How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business
8 Steps to Making Money with Your Office Support Skills
The virtual assistant business has been growing steadily since its inception in the 1990s. The growth and affordability of technology, along with the increase in the number of solo-entrepreneurs, have created a need for virtual support staff.
A virtual support business provides an opportunity to apply your administrative support skills to your home-based business. Virtual assistants can perform most tasks, short of bringing coffee; however, once a coffee shop starts offering home delivery, a virtual assistant can arrange for that as well.
Pros to Starting a Virtual Assistant Business
There are many benefits to starting a virtual assistant 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 on the services and the industry on which your business will be based. For example, will you provide general support to any company or more specific services, such as social media management to realtors?
- You can create your own schedule. Many clients will want you to work regular business hours, but if you want to work midnight to 6:00 a.m., you simply need to find clients on the other side of the world.
Cons to Starting a Virtual Assistant Business
There are also drawbacks 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 but often pay lower fees than you may want to charge.
- You may have to justify your rates to potential clients considering offshore virtual assistants that often charge very low rates.
- You need stay current on the latest technology and trends in the services and industries on which your business is based.
- You’ll be trading your time for dollars, meaning there's a limit to your time, which affects your income. This can be offset by putting together and managing a team of virtual assistants.
Steps for Starting a Virtual Assistant Business
If you’re ready to start a virtual assistant business, these steps will help you get started:
- Create your menu of services. Virtual assistants do just about everything, such as writing, emailing, customer support, calendar management, bookkeeping, marketing, website maintenance, and project management. You should focus on the skills you have and enjoy doing. Also, you can offer one service, such as transcription, or you can provide many services.
- 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.
- 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, such as the services you will provide and to whom, how your services set you apart from other virtual assistants, how you’re going to fund and financially manage your business, and how you will market your business. You should also determine prices for your services, taking into consideration your desired income, your overhead costs, and what the market is willing to pay.
- 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 general 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.
- 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, as you and the business are viewed as the same entity, putting your personal assets at risk. An easy and affordable option is to start a single person limited liability company (LLC). This protects your personal assets, such as your home, if you ever get sued.
- 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.
- Develop a marketing plan. Determine your most likely clients and where they are located. Then, figure out what they need and how you can help them get it. You will need these answers in creating your marketing plan.
- 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.
Lastly, learn about the competition. A good idea is to check out other websites advertising virtual assistant services, as they will give you a good idea of the competition. With proper skills and planning, you can have a successful at-home virtual assistance business.