Want to feel like Pepper to Tony Stark and Miss Moneypenny to James Bond? These on-screen assistants helped heroes solve great cases and save the day.
As a virtual assistant, you help business owners achieve more results than they can hope for, get organized with all their to-dos and schedule, do errands, create a smorgasbord of activities that help them recoup lost time, earn more, and basically everything under the sun from A to Z.
The most powerful businesses rely on virtual assistants to turn their stressful days into productive work weeks.
And it’s not just big corporations hiring VAs. Mom-and-pop shops, online stores, and even the local restaurant joint or dentist you frequent may have worked with one already. Businesses of all sizes gain benefits by having one by their side completing tasks they’d rather not do.
Starting a virtual assistance business is not for the faint of heart though. Like most businesses you have to comply with a lot of regulations and do your checklists before you can tick it off for another company. But the truth of the matter is, it only takes a single decision to start: YOU.
Virtual assistance is a great way to earn side money while you’re still on your corporate job. And it’s highly advisable! You can provide services already related to your work expertise or experience.
That’s step 1 really, to identify your niche and therefore your services.
Other steps include creating your business plan (including where to get clients, investing in tools of the trade, pricing your services, and preparing the legal legwork.
Towards the end, I will also include the best ways I’ve gotten better clients for better offers so definitely don’t skip over. Let’s begin your journey now.
Identifying your Niche
You need to decide what type of services you will offer, such as data entry, bookkeeping, social media management, email marketing, etc. You can also choose a specific industry or target market that you want to serve, such as real estate agents, coaches, bloggers, etc.
- If you’re an accountant, the best clients to serve are those that you know will definitely need your services. It comes naturally.
- If you’re a paralegal, you can approach law firms you may already have networked with
- Working at a school? Interact with parents who may have businesses or know other parents who know other parents with businesses
It doesn’t matter what expertise you have, nobody starts from zero.
VA niches are specific areas of expertise or services that you offer to clients. Having one will help you stand out from the competition, attract your ideal premium clients, and charge the rates you deserve.
Here are some niches you can start:
- Podcast Manager. Podcasts are very popular right now and require a lot of work behind the scenes. A podcast manager can help with tasks such as editing audio, uploading episodes, creating show notes, promoting on social media, booking guests, etc.
- Website Designer. Every business needs a strong website to showcase its brand and services. A website designer can help with tasks such as creating or updating web pages, optimizing for SEO, fixing bugs, adding features, etc.
- Real estate expert. You can help sell houses, find new leads to sell houses to, manage properties and rentals, and do marketing.
- Sales manager. You can monitor leads’ journeys, do online outbound calls, do webinars, or just plainly ask for upsells during the buying process. You can even do this job totally out of the picture by designing sales pages and landing pages that will do the job for you.
- Pinterest Manager. Pinterest is a powerful platform for driving traffic and sales to websites. A Pinterest manager can help with tasks such as creating and scheduling pins, optimizing boards and profiles, researching keywords and hashtags, analyzing analytics, etc.
- Customer support specialist. You handle calls and complaints either by phone or email and chat. You become the business’ lifeline and first responder for problem-solving.
- Digital Ads Manager. Digital ads are a great way to reach potential customers online. A digital ads manager can help with tasks such as creating and running ad campaigns on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads etc., testing different audiences and creatives, monitoring performance and budget etc.
- Copywriter. Copywriting is the art of writing persuasive words that sell products or services. A copywriter can help with tasks such as writing sales pages, landing pages, emails, blog posts, social media captions, etc.
What is an Online Business Manager
This is a term that helps you define your value to clients by elevating the usual VA offer into a business manager offer.
As a manager, you don’t just do a single bunch of tasks, you can perform more than one excellently and usually comes with a technical experience on major platforms that generate leads, sales and conversions such as email platforms, CRMs, and automation tools.
You can even handle teams, and projects, and become point person for everything that essentially helps the business operate.
Think of a business manager as an operations manager in a factory.
Without you, the place would not run smoothly. They help you focus on the bigger picture and the overall growth of the company. This means OBM is also skilled at strategizing, creating systems and processes, and implementing strategies and techniques while also doing the training.
They’re like VAs with an oomph or ninja VAs.
Branding yourself as a business manager immediately elevates your value to a client by tenfold which means the ability to charge higher rates than usual virtual assistants. This entails a larger role as well that is essential for a business to grow upwards.
Creating your Business Plan
Outline the following and have smart goals or time-bound and quite specific:
- Goals (SMART)
- Strategies (to get clients, to market your services etc)
- Market analysis
- Financial projections
- Vision and mission
As a beginner, what needs to be emphasized more is the part where we get clients because it’s troublesome for many. Here are the best ways to put your foot forward:
- Offer freebies (call, coaching, advice, blog, cheatsheet, lead magnets) anything that can get the attention of your target market
- Network locally at commerce trade groups or online groups
- Call a friend and their friends. Call someone you know who has a business and ask them what they need help with
- Go job hunting in online job platforms
- Hire a headhunter or speak to a headhunting agency so they can find clients for you
- If you have extra money and know how to run one, do paid ads
- Post valuable content and maximize your digital presence (social media)
In the end the lesson we impart to you here is you will never get business if you don’t hang out where your audience is. And it’s not enough that you are within reach, you have to offer value first before taking their money.
