10 Steps to Starting a Virtual Assistant Business [Successfully!]
Woohoo, you’ve decided you’re starting a virtual assistant business! The first few months are really important to set up your business the right way and most importantly get into a good mindset. Online business ownership is a rollercoaster, you’ll have so many ups and downs, but eventually, the ups start to outweigh the downs and it becomes smooth(ish) sailing.
In this article, I’ve put together 10 things to focus on and tips to get started as a successful virtual assistant. While you don’t need to do a course to become a VA, I did and can highly recommend 90 Day VA. If you’re interested, check out 90 Day VA review to see if it’s a fit for you.
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information on my disclaimer click here.
Tips to get started and become a successful virtual assistant
1. Decide on a Business Name
Speaking from experience, you’ll likely get hung up on this one for a while. I’ll help you – pick your name. I changed my VA business name 3 times before I ended up reverting to my full name. No matter the direction or pivots you make within your business or services your name can absorb those changes.
My first business name was Fallen Leaf Virtual Services. I wanted it to sound like an agency, but then I found it awkward writing contracts and proposals when I was a solopreneur. I then went with Virtually Erin, which I still love, but I wanted to move away from VA work. Now I’m Erin Morris Co.
Save yourself time and use your name!
2. Create an Application Kit
When I apply for jobs, all I send through is my application kit alongside a well-written email. Two or three pages is plenty. The goal of the application kit is to show your future client what skills you offer and give them a bit of insight into your personality.
On the first page, include an about me blurb. Although rather than talking about yourself, spin it so that you are talking about how you can help them. I use this section to talk about my strengths, the people I like to serve and VA work-related background.
Next, add a list of the services you offer (if you don’t know these yet, see point 4). Now add any programs or software you are competent with. Finally, add a couple of testimonials and link to any social media accounts, website a portfolio if you have one and don’t forget to put your email address!
Top tip: You can change this to be job-specific! You don’t have to, but if you’re applying for certain jobs that want different skills – change your blurb and the services you offer. No one will know, but me (and I won’t tell).
3. Get a professional Email Address
This wasn’t something I invested in until over a year into my VA career. Although going back this is one thing I would change. You can get a personalised Gmail email address for around $7 AUD/month.
I believe the cost of this is well worth how it looks to potential clients – it says you take your business and yourself seriously. Set up an account with Google Workspace.
4. Determine Your Services & Pricing
Even if you’re not 100% sure which services you’re going to offer, it’s a great idea to come up with a list of your interests.
Open a blank Google document and write down everything that comes to mind. If you’re super new to being a VA, google specific tasks that VA’s perform.
Write down everything – even the tasks you don’t want to do. Once you have the complete list go back to the top. Next to each item, add if this is something you would love to do, ok with doing or absolutely won’t do. This will be such a help later on during sales calls. So many times I have had clients book a call for certain things and by the end of it, the entire list of tasks they are trying to give me are services I don’t offer.
Now that I have an understanding of what I do and don’t do, I’m able to explain right away that I don’t offer those services, but at first, I was caught up in the moment and just said yes to everything. I ended up having a couple of clients where I really didn’t enjoy the work I was doing. It’s almost impossible to retract certain services once you start working with a client without getting rid of the client completely.
Guys, pricing is hard. I’m only just getting my prices where I want them and I’m over a year and a half in. So don’t stress too much about this and I can pretty much guarantee you’re going to way undercharge at first. But, it’s all part of the learning curve – you’ll get there.
You have two options when it comes to charging, hourly or packages. MY recommendation is to work with packages (if you can) because no matter how much better you get at your job you don’t get punished for getting quicker. Although for a lot of services and when you’re new package pricing is really difficult.
Remember: As a business owner you are now paying your own taxes and retirement fund. Depending on where you live around 30% of every paycheck will go towards this.
How much should you charge per hour? You’re new, so I know you want to price competitively, but when you price your services too low it makes you look inexperienced!
I recently got a new client and on the call, she told me her rate was $25/hour. I explained to her my minimum hourly rate is $32 and she still gave me the job. She later explained that even though my rate was higher than her budget she hired me because she was confident I knew what I was doing.
The best way to work out your hourly rate is to use this formula:
Hourly rate = (Desired annual salary ÷ weeks you’ll work per year) ÷ hours you’ll work in a week
Eg. You make $60,000 in your current 9-5, but know you can live off $50K while you grow your business. You want to take 4 weeks off per year and want to work 30 hours/ week.
(50,000 ÷ (52 – 4)) ÷ 30 = $34.7
This is the simplest way to work out your rate. You may have to lower it a little at first, but now you have an idea of what to work towards.
Remember your worth – Do not charge under $20/hour. No matter how much you want the job, you’ll start to resent it.
If you do any sort of repeating tasks charge these as packages. Work out how many hours the tasks will take you and this is the rate. If you don’t know, ask around, guess or start charging hourly and time EVERYTHING until you figure it out.
5. Start Being Organised
I’m the kind of person who cannot work if the house is messy. My online space is the same – if everything is unorganised, I cannot work.
When your starting a Virtual Assistant Business get started with a great organisational system before it gets overwhelming. Open Google Drive and create yourself a business hub. Add at the very minimum the following folders:
Whenever you create any documents, store them in the correct folders. When you sign a new client, make it part of the onboarding process to create a folder with their name inside the client parent folder. In here you can put their signed contracts, onboarding info and another folder that you share with them (if necessary).
Go to Gmail, create tags for your clients and set up multiple inboxes. There are numerous ways you can organise your Gmail and research the options to see what will work best for you. I love having mine set so that each new email from my clients goes straight into their tagged inbox. This way isn’t for everyone, as I will never hit inbox zero but I like to oversee all my clients on the main screen.
6. Have a Contract
No if’s or but’s. There are so many free contract templates for independent contractors. This will protect both you and your client and hopefully, you will never need to threaten action against it. I’ve had friends who haven’t sent a contract and didn’t get paid and there was nothing they could do. If they had a contract at the very minimum they could threaten legal action because the contract had been breached.
7. Create a Client Welcome Pack
This is a nice touch to send clients once they have agreed to work with you. I made mine in Canva (as with everything else) and include the following:
- What you can expect when working with me
- Hours of Operation
- Rush Jobs
- Fees and Services Information
- Contact Information
8. Learn to Market Yourself
How are you going to find jobs? When you first start out applying for jobs in Facebook groups is the easiest. Eventually, you will have people coming to you if you market yourself correctly. Pick one social media platform and focus on that. You can keep it simple by filming tasks you do day-to-day and showing the BTS of your offers.
You don’t need 1000’s of followers for potential clients to reach out to you. I had around 200 followers on Instagram when this changed for me. The main factor was I showed authority and consistency on the platform. Social media takes up a lot of time, you don’t need to posts 5 days per week. Start with a commitment to twice a week and make authentic connections.
9. Start Building a Portfolio
Whenever you do anything, add it to your Portfolio folder. Haven’t done the task for a client yet? Do it for yourself or make up a pretend client and do it for them.
You probably know I did a course to become a VA. While I loved the course what I found most valuable was that each module had a portfolio-building item.
>> My review of 90 Day VA <<
10. Get that Positive Mindset
The thing that will get you the most jobs is having a positive mindset and believing in yourself.
I know you can do it, you know you can do it! So go and get ‘em!