can add are endless.
- SquareSpace – SquareSpace is a solid platform to use that doesn’t get too tech heavy and has a nice, clean look to it.
- Show It – This platform was created with photographers in mind, but will also work perfectly for your VA business.
Systems, Programs and Softwares to Use as a Virtual Assistant
Ah, we have finally reached my favorite section – the technology! I’m a little obsessive when it comes to systems and programs; I could seriously work in them ALL day long #nerd.
So, you can rest assured that I’ve got all the tech goods for ya! This area alone should save you hours of research, trying to determine the systems you need to operate your virtual assistant business.
Alright, so let’s kick this off …
How to Get Paid from Paying Clients
Let’s start this off with, arguably, the most important program you need for your VA business. – How your clients are going to pay you for the services rendered.
There are quite a few companies out there to choose from, when it comes to invoicing your clients. The most praised companies include:
- PayPal Invoice – no monthly fee
- Wave* – no monthly fee
- Harvest – free plan offered
- Quickbooks – free 30-day trial and then at least $12.50 per month
- FreshBooks – free 30-day trial and then at least $6 per month
- Dubsado* – free up to 3 clients and then $35 per month or $350 per year
*Wave is a highly used platform in the VA world, as it is free to use to collect payment (minus transaction fee). Dubsado is an awesome CRM or Customer Relationship Management system for small businesses. As a small business owner, automation is key and Dubsado can give you that.
**And please keep in mind that while some of these providers have no upfront costs, you will still be responsible for the transaction processing fees.
Time Tracking Softwares
Tracking your time as a virtual assistant is just good business, especially if you are working at an hourly rate. It’s going to help alleviate any doubts your potential client has, when it comes to the amount of time it takes you to complete certain tasks.
Some of the before-mentioned providers also come with time tracking software built right in. Companies to check out for time tracking include:
How to Share Passwords with Clients
Depending on the tasks that you will be handling for your client, you may need access to some of their workspaces. Instead of them providing you with their personal username and password, you instead can utilize LastPass with them.
This allows your clients to “share” access with you to their specific accounts, such as email, so that there is no exchange of personal usernames and passwords.
How to Communicate with Clients as a Virtual Assistant
It’s super important to set boundaries with your clients, as a virtual assistant. And one way to do this is to establish how you will communicate with your client.
The last thing you want is to have clients contacting you through different avenues, such as whatsapp or through text or Facebook messages or via email.
To avoid this, you can use one simple system and that is Slack.
Slack is totally free to get started with and acts like an instant messenger … only better. You are also able to connect different apps to your slack account, such as G Drive, Zoom, Asana, etc.
Project Management Softwares
Having a project management system in place is going to ensure that you don’t miss a beat, when it comes to taking care of your client’s requests and tasks.
Here are a few of the top free project management softwares available:
And the best part is that all three of the before-mentioned systems can be integrated with Slack. This means that if a client messages you through Slack regarding a task, you can add it to your project management system, as well.
Scheduling Meetings with Schedulers
As a virtual assistant, you will have calls and virtual meetings with your clients and prospective clients. To avoid playing phone tag, emails back and forth and last-minute cancellations, you can use scheduling assistants.
What makes them great is that your current and future clients schedule the meetings themselves. You input the times and days that you are available, they select a time that works with them and then it gets added to your appointments. Easy peasy!
Such scheduling assistants include:
Let’s Talk Money & How to Find Clients
How much money can I make as a virtual assistant?
This is a valid question. After all, this is how we feed, house and clothe our family. But the honest truth is that income varies for each individual VA.
You, as the business owner, set your own prices. There are some VAs who come into the workforce, charging $12-15 per hour, while others start right off the bat at $25 per hour and are successful.
It is really going to depend on your expertise and knowledge that you have in your field. As well as, the “going” price for the services you offer. This will take some research, on your end, to determine this.
A quick way to do this is to look at virtual assistants that are in the same field as you and see what they’re charging and what they’re including with those prices.
And keep in mind that the prices you enter the field in do NOT have to be the prices you keep. It is pretty standard to increase your rate after your first few clients have been secured.
Bundle Hours and Project Based Pricing
When bundling hours, you are selling hours as a package. So, you may have 10,20 or 40 hour packages that you offer to prospective clients.
How the heck do you price these packages out?
Well, it’s actually quite simple. First and foremost, never feel the need to discount your highest package for less money than you feel is deserved. Instead, increase your lower level tiers.
So for example, if you know your time is worth a minimum of $25 per hour. You could set up your pricing schedule as such:
- 40 hours per month = $1000/ mo ($25 per hour)
- 20 hours per month = $540/ mo ($27 per hour)
- 10 hours per month = $290/ mo ($29 per hour)
Or you could simply just have the packages listed out at a straight $25 per hour across the board. But, never discount your income for more time.
You’d never work more hours for less money in the corporate world, don’t treat yourself that way in the VA world, either.
Once you’ve been at this for awhile, you will become faster at doing your job and more proficient. At this time, you may want to consider moving away from the “hourly” mindset and instead offer “performance-based” packages.
That may look like, I’ll do xyz for $x amount per month.
Project Based Pricing
If you’ll be offering copywriting, web design or other specialized services, it’s wise to look into project based pricing for your services.
This simply means you will offer your services for a set price. So, if you write sales pages, for example, you may charge $500, $1000, $1500+ to complete the project.
Finding your first client may prove to be the most difficult part of getting started as a virtual assistant. However, there are so many different ways that you can find clients, you just have to be willing to put yourself out there.
Some virtual assistants choose to work with brick and mortar businesses, while others focus on online entrepreneurs, such as coaches, bloggers, podcasters and the like.
Here are some ways to find clients:
- Ask family and friends
- Contact prospects directly
- Network with people in your community
- Join Facebook groups
- Utilize Instagram
- Make connections on LinkedIn
- Contact old employers or professional contacts
When it comes to finding clients, it can be very tempting to take anyone that comes your way. However, not every prospective client is going to be a good match for you.
For example, if you are a parent, working with children at home, you may find working with clients that understand interrupted conversations is a possibility, a better fit for you.
Starting your own business can be daunting, whether you get into virtual assistance or not. For many of us, we struggle with putting ourselves out there.
But if we don’t show the world what we have to offer, the world will never know. So go out there and do your thing. And be damn proud of it too.
I’m cheering for you xx