So you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of corporate life? You want to be available to your family more and do work you love on your terms? Sounds pretty great right? Well it is and it is easier than you think (but you still have to be dedicated and put the effort in)
If you have thought about starting your new business as a Virtual Assistant but are unsure where to start here are my top 7 tips to get you started.
1. Do your research Before you get started setting up your own virtual assistant business, make sure you understand what’s involved so you can land on your feet.
The first step is deciding if you’re going to work full-time or part-time (this may vary depending on the jobs you accept). You’ll also want to find out what kinds of businesses are hiring VAs. Would you prefer to work for a local business, or will any small business do? Would you like to conduct all your work through an online platform? Research the pros and cons of each.
Look up job ads for virtual assistants to get an idea of what work is available. Then you can think about what kind of work you’d like to focus on.
2. Assess your skill set and match it to the type of work you want Usually, virtual assistants are hired to support businesses through administrative tasks. For this reason, completing a qualification in Business Administration is a great idea! A Certificate or Diploma in Business Administration will equip you with all the necessary skills required to assist a business. You’ll learn skills such as:
How to write complex work documents
Spreadsheet creation and completion
How to coordinate business resources
How to organise business activities (calendar management)
How to process Payroll and other financial activity
Excellent communication skills
Social media management
You may, however, find that you’re more suited to a niche that fits your expertise, or specific tasks you excel at. For instance, if you’re an experienced social media manager, you may offer services such as managing social media accounts. If you have a writing background, you may opt to specialise in copywriting, and creating blog posts on WordPress.
If you want to specialise in a service, (e.g. search engine optimisation (SEO) or social media presence), completing a nationally recognised qualification for these skills will help build your business legitimacy.
A good idea is to pick 2-3 main services to offer. You can always change these later on, depending on what your clients want.
3. Set up your home office Virtual Assistants usually work from the comfort of their own home; however, there are factors to consider when setting up a home office.
When you work in an office, your home life and work-life tend to stay separate, keeping your home (hopefully) work-stress free.
When you work from home, the two worlds collide. Whether being a VA is a side hustle or your primary source of income, you must set up a functional space for your online business.
My tips include:
If possible, set up your office in a separate room to anyone or anything else – make it your workspace
Choose a comfortable, supportive desk chair
If you’re going to be working from a laptop, consider a laptop stand to help minimise neck strain
Ensure you have a good internet connection
4. Set up your business finances & ABN As a VA, you’ll most likely be a sole trading freelancer who offers their services for an hourly fee to viable businesses. Before you start working as a new virtual assistant, you need to organise the details of your own VA business. Details such as:
Registering for an Australian Business Number (ABN) from the Australian government
Setting up an Invoice system (either through a program such as Xero or MYOB , or independently). I use an online program called Rounded, it is just fantastic and perfect for a VA (very affordable too)
Setting up a business bank account in to which clients can deposit your pay
An ABN is an Australian Business Number that you need to register for when you decide to work as a sole trader. This number is unique to your business, and it’s free to register via the Australian government website!
5. Create a price structure & contracts While charging a set hourly fee is common, many VAs also work on a flat-fee per-project basis, or on a retainer. There are pros and cons to each approach. Hourly fees can be good if the work is sporadic. Flat fees save you stressing over time taken to complete a project, or constantly having to track your time.
As a sole trader, you have control over how much you earn per hour. You can pick any price you want — but clients have to be willing to pay you that much, or else you won’t get paid at all.
You’ll have a sweet spot, and it may take some experimenting to find it. The average VA in Australia is paid $35/hr, but your rate may end up being higher than this if you’re working freelance. You may want to start a little lower, and raise your prices after you’ve had a couple months of experience.
When setting your prices, consider the take-home hourly rate you’d like to make, and then calculate these expenses in addition to that:
As a freelancer, you won’t get sick leave or annual leave
You’ll need to pay your own taxes
The cost of running your home office, including equipment, internet, and space in your house
6. Get clients (even as a new virtual assistant) How you find business as a VA can vary. It will depend on who your ideal clients are, and where they would look if they wanted to hire a new VA.
Some choose to look for work on job listing websites and apply online like any other job – with a cover letter and CV.
Social media sites can be an excellent way to find clients, too. If you’re looking to work with local businesses, start by creating accounts on the same social media platforms they are using. Start following potential clients and engaging with their posts. You may even find some Facebook groups that are relevant to businesses in your local area. You can post in these groups to let people know you’re open to work or keep an eye for people asking questions about VAs. If you make yourself useful and don’t over-promote yourself, this can be a great way to build relationships.
7. Maintain relationships with your network So, you’ve landed a few clients and things have started humming along. Along with keeping up stellar customer service for your existing clients, it’s also a great idea to keep in touch with your network by regularly posting on social media.
Or you can just chat with other small business owners in your area from time to time, and mention that you’re a VA if it comes up naturally in conversation. Building your network out and investing time befriending people, and helping them whenever you can, is the best way to keep your business sustainable in the long term. After all, people hire people they like and trust.
So there you have it, these tips will set you on the path forward. My other suggestion are to join Virtual Assistant groups of Facebook like Virtual Assistant Network (Australia), you can ask just about anything in these spaces and are meet with lovely people who genuinely want to help and see you succeed. I also highly recommend doing a Virtual Assistant start up course, I personally had a 1 on 1 session with Ingrid Bayer of the VA Institute and it was 100% worth it.
I am also very happy to answer and questions and give you help if you are ready to take the leap into the wonderful world of Virtual Assistance.