How to Become a Virtual Assistant in 9 Easy Steps (plus FREE Workbook!)
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“Mom, whatcha doin?”
My four-year-old came up beside me while I sat at my desk, peering at the computer screen to make sure I had the numbers correct on the homebuyers contract I was working on.
“I’m doing client work,” I replied.
“Oh! That’s nice.” And then he ran off to his room to watch “Thomas the Tank Engine” for what seemed like the millionth time. I can still hear that theme song in my head sometimes.
It had only been several months when I was doing what millions of other folks do: wake up your kids at some ridiculous hour, get them dressed while they’re still half-asleep, drag them off to a babysitter’s house, kiss them quickly so you can fight traffic to get to your job on time. Then when the invisible whistle blew at 5pm, you did the whole dang thing in reverse.
Yep. It was just lovely (*insert side eye*)
But a good friend turned awful babysitter changed my routine forever.
My then-best friend had a little boy the same age as one of my boys. She babysat my boys while I worked.
What I didn’t know was she had a drug problem. She hid it quite well.
Until one day when I left work early, popped around to scoop up the boys and found them alone. I’ll save the sordid details but let’s just say there was a huge argument and a promise I would never leave the boys like that ever again.
But as the only source of income for my household, was that a promise I would be able to keep?
The kindness of my supervisor at the time allowed me to not only keep my job and provide for my family but to do it from the comfort of my home.
Before I knew it, I was a virtual assistant. And I didn’t even know what the heck that was.
There was no time for a grand launch or a website or anything fancy. I needed to get in there and make money - ASAP.
Now, I hope your situation isn’t like what I just described. But maybe you’re ready to start working as a virtual assistant.
But you don’t have the luxury of time on your side. You’ve got to start making money fast. Pronto.
Well, I’m here to help you with that, friend.
If becoming a virtual assistant is your thang and you want to avoid some long and drawn-out launch process, you’re in luck. Too many steps and you might be like a deer in the headlights and do nothing. And we don’t want that, right?
If you’re still confused as to what a virtual assistant is and does, then you’ll want to head over and read this post before going any further.
By wanting a quick launch, let’s assume you’ve got a few things going for you:
You’re eager and willing to learn new things. Oh my goodness, the virtual assistant industry has changed so much since I started in 2007. I still remember my old desk in the corner of my living room with my desktop computer, business telephone line, printer/scanner/copier combo and a fax machine. That was high-tech stuff, baby.
As the years went by, technology changed drastically and I had to keep up or get replaced by the person who was on top of those changes. And although I don’t do client work anymore, I still research and learn what’s happening in the industry. I continue to take courses. I love to learn. Be ready to learn - and learn some more - if you’re going to be a top-notch virtual assistant. That means making investments of your resources - financially and with your time.
Potential clients are not only hiring you to do a job or perform a task. They are hiring you for your expertise. They expect you to know what you’re doing. Keep that in mind, friend.
You think ahead. Successful virtual assistants get ‘er done. They don’t need hand holding. They thrive on being one step ahead of their client. They speak up when they see a way to do something better. They are innovative. They GET their client’s business.
You communicate clearly. Listen, the whole virtual thing requires someone to get their thoughts across clearly. Have you ever read an email or social media post and thought, “Gee, that’s rude. They could have said that differently.” The truth is the writer may not have meant to come across rude and crude. In their mind, the message was probably perfectly crafted. You don’t want that kind of faux pas with a client, right? Communicate clearly and concise. Clients don’t have time to sift through a five paragraph run-on sentence to get to the point. Use bullet points for your longer messages so the client can pinpoint the main idea quickly.
If you’re lacking in any of those areas mentioned above, take some time to get those things in order before moving ahead. Because you don’t want some well-meaning buddy to chastise you later, saying, “I told you so” when things go wrong. Doesn’t that just make you mad?
You’ll find as your business grows, you’ll need to go back and do some tasks that you would have otherwise completed during a traditional launch. That’s okay. The goal is to make money during your speedy launch that you can use to invest back into your business while taking care of your personal expenses. Sound cool?
