There’s never been a better time to learn how to become a Virtual Assistant. The five basic steps to getting started in this career that offers complete autonomy, unlimited financial potential, scalability, and time flexibility and freedom are:
- Consider your business structure
- Decide which services you’ll offer clients
- Decide on your pricing structure
- Establish your online presence
- Start pitching and networking
In this guide, we’ll take a look at each of these steps in more detail, including seven steps to finding and landing your first Virtual Assistant client.
Before we get into what everyone wants to know, how to find Virtual Assistant jobs, you may be wondering what it actually means to be a VA (or freelancer, independent contractor, online service-based business owner… the title really doesn’t matter).
To begin, let’s dig into everything you need to know in order to start a rock-solid Virtual Assistant business, including defining just what a VA is and what kinds of services one can provide. By the time we’re done, you’ll have a clear understanding of the steps you need to take and how you can get started today.
What Is A Virtual Assistant?
Although this industry is growing by leaps and bounds there are still plenty of people who don’t really understand what a Virtual Assistant is or how they can play a vital role in supporting small businesses — both online and traditional brick-and-mortar ones.
Many people look at VAs as little more than executive or personal assistants. But there’s much more to it than that. There’s indeed a wide range of services and skill levels involved in VA work, including performing some of the “traditional” remote administrative assistant tasks.
Having said that, the list of services that a VA can offer is amazingly diverse. Essentially, there’s something for everyone when it comes to providing Virtual Assistant services.
Getting back to exactly what a VA is, though, based on our experience we stand by this definition:
A Virtual Assistant is anyone who offers services to other business owners from afar in exchange for an agreed-upon fee.
Pretty simple right? As you read through this post, you’ll quickly begin to understand why we decided to create such a broad definition.
What Services Does a Virtual Assistant Provide?
One of the most common questions we’re asked is, what kinds of services can a VA offer? In reality, there’s no cut-and-dry list because really, a Virtual Assistant can fulfill just about any need a business has.
This list of 275+ Virtual Assistant services is a great starting point, and it will give you an idea of the potential for building a business doing work you enjoy.
Depending on your skills and interests, you’re almost guaranteed to find something that will appeal to you. Here are some examples:
- Social media management
- Community management and moderation
- Content creation for blogs and ghostwriting
- Lead generation
- Email management
- Customer support
- Processing online orders and refunds
- Project management
- Content marketing
- Managing product launches
- Website design
- WordPress maintenance
- Graphic design and layout
- Calendar management and travel arrangements
- Editing and proofreading
- Content research
- Keyword research
- Data entry
- Outreach and PR
- Editing videos
The list goes on and on. In the bigger, longer-term picture of your business, the more skilled you are at a few select services, the better (more on specialization versus general VA work later).
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Virtual Assistant?
Services are one thing, but you might be wondering, what Virtual Assistant skills do you need to get started?
If you’re planning to work online, a general understanding of how to navigate the Internet is a good place to start. Having some specific skills and experience will make getting started easier and will help with landing those first few clients.
It’s really a matter of taking inventory of your existing skillset and figuring out how you can turn that into services that businesses need. And don’t worry – it’s not always cut and dry, but rather sometimes involves getting creative.
For example, do you have some natural writing ability? Get started providing writing services.
Do you have experience with customer service working in the food or hospitality industry? Then you likely have customer service skills that businesses desperately need.
Are you very organized? Email management could be a great place for you to start.
Get the idea? The important thing to remember is that these are places to get started – easy entry points, if you will. Because that’s the reality – you can get started offering services very quickly and expand into other skills and service areas as you begin earning income and building your business.
The name of the game is being a constant learner and continuously building your skillset. The result is that you’ll build a business doing work that stimulates and energizes you, and that you’ll be able to charge higher rates for as a VA or freelancer.
It’s important to note that a perceived lack of skills should never be a deterrent. When it comes to bringing skills to the table as a new VA, a high degree of motivation, good communication skills, and a desire to learn are equally, if not more important.
