Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Becoming a Virtual Assistant (but were too afraid to ask!)

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Times have changed.

Gone are the days of long commutes, mind-numbing water cooler conversations and staying in the office until someone suggests ordering pizza for dinner.

The thing is, we live in a location-independent age. Team members can meet across continents with the help of video-conferencing tools like Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts just as if they were in the same room. Cloud storage solutions like Drop Box and Google Drive mean you can access any document at any time from anywhere in the world. Email is the way we all communicate and it's here to stay.

The world has opened up and with it, opportunities.

You're probably here because:

  • You're tired of working for someone else and you want to be your own boss
  • You want the flexibility to work when you want, where you want, with whom you want
  • You want to do work that's fun and that lights a fire within you

Or, perhaps you're happy in your 9-to-5 job and you'd like to earn some money on the side to save for a house or holiday, pay off debt or to increase your standard of living.

If you want all of this, I'm so happy to say that there are a ton of options available to you.

If you're curious about how to start earning money online with a location-independent business, then you may want to hear more about Virtual Assistance.

Whether you've heard the term before, or whether you're encountering it for the first time, I'm sure you have questions about what it's all about...

And I'm about to answer them.

Here goes!


1. What is a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual Assistant (VA) is a broad term to describe someone who works remotely for a business or business owner, helping them with their general day-to-day admin tasks. As well as general admin, other tasks may include things like social media marketing and management, customer/client communications, website updates, blog writing and more. The tasks can really vary depending on who your client is and where they need support.

VAs generally complete all their work online and will not be required for in-person tasks, events or meetings. Communication with clients is usually conducted online via email, video conference or phone.

VAs set their own hours and rates. It's important to remember that VAs are not employees; they are independent contractors responsible for paying their own taxes and insurance.
 

2. What tasks do virtual assistants do?

Virtual Assistant is a very broad term that covers a wide variety of specialties. The specialities that can be included under the wider Virtual Assistant umbrella term are:

Content VA (blog + newsletter writing, minor website copy, product descriptions, etc.)

Technical VA (minor website updates, system setups, software integrations, etc.)

Design VA (presentation slides, website/social graphics, PDFs, etc.)

Social Media VA (graphics creation, caption writing, post scheduling, engagement, etc.)

Marketing VA (Light Facebook + Google ads management, community management, etc)

...amongst others!

However, probably the most common type of VA is the General VA that can complete a wide range of admin tasks including, but not limited to:

Calendar management and scheduling
Inbox management
Client/Customer communications (follow ups, reminder emails, etc.)
Transcription
Invoicing
Proposal and contract updates
Minute-taking
Data entry
Database building
File management
Hotel & flight booking
Research
Lead generation

And so much more...

Many Virtual Assistants offer a combination of specialities along with General Admin services.
 


3. How much do virtual assistants earn?

The beauty of being your own boss is that you can set your own rates. Depending on your level of experience and expertise in a specific area you can charge anything from $20-$60+/hour.

Most new VAs charge between $20-$30/hour.

Your monthly income will be determined by how many billable hours you can fill in a month -- whether that's outside your full-time job or other commitments.

However, it has become increasingly common for VAs to offer project rates or packages (rather than hourly rates) for a more predictable monthly income.

It's important to remember that as an independent contractor you are responsible for paying your own taxes, health insurance and all other business expenses or professional development costs, so your take-home rate will be considerably lower than your billing rate.

With time, the right strategy for growth, effective marketing and strong referrals you could make up to $5-$8K/month as a virtual assistant. View some virtual assistant success stories here.

But in order to reach $10K/month and beyond you will need to look at hiring a team of subcontractors so that you can increase your bandwidth for client work.

>>> I've created a rate calculator within my course Start, Market & Grow Your Virtual Assistant Business that will help you come up with a rate that you're comfortable with and that is sustainable for the growth of your business.
 

4. How many hours do virtual assistants work?

Again, the beauty of being your own boss is that you set your own hours!

In most cases, virtual assistants do not need to complete their work within a daily time block. They are given a deadline by their clients and are expected to deliver the work on or before that deadline. Your client doesn't really care when that work is completed as long as it's delivered on time and to the standard of quality they expect.

