So You Want To Be A Virtual Assistant?

Becoming a Virtual AssistantI am often asked, ‘How do I become a Virtual Assistant?’  So, here are my top tips on starting your very own Virtual Assistant business.

What does a Virtual Assistant do?

Take your first step:  research the term ‘virtual assistant’.

The definition of a Virtual Assistant on the IVAA (International Virtual Assistants Association) reads:

” Virtual assistants are independent contractors who (from a remote location, usually their home or office) support multiple clients in a variety of industries by providing administrative, creative, and technical services.”

When I came across the term ‘virtual assistant’ I found a wealth of information on the IVAA (International Virtual Assistant Association) website:  www.ivaa.org and joined the VA Networking Forum:  www.vanetworking.com

Now, think about the ideal client you would like to work with

Perhaps, start by looking at the employers you worked for, or clients you’ve had contact with.  Which one did you really like working with, what was it about them that you enjoyed and what did they do differently to other employers/client?

Then create a fictitious client, or avatar, to represent your ideal client.  Downloading this My Ideal Client Template might help you create him or her; you can make as many fictitious clients as you want.

List all your skills

List every single skill you have acquired in your working life.  It could be typing  or  leadership development.  Just list them.  Don’t think too much about whether a client needs that skill, just write down what you can do.

Give Yourself A Score

Now, give yourself a score out of 10 for each skill, with 1 being poor, basic or do a course and 10 being very skilled or expert.  For example, Microsoft Word – 9; Teamwork – 4, and Hootsuite – 1.  You can use this template My Skills Scoring Chart

Next, look at the skills you are good at and, again, give each one a score out of 10, with 1 being ‘I hate doing this’ to 10, ‘Geez, if only I could do these all the time!’.  For example, if you don’t like making calls to strangers, give it a 1.  Think carefully before you do this exercise; the aim is to get a list of tasks that you enjoy, and are good at, doing.

Your ‘I Love Doing This’ List

Finally, take your ‘I Love Doing This’ list and group like skills together.  In other words, group all the administrative skills under a heading or task list called Admin Support; all the creative skills under another heading or a task list called Design; all the bookkeeping or financial skills under yet another heading or task list called Bookkeeping.  It doesn’t matter what you call the headings, grouping your skills will help you in the long run to ‘create packages’ with tasks you love doing.

OK, so now that you know that you love doing, it’s time to…

Work out your rates

How much will you charge your clients?  Before you can answer this question it’s a good idea to work out what you would like to earn.  Make a list of all the expenses, the number of hours you want to or can work, etc. See this Hourly Rates Calculater (with thanks to VANetworking.com) for some ideas on how to do this, although there may be items on this list you don’t need.

Next, I really urge you to NOT charge an hourly rate, but look at how you can bundle your services, your ‘I Love Doing This’ list, in a package.

“Package? What’s that?

“Remember, pricing for people on a certain budget, will mean that you attract people on that budget.”

Here’s why I suggest you sell ‘Packages’ instead of offering an hourly rate:

You could obviously make more money billing a client by the hour because you can make the work on a task last longer.  But is this fair?  We all know that a client would prefer things to take the least amount of time as possible, so that he/she doesn’t pay too much.  I don’t feel that that is right; not for you or for the client.

Remember the task list you created?  Look at it again.  You will see that each list contains a certain skill set which you have acquired through continuous learning and experience so that you can offer your client the best possible support with the tasks/assignments they require. Some task lists or packages require more complex skills that another.

Also, the skills required by each client will be very different.  Some will require simple typing tasks or to create a database for them.  Typing is not a very difficult skill; however, it may be time-consuming!  The skill level required is not as difficult as say, managing a client’s social media account.  You may have completed a diploma or have accreditation for this skill and you are, therefore, more skilled than your competitor.

Don’t short change yourself by saying you will work for R 100 an hour and it’s going to take you three hours to complete the task.  So now, the task only takes 2 hours and you bill the client for 2 hours, losing R 100.  Rather tell the client his task will cost him R500 without mentioning the number of hours it will take, or what your hourly rate is.

Finally, you might consider having a minimum rate at which you will work with a client.  For example, you have created various packages with various skills or you offer clients a bespoke package created just for that client.  You could ‘sell’ your support by stating that to work with you, a minimum investment of R 2000 per months would be required by the client.

Now, brainstorm for a good business name!

What are you going to call your business?  ‘Business,’ I hear you say, ‘I don’t want to run a business, it will just me, only me, working from home, nothing formal.’

But if you want to attract your ideal client, who may have the bucks to pay for your services, you need to come across as a professional person who is an expert in her field (think of the skills you wrote down earlier)!

Just calling yourself ‘Jane who is a Virtual Assistant’ doesn’t come across as good as ‘Virtual Assistant for You’, or ‘JS Virtual Admin Services’.  So sit down and write every name that comes to mind, brainstorm!  Think of the most ridiculous name, the most conservative name, the most out there name, be as creative as you wish.  Then choose one that is professional but still reflects who you are and what you do.

Before you take the next step, do some research online to check whether your chosen business name has not already been taken as a domain name!  Can you imagine if you decide on the name and then try to register a domain name for your website and someone else already has it?  You’d have to start all over again!  So, check, check, check.