Okay, so you’re truly ready to work from home as a virtual assistant but you don’t have a lot of time to launch. You’re pressed for time. So, let’s walk through the 9 steps to launch quickly but effectively.
Step 1: Create a foundation
Before my dad retired, he was a bricklayer and the foundation was the most important part of any building he ever worked on. A crappy foundation = a not-so-cool building.
The same thing goes for your business.
You can’t just pile a bunch of bricks one on top of another and think the building will stand.
Building a business is pretty similar - you’ve got to take all the right steps to build a business that will stand and not topple over.
So the first thing you need to do is ask yourself: why do I want to be a virtual assistant?
I’m going to start out by saying this: don’t move ahead before you determine why you want to launch a virtual assistant business. Why?
You might be asking: “Regina, why is it so important to figure out why I want to do this? I know I want to work from home.”
My answer: because you’re going to need that “why” to fall back on when the hard days come. Trust me, there will be hard days -- when a client gives you negative feedback, when technology isn’t your friend, when a client pays you late, or not at all.
Too many people go into the whole idea of working from home with a screwed up view of what it really is. They dream of pretty home offices, leisurely times at Starbucks and working only a few hours a day. The reality is that you might start working from your dining room table drinking a home-brewed cup of coffee and working 8, 9, or 10 hour days in the beginning. It’s hard running a business.
While we’re at it, let me say this: as a virtual assistant, you’re going to wear a lot of hats. You not only provide services but you are a business owner. Get used to that. You make the rules, you set the boundaries. If you’re not comfortable with that, you may encounter some problems along the way. The sooner you put on your business owner hat, the better off you’ll be.
Speaking of a strong foundation, make sure your loved ones are on board with you taking on this new venture. You don’t want to deal with hurt or angry feelings from your family members while trying to juggle a virtual assistant business. Ensure them you’ll schedule family time so they don’t feel neglected. That would stink.
Step 2: Determine the services you’ll offer and how much you’ll charge
Okay, here’s the thing: there are lots of things you can do as a virtual assistant. But the trick is to figure out what you’re already good at that can be turned into a service you can charge clients for. Speedy typist? Consider transcribing podcasts. Excellent writer? Write copy, including sales pages, email sequences and other content for clients. Start with what you already know and add to your list of services.
Stay away from the stuff you don’t like doing, know matter how much the potential pay could be. Ask yourself, “what are some of the things I hate doing? I hate it so much that I’ve always put it aside and never finished them.” For me, it’s cold calling. I will shuffle around the papers, go make multiple cups of tea, mop the floor, all before I pick up the phone to make a cold call. So it doesn’t matter if a client offers me a boatload of money to do it - I won’t take it on.
If you’re stuck on what types of services you can offer, you’ll want to grab this list of more than 150 ideas. I’m sure something will jump out at you :)
How much should I charge?
Oh, this is always a loaded question in Facebook groups but let’s see if we can keep this civil :)
Your rate is going to depend on several factors, including:
Your current skill set. If you’ve got mad tech skills, you’ll charge more than someone with general administrative abilities. And if you’ve got a monthly income goal with minimum skills, you might find yourself working way more than hours than the virtual assistant with high-level skills. That’s just the nature of the beast. But start where you are and work your way up.
There are some services you can offer clients with little or no skills. You can check out that post here:
Your location. I live in northeast Ohio where the cost of living is relatively low. Compare that to someone living in, say, Los Angeles.
Just remember this: as a virtual assistant, you are responsible for paying your own taxes and other business expenses, like equipment, maintenance and courses, so it’s important to price accordingly.
The easiest and most efficient way to bill as a virtual assistant is to create packages instead of working on the clock (hourly). What does that look like?
Example: Let’s say your niche is social media. Figure out what challenges and pain points a potential may have when it comes to social media. They may not have time to post regularly. Or maybe they don't know how or just are consumed with so many other tasks.
A few things you could offer in the setup phase could be setting up client social media profiles, create a social media strategy, etc. Then you could offer a monthly upkeep package that includes stuff like comment moderation, creating posts, and running analytics reports at the end of the month.