5 Steps to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant
Here at Fully Booked VA, we’re big fans of keeping things as simple as possible and taking consistent action. In fact, we’re huge believers in the idea that success is an accumulation of consistent actions – even “small ones” – over time. If you’re here looking for some kind of secret, there isn’t one.
Just get started. And then, don’t stop.
For example, the first Virtual Assistant client that Fully Booked VA’s founder contracted with was a successful online entrepreneur. Through back-and-forth emails, she sensed he was having a little trouble keeping up with his inbox.
They had a friendly exchange and she got the impression that she could help him, he’d be fun to work with, and that she might benefit in more ways than just earning a paycheck (i.e. by learning the inner workings of his business).
She stepped out and boldly told him he should hire her.
He said yes and they ended up working together for a little over two years. As her business grew and evolved into other areas, she was able to apply what she’d learned through their working relationship to her own business.
The takeaway is that she spotted an opportunity and pitched herself as the solution. In other words, she essentially created an opportunity. And when it comes to VA work (or anything, really), opportunity really is all around you.
So let’s break this down into some simple steps…
Side Note: Our Virtual Assistant training course, VA Foundations, (formerly called 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success) goes into much greater detail on these steps. It’s a systematic, step-by-step walkthrough across 12 modules, 80+ lessons, and 18+ customizable templates, trackers, and checklists.
One thing to keep in mind as you read through these is that your objective is to start promoting and pitching your services as quickly as possible. Acquiring clients and generating revenue should always be at the top of your priority list.
1. Consider Your Business Structure
There is no such thing as cookie-cutter advice when it comes to selecting your business structure. The answer will vary depending upon a variety of different criteria including:
- Where is your business physically located? Do you want to work with people in your surrounding community, solely online, or both?
- What types of clients will you be working with? Is there a specific industry you’re familiar with, or type of business you love?
- What type of VA work will you get started with? What skills and experience do you already have? What do you love doing? What comes easy to you? Keep in mind that this can evolve as you learn new skills and discover things you’re passionate about.
- Your personal situation (i.e. spouse, family, children, and liabilities). When do you want to work? How responsive can you be to your clients?
- What is your personal risk tolerance? How will your income be changing as you make the transition to full-time self-employment?
While none of this is set in stone, it’s a good idea to sit down and spend some time thinking about what you’d like your business to look like. After all, one of the primary perks of being a Virtual Assistant is crafting a business (and life) by design in a way that works for you and is in complete alignment with your goals and desires.
2. Decide Which Virtual Assistant Services You’ll Offer Your Clients
Making a decision on services to get started with is a sticking point for many new VAs. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. There’s no rulebook anywhere that says you have to stick with a specific service offering once you start and again – you want to pick a few services (ideally two to three) that you can get started with right away.
As you start earning income, you can decide which services you’d like to learn more about and branch into as you build your business.
When most people think of typical VA services the things that come to mind are checking email, returning phone calls, managing their client’s calendar, and other remote administrative support.
In many instances, VA services can include those things, but as we’ve covered previously there are plenty of other Virtual Assistant services you can offer as well.
You’re completely free to grow and adapt your business as you see fit. This means changing, adding, or eliminating services based on client demand, profitability, your available time commitment, and your personal interests.
As you’ll discover in launching your VA business, freedom to choose can be a double-edged sword. We often hear from people who are in the process of starting their businesses who are struggling to decide on service offerings.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Take a look at the list of 275+ services we shared previously.
- Highlight the ones you feel like you could get started with and/or learn quickly.
- Pick 2-3 ideas that you feel you’d like to begin with and then….
Get Started. (You’ll notice we say that a lot – next to staying committed to this journey, it’s the most important step you’ll take.)
Whether that means emailing some friends to let them know about your new VA business and asking for an introduction or checking out some of the Virtual Assistant job boards that are out there, don’t just wait for the perfect client to appear.
Again, getting into motion and taking action is crucial for your long-term success. Once you take the first step, you’ll begin to gather momentum and each successive step will become easier.
You can adapt and change over time in a way that suits your business and desires. For example, you might decide to move from an hourly rate to a retainer or maybe even productized VA services. Again, the sky’s the limit and you can (and should) build your business exactly as you’d like.
