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How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business: An Ultimate Guide

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start a virtual assistant businessDo you want to start a virtual assistant business and make money from home?

Sweet!

Being a work at home mom has some definite upsides. But here’s one thing you need to know: you might need some help to do it right.

Because starting an online business is tough when you don’t know what to do first.

I’ve totally been there.

When I first started freelancing as a side hustle, I had zero clue what I was doing.

And there weren’t a lot of resources out there for freelance writers at the time. So, a lot of what I learned was pure trial and error.

But you don’t have time for that, right?

You want to start your business and start making money now, not six months down the line.

I get you.

So, to help you out I’ve put together an ultimate guide to getting started as a virtual assistant. It breaks down everything you need to know to start your VA business and make it profitable from day one.

Let’s dig in.

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

If you want to start a virtual assistant business you first need to know what it means to be a VA.

Essentially, virtual assistants are business owners who help other business owners. 

VAs can provide a wide range of services to businesses large and small. But instead of reporting to an office every day, virtual assistants offer their services online.

Work is done remotely and virtual assistants are self-employed, not employees.

That means no employee benefits package and you also have to handle paying your own taxes as a business owner. And instead of getting a weekly paycheck, you may get paid once a month.

Those are things you have to get used to when you become a business owner.

But overall, the perks of running a VA business are pretty great:

  • The hours can be flexible and shaped to your schedule (which is perfect if you’re a busy mom)
  • There’s high earning potential. (According to ZipRecruiter, the average VA makes just over $60,000 annually and some make well over six figures.)
  • It offers a creative outlet and way to put your professional skills to you.
  • You can work with a diverse group of clients and meet some really interesting people.
  • Depending on your skill set, you can pick and choose which services you want to offer.
  • You don’t need a degree to become a virtual assistant.
  • It’s possible to start a virtual assistant business without spending a ton of money up front.

Another plus: virtual assistants are in high demand, from both brick-and-mortar businesses and online businesses.

Bottom line, if you’ve got the right set of skills and know how to market your VA business, you could keep a steady flow of clients (and money) rolling in.

(If you’re looking for a quick checklist that sums up what you need to know, you’ll find one in the Boss Mama Resource Library! Join now to grab yours!)

start a virtual assistant business

But What Do Virtual Assistants Actually Do?

So, the second thing to know if you want to start a virtual assistant business is what kind of services VAs offer.

The short answer is, pretty much any services they want to offer that businesses are willing to pay for.

VAs can fall into one of two groups: general virtual assistants and VAs who offer specialized services.

What Are General Virtual Assistant Services?

General VAs may work with lots of different types of clients; they don’t necessarily limit themselves to any one specific niche.

I worked as a general VA for a larger VA company before starting my freelancing writing business. The client list included a commercial real estate developer, a church and an online marketing agency.

Needless to say, my daily to-do list covered a lot of ground. And if you’re thinking of becoming a general virtual assistant, the services you offer might include:

  • Email management
  • Organizing and scheduling your client’s daily calendar
  • Writing sales copy for newsletters or email autoresponders
  • Creating PowerPoints or entering data into spreadsheets
  • Online file management
  • Ghostwriting and publishing blog content
  • Scheduling posts to social media
  • Editing documents
  • Creating research reports

These are all things that I did as a general VA and the list of services you might offer could be much longer.

Taking the general approach as you start a virtual assistant business might appeal to you if:

  • You like connecting with lots of different kinds of people.
  • Your skill set lends itself to a variety of tasks.
  • You find doing the exact same thing every day boring.

On the other hand, you might be looking for a way to flex your expertise in a particular area. If that’s the case, you may want to consider offering specialized VA services instead.

What Is a Specialty Virtual Assistant?

It’s simple; it’s a VA who targets a specific type of client with a specific service.

For example, you might offer Pinterest design and management services for mom bloggers. Or you might offer social media management services for fintech startups.

Those are both really niched-down ideas you could use to start a virtual assistant business. And both have the potential to be super profitable.

Being a specialty VA also means you have an ideal client that you want to work with.

In a nutshell, your ideal client is a business owner who:

  • Has a specific struggle or pain point that your services can solve
  • Is willing to pay the rate you charge for those services

There’s a little more to it than that, of course. Your ideal client also has to be a good fit on a professional level.

A client could be willing to pay you huge gobs of money for your VA services but if their personality rubs you the wrong way or they have unrealistic expectations about deadlines or zero boundaries on communication, then it’s just never going to work.

If you’re considering taking the specialized route as a VA, think about what skills or expertise you could leverage to start your business. For example, you might be great at:

  • Designing eye-catching graphics
  • Navigating social media trends
  • Proofreading and/or editing
  • Web design or coding
  • Managing WordPress
  • Providing customer service and support

Those are all specialized skills that could translate to money-making potential as a new VA.

start a virtual assistant business

How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

All right, let’s get down to what you really came here for: how to start a virtual assistant business. There are steps to follow to get your VA business up and running (and hopefully, making you real money from home.)