List out each task, figure out how long it would take you to do them and multiply it by your hourly rate. Don’t forget to include communication time with the client, research and anything else that might come up.
Step 3: Make sure you have the equipment you need
Computer? Check! Internet? Yep! A way for clients to reach you? Good! Really, that’s all you need to truly get started. All that fancy stuff can come later as your business grows.
Your equipment needs will vary depending on the type of work you’ll be doing. If making calls is your thing (bless you, if it is!), then you’ll definitely need a quiet workspace as well as a way to make outgoing calls.
For a list of free tools every new virtual assistant should have in their arsenal, make sure to download the Newbie VA Toolkit. Free, baby!
Step 4: Create a business email
You want potential clients to get in touch with you, right? Email is the way to go. Test drive a professional email for 30 days with Google, my all-time favorite. Zoho is another option. Go professional, if you can. Clients don’t like getting emails from firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t do it.
Step 5: Create a simple online presence
Do you need a website to get started? Nope! I didn’t have one for the first five years of my business. I’ve seen too many people get all caught up in branding colors and logos when they should be spending their time finding clients. Honestly, most clients I’ve dealt with care way more about whether you can do what they are hiring you to do than if you have a website or not. Just sayin’.
But that doesn’t mean you should be ghost online. As a virtual service provider, you do want to show the world who you are and the services you have to offer. But instead of getting yourself all bogged down in the nuances of creating a website, read this post on how to run your business without one.
Step 6: Develop processes
How will you bill your clients? Do you have a contract in place? These are just a few things you need to hammer out before you get out there to find clients. This is not something you want to cobble together once a client has said they want to work with you. You’ll come across looking an unorganized mess, not the impression you want to give off. Tweak your processes as you go as you outgrow some of the tools but definitely have the bare bones in place.
A few things you’ll need initially include:
A way to track your time (if you’re doing hourly work)
A contract - never work without one! You can create a free contract here.
Show your new clients you’re all organized and stuff with a seamless onboarding process. This post goes into what the onboarding process looks like and how to sign a new client with ease.
Step 7: Don’t forget a welcome packet!
You’ll want to treat new clients like VIPs and one way you can do that is by sending a welcome packet once they’ve signed the contract. The welcome packet is a PDF that contains important information about your business that may or may not already be in your contract. Create the welcome packet before you sign your first client so you don’t have to worry about later. And if you have no clue on what to include, this post will help.
Step 8: Set up at least one social media account
Set up free social media accounts. Not personal ones, but business accounts. It won't cost you anything but a little time. And if you're touting yourself as a virtual assistant, potential clients want to get to know you online. Share stories and articles of value to your audience. Get personal every once in a while -- share a picture of yourself or family. All of this adds to your virtual credibility.
You don't need social media accounts on all platforms. I would recommend setting up a business Facebook account so you can network in Facebook groups. Decide where your potential clients live online. Do you want to work with fashion bloggers? You might want to hang out on Instagram. Pinterest is a great lead generator for your business and you can find some cool group boards to follow. The point is to go where your perfect client lives.
In my virtual assistant bundle, I’ve got a list of over 100 Facebook groups that are perfect for finding clients.
Step 9: Create a portfolio of samples
Last thing - you’re almost ready to roll! Let's say you want to offer graphic design to your clients but you've never done paid work for a client. No problem. A client is not going to care whether you got paid or not. They just want to know you can do the work.
A few other samples you can create:
Sample blog post. Create a folder in Google Drive to keep your best work and share with potential clients.
Sample social media posts. Create an Excel file to showcase your sample social media posts.
Get creative and think of things a potential client may want to see.
Save your samples onto a Pinterest board called PORTFOLIO and direct potential clients there to show your stuff. Or add to your website. You've got the skills, show them off!
So you see, you really can start working as a virtual assistant rather quickly and you don’t have to get too bogged down into lots of details before you can take on new clients. Keep it simple in the beginning and scale as you grow.
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Make sure to check out the resources page as well as these blog posts, written to help you in your journey. Wishing you all the best in your virtual assistant business - you can do it!