Investing in the Tools of the Trade
Virtual assistants use various tools and software to become reliable to their business partners and clients. Some of these tools are:
- Time tracking tools. These tools help virtual assistants track how much time they spend on each task or project, and generate reports and invoices for their clients. Some examples of time tracking tools are Hubstaff, Toggl, Clockify etc.
- Scheduling tools. These tools help virtual assistants manage their calendars and appointments, and coordinate with their clients and team members. Some examples of scheduling tools are Calendly, Acuity Scheduling, Doodle etc.
- Social media tools. These tools help virtual assistants create and manage social media content for their clients, such as posts, stories, ads etc. Some examples of social media tools are Postfity, Buffer, Hootsuite etc.
- File-sharing tools. These tools help virtual assistants share files and documents with their clients and team members securely and easily. Some examples of file-sharing tools are pCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive etc.
- Basic graphic design tools. These tools help virtual assistants create graphics for their clients’ websites, social media, presentations etc. Some examples of graphic design tools are Canva, PicMonkey, Adobe Spark and the recently introduced Microsoft Designer and Open AI tools.
- FreshBooks. This is an online tool for invoicing and bookkeeping that helps you manage your finances and track your expenses. You can also send professional invoices to your clients and accept online payments.
- Calendly. This is a tool for scheduling meetings that syncs with your calendar and lets you set your availability and preferences. You can share your Calendly link with your clients and let them book a meeting with you without any back-and-forth emails.
- Trello. This is a tool for project management, pitch tracking, and weekly to-dos that helps you organize your tasks and collaborate with your team. You can create boards, lists, and cards to visualize your workflow and track your progress.
- LastPass. This is a tool for sharing passwords that helps you store and manage your passwords securely. You can also share passwords with your clients or team members without revealing them.
- Slack. This is a tool for team communication and collaboration that helps you chat with your team members, share files, and integrate with other apps. You can also create channels for different topics or projects and join communities of other virtual assistants.
- Google – GSuite Products. These are a suite of tools that include Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms etc. They help you communicate with your clients and team members, store and share files and documents, create and edit various types of content etc.
- Loom. This is a tool for screen recordings that helps you record your screen and voice and share it with your clients or team members. You can use it to create tutorials, demos, feedback etc.
- DropBox. This is another tool for file sharing and storage that helps you sync your files across devices and access them anywhere. You can also collaborate with others on shared folders and files.
- Zoom. This is a tool for video conferencing that helps you host or join online meetings with your clients or team members. You can also chat, share screens, record meetings etc.
- Wishup. This is a platform that connects virtual assistants with clients who need their services. You can find various projects and tasks that match your skills and availability.
Want to learn more tools virtual assistants use? Go here.
Pricing your Services
Pricing your services as a virtual assistant can be challenging, but it’s important to charge what you’re worth and what reflects your value. There are different ways to price your services, such as:
- Hourly rate. This is when you charge by the hour for the time you spend working on a task or project. You can track your time using tools like Toggl or Clockify. The average hourly rate for virtual assistants on Upwork is $18-35/hour depending on skills and experience (upwork.com).
- Retainer rate. This is when you charge a monthly fee for a set number of hours that the client can use for any task or project. This gives you a steady income and guarantees that the client will have access to your services. You can offer discounts for longer-term contracts or higher-volume packages.
- Project rate. This is when you charge a flat fee for completing a specific project or deliverable. This works well for tasks that have a clear scope and deadline, such as creating a website, designing a logo, writing an ebook etc. You can estimate how long it will take you to complete the project and multiply it by your hourly rate.
- Package rate. This is when you bundle several related services together and charge a fixed price for them. For example, you can offer a social media management package that includes creating and scheduling posts, engaging with followers, monitoring analytics etc. You can create different levels of packages based on the client’s needs and budget.
- VIP days. This is when you dedicate an entire day (or half-day) to work exclusively on one client’s tasks or projects. You can charge a premium price for this intensive service that delivers fast results.
These are some of the ways to price your services as a virtual assistant. Which one do you think suits your business best?
There are two things you need to do to legitimize your business:
- Register your business in the local registry in any state you live in
- Prepare legal contracts for service agreements
Laws vary per state so it’s best to not give specific advice here on how to register a business because there are 50-plus states and hundreds of countries with different regulations on how to properly follow this one. Research this at your own pace and time and rely on official government support or records.
Once done, it’s time to prepare legal documents such as contracts that you have clients sign (you can also do NDAs if applicable or nondisclosure agreements) before proceeding to do any type of work as per your proposal. You can get free templates online just google legal contracts for online virtual assistants or business managers.
But still, have it looked over by a legal professional to make everything legally tight and sound. You wouldn’t want any loopholes against you in the future.
These will not just save you time later on for any disputes, they will also protect your legal entity.
Do you think we missed something here? Want to add to the conversation and share your experience on becoming a virtual assistant? Comment below and let us know.