1. Lay the Foundation

There’s one small thing and a couple of bigger things to get out of the way before you can start landing your first clients as a virtual assistant.

Choose a Name for Your Business

You could just use your own name as the name of your virtual assistant business. That’s totally fine and a lot of VAs go with that option.

But if you’d rather do business as a VA under a different name, spend some time brainstorming ideas. Just don’t get hung up on this step, since you want to move on to getting clients as soon as possible.

Handle the Legal Side of Starting a VA Business

Once you’ve settled on a name, the next step is making your new virtual assistant business legal.

Depending on where you live, you may need a business license to operate and offer your VA services. Your local government should be able to tell you whether you need a license or any other formal paperwork to get your business off the ground.

Next, you’ll need to choose a business structure. Generally, this means deciding whether to operate as a sole proprietorship, corporation or as a limited liability company (LLC).

Again, you’ll want to check with your local government to see if a specific business structure is required. Basically, setting up a corporation or LLC can offer you more legal protections if your business gets sued or has to file bankruptcy.

Aside from where you live, whether you need to incorporate or form an LLC may largely depend on the type of services you offer and the clients you work with.

If you’re at all in doubt about which way to go, it’s a good idea to talk to a business attorney about which option makes the most sense.

Now, will all this cost money?

For sure. Depending on where you live, it may cost under $50 to set up an LLC or as much as $500.

But it could be money well spent if having the right paperwork and business structure in place protects you finally if something goes wrong.

Do you need a business plan to start a virtual assistant business?

Not necessarily.

A business plan is usually recommended if you’re planning to get funding from a bank or investors for your business.

But if you’re starting to work as a virtual assistant from home, then whether you create a formal business plan is really up to you.

The benefit, though, of writing a business plan is it can give you some clarity on who your ideal client is, what services you want to offer and how much you plan to charge.

2. Decide What Virtual Assistant Services to Offer

So, you already know the difference between being a general VA and a specialized VA. Now’s where you have to decide which one you’re going to be.

Again, the biggest pro of being a general VA is variety. You could work with a wide range of clients and none of them might be the same.

But my personal opinion if you’re trying to start a virtual assistant business (or any business for that matter) is that it’s always better to specialize.

Having a specialty can help you stand out from the crowd. And that means two things:

  • You’re more likely to be a sought-after VA if you’re offering services that the competition isn’t.
  • You can charge more for those services because no one else is offering them.

As a freelance writer, I specialize in writing about finance. And within that niche, I focus on three things: personal finance, small business and investing.

Narrowing my focus has allowed me to become an expert in my niche. And that means my clients are willing to pay me a lot more for my writing skills.

If you’re totally new to being a virtual assistant, it’s okay to start off providing general services.

And as you work with more clients, really pay attention to what types of tasks interest you most. What are you good at? Which ones do you really enjoy? And what would you like to learn more about?

Thinking along those lines can help you figure out whether you’d like to specialize eventually; and if so, what you’d like to be known for as a VA.

3. Set Your Rates as a Virtual Assistant

So, your biggest question about starting a VA business might be how much you’re going to get paid.

And the good news is, that’s totally up to you.

The bad news is, that’s totally up to you.

Wait, what? 

Here’s what I mean by that. Being self-employed as a virtual assistant (or a freelancer or anything else) means you have the power to determine what you earn.

You’re the one assigning a value to your time, expertise and services, not the clients you work with. That’s the good part.

The bad part is that a lot of freelancers (myself included, one upon a time) set the bar too low when they’re just starting out.

They want to get paid so they’ll just throw out a number without thinking about what a project is really worth.

So, as you’re deciding how to set your rates for your virtual assistant business, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much time does this project involve?
  • Would you rather charge hourly or per project?
  • What type of skill/expertise does the project span?
  • What’s the client’s budget and what results are they hoping to achieve?
  • Is this a one-time gig or is there the possibility of ongoing work?
  • What’s your relationship with the client like?
  • What rate would make the project profitable for you?

There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all pricing when you’re running a VA business.

I don’t charge all of my freelance clients the same thing because they’re not all the same. Something that’s going to take me several hours to research, write and review is going to cost more than a blog post I can knock out in 30 minutes.

As you set your rates, don’t low-ball yourself.

The rates you charge should reflect your skills, experience and the value you’re providing to your client.

And it should also benefit your business’s bottom line. If you charge $50 an hour, for example, and half of it goes to taxes and operating expenses you’ve only netted $25 an hour.