Or, you could try the following website – https://namesmith.io/

Now, with a business name and ideal client in mind, create a web presence!

“Ooh”, I hear you say, ‘I don’t have the money to buy a domain name, pay for hosting and create a website!’

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need a web presence, but in my mind, being a virtual assistant is synonymous with having a web presence!  You just can’t be working online without showing your potential ideal client who you are and what you do.  You need a website or, at the very least, a Facebook page.

If you’re not ready to spend money on a website with your own domain name, e.g. www.theofficeassistant.co.za, then look at opportunities to create a website using some of the free platforms.  Here are a couple of sites on which you can create your own website.  They are very intuitive with lots of support!

Both of the above offer domain name registration and web hosting packages at reasonable prices and are ‘lekker’ local.

Next, write the content for your website. Remember to keep your ideal client in mind, their needs, the benefits and how they can achieve their goals!

Create a Facebook page with your business name (please, please don’t create a Facebook Business Page, as the functionalities are limited.  Your page should be linked to your personal profile!).

Create a professional LinkedIn profile and start posting about your business there?  Reese Ben-Yaacov has a great video about how to use LinkedIn for your Virtual Assistance business.

Have a professional photograph taken!

Perhaps not the most urgent of the tasks on your list, but definitely one if you want to create professional image!  Perhaps not cool posting a pic of yourself in a bikini or sipping a glass of wine on your Facebook business page!  Spending a bit of money on a professional photographic session is money well spent!

Get all your back-end systems up and running

Have you imagined what will happen when you suddenly receive that e-mail or phone call asking about your services?  Will you be ready for it?  Now is the time to think about what you need to get your first client on board!

Here is my list, but you may think that of others that you need:

  • An Introduction letter on your company letterhead;
  • Your business card, if you have one;
  • A brochure:  if you have created one;
  • A copy of the signed Agreement and your Confidentiality Agreement;
  • A client contract and intake forms.

You may also decide to include promotional items with your logo, e.g. pens, calendar, magnets

Why not include extra brochures and business cards in your Welcome Pack for your client to hand out to any potential clients they may know.

Network incessantly

To end with, start networking!  Join a local networking group or association and attend their meetings regularly. Remember, networking is not so much as to find new clients, but to get to know the people there, to start connecting with them, of sharing your skills and expertise. Keep at it!

If you like chatting online, join some of the LinkedIn Groups specific to where your ideal client hangs out and become an expert in your field by offering solutions to questions posed.

Don’t forget to network among friends and family! Let everyone you meet know what you are doing.  Be prepared for those unexpected moments when someone asks what you do by practising your Elevator Speech – A Quick Guide to Writing Your Elevator Pitch

A list of Resources

Over the years I’ve built up a list of ‘tools’ I like using for my own and my clients’ businesses. Of course, I don’t say to my clients, ‘You have to use this tool or that programme’, I rather suggest that they start using a tool as it may make it easier to communicate or work together.

So, here’s my list:

  • Hourguard – when I do need to track time, my go to tool is this one.
  • Google Drive – I like using all Google Drive’s functionalities.  Encourage your clients to use it.  It’s so much easier to find each other’s files if you create a folder specifically for your client in your Google Drive and share it with them.  Or, share individual docs, sheets, slides or more.  Recently an article by Fergus O’Sullivan on the Cloudwards.net website was pointed out to me.  It gives some great tips on how to upload files to Google Drive  – https://www.cloudwards.net/how-to-upload-to-google-drive.
  • Dropbox – create a Dropbox account and start uploading documents to it so that it’s available to you wherever you are!
  • Carbonite – online backup software.   It backs up everything on my computer, and two others (so a laptop and another computer, in my case) for the same price to a server in the US.
  • Kaspersky – my go to Internet Security Tool.  Also a paid version, but it protects my smartphone, my laptop and another computer used in my business.
  • Malwarebytes – the pro version; keeps my computer free from malware and any other nasties.
  • LastPass – a cool online tool for login details.  It generates generates difficult, really difficult, passwords for you.  There is a pro version, but I’ve not had a need for it.
  • Teamviewer – if ever I need to see what is happening on a client’s computer or to show them something on mine (e.g. how to work in a specific programme), then Teamviewer is the tool I use.
  • Hootsuite – I manage a number of social media accounts.  This is a great social media managing tool to schedule posts to different social media platforms.
  • Slack – very similar to Skype but just so much easier to use.
  • Teamworker – to me this is the best collaborating tools I’ve used.  There is a ‘free for life’ version.  However, you are at a stage that you want to expand your business by creating a team of virtual assistants, I believe Teamworker Pro is the answer.
  • WordPress – my go to platform to create a website.  There’s WordPress.com for blogs.  It’s free and will give you a basic website.  But WordPress.org allows you to build a professional sites with all sorts of functionality.

I hope the above has helped you to look at the processes of starting up your very own Virtual Assistant business.  Remember the cliché, ‘Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day!’  So, take your time to do your homework.  There are lots of tips and tricks if you do a search on Google – your friend for life!

I love feedback, so do leave a comment, suggestion or ask a question!