Considering Starting a Virtual Assistant Business? Here are 12 concerns that PAs have voiced about becoming a VA
The VIP VA team were at Olympia earlier this month for Office* and had the opportunity to talk to lots of EAs and PAs who were considering making the leap into self-employment as a Virtual Assistant. Lots of the people we spoke to had questions about the transition and raised concerns that they wanted to chat through before they committed to such a major career change, so we’ve collected 12 of those FAQs in a handy read, just in case you are considering making the leap from EA or PA to VA this year, or in the future.
1.) I’m not sure if I can afford it – The truth is that if you start a VA business today, you’re probably not going to be able to replace your employed salary with self employed earnings by the end of the week. Would it be possible to start your VA Business part-time alongside an employed role? Whatever you do, make sure that you set a minimum earnings level for your business, based on the income you need in order to pay your basic day-to-day living expenses; if your income drops below this level, consider whether a self-employed role with variable income remains an appropriate career option for you. Building up some savings prior to making the leap, or making sure that you have multiple income streams (like having a passive income generator – https://vip-va.lpages.co/passive-income-generator/) is a good way of making sure that your business consistently brings in income, even if VA work seems to be a little thin on the ground one month.
2.) I don’t know where to start! Running your own business is a challenge, but it is also achievable. All VIP VA members are self- employed business owners (or run their own Limited Businesses), so we’ve all made that transition and can offer feedback about our own unique journeys. The VIP VA ‘Nurture Programme’ – https://apva.org.uk/nurture-programme – covers everything from mindset and attracting customers, to the legal requirements and essential tools for any VA business, making it an invaluable resource for anyone looking to launch their own Virtual Assistant business.
3.) What about the legal stuff? Our recommended resources page provides links to Insurance Providers and to KoffeeKlatch, our preferred partner when it comes to Terms of Business, Contracts and GDPR advice and support – view them all here: https://apva.org.uk/free-va-resources/ Our recent blog, ‘Why aren’t you investing in your VA business?’ also provides some helpful links: https://apva.org.uk/2017/12/arent-investing-va-business/
4.) I just can’t work at home! Being a VA gives you the flexibility to work where and when you want – WIFI permitting! Lots of VAs work successfully from co-working spaces or hot-desk facilities to maintain a strict border between ‘work life’ and ‘home life’, so don’t feel as though you are restricted to working at home from your dining room table if this really isn’t something you’d feel comfortable doing.
5.) I’m worried that my self-employed work will slip into my work free ‘down time’ – It’s true that it can occasionally be hard to juggle your own business and day to day life, particularly if you work flexibly around your family and have to deal with school holidays and illness, but it isn’t impossible. It’s important to try and set boundaries from the outset of your business, like not working in the evenings or at weekends, and to find a trusted VA associate who can help to support you in the event of holidays or illness, but if you end up working every so often in your ‘free time’ it doesn’t mean that your work-life balance has gone out the window! There are exceptional circumstances that pop up every now and then and as long as you aren’t working every night and every weekend, it’s likely that you’ve got a reasonable balance in place.
6.) I’ll miss the camaraderie of corporate life! The VIP VA Hub on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1674531276139289/ – is designed as a forum for existing and aspiring VAs to ask questions and share experiences of life as a VA. The VIP VA Members club is also a great resource, giving our members somewhere to reach out to their peers whether they need business advice or moral support. Life as a VA can feel isolating at times, but so many VAs are in the same boat! Why not reach out to your fellow remote workers on Social Media, or via a local physical meet-up, so that you can share the highs and lows of self-employment with people who know exactly what you are going through! VIP VA has a number of regional networking groups – find your nearest one here: https://apva.org.uk/regional-networks/
7.) What services can I offer? Although it is all to easy to agree to do anything and everything that comes your way, I strongly advise against this. Occasional ‘learning on the job’ is fine, but if you want to add a service to the range you already provide, seriously consider sitting a course on the topic to ensure that you can carry it out effectively and to the high standard that your customers expect of you. Offer services that you excel in, and you’re more likely to receive the glowing customer reviews and referrals that will help your business to grow.
8.) How will I win new clients? Physical and online networking is a must if you want to get your name out there with potential customers; Having a smart business website and active Social Media channels can also help to boost your visibility with potential customers. If you haven’t a clue where to start, the VIP VA ‘Making the Leap’ Masterclass – https://apva.org.uk/va-training-masterclass/ – provides some incredibly useful information about the process of finding and winning customers, though we also offer an industry leading group training programme and one-to-one coaching if you have an established VA business and just need a little help and focus with this specific aspect of your business: https://apva.org.uk/coaching/
9.) What insurance do I need? Professional Indemnity Insurance is a must, as is Public Liability Insurance if you have meetings in your office or provide training or other events. Making sure that your computer equipment and phones, etc. are adequately covered by insurance is also important – if you are a VA, your computer and phone are invaluable, so make it as easy as possible to replace them just in case the worst does happen. Cyber Insurance is also well worth considering in this age of remote working, and can help to protect your interests, as well as your customers, from internet based risks. Our recent blog, ‘Why aren’t you investing in your VA business?’ also provides some helpful links.
10.) How will people trust me when they’ve never met me? Testimonials from existing or past customers can really help to highlight your professionalism and skills to potential new customers. Although it can be tempting to offer a free trial or heavily discounted introductory rates, these just aren’t sustainable in the long term. Direct potential customers to a reviews page on your website and let them make up their own mind, and always make sure that your Terms of Business are clear on your website so that interested customers can establish realistic expectations when it comes to work turnaround times, etc.
11.) What should I charge? A good place to start is with the industry average. Currently, the industry average in the UK is £25-£35 an hour. If you want to keep it super-simple, it would be a great idea to price your hourly rate somewhere within that scale, but just make sure that your essential business expenses – from Tax and National Insurance, to Professional Indemnity and Public Liability Insurance, to software and stationery costs – are all covered by your rate so that you aren’t out of pocket. We recently put together an interesting infographic that highlights some of the costs involved in running a VA business:
12.) What about the risk? At least in my current job I know I have a regular pay cheque coming in at the end of the month… Self-employment does bring with it associated risks, but also incredible flexibility and freedom. Employed positions rarely give you the opportunity to work with who you want to, when you want to, doing exactly what you want to do. However, if you have significant financial concerns, it’s always worth building up your business slowly and sustainably alongside an employed role (if possible!) so that you can build up confidence, customers and savings to the point where you have a good financial buffer to cover you in even the worst-case scenario. Self-employment isn’t for everyone, but it can be an incredibly rewarding and positive opportunity if you are skilled and prepared.
Whether you decide to make the leap into self-employment, or decide to remain in your employed role for a little longer, the VIP VA team wish you the very best of luck with your career and are here to help if you have any further questions or are looking for training, coaching or support. Good luck!