That’s not so bad but if you’re charging $50 an hour for a project and netting $10, then you really need to rethink the math.

And don’t go too high with your rates either. In that case, you could price yourself out of your ideal client’s budget range.

Here’s a simple way to figure out where to set your rates as a virtual assistant:

Decide what you want to make per hour, then add 25% to 30% to that number.

The 25% to 30% extra is what you’ll need to set aside for taxes and operating expenses. So if you want to net $50 an hour, you’d need to set your hourly rate at $62.50 to $65.

My tax rate works out to around 23% and I have minimal expenses, so this formula works well for me. But of course, you’ll want to play around with the numbers to find the best rate for you.

4. Establish Your Brand

So, you might be ready to start finding clients for your new virtual assistant but hold up. There’s one other thing you still need to do.

Before you go out, guns blazing, you need to start carving out a name for yourself and your VA business.

Because think about it — if you needed to hire a plumber, would you hire someone who’s got a reputation for delivering excellent service at reasonable rates or a total nobody with zero online presence?

One of the best things you can do for yourself when you start a virtual assistant business is work on developing your brand early on.

Your brand is you: who you are, what services you offer, what your business is about.

It’s what makes you different from every other VA on the block.

You can start doing some really simple branding by creating social media channels for your business. Again, that might be your name or the official name you’ve chosen for your business.

Go ahead and set up accounts for the channels you want to use but don’t try to promote yourself on all of them just yet. Until you get more established, you’ll want to focus on just those channels where your ideal clients are most likely hanging out.

For example, take the example I mentioned earlier about being a Pinterest VA for mom bloggers. Your top three outlets for getting noticed might be Facebook groups, Pinterest and Instagram.

Focus on making connections to start. If someone asks a question that you know an answer to in a Facebook group, for instance, use that to start a conversation.

Answer their question, first and foremost, and make sure you’re providing real value. Then if (and only if) an opening presents itself, you can mention that you offer VA services if they need some help with their business.

Bottom line, you have to build trust first and a reputation for being helpful before you can attempt to sell someone on your services.

Do I Need a Website to Start a Virtual Assistant Business?

Technically, no.

I mean, I never had a website when I started freelance writing and I still don’t. I have this blog but I don’t use it to find work because clients can find me other ways.

But, if you want to start a virtual assistant business these days, having a website can give you an edge.

Your website can be like your online resume, highlighting your experience and your services.

If you don’t have any experience yet, you may want to start a blog instead of a static website. Starting a blog can be a way to show off your expertise to prospective clients.

For example, let’s talk about that Pinterest-VA-for-mom-bloggers thing one more time.

You could start a blog that focuses on all things Pinterest, with posts about:

  • How Pinterest’s algorithm works
  • What things can help drive traffic to a website (and what can hurt it)
  • How to design amazing pins
  • Current Pinterest trends
  • How to brand your business for Pinterest
  • Why it’s important to use SEO keywords for pinning

And so on, and so on.

Starting a blog when you start your VA business can do two things for you:

It can help you become more knowledgeable about your chosen niche and it’s a chance to hone your writing skills. (And if writing is one of the services you offer as a VA, that’s important.)

How to Start a Blog for Your Virtual Assistant Business

So, there are a million “start a blog” posts you can read (including this one) but the process starts with deciding where to host your blog.

There are platforms that let you start a blog for free but if you’re using your blog to promote your VA business, you’re better off paying for a self-hosted site with WordPress.org and a blog hosting service.

The blog host I use is Siteground and they’re amazing. I’ve never had an issue with my site going down, the customer service is super-responsive and the pricing can’t be beat.

(And if you click on my affiliate link, you can get hosting starting at just $3.95/month!)

Once you get hosting, you’ll need to install a theme, write an About Me page, create a Hire Me page for prospective clients and then start adding posts.

From there, you can go back to those social channels you’re active on and start promoting your blog. The goal here is to build your reputation and credibility with the people who may eventually want to hire you.

5. Start Finding Clients for Your Virtual Assistant Business

We’re down to the last step now and this one may seem like the most daunting. But don’t worry, all of us who run businesses online had to start somewhere, with our very first client.

If you’re already building your network through Facebook groups or other social media channels, that’s one way to attract and find clients for your business. But you do have other options.

One thing you might see people encourage for new VAs is to try finding clients on a platform like Upwork.

Upwork is a freelance marketplace where businesses post jobs and ask freelancers to submit proprosals. If a client likes your proprosal, they’ll offer you the gig. You do the work and get paid through the platform.

That might sound good if you’re new but I can tell you from personal experience that Upwork is hit or miss.

I used the platform as a new freelancer and I was mostly disappointed in the quality of clients I found there. There were (and still are) people who use the platform and literally pay pennies.