However, there are some cases where a client may ask you to be available and completing work within certain hours of the day (ex. 9 to 5). Unless otherwise agreed, this does not mean that you charge for all those hours, but only for the time when you're actually doing work for that client. There's nothing stopping you from working on other projects or client work within that time frame.

 

5. What skills & experience do I need to work as a virtual assistant?

You don't really need any qualifications to get started as a VA, especially as a General VA. A client will not typically ask to see a certain certification or degree. Clients will really be looking for:

Good communication skills -- make sure you know the difference between 'their' and 'there', that you can write a good email, and that you respond to client emails in a timely manner.

Good organisational skills - business owners want someone they can rely to make their business easier to run. 

Detail-oriented - your clients will want someone who can be trusted to follow instructions and ask questions if anything seems unclear.

Prior experience - it would help to have some prior admin experience or experience in the tasks you're applying for; these can be from a previous full-time job. If you have references, case studies or a portfolio to support your claims that should be enough for your client.

However, clients are sometimes willing to train their VAs in a specific area, so it's important to stress that you're always willing to learn. 

Testimonials - Testimonials and references can go a long way in helping you get clients. 

However, if you feel like you might want to train up in certain areas so that you're following best practices there are YouTube tutorials and instructional blog posts on every topic under the sun (remember: Google is your friend!) as well as affordable courses on platforms such as Udemy, Lynda and Skillshare.


6. Who hires virtual assistants?

Anyone who doesn't have the time, desire, or know-how to complete the tasks that need doing to keep their business running.

Your clients will mainly be small or medium-sized online businesses (they may be product-based or service-based), freelancers or solopreneurs. 

Just to give you a general sense of the types of businesses this includes:

  • Coaches, consultants, course creators and strategists
  • Etsy, Amazon or Shopify shop owners
  • Website designers & developers, graphic designers, photographers, wedding & event planners
  • Saas companies
  • Startups

Brick & mortar shops or service-based businesses are also known to use VAs such as yoga studios, law offices, chiropractors and more.

Individuals may also hire virtual PAs to help manage their personal life and obligations (flight & hotel bookings, appointment scheduling, bill payments and general life/household management).
 

7. How do I find clients as a virtual assistant?

There are a number of ways to find clients as a virtual assistant As with any business, it may be hard at first and will take a lot of self-promotion, but stick with it and you'll soon find a way to keep clients flowing your way.

Here are 5 ways you can get started:

1. Job Boards - you can join free job boards such as Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr and PeopleperHour to search for jobs to bid for, as well as get found by potential clients.

2. Subcontract - apply to work for a Virtual Assistant agency such as Virtalent, Zirtual or Time Etc. You can also search for more boutique agencies such as Elite Virtual Assist.

3. Tell your personal/professional network - your friends/family, former colleagues and business contacts are the lowest hanging fruit. Tell them about your new business and chances are even if they don't need your services someone they know will.

4. Online Networking - polish up your LinkedIn & Facebook profiles and start networking! Post to your timeline about your new business and leads are likely to come your way. Facebook groups are also a great place to network and create relationships that lead to paying clients. Pick a social media platform and start marketing your services.

5. In-Person Networking - nothing beats making a good impression like meeting someone face-to-face. Attend local business events and share what you do with as many people as possible.

Be prepared to answer the question "what is a virtual assistant?" multiple times!

>>> Listen to my interview with Megan Baker who booked out her VA services just 6 months after launching her website!


8. Why would someone hire a virtual assistant as opposed to a full-time employee?

There are many benefits to a business owner in hiring a virtual assistant over a full-time employee.

The most attractive one is that the business owner will not need to pay the overheads that come with employing someone full-time: tax, health insurance, benefits, etc., and they don't need to worry about providing desk space.

VAs are also a cost-effective option because business owners will only pay for the time they use.

Depending on how a VA is pricing their services, a business owner can hire a VA for as little or as much as they need, month-to-month or week-to-week. VAs don't have to be a fixed cost.

Business owners also have the flexibility to hire multiple expert VAs as opposed to hiring one full-time person to do all the things to a low standard.
 

9. Do I need to have a registered business to start working as a virtual assistant?

I am not an accountant or lawyer and the rules and regulations will differ depending on where you are in the world. So the best advice I can give you is to speak to someone (a lawyer or an accountant) who will know the best way forward for your particular situation. The same goes with the question around opening a business bank account.

Depending on where you are, the most common business entity for a freelancer or VA business is a Sole Proprietorship (or Sole Trader in the UK); a business operated by one individual, where you and your business are considered one and the same for tax & legal purposes. It's important to note that in this setup, your personal assets are at risk if anything goes wrong in your business.

Another option is to open an LLC (or LTD if you're in the UK). It's a little more expensive to do so (but not hugely!) but at least your personal assets are protected in case of a lawsuit.

Again, I urge you to speak to an accountant or lawyer to find the best solution for you.
 


10. What should I invest in to get started as a virtual assistant?

You will need a good laptop and wifi connection for starters.

Other than that you may also need to look at the following start-up costs:

Website - a website is highly advised (although not completely necessary) as you start promoting your business. You will need to purchase a domain name, hosting and a subscription to a website building platform like Wordpress or Squarespace

Insurance - protect your business and put your clients at ease by purchasing professional indemnity insurance (or public liability insurance if you're holding meetings in your home -- but this is rare for a virtual assistant).

Tools & Resources - You may also want to invest in some tools or resources that will help make your business look more professional, such as a contract template [affiliate link] that you can customise; or a privacy policy and terms and conditions template [affiliate link] for your website.

Other tools such as CRMs (like Dubsado), project management (like Asana) or appointment scheduling (like Calendly) offer free versions that will work just fine as you start out.

Courses - As mentioned earlier, you may want to invest in some courses to brush up on your skills and to learn best practices. You'll find affordable courses on Udemy, Lynda and Skillshare.

Membership & Coaching - your business will grow much faster and be much more enjoyable when you join a community of like-minded individuals all cheering each other on. You'll be able to share expertise, resources and even refer clients to each other. My private membership provides all this and more. You can learn more about it here

You may also want to seek out 1:1 coaching if you learn better with direct support. Personal attention and guidance provided by someone who has achieved what you want to achieve will help you grow faster and help you build a business you love. I offer 1:1 coaching packages which you can view right here.


10. Do I need to have a website to start working as a virtual assistant?

I would highly recommend creating a website for your services. It will make you look more professional + legit and it will be somewhere that you can send clients to to view your services, rates, testimonials, experience and to hire you.

Website are extremely easy to build nowadays with pre-made templates and drag-and-drop page builders. You can get started cheaply and easily with Squarespace, Wordpress and even Google Sites.

However, the creation of a website can be a huge & lengthy undertaking. Many virtual assistants I've worked with have used the "excuse" of not having a website to keep them from promoting their services.

Don't let not having a website stop you from getting out there and getting clients.

Sometimes, it's enough to make connections with the right people or through referrals. And if you really would like something to show them, you can always just create a Facebook page or a PDF that lists your services, rates and contact details.


11. Why is becoming a Virtual Assistant a good option for me?

Starting out as a virtual assistant is a great way to start earning money online. As a virtual assistant, you are offering a service, and services are the quickest way to make an income online.

You don't need a huge investment or capital, you don't have any overheads -- all you need to get started is your time, your skills and a willingness to learn and make yourself available to those who need you most.

As a VA, you'll also get an inside peek at what it takes to run an online business; you'll learn skills and tools that you can use to grow your own successful online business.

Truth is, you likely already have so many skills that business owners would be willing to pay you for;  it's time to put yourself out there and see what you can achieve.


If you'd like to learn more about what it takes to become a successful Virtual Assistant, take a look at my self-paced course Start, Market & Grow Your Virtual Assistant Business that covers everything you need to know: from deciding what type of VA you want to be, to identifying your ideal client, to branding yourself for success, to creating your website, to setting your rates and packages and finally, to getting and working with clients.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share with anyone who you feel would benefit from this information :)