Starting your own virtual assistant (VA) business has many perks, like a flexible schedule, doing work you love, and being your own boss. The flexibility means you can grow your business and make more money as you gain experience and establish your brand.
Zippia predicts, “Virtual assistants can progress to more senior roles or even executive-level positions, such as marketing manager or co-owner.”
VAs also have the freedom to work remotely everywhere from a home office to a beach condo. That’s the virtual part. But what’s the assistant part, and how do you build a whole business around this type of work?
Below we’ll walk through the basics and give you a step-by-step plan for launching your virtual assistant business.
But First, What Do VAs Do?
Bloggers, e-commerce shops, independent contractors, small businesses, and a wide variety of busy people need VAs to stay organized and efficient. Virtual Assistants (VAs) manage schedules, keep the bills paid, handle email, book travel, and take on other administrative duties. They may also manage social media accounts, handle email campaigns, create Pinterest content, balance the books, or do transcription.
They often bring order to chaos when a business owner or individual either has too much on their plate or doesn’t have the time or skill for a certain critical business activity. Having a reliable VA can help businesses grow without sacrificing quality and efficiency.
What Experience/Skills Do VAs Need?
You do not have to have a degree or experience to become a VA. People who love to stay organized, have an eye for detail, and communicate clearly, especially under stress, make great assistants. You’ll also need to be tech savvy at least with email and calendar apps.
You can make a name for yourself by specializing. If you have the skill to manage social media accounts, design and maintain websites, or write content or advertising copy, for example, you could focus on clients who need those tasks.
Even beginners who have never worked as an assistant, may have skills from other jobs you can apply or “transfer” to this role. These transferable skills might come from jobs in which you had to manage your time carefully, meet deadlines, communicate clearly, or anticipate a supervisor’s needs.
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Start a Virtual Assistant Business
We recommend starting with these six steps. You don’t have to do them in this exact order, but it’s important to do them all.
Step 1: Set Up Your Business
When you own your own business you might choose to operate as a sole proprietor, a limited liability corporation (LLC), or a corporation. Each of these business types has different tax implications and offers different types of separation between your business assets and personal assets. It can be helpful to invest in a consultation with a tax pro or lawyer for guidance. You can also check out our article S-Corp vs. LLC.
We recommend establishing a bank account for your business that is separate from your personal account. This step makes it much easier to report your earnings and file your taxes. You can find incentives for opening a business account at almost any bank online.
Even if you have no initial money saved up to invest in your business, you may still want to make a budget and business plan that anticipates your expenses. That can help reinforce the discipline of investing in advanced training and tools as your business grows.
Step 2: Determine Your Services and Specialties
All VAs are not the same. While some focus on social media skills, others excel at time management and customer maintenance, or data entry and bookkeeping. The point is, you get to choose what services you want to provide, which is actually part of the fun of being a VA! And these services can help you stand out by serving a particular market instead of competing with other VAs to get hired by any and every business type.
Let’s say you’re great at photography and writing. You might get hired by a florist to create Instagram posts with clever captions and pics of their flower arrangements.
An accountant might hire you to set appointments, scan documents, and bill clients. Before you know it, you’re known as a VA who specializes in the needs of CPAs.
Step 3: Establish Your Social Presence
If you’re starting a virtual assistant business, you can expect potential clients to Google you. The more professional and current your LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social profiles look, the more credibility you’ll have.
Legit VAs often have a website that makes it easy to know what services you offer and how to contact you. And you can use your site to show how you’re uniquely qualified to meet the needs of your niche market. Your specialty could be as a virtual assistant to caterers, construction companies, or consultants — whatever you decide.
Cleaning up your public presence before you launch your business may be just the edge you need for a business to choose you as their VA. You can also build a profile on freelance and side hustle apps like Fancy Hands, Upwork, or Fiverr. Searching profiles of other VAs online may give you some ideas of how to word your resume for these sites.
Step 4: Set Your Prices
For many new VAs, deciding how much to charge for your work can be the hardest part. You might think nailing down whether to charge per hour or per task requires days of research and financial fortunetelling to figure out how you can make the most money.
The truth is, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can change it as you learn what works best. You can also read more about how to set rates in our article on how to start freelancing.
The simplest pricing structure is charging per hour, and you can expect to earn $15 to $25 per hour as a newbie. Those with deeper experience, highly specialized skills, and a strong referral business can charge as much as $100 an hour.
Step 5: Do Active Client Acquisition
Getting clients to hire you can be done! Sometimes this activity causes new VAs to get discouraged if they get told no over and over. We highly recommend learning from those who have gone before you. Investing in an e-course or even watching free tutorials can take a lot of the fear out of asking people for their business.
You can find free online tutorials designed specifically to teach virtual assistants how to get jobs.
Here are two virtual assistant courses that can help:
- 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success: Successful Virtual Assistant Gina Horkey of the Horkey Handbook teaches social media management, email management, project management, content production, bookkeeping, and much more.
- Pinterest VA Course: Kirsten Larsen’s course teaches you how to create unforgettable Pinterest boards and land clients.
Step 6: Solicit Feedback
Repeat clients and referrals don’t just happen because you delivered what the client asked for by their deadline. That’s the bare minimum. Business owners and busy people want someone they can trust and who cares about keeping them happy.
To build their confidence and respect, ask your clients what they like about your work and what could be better. Listen. Don’t get defensive. And then make sure they know how you’ve adjusted your work in response to their feedback. This kind of trust-relationship means more to most business owners than paying the cheapest prices.
Final Word on How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business in 2023
It’s easier and faster than you think to start a virtual assistant business. The steps above are designed to move you from dream to action. Yes, it takes discipline and commitment to build your business for the long-term.
The rewards of working from anywhere, setting your own hours, and deciding what specialty or market segment you most enjoy can be just the inspiration you need to build a brand that makes you proud.
With a budget of zero you can sign up and create a profile on freelance sites to find work. If you’re already paying for WiFi and have a computer, then you really have all you need to begin.
If you have $500 – $1,000 to get going, you can invest in a domain name and subscribe to website hosting, open a business bank account, and maybe even take an inexpensive online course to teach you tricks of the trade.
The average salary for a virtual assistant is around $40,000 a year, but highly successful VAs make as much as seven figures.
The simpler your services and the more people can do them, the less you can charge for them. On the other hand, as you gain experience and expand your skills, you can earn more for working with specialized applications like bookkeeping or graphic design tools.
As you begin making money, think about reinvesting your earnings in business tools for efficiency and easy communication. This might mean setting up a dedicated business phone system or mastering specialized project management and scheduling software.