So, it’s up to you if you want to try Upwork but if you do, I wouldn’t make it my only focus.

There are other, better methods to find VA work, including:

  • Asking people you know for referrals (That’s how I got started as a VA 🙂 )
  • Canvassing remote work and regular job boards
  • Networking through LinkedIn
  • Cold pitching prospective clients directly

Cold pitching a client for a virtual assistant business is similar to cold pitching a freelance writing client. It’s basically you reaching out to a business and offering your services.

That’s the TL;DR version of cold-pitching.

It’s a bit more nuanced and it has to be done correctly to be successful. You have to sell your services in a way that’s not off-putting and that clearly identifies the value you have to offer.

But if you can master cold pitching, it can be a highly effective way to find clients as you start your virtual assistant business.

A few tips for cold pitching:

  • Create a go-to cold pitch template that you can easily tailor to every prospect you connect with.
  • Commit to cold pitching a set number of clients each day and track the ones you send.
  • Send your cold pitches to businesses that are as close to your ideal client as possible.
  • Make sure you’re following up on the cold pitches you send if you don’t hear back within a couple of weeks.

Also, consider getting feedback (from a fellow VA if possible) on your cold pitch before you send it out to make sure it reads well. (And if you’d like me to take a look, email me at Rebecca@BossSingleMama.com!)

Consider Taking a Course to Help Launch Your VA Biz

I’m much more experienced at freelance writing than I am at being a virtual assistant. So while I know a lot, I don’t think of myself as the ultimate authority.

Gina Horkey, on the other hand, is your go-to woman if you want to take a really deep dive into starting and growing a virtual assistant business.

She has tons of free resources to help you on her website, Horkey Handbook. But if you’re looking for even more help, she also has a course called “30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success” that can help you build a solid foundation.

It’s a paid course but it’s worth looking into if you have the money to invest in your business up front.

If you’re not ready to pay for a course yet, check out her free webinar to learn more about what a VA does and how to get started.

What Questions Do You Have About Starting a Virtual Assistant Business?

I designed this guide to be as comprehensive as possible but if there’s a question you have about becoming a VA that I didn’t answer, head to the comments and ask away!

Please pin and share this post if you found it helpful and be sure to download your free Start a Virtual Assistant Business Checklist!

It’s included in the Boss Mama Resource Library, which is packed with free goodies to help you make money from home!

start a virtual assistant business

Hi there! I'm Rebecca, freelance writer, blogger and homeschooling mom of two. I help moms who want to start a side hustle, grow a freelance writing business, be more productive and save more money! I started a freelancing side hustle as a stay-at-home mom that I've since grown into a six-figure business. Check out the Boss Mama Resource Library for workbooks, cheat sheets and more to help you rock the work at home mom life!

Comments

    • You’re welcome! There is a lot that goes into starting a VA business so I wanted to try and cover it in as much detail as possible. It’s definitely a great way to make money from home, especially for busy moms. 🙂

  1. Rebecca! This is such a comprehensive and helpful post! Becoming a VA is something I considered before deciding to offer freelance writing services. I love how thorough you are here!❤️

    Working as a VA is also a fantastic way for new bloggers to hone their blogging skills and monetize their site!

    • Thanks, there are so many great resources out there for VAs. Starting a virtual assistant business can be a great way to make an income online!

    • You’re welcome! Starting a VA business can be a great way to make money if you’re looking for something that can deliver an income while you’re waiting for your blog to start making money!

  2. It is the fastest growing online business right now. I am sure having a blog helps to land clients but I agree with you that it is not necessary. If you have good writing skills, there is a lot of opportunity in this field. Would you be able to suggest any courses related to freelancing?

    • Hi Nadia, you’re right about the opportunities for writers out there. I personally never took a freelance writing course — I’m completely self-taught. I’d like to develop one of my own eventually but if I had to recommend one I would suggest Elna Cain’s Write Your Way to Your First $1K. Again, I haven’t taken this course but Elna always provides such great information on her freelancing site and on TwinsMommy that I would definitely trust her to know what she’s talking about. I’m currently working my way through her Ready, Set, Blog for Traffic course and my experience with that has turned me into a huge fan! But if you’re looking for something free to learn freelancing, check out Teachable, Thinkific, Udemy and CreativeLive. All of those are great resources for free or low-cost freelancing courses. 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Halle! Being a VA can be a great choice for making money online and it’s helpful to know the ins and outs before diving in.

    • Thanks! Being a virtual assistant can definitely be a good way to make money while you’re working on growing your blog and making it profitable.

  3. Wow, this is so helpful! I have been thinking about doing this myself and I am pinning it now to look back on later:) Thank you!

    • You’re welcome! Starting a virtual assistant business is actually a lot easier than people think and it’s a great way to make money from home!

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