3. Decide on Your Pricing Structure
Everyone wants to know, “How much does a Virtual Assistant make per hour?” What’s the right amount to charge and how much is enough (but not too much)?
The reason the answer varies so much is that the role itself can vary quite greatly — and so can your skillset and experience.
When you’re setting your rates, decide what would make it worth your time. If you’re planning to charge hourly (at least initially), you’re trading time for money so it’s important to consider several important factors:
- You’re not an employee. You’re a subcontractor and in the US, for example, you need to pay both the employee and the employer side of taxes (i.e. self-employment tax).
- You aren’t entitled to any benefits — no sick days, paid vacation, health insurance, or retirement contributions are coming your way (with some rare exceptions).
- You’ll have an overhead that needs to be covered (although for most VAs and freelancers, this is very low) – things like office expenses, some software subscriptions, etc.
Because of these expenses, for which you are responsible, you can’t really compare what you make at your salaried day job (or what you could make at a part-time job) with that of your new VA role.
We recommend that you take whatever wage you think would make sense from a take-home pay perspective and inflate it by at least 25%.
Most business owners will understand that you face these additional costs and if need be, you can break it down for them.
Also keep in mind that from the perspective of business owners, there are significant benefits to hiring a freelance Virtual Assistant instead of a part or full-time in-house employee. Your client doesn’t have to incur the cost or the time involved with setting up (and many times training) a new employee. Nor do they have to worry about a whole slew of additional expenses and responsibilities that typically come with taking on an employee.
To give you some context, many freelancers start out at an hourly rate ($25-$30 per hour is common in our community). From there, we teach and encourage our students to move on from this hourly model fairly quickly and work on a fixed or retainer rate as they become more efficient with their work and can do more in less time.
As they progress in their businesses, VAs and freelancers often begin charing a retainer rate for any new clients they take on. It’s advantageous to have a set of tasks to complete, on their schedule, rather than having to track time and feel like they’re “on the clock.”
An hourly rate is a large part of the reason many escape from Corporate America but that might not be the case for you. Take a look at the different Virtual Assistant pricing options (hourly, retainer, contract, or productized VA services) and pick the one that works best for you.
It’s important to remember that you and your services are valuable. Working with other business owners as a Virtual Assistant or freelancer is simply an equal exchange of value between both of you.
It truly is a matter of “you get what you pay for” when it comes to hiring a Virtual Assistant, so keep that in mind as you’re putting yourself out there and talking with potential clients.
We suggest reaching a little higher than the number that pops into your head. It’s easy to undercharge in order to secure the job, but that’s not what’s going to keep either of you happy for the long term.
4. Establish Your Online Presence
If you’re going to be working online and providing Virtual Assistant services, it just makes sense to have an online presence. There are some things to keep in mind when you’re planning your VA website to attract new clients, but when it comes to establishing an online presence a website is only one way to go.
In fact, it’s important to note that you don’t need a website to get started as a VA. There are other quick and simple ways you can establish an online presence (more on this in a bit).
In this digital age, having some kind of online presence legitimizes you as a professional and aids in the “know, like, and trust” factor which is so important when connecting with potential clients.
While at some point in your online business journey, it’s a good idea to have a website, to get started as a Virtual Assistant you can establish your online presence with one or more of the following options:
- VA-dedicated social media profiles – we recommend focusing on one to two platforms and either creating profiles or repurposing existing ones that highlight your Virtual Assistant business. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with VA clients, for example, and you can even set up a services page there.
- A resume – Not your “traditional” resume mind you, but rather one focused on the skills you can serve business owners with.
- A Work With Me page – If you already have a website up and running, adding a simple Work With Me page highlighting who you are, what you do, and who you do it for is a great way to share information with potential clients who are interested in your services. This can even be a great way to start a simple, one-page website and put yourself out there as you’re building it out.
When it comes to social media, we recommend keeping things as simple as possible. Instead of trying to juggle multiple social media platforms just follow one simple rule – be where your clients are.
