The need for virtual assistants is at an all-time high, with large and small businesses from a variety of sectors relying on freelance, remote working professionals to support their businesses rather than full-time, employed office staff.

So what is a VA? And how do you ‘become’ one? How can you use your administrative assets and project managing prowess to build a home-based self-employed career as a successful virtual assistant?

Virtual Assistants overwhelmingly work from home (though working from a co-working space or rented office is becoming increasingly popular, though does add an additional overhead to your business that working from the dining room table doesn’t!).  Though working from home sounds marvellous to most, there are a few unique perils associated with home-based working.  Procrastination, for example, is far easier when you’re working at home and feel the overwhelming urge to pair socks or dust the dado rail. You may also find that you are left to deal with any – and every – delivery driver in your local area once they realise that you are at home all the time, so expect your front hall to resemble an Amazon warehouse, especially on the run-up to Christmas!  It’s also strongly likely that you’ll go for days without seeing another soul (except your delivery driver), so if you thrive on social contact, it’s worth considering whether working in isolation from home is the right thing for your long-term wellbeing!

So, you’ve got a desk (which may or may not also function as a dining table) and you’ve got a laptop and reasonable WiFi connectivity  – what else do you need to work from home?  Establishing your professional services is key.

It is worth looking at what you already have in your skillset and then brainstorm your bag of tricks or professional portfolio. Perhaps you are a whizz with words and can manage and create content for wellbeing industries or maybe you have SEO and technical website back-end knowledge of how to propel a business forward.

Here are just a few of the professional remote services that VAs from the APVA community offer high-quality support with:

  • Editorial/proofreading support
  • Website maintenance/design
  • E-commerce management
  • Content creation; for social media, infographics, articles and blog posts
  • Project management
  • Customer generation
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) management
  • Billing/invoicing
  • Research
  • Email, calendar and logistics management
  • Event planning

Once you’ve established your services, and know that you are able to offer some top-notch remote business support (whether you’ve invested in upskilling or are transferring your existing skills from employment to your new self-employed role), there are a few more practicalities to consider:

As a VA you will need to ensure adequate and appropriate online and offline security measures are in place to protect yourself and your clients. Data protection is incredibly important so consider all of your legal policies and procedures as well as terms, conditions and contracts to cover all eventualities. Insurance and legal documents (including terms of business, privacy policy and hiring agreement, if appropriate) are an absolute must!

Make sure you carefully consider your rate.  How you price your services will be a key component of operating as a successful virtual assistant. Do some research around the VA industry – over the last few years, the average hourly rate reported by our annual VA survey was between £25 and £30ph, and many find this information a useful starting point when pricing their products and services.

Carefully consider your income requirements, as self-employment isn’t the most consistent of incomes, particularly when you are starting out! When you first start up your business, you may find that the number of hours you work doesn’t correspond with the income you are bringing in, but as you build up your network and reputation, this should start to even out.  If you desperately need a certain level of income to run your household, consider maintaining some level of employment ‘on the side’ of your VA business, or creating a financial buffer for 6-12 months at least, so that you can ensure you have enough money to live on whilst you are setting up.

Make sure you let people know exactly what you are doing – when you are setting up your business, remember that marketing is essential! Whether it is on social media or a dedicated website, a professional ‘shop window’ for your services is important. Add yourself to the local business directories and make sure you’re forever updating your LinkedIn profile, so potential clients know exactly how you can help catapult them to success. Research your field and be brave in reaching out to those who you see as potential clients.

So what now? It is important not to get too hung up on making everything completely perfect before you get started (except the insurance and legal stuff – that’s a must!). Sometimes you have to make a leap of faith! That first step into self-employment may be the scariest but tomorrow the sun will still rise (unless you are in the UK where the weather is unpredictable to say the least!). The life of a VA awaits!

Find out more about our CPD Accredited VA Foundation Course which will give you everything you need to get started here: