Setting up as a virtual assistant can bring huge rewards, especially if you’re ready to gain freedom and control explains Amanda Johnson
Many Virtual Assistants have made the transfer from an employed office role, such as EA, PA or administrative assistant – but not everyone starts out in the same way. Many new and aspiring Virtual Assistants already possess the right soft skills, traits and qualities needed for the role, but are lacking in the practical skills required. And that’s OK – it’s far easier to learn the practical skills to become a great Virtual Assistant!
That’s what makes starting up as a Virtual Assistant so appealing. It’s one of those careers you can get into regardless of where you currently are – if you’re willing to put in the learning time and commitment to making it happen.
Why become a Virtual Assistant?
We all want some form of personal freedom. It’s about having the ability to honour the beliefs and values that are important to you. I’ve heard so many reasons as to why someone wants to start their own Virtual Assistant business. A large majority of Virtual Assistants went into business for themselves to gain freedom over their own lives and careers. They wanted the freedom to work around their children, so they could have a family life and be with their children when it mattered.
Others were tired and/or stressed. Tired of spending hours commuting between work and home. Stressed out by constantly getting overlooked for promotion or of working under the threat of redundancy. They wanted the freedom to choose how, where and if, they worked, regardless of their age, location or status in a company.
Working for yourself gives you control. Control of your own time, the days you work, and the tasks you carry out. You can also pick who you work with; choosing whether to specialise in a targeted niche business or to niche by way of a specialist skill you may have.
Setting up your own business also has an impact on your earning potential too. If you are a parent, you can save money by avoiding paying for nursery and after-school clubs; you’re also saving on travel, fuel and parking expenses too. There’s also the fact that you’re no longer limited by a set salary – you can set your own rates and earn however much you’re willing to work for.
It starts with passion and trust
Are you passionate about working as a Virtual Assistant and for having your own business? You need the passion and the drive to want to do this. Part of being the right fit is trusting yourself and your own gut feelings, to make the right decisions for yourself and your clients. But it’s also about trusting others too.
Delegation is an important part of your ability to progress in your virtual role. If you can’t let go and delegate, preferring instead to micromanage everything yourself – you’re going to struggle. You only have so many available hours in a day, so stop trying to do everything yourself. From the outset, start delegating out the business tasks you either don’t have the time to do, or those you dislike doing.
Learning to stay positive
A Virtual Assistant needs to stay positive, irrespective of the dramas and challenges that may come their way. There are going to be times when you get disheartened. Maybe you receive a less than glowing testimonial or client feedback that points out your shortcomings. We’ve all been there, but how you handle it is key to successfully moving forward.
Always be on the lookout for the silver lining, the lesson and the positive outcome in any situation. Look for how you can get a great result for yourself and your client, no matter what the situation.
Commitment and Accountability
When you made the decision to become a Virtual Assistant, what was your driving force – your ‘why’? It’s this ‘why’ that is going to keep you motivated, positive and focused on your goals, when the going gets tough.
Increase your commitment, by sharing your goals with someone who is going to hold you accountable and committed to them. Write your goals down and reflect on them frequently – it will help you reconnect with your why.
Strive to always improve
Standing still is not an option in business, if you want to stand out. You need to always be striving to become the best version of you – to be improving yourself and your business offerings. The right clients will then come to you, as you’ll be delivering on your promises and living by your reputation. Tweak, improve and offer additional extras or ‘wow’ moments to your clients, to further enhance their experiences of working with you, as well as your reputation generally.
Working on yourself and the skills you can offer doesn’t have to be expensive. Look to build in a program of continual development for yourself and your skillset – whether that’s via CPD accreditation, reading books, going to courses or listening to webinars and watching YouTube videos.
Working solo doesn’t mean you’re alone – and nor should it
Getting support at that initial start-up stage of your business is critical if you want to thrive. Having someone to advise and support you, someone who knows the ropes already, will help you get the right setup in place for your business, as well as helping you avoid the common pitfalls.
However, it’s also important to get support throughout your career. Working as a self-employed Virtual Assistant can mean spending a lot of time on your own – but you don’t need to be alone. Meeting other Virtual Assistants and business owners will help you surround yourself with likeminded people, whilst also helping you network and get out of the house!
Your action steps to setting up as a Virtual Assistant
Make the decision
If you’re looking to set yourself up as a Virtual Assistant, start by making the decision. It sounds simple, but how many times have you heard someone say they would love to do something – but never do? Having a dream or desire to do something is nice, but it will turn into regret if you fail to act on it.