In most (but not all) cases this means Facebook or LinkedIn. But going deeper than that, you also want to be in the same groups and communities as your prospective clients. Use social channels to create and build relationships over time – never jump into a new group and start promoting yourself. Instead, look for opportunities to be genuinely helpful and let relationships grow naturally.
5. Land New Clients by Pitching and Networking
The final and most important step towards launching a new VA business is, of course, finding your first few clients. In our experience of teaching over 11,000 new VAs and freelancers over the last ten years, client growth happens exponentially.
Meaning that getting from client number 0 to 3 takes a lot more work than getting from 3 to 6. The difference seems to be a result of time, exposure, experience, confidence, and again, consistent action-taking. Once those ingredients begin to kick in, momentum builds and the growth process becomes easier.
7 Steps to Landing and Keeping Your First Virtual Assistant Client
Step #1: Know who your ideal clients are.
To put it another way, know your target market. That means figuring out the types of businesses and markets that interest you and where you can find them.
Step #2: Find the ideal prospects in your target market.
What attributes are you looking for in an ideal client? This could include businesses that are profitable, who need help, and even those who have a history of hiring Virtual Assistants.
Step #3: Begin building relationships with potential clients.
Sometimes we call this courting simply because we want you to understand that building relationships — even business relationships — takes time. Although cold pitching is a great way to start landing clients quickly, in the long run, the best clients are a result of strong relationships that come from authentically networking and making connections.
Step #4: Pitch for new VA jobs daily.
Until your business grows to the point where referrals are consistently rolling in, you need to rely on pitching your Virtual Assistant services. To put it another way, if you want work, you’ll have to go looking for it. When you first launch your business, clients won’t come find you.
We recommend pitching daily, sending at least ten pitches per week, and following up on previous pitches consistently. We also recommend making it one of the first things you do each day — part of our “always be marketing” philosophy.
There are lots of places you can source potential clients to pitch (we cover 7+ in our foundational course). And, to get an idea of what kinds of things businesses are hiring for remotely, there are lots of online job boards and marketplaces. For example, you can explore remote job opportunities on Jooble.
Step #5: Offer a trial period for your Virtual Assistant services.
Until you’ve established some trust, clients don’t really know what to expect. And to be fair, neither do you. A short trial period is a great way to test the waters and see how well you are able to work together. It also takes away some of the risk and fear that comes with making a long-term commitment early in the relationship.
Step #6: Check in early and consistently.
In our full sytem, The Fully Booked VA Program, we provide leads to new and experienced VAs. These leads are typically business owners who are looking for help to grow or scale their businesses. One of the most common complaints we hear about their past experiences is that their VA had poor communication skills. It’s an easy problem to overcome. All you need to do is create a regular schedule for checking in with your client to make sure their needs are being met.
Step #7: Make yourself irreplaceable.
If you’re interested in keeping a client for the long term, the best thing you can do is provide as much value as possible. Make yourself an invaluable part of their business. Exactly how you do this will vary with each client but let’s look at solopreneurs as an example.
Many solopreneurs and small business owners are juggling multiple tasks at once. They work long hours and sacrifice personal time, time with their families, and even their health.
Find a way to take specific tasks off their plate, relieve productivity bottlenecks, and help them get their weekends back. By doing so you’ll be providing more value than someone who simply exchanges a few hours of time for money.
You’ll become a valued member of their team and that’s a win-win scenario.
Balancing Your VA Business and Client Work
As a Virtual Assistant, your goal is to help entrepreneurs and small business owners successfully run and grow their businesses. It can be an extremely rewarding process to help someone bring their vision to life and achieve their goals.
At the same time, however, don’t forget that you’re also building your own business. It will serve you to set boundaries and expectations and run your business in a way that works for you. If you don’t take care of yourself and your business, growth and satisfaction are usually the first two things to suffer.
One of the ways you can approach this is to set aside clear blocks of time in your week to work on your business, versus in your business. Adopt the mindset of treating yourself like a client – after all, your business, goals, and dreams are just as important as your clients’, right?
Working in your business refers to delivering services and the actual work you’ll do for your clients. Working on your business includes things like:
- Tending to your VA-dedicated social media profiles.
