How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

Over the past 3 years’ not many months have gone by when I haven’t received an email asking me for advice on how to start a virtual assistant business. I’ve mentored a few new VAs, so I thought I would put it all down in one place.

Before you read further. I have no interest in building or starting a profitable virtual assistant advisory service, neither do I want to offer courses as a VA coach. I am ‘just’ a hard working, happy virtual assistant offering a little advice to those who want to know about the basics.

Virtual Assistants are in demand worldwide. As a virtual assistant you can find clients in your own city or on the other side of the globe. It’s a great way to make a living, work from home and take the big step into self-employment and being a freelancer.

You’ll ‘meet’ in person or virtually lots of interesting people, learn new tasks and responsibilities and perhaps best of all, enjoy the flexibility that comes with being your own boss.

However. It’s hard work. So don’t be fooled by the get rich quick blogs and adverts you may see. The images where Mum’s are sat at their kitchen table, holding a baby while working on their laptop do not represent life as a virtual assistant. If you want your business to be credible, successful and retain your clients’. You have to graft and in a lot of respects work harder, longer hours than you ever did as an employee.

Here’s my advice on how to start your own virtual assistant business.

#1 SWOTStrengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This is a personal assessment. Take a look at what strengths you have that will contribute to a successful virtual assistant business. This doesn’t necessarily mean the services you are going to offer, that’s an obvious. I’m talking about your personal skills such as communication skills, organisational skills and professionalism which are some strengths.

List your strengths and how using them will enhance your business life.

Perhaps more importantly take a look at your weaknesses as well. You’re not looking for reasons to not go into business for yourself. You’re simply making sure you’re aware of all you’ll need to do to run a successful business. If you have a weakness, and we all do, then you’ll want to create a plan to manage it. For example, if your weakness is writing and you need to have sales and marketing copy for your business website, think about hiring someone to do it for you. If your weaknesses are more personal in nature; you’re a bit of an introvert and dislike meeting new people. Then get outside help in the form of workshops. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses helps you create the best business for you.

Opportunities and threats are the next part of this assessment. Opportunities can be anything from the fact that you have a friend who designs websites to a growing demand for virtual assistants. Threats are things that may challenge you, like a sluggish economy. When you’re fully aware of your assets and challenges, you can plan for them and even turn the threats into opportunities ~ sluggish economy may sound bad, but turn that to your advantage. An example. It will mean that businesses aren’t taking on staff, which is perfect for anyone looking to start a virtual assistant business.

#2 Create a business plan – Plan the services you’re going to offer and how you’re going to offer them. Will you charge by the hour or by the project? Will you offer a discount for retained clients? How many hours are you planning on working a day/week. Research your competition and decide whether you want to specialise in a given area.

I wrote my business plan as my business bank manager asked for one. I initially looked on it as a bit of a drag to do; yet another task to complete at an already busy time, but it turned out to be a real help. It helped me to focus on my business, and gave me goals to work to. I still revisit my business plan every now and again. It helps me to refocus and stay on track.

You can specialise in a certain task, for example transcription, or you can specialise in an industry like HR. Specialisation is a way to demonstrate expertise and adds credibility to your business. That being said, there are many clients out there who want a one-stop solution and would look for a virtual assistant business where the virtual assistant can do a number of tasks, a general VA as I am.

This next bit advice is invaluable, I wish I had known it before I set-up my business.

#3 Take a while to visualise your ideal client – This may sound very strange, but I can assure you it does work. I had a few clients’ within the first few months of setting up Virtuoso-PA. I knew though that I needed more than a few to sustain a profitable business and a living. I was marketing my business on social media, networking, doing everything I had been advised to do… and it wasn’t working. So I signed up for a business course.

I stopped throwing tiny stones at tin cans in the distance (my analogy for my marketing tactics back then) and started to focus my marketing with my ideal client in mind.

I thought of them; the challenges they face daily, how they spend their weekends and free time, what they enjoy doing away from their business. I even gave them names. I spoke to them in my marketing and it worked.

Get yourself a piece of card, a Pritt Stick and some old magazines and set about visualising your IC (Ideal Client)

#4 Set up your business – You’ll want to create a website to market your virtual assistant business with branding which is instantly recognisable.

Most of your clients to begin with will be online and they’ll often find you through online search or social media. You want people to see your brand and instantly recognise you and know the services you provide. Branding isn’t necessarily all about colours and logo, it’s also about your voice, the way you communicate.

A website is a way to demonstrate your expertise. You’ll also want a business address, a phone number and email. A definite no-no is a Hotmail or Gmail address for business use. It looks very unprofessional.

Once your virtual assistant business is set-up.

The next step is to spread the word. Consider social networking, offline networking groups, SEO and article marketing to market your business. A blog is also a good way to demonstrate credibility, enhance your brand and drive traffic to your website.

If you want to concentrate on local business also use offline marketing tactics and think about offering a referral incentive. Go back to basics and get some postcards printed then place them anywhere you can; cafes, newsagents’ and gym notice boards are ideal. I did this myself after thinking about my IC and it worked and only cost me £15.00 to have the postcards printed.

Virtual assistants are in high demand, although I’m not going to say it is easy to start a profitable business. You have to want it and work for it.

If you need any further advice I can highly recommend The Society of Virtual Assistants so go take a look, you’ll get lots of valuable advice from experienced virtual assistants and so much more. I used the SOVA forums religiously when I started up and many experienced VAs are there to offer advice. 

Virtual Assistant business signature

Karina Bailey

Sharing is caring!

Written by Karina Bailey

Karina is the real person behind the Virtual Assistant. I support local small business owners, helping to relieve their admin stress and concentrate on their core business. When not at my desk working I can be found in graveyards, researching my family history. Dancing the Salsa and listening to local bands.