Turn that dream into a firm decision, then set out to act and make your decision your new reality.
Cover your financial responsibilities
Know exactly where you are with your finances, before you make the leap to self-employment. Ideally, you need to be able to cover all your personal and business expenses when you first start out. If you’re in a position for your partner to support you during this time, great – otherwise, you’ll need to have about six months’ worth saved, prior to leaving paid employment.
Look through your personal and household finances and see where you can cut back on expenditure. Look to bootstrap your Virtual Assistant business when you’re starting out. There are a lot of things that are nice to have, but you don’t need to spend a lot to get started. Essentials would include an internet connection, a working PC or laptop, a decent headset and hosting for your own website.
Draw up a business plan
Include how you see this business being run, now and in five years’ time. Do you want to be a sole trader, outsourcing where necessary, but carrying out the core tasks yourself? Or do you want to be a Limited Company, running your own team of Associate VAs? Know what hours you’re going to work, what you’re going to offer, and who you’re going to work with.
Know your ideal client and how to reach them
As part of that business plan, you’ll need to know who it is you’re targeting. The more you know about your ideal client, the easier you will be able to find them and relate to them, once you’ve made contact. Who are they? Where do they work? What do they do? How do they spend their time? What do they like doing? Where are they located? Do they have a family – if so, how many children and what are their ages? What income level are they at and how do they like to spend that income? You ideally want to really target in on your ideal client, so much so that you can get a clear profile of one person, as this will help with your marketing efforts.
Having an ideal client helps you avoid the ‘spray and pray’ mentality with your marketing – where you’re advertising anywhere and everywhere, in the hopes of catching the eye of someone (anyone!) who’s looking for a Virtual Assistant. You can talk directly to your ‘ideal one’ and use the terminology they use, highlighting their issues and problems whilst also offering your business as their perfect solution.
Take focused action
Once you have your business plan and ideal client in mind, you can take focused action to implement your business plan. Set up your own profiles on the social media platforms your ideal client is on. Join groups they’re a part of, set up your own website, join on and offline networking events – in short, do what you need to do to get yourself out there.
One of the biggest hurdles a new business faces is getting noticed. Part of this is down to how active you are on and offline. But it’s also down to how focused your action steps are. You want to put in consistent action, in the right places, to get yourself seen. Do something every day to grow your business – whether it’s interacting with five new people online, going to a new offline networking event, or creating a sales page on your website.
Remember your legalities
You can register as soon as you like and stay in paid employment after you’ve registered too. However, for those based in the UK, you need to have registered with HMRC as a sole trader, no later than the 5th October of your business’ second tax year.
It’s also important that you get yourself Professional Indemnity Insurance, to cover yourself against mistakes, loss of data, goods or money, as well as libel, defamation and unintended breach of copyright and/or confidentiality.
Start networking to grow your business
Networking, both online and offline, is going to be the lifeblood of your business. Not only does it get you visible and ‘out there’, it also builds your confidence around promoting and talking about your business. Working from home or on your own can be lonely. Networking can help ease that loneliness and get you connecting with potential clients, business connections and referral partners.
It also enables you to bond with other Virtual Assistants and business owners, who could become part of your support network – especially important if you don’t already have one in place.
Have an online presence
Everyone is on social media. With so many platforms to choose from, it’s important that you work to raise your profile on the main one your ideal clients are using. Take time to really get to know it well, prior to adding any additional platforms. It’s not enough to know the platform – you also need to be seen there. Allocate time each day to be seen, add new contacts, and interact and build your online presence.
Build your portfolio
Finally, look at building a portfolio of case studies, testimonials and examples of you work. Initially, you can start by reaching out to friends, colleagues and even your boss (if you’re on good terms), to offer your services in exchange for something to go in your portfolio. Online job sites are another idea, although be careful not to sell yourself too low – especially on those sites where you must bid on work. Having an active and well laid out LinkedIn profile can help too; it can become an effective online portfolio of your work and a testament to your character.
Regardless of your background, if you have the right skills or qualities to become a Virtual Assistant, it can be a deeply satisfying and lucrative move. However, becoming an awesome Virtual Assistant takes time and commitment. The rewards are huge, especially if you’re ready to gain the freedom and control it offers. By following the advice above, you have an overview of the typical qualities you may need, along with a plan of action to make it happen – if you’re ready to make the decision and take that leap!