- Sourcing, pitching, and following up with potential clients.
- Pursuing marketing strategies like creating blog content or attending virtual networking events.
It’s easy to get caught up in client work and to view all your available time as time you could be exchanging for money. Don’t get caught up in this “employee mindset,” though. The work you do on your business is crucial to its long-term success and sustainability.
But Isn’t the VA Market Saturated?
Lastly, one of the questions we field occasionally is about whether there’s still a demand for Virtual Assistants and whether there is enough demand that one can charge decent rates.
If you recall, we started this post off with the statement that there’s never been a better time to learn how to become a Virtual Assistant – because it’s absolutely true. Freelancing, in general, has been on a major rise over the last decade. In fact, the number of freelancers in the US has been on a steady rise (8.1% over the last 4 years), and if this trend continues it’s predicted that 50% of our workforce will be working from home in 10 years.
Particularly in the context of the pandemic and the radical shift in our workforce, more and more business owners are turning to contracting out for their needs. While working remotely has been on the rise, it’s become not only an acceptable way to work but a preferred way for many businesses.
We mentioned previously that there are definite financial “perks” for business owners to contract out for services, and there are others as well. Consider this list:
- On average a business owner can save up to $11,000 per employee every year just by outsourcing to at-home contractors.
- Virtual Assistants specifically can save up to 78% on operating costs annually.
- On-site employees experience higher levels of job-related stress (32%-37%) than remote Virtual Assistants (17%).
- The Virtual Assistant industry has grown from approximately $85 billion to over $100 billion in the last three years.
- More than half of Virtual Assistants (59%) hold full-time positions.
If you weren’t sure if being a Virtual Assistant is really a “thing” or whether it’s an industry that’s not only not going anywhere, but that is on the rise – those are some very compelling statistics.
The other part of our response to this question also involves something we touched on earlier – choosing services (for the longer term, not “starter services”) that you can specialize in. A primary reason we help VAs and freelancers not only start their businesses but also teach them how to scale their businesses is that this is how you ensure a stable, long-term, sustainable business that will not only “pay the bills” but that can open the doors to endless possibilities.
Scaling a VA business can be done a few ways, but one of the primary methods for doing so is specializing your services. As an “expert” in a particular service area a VA can accomplish a few things:
- Make the shift from being a “doer of tasks” to more of a business consultant.
- Provide a specialized service that is in high demand in the marketplace.
- Command higher rates.
- Ensure their relevancy over time and their ability to stay competitive.
In essence, specializing your services is a way to set yourself above the rest, grow a business, and scale your income over time.
When you consider that the demand for Virtual Assistants is on the rise and that there are many, many avenues to building a long-term, scalable business, the question of market saturation becomes, well, irrelevant.
Your Next Steps
If starting your own VA or freelance business is something you’re passionate about, including all the amazing perks and opportunities for living a life by design that it offers, your next step should be to educate yourself. While information and learning are crucial to any new endeavor, we’re also big believers in the power of a supportive community and learning from others who have already been down the road you want to travel.
The Fully Booked VA Program offers a complete, step-by-step walkthrough of exactly how to get your business started and find those first few clients with its cornerstone course, VA Foundations. It’s also a place to be part of a close-knit community of successful Virtual Assistants and freelancers who are open to sharing their knowledge and experience – and celebrating successes and providing accountability.
In addition to VA Foundations, there are six skills courses designed to help you level up your services when you’re ready, and FBVA members also have access to weekly group coaching calls, client leads, and live skills training sessions. When it comes to starting, building, and scaling a successful service-based business as a VA or freelancer, we’ve left no stone unturned.
No matter where you’re starting from, the most important thing is to start – and keep moving. The only people who don’t succeed at this are the ones who quit, and getting started as a freelancer or VA is one of the most powerful ways we know to break in online and open entrepreneurial doors and opportunities you may not even be able to imagine right now.
As we’ve said previously in this post, the sky really is the limit!
Ready to start your journey as a Virtual Assistant? Get started here with The Fully Booked VA Program.