How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business
8 Steps to Making Money with Your Office Support Skills
The virtual assistant business has been steadily growing since its inception in the 1990s. The growth and affordability of technology, along with the increase in the number of solo-entrepreneurs, has created a need for virtual support staff.
A virtual support business is the ideal way to take skills you have in administrative support and apply them in a home based business. Virtual Assistants (VA) can do just about everything, short of bringing coffee, and once a java joint starts offering home delivery, a VA can arrange for that as well.
Pros to Starting a Virtual Assistant Business
There are many pros to starting a VA business including:
- It’s fast and affordable to start, especially if you already have the skills, equipment and software to do the work.
- While you should have skills and experience in the services you provide, you don’t need any specific licenses or education to get started.
- You can decide which services to what industry you want to provide, whether it’s general support to anyone who needs it or something more specific and/or niched, such as social media management to Realtors.
- You can create your own schedule. Many clients will want people you to work regular business hours, but if you want to work midnight to 6 a.m., you simply need to find clients on the other side of the world.
Cons to starting a Virtual Assistant Business
There are some cons to starting a virtual assistant business, such as:
- Unless you have a network or know someone ready to hire you, getting your first client can be challenging. Microwork and freelance sites can help with this, but often pay lower fees than you may want to charge.
- You may have to justify your rates to potential clients considering offshore VAs that often charge very low rates.
- You have to stay on top of current technology and trends in the services and industries you offer.
- You’ll be trading time for dollars, which means there will be a limit to the amount of time you can give and income you can earn. You can offset this by putting together and managing a team of VAs.
How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business
If you’re ready to start a virtual assistant business, here are the steps to get started:
1. Create your menu of services. VAs do just about everything from writing, emailing, customer support, calendar management, bookkeeping, marketing, website maintenance, project management, and more. Focus on the skills you have and enjoy doing. You can offer one service, such as transcription, or you can provide many services.
2) Make a list of potential clients. If you have names, list them. However, if you don’t know anyone who may need your services, list possible markets that need virtual support services. For example, Realtors, lawyers or solo-entrepreneurs often outsource work to virtual assistants. You can tailor your business to fit an industry, such as real estate, or provide the same service across several industries, such as email management for speakers and online entrepreneurs.
3) Create a business plan. The business plan doesn’t need to be a tome, but it does need to cover all aspects of your business from what you offer and to whom, what makes you different from other VAs, how you’re going to fund and financially manage the business, and marketing strategies.
You should also determine your service pricing, taking into consideration how much you want to make, your overhead costs, and what the market is willing to pay.
4) Decide your business name. Your business name should be unique and describe what you do. If there is any chance you’ll expand your services, keep your business name open to add on new services. For example, if you choose a name such as Speedy Transcription, you’ll be perceived as a transcription-only business, when you may also want to offer writing.
5) Determine your business structure. Starting as a sole proprietor is fast and easy as it doesn’t require any special paperwork or fees. Unfortunately, it does have drawbacks since you and the business are viewed as the same entity, putting your personal assets at risk. Today, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to start a single person LLC.
This protects your personal assets, such as your home, if you ever get sued.
6) Get needed permits and licenses. Your local city or county issues business licenses. Other business set-up tasks you may need to consider are getting a fictitious name statement if your business name doesn’t include your given name or a zoning waiver to work from home. Don't forget to open a business bank account.
7) Develop a marketing plan. Who are your most likely clients and where can they be found? What do they need and how can you help them get it? These are all important questions you need to answer in creating your marketing plan.
8) Get clients and provide great service. Once you have everything in place, it’s time to implement your plan. Work to get your first clients and deliver top quality service on time. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from clients who are happy with your work.