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You've made the decision to launch your virtual assistant biz. Whoo hoo! Fist bump! You've decided on a niche. Wait - you haven't nailed down what type of work suits you best, your passion? Well, you need to head on over to this post and get your niche in order before you do anything. Go ahead, I'll wait. Just make sure to come on back, okay?
Ah, you made it back. Awesome!
Okay, you've got your niche. Cool. Now it's time to set up your biz.
First, work with what you've got. There are tools out there for every budget. Don't stress over what you can't afford right now. Yes, some virtual assistants might be using a premium version of a tool but if your bank account is in running on "E", then that's not for you -- right now. And that's okay. If you're struggling to pay your household bills, don't put down money on the latest and greatest tool. It's not worth it. Find a free or close to free version and roll with it.
Now, I'm not saying don't work toward using that fancy schmancy tool that requires a monthly payment. Just don't plunk down money you don't have.
So, what do you need to get started as a virtual assistant?
You're gonna need an email address. Hey, you work virtually so this is a must. I recommend using Gmail to get started. If your business name is Totally Virtual, see if firstname.lastname@example.org is available. Pimp your new email address with a free signature from Wisestamp. Add your social media accounts (see below) and boom! You're looking like gold!
When you get a little change, upgrade to a personal email address attached to your domain (something like email@example.com). If you already own your domain, you can get a personalized email for $5 per month powered by Google Apps.
COST: free for non-domain email, like Gmail.com. A cost of $5 per month for domain-connected email through Google Apps.
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 of 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.
If you're going to have a presence on social media, it's a lot easier to share updates using a scheduler. My favorite is Buffer but there are others -- you can find five popular options here. Your choice will really depend on what social media platforms you use. I love Pinterest but I really don't have a lot of time to pin all those beautiful pins so I use a scheduler called Tailwind. If you want to try it free for 14 days, here's my invite.
COST: Free for some options.
There's a big debate about whether you need a website when you're starting out. I say it depends on your niche. If you're a web designer, then yep, you probably need a website. If you're a copywriter, you might be able to get away with a LinkedIn profile or an About.me page until you graduate to a full-fledged website. Don't stress about what you can't do right now. If a website is not in your budget, try to learn how to design one yourself, if you've got the time. You can design a Wordpress site if you know a bit of code. There are lots of themes to customize your site. Squarespace is a pretty cool option. This site is a Squarespace design and I designed it all on a Saturday. If you're ready to invest in a new web design and want to get up and running fairly quickly, you might want to check out Website in a Weekend.
COST: LinkedIn profile: free! About.me: free or $79/year for a domain-connected page. Website: depends on hosting, themes, customization and more.
You're going to have to get organized. Here are a few things you'll need:
Forms - You'll need a contract, an intake form to collect information from your clients and other forms to get you started on the right foot. Head over to this link to grab these free forms and more. Use HelloSign to electronically send up to three contracts per month for signature.
Set up your client meetings using Skype or my favorite, Zoom. Zoom is free and allows you to have one-on-one meetings. Your client doesn't need to have a Zoom account and they can join the meeting using their phone, desktop, mobile or tablet. Use the free version of SimplyBook Me to book client consultations.
You're going to look like a super organized VA if you use Trello - seriously. Think of Trello as electronic Post-it notes. I like to make checklists of things I need to do. Create a free Trello board and put that checklist in there. You can even share your Trello boards with clients. Let's say you design websites. Put the whole process on a Trello board and as you complete tasks, check them off. Share it with your client and they can see your progress. Totally cuts down on the back and forth email. I highly recommend Trello to help keep you on top of things.
If you're tracking your time for clients, Toggl is a good option.
When it comes time to get paid, give Wave a try. Connect your bank to your Wave account, create and send an invoice - pretty easy stuff! Plus you get loads of reports that you'll need come tax time, either when you do your taxes yourself or you have an accountant do them for you.
Listen, I get it. Starting a new biz can be costly - if you let it. Don't compare yourself to other virtual assistants. Trust me, we all started somewhere and that is the beginning. I didn't have a load of money when I launched my business almost ten years ago. I had to piece things together as I went along. It can be done, trust me. I have faith in you! No more excuses - now go do it!