How To Build A Virtual Assistant Business From Home In 7 Steps
Build an IN-DEMAND Virtual Business In 7 Steps
The virtual assistant industry, which was already thriving before the crisis hit, is now more attractive than ever. Both budding VAs and business owners are now looking at it as the best path forward in our new normal.
If you’re not sure what a VA - or virtual assistant - does, here’s a snapshot: someone who completes tasks for businesses remotely and on a contract basis. Tasks include anything from administration, research, calendar management, bookkeeping or social media management. VAs handle the ‘overwhelm’. Pretty cool, huh?
There are 2 key things that the current crisis has made clear about why the right time is now to start a VA business:
- Business owners who used to believe they needed someone working on-site, alongside them at their office, now see that’s not true. So there goes that limiting belief.
- Business owners are now more wary about hiring employees after what’s just happened and with the uncertainty we still face. Contracting a VA involves less risk.
In this article are 7 steps to start an online virtual assistant business so you can work without leaving your home.
- Brain Dump
- Beware of undervaluing your time and under-pricing yourself.
You don’t need a business plan to start your VA business.
I know, that’s not what every business coach would recommend. I get it, but what you actually need is something fluid and dynamic that captures and records all of your ideas, thoughts and dreams in a way that makes your soul sing.
That’s why the first step to starting your own VA business is to do a brain dump.
There’s so much to do at the start that it can feel overwhelming. Doing a brain dump helps organise your thoughts.
You need to define your goals and get clear about specifically what you want to achieve. After you do, you can work backwards. What steps will you need to take to achieve your goals? Add them to your lists.
Personally, I love doing all of this online. That’s why I love Trello! It’s a free, visual, web-based tool that we use in my business to brainstorm and map out our next steps. I also like to make a list of links that lead to resources I can refer to or read, to upskill in certain areas, or at least get up to speed. There are so many ways to have fun with this step :)
2. Services and Pricing
Once you’ve done your brain dump, it's time to tackle the second step in starting your business: setting up your services and pricing.
Beware, this step covers the most common mistakes new virtual assistants make.
- Resist the impulse to offer every service under the sun.
Don’t say that you can do anything and everything. Choose your 3 core services, reflecting what you do best and what you love to do most. Only promote these. These could include social media management, or newsletter writing and graphic design. Or, they could include more traditional administrative tasks like inbox and calendar management. Make sure you have loads of experience doing the 3 core services you choose, as that will help you sell them.
Make sure you choose an hourly rate that makes you slightly uncomfortable. Your time is valuable. When you’re securing and servicing clients, costs add up fast. The higher you price your services, the fewer clients and billable hours you’ll need to chase. Remember to stick to your rate and even practice saying it out loud. This will stop you from hesitating when a potential client asks what you charge.
Also, as you’re planning your core services and rates, don’t forget to add them to your Trello board.
3. Name and Branding
The third step is setting up your business name and branding. You’ll feel more confident when this is decided.
No pressure, but make sure you choose wisely!
Put some thought into choosing a name you like, but that won’t limit your scope of services or your location. You also have to make sure that the name doesn’t infringe on any copyright or trademarks. When you’ve drawn up a list of possibilities, do your research. Go online, check out your country’s official company registry and search the trademarks. You don’t want to be forced to change your name after you’ve become established!
Once you have your name, you’ll need to create a logo next and choose your branding colours.
If you have a design eye, you might want to have a go yourself using something like Canva. Keep your design simple. Recently while I was taking an online course, I was introduced to a very cool website called Coolors.co. It helps you choose your branding colours and gives you the hex codes that you'll need when you create collateral.
Try not to agonise over this step. If you do, it will stall your progress towards the most important step: finding clients.
4. Set Up The Tech
Before you start the search for clients, however, you need to set up your technology!
This is critically important. It’s what makes the VA industry possible, so you need to get it right. That said, trying to choose among all the tools and apps online can be confusing.
Here are what I believe to be the most important tools you should have:
- Microsoft Office Suite
- Email account
- To-do list app
- Time tracking tool
- Design tool
- Customer relationship management (CRM) tool
Clients will ask you to do tasks that will need to be completed in Word/Excel/Powerpoint, so the Microsoft Office Suite is a must. As for your email, if you’ve decided on a business name, you can get a professional email address using your domain. Otherwise, a simple free Gmail account will be good enough to get started. Just be sure to start a fresh one that reflects your professional brand. For a to-do list app, you can use Trello, which I’ve already mentioned is free and offers everything you need to get started. For design tools, check out Canva. And lastly, for a simple and free CRM, start with Airtable.
Once you get more established, you may find tools that streamline your processes and would be worth investing your money to buy and your time to learn. But keep things simple at the start.
5. Find Your First Client
Let’s be clear: without clients, you really don't have a business at all. You have a hobby. So finding clients is the most important step.
That said, the most common question among new VAs is “Where do I start?”.
The first place to look for prospects or leads is often at your previous workplace. This might be your easiest client to sign because the people there already know, like and trust you. You don’t need to sell yourself to them. You only have to sell the solutions that you’re offering.
That’s not as daunting as it might sound. Give your previous manager or colleague a call. Let him or her know what you’re doing. Offer some ideas about what you could assist with eg: document formatting, logo designing, setting up templates, and typing notes. Be clear about the benefits to the company and how it could save time and/or money.
6. Deliver a Great Service
Clearly, to keep the clients you bring on, you’ll need to make sure that you deliver a great service.
One of the best ways to grow your client numbers is through referrals, and the only way you can get referrals is to do a great job for existing clients. Give your clients every reason not just to like, but to love you. Go above and beyond.
- Offer clear, consistent, concise communication about their tasks throughout the process
- Deliver on time and within budget
- Find ways to make them feel special
Undervaluing the impact of great customer service is something you never want to do. It takes a lot more time, effort and money to find new clients than it does to create a loyal base of repeat clients who trust you to deliver quality.
This may seem basic, but we can all have a tendency to take things for granted, so try to stay on your toes!
7. Create An Online Presence
This is the last and particularly critical step right now: create an online presence.
But don’t start with a website.
I know, it’s tempting to jump straight in and start creating one. It can be fun and rewarding. It can also feel safer to sit behind your computer tapping away instead of putting yourself out there. But setting up a website too soon will be a big time waster (we're talking days and days) and that can pull you away from landing your first all-important client.
Trust me, first you need to get some traction and money coming in, and when you do, you’ll have a better idea of what to put on the website. You’ll know what people actually want and need from you. When that time comes, our favourite website builder is Rocketspark because it doesn’t require any design or coding knowledge.
Get online first by creating a LinkedIn profile. Make sure you use a professional photo, choose a catchy title and write a good summary/bio. This is all you need for people looking for virtual assistants online to be able to find you.
Be prepared to tweak your online sites as you figure out what sells best and what people respond to.
That’s it for now! The 7 steps outlined here should be enough to get you started on a successful online virtual assistant business. Check out Savvy School for more resources and videos to help you set up your VA business plus join the free Savvy Virtual Assistant Facebook Group. I can’t wait to hear about your journey. Good luck out there!
Jo Jensen, Virtual Assistant Coach