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Learn how to start a virtual assistant business and make money from home!
Would you like to find a way to grow your family’s income without having to get a job or even leave the house?
Once upon a time I felt the exact same way. I was a stay at home mom raising a family on a tight budget and I wanted to find a way to make extra money.
I started a side hustle and several years later, I’m still doing that same hustle only now it’s a full-time business.
Being a work at home mom (or a work at home anyone) withs lots of perks.
Running your own business means you can have plenty of flexibility in your life and there are so many possibilities for making money!
One of the first ways I learned to make money from home was being a virtual assistant.
I actually worked for another VA who was (and still is) running her business full-time.
If you want to start a virtual assistant business of your own, it’s actually easier than you might think!
So if making money from home is your goal, you’ll want to bookmark this post. I’m breaking down everything you need to know to start a virtual assistant business and make money!
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What Is a Virtual Assistant?
If you want to start a virtual assistant business the first thing you 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.
Buuuut overall, the perks of running a VA business are pretty sweet!
- 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 $67,000 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 skillset, 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 upfront.
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.
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 skillset 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 that 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 at 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.
What Do I Need to Become a Virtual Assistant?
That is the great thing about starting a virtual assistant business–your startup costs are practically zero!
When I first became a VA, literally all I needed to do the job was a laptop and internet. It was the same when I made the shift to freelance writing.
If you’ve already got a computer and you can get online, then you’re ahead of the game.
But besides that, there are some skills that it’s helpful to have if you want to succeed as a virtual assistant. Those skills include:
- Excellent oral and written communication skills
- Stellar organization skills
- The ability to manage your time wisely
- The ability to think creatively on your feet
- Being comfortable working on projects solo with minimal supervision
- Solid typing, writing and proofreading skills
- Basic knowledge of tools like Microsoft Office and Google docs
Notice, I did not add a college degree or professional certification to the list.
Because you totally don’t need them to be successful as a virtual assistant!
That’s another great reason to consider VA work as a side hustle if you want to make money from home.
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How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business With No Experience
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. Start With the Basics
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. For example, my friend Ashley calls her Pinterest VA business The Virtual Momma.
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.
And if you don’t want to hire an attorney, you can check out the LLC Operating Agreement Template offered by Amira at A Self Guru.
She’s an attorney and expert on all things related to blogging and running a business legally.
I’ve used her templates for my blog and freelance writing business and they’re a total steal compared to what you’d pay to meet with a lawyer. So take a look!
Do you need a business plan to start a virtual assistant business?
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.
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, once 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 Virtual Assistant 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 to 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?
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 here, you can get hosting starting at just $6.99/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.
Here are some of the best ways to find virtual assistant jobs:
- 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.
6. Research Virtual Assistant Jobs Online
Job boards are an excellent resource for finding clients for your new virtual assistant business. But they aren’t all the same.
So to help you out, here are a few of my favorite places to scout out virtual assistant jobs.
Virtual Vocations is packed with remote job listings, including gigs for virtual assistants.
There are tons of jobs listed here and you can search to find ones that fit your expertise and VA niche. Head here to register for an account with Virtual Vocations!
FlexJobs is another job site that’s dedicated to remote and work from home jobs.
I’ve used FlexJobs as a freelancer but it’s also a good place to find virtual assistant gigs. And the best part is that FlexJobs only features high-paying jobs so you don’t have to worry about dodging the low-hanging fruit here.
Indeed.com is a general job board but it’s still a useful resource for finding virtual assistant jobs.
You can filter by location or industry to find jobs you’re a good fit for. And best of all, it’s free to use!
Level Up Your VA Biz By Taking a Course
You might be wondering whether it’s worth to take a course or two before launching your virtual assistant business.
When I started freelance writing, I totally skipped this step. And while it didn’t hurt me in the long run, taking a course probably could have helped me succeed a lot faster.
If you have the time and money to invest, then I definitely recommend taking a virtual assistant course to help get your business started on the right foot.
And of all the virtual assistant courses out there, there’s only one I recommend.
It’s called Fully Booked VA and it was created by Gina Horkey of Horkey Handbook.
So what’s so great about this course?
For starters, Gina is a virtual assistant guru who’s built a kickass business from her VA skills. So she’s not a newbie to this rodeo.
That means you can trust the advice she offers in the course. And believe me, it’s soooo comprehensive.
The course covers everything you need to know to launch your VA business in under a month and start making money.
If you’d rather get on the fast track to making money with your virtual assistant business instead of getting stuck on the hamster wheel, then definitely take a look at Fully Booked VA!
Are You Ready to Become a Virtual Assistant?
I hope so because it’s an amazing way to make money from home!
This guide is meant 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.
And I’d love for you to pin and share this post!