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Getting Started as a Virtual Assistant: Everything You Need to Know

With an industry projected to grow 22.3% from 2022 to 2028, there’s no better time to become an online assistant. In this step-by-step guide to getting started as a virtual assistant, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start and grow a successful self-employed business of your own.

getting started as a virtual assistant

Continue reading to learn what I’ve found to be the most effective strategies for freelance success.

What are virtual assistants?

Virtual assistants are independent contractors who perform various business tasks for companies. You usually work online via phone, allowing you to work remotely.

Some virtual assistants are freelancers who work with various companies, while others work full-time for one company. 

Freelance virtual assistants are essentially business owners who create their own schedules and work on their own terms. However, this might vary based on specific client needs.

Read more: What is Freelance Work? The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Is being a virtual assistant good for beginners?

Being a virtual assistant is excellent for beginners because you can choose your offers and expand as you gain experience. For example, you might start by doing something you know you’re skilled at, like creating social media posts or responding to emails. Over time, you can provide more services and design packages to offer and earn more.

How to Start as a Virtual Assistant

To become a virtual assistant, you must follow the steps that set you up for success to create a thriving business. Whether you want virtual assistantship to be a part-time side hustle or your full-time job, you’ll follow similar steps for figuring out finances and your services, creating a business plan and portfolio, and finding clients.

  • Step 1: Figure Out Your Finances
  • Step 2: Identify Your Services
  • Step 2: Make a Plan
  • Step 3: Create a Portfolio
  • Step 4: Find Clients
  • Step 5: Get Paid

Step 1: Figure Out Your Finances

Finances often scare people away from starting their own freelance businesses like virtual assisting. But with the proper knowledge and resources, this step doesn’t have to be so daunting.

Here are some financial factors to consider:

  • Savings: It might take time to earn a comfortable income as a virtual assistant. Build your savings before you start, covering one to three months of expenses. If you’re already employed, you might continue working that job until you have enough virtual assistant work to sustain yourself.
  • Minimum income: Determine your minimum monthly income. This will help you set your rates and hours appropriately. When you earn more than your minimum income, set aside the rest for lower-earning months. 
  • Budget: Income from independent contracting jobs can vary. Having a budget can help you stay on track.
  • Taxes: Depending on where you live, you might pay freelance taxes similar to traditional employers. You’re responsible for tracking your income and expenses and paying your taxes as a freelancer or independent contractor.

Read More: Best Personal Finance Books

Step 2: Identify Your Services

One of the best parts of being a virtual assistant is that there are many services to offer, but you can choose the ones you’re good at and enjoy.

Possible VA services include:

  • Content: writing emails, blogs, podcast scripts
  • Admin tasks: organising email inboxes, making phone calls, shopping, employee onboarding
  • Marketing: managing launches, lead generation, outreach
  • Tech: uploading blog posts, managing email newsletters, creating spreadsheets, IT support
  • Bookkeeping: handling invoices and payments, managing payroll, processing orders

Any tasks you can do that helps an individual or business can be virtual assistant work. 

Consider listing possible services you can offer based on your interests and experiences. Use this list to help you decide your target market, considering who could use these services. 

Narrow your list down and start with 3-5 services. You can offer more over time, but simplicity makes starting easier. 

Step 2: Make a Plan

A plan helps you figure out what you need to do and set goals to help you start your virtual assistant business. It can also help keep you on track and not get burnt out by trying to do too much.

You might create a Spreadsheet or use a notebook, but you’ll want to:

  • List out everything you need to do to start your business
  • Identify your services and rates (most VAs charge hourly)
  • Decide how you’ll market your business and find clients
  • Create a timeline for each task

The following steps will help you when you’re creating your plan.

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Step 3: Create a Portfolio

A portfolio with samples of your work helps you build trust with potential clients. For example, The Virtual Essentials showcases a few projects in her portfolio.

You can include case studies with visuals to share more about the project. You can also have case studies without visuals, depending on the kinds of services. 

A case study can include:

  • The company you worked with
  • What their goals were
  • What tasks you helped them with
  • How your work helped them achieve their goals

As a beginner virtual assistant, you might wonder how to land projects to add to your portfolio. The best way to do this is by creating a few mock samples or doing a couple of lower-paying jobs. 

For example, if you want to offer social media services, include your own social media posts and results in your portfolio. You can also offer to complete a few VA hours at a discounted rate for one to two clients if they agree to let you share the work in your portfolio.

Step 4: Find Clients

There are many ways to find VA clients. It’s important not to limit or overwhelm yourself. Start with focusing on one to two strategies to get clients. Then, implement more over time.

Here are our favourite ways to find clients:

  • Facebook: Use groups like Virtual Assistant Jobs to share your services and find opportunities.
  • Freelance platforms: While finding quality jobs on sites like Upwork and Fiverr can be tricky, there are good options, especially for beginners.
  • Cold pitching: If there are specific companies you’d like to work with, you can pitch your services via email or LinkedIn. If you go this route, you want to customise your pitches, be personable, and share why you’d like to work with them.
  • SEO (search engine optimisation): While SEO takes time to work, it’s an effective long-term marketing strategy. SEO strategies let you use your website to reach your target market.
  • Referrals: As you start getting clients, you can ask them to share your information with others they know who might need a virtual assistant. You might also ask people you know to refer you if they know someone or a business that could use your services.

I’ve found one of the best ways to grow and maintain a client base is to leverage existing clients. Offer more services and ask for referrals. This can feel intimidating, but clients who enjoy working with you will be happy to help.

Read More: A Complete Guide to Finding Clients Online

Step 5: Get Paid

There are many ways to send invoices and get paid. I find online payment platforms to be the easiest and most reliable route.

You can use a site like Wave, an invoicing software with accounting features that works well for beginners. QuickBooks is another popular accounting software with many features for freelance businesses, including getting paid.

Note: Wave only works in the US and Canada, while QuickBooks is worldwide.

Most online payment platforms let you get paid via credit card or bank transfer. They all have similar fees, so consider these when setting your rates.

Virtual assistants often bill at the beginning of each month for an agreed-upon number of working hours. You might also bundle your services for a flat fee. Some companies prefer to pay you after the work is complete, but my standard practice is to get paid prior for security.

Always sign a contract before starting any work, regardless of how and when you get paid.

How do I become a virtual assistant with no experience?

If you don’t have experience as a virtual assistant, start by offering services you have a background in. For example, you can offer content writing support if you’re a good writer. If you have experience in technology, you can help with IT-related tasks. 

You can also take courses to learn VA skills. That said, don’t get stuck learning skills. The best way to be successful and get good at a new job is by doing. 

Start with simpler jobs, learn as you go, and build your portfolio.

Building Your Virtual Assistant Business

Once you get a few clients, you can start building your VA business.

  • Grow your skill set: Get better at your offers by practising. You can also learn new skills to offer more services. As you do this, you can increase your rates.
  • Never stop marketing: Fight the feast or famine cycle by continuing to market your services, even when you’re fully booked. If you find yourself with too much work, consider working with another VA to outsource or create a waitlist you can turn to when you need more jobs.
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance: When you have more control over your income, it’s easy to prioritise work over everything else. Don’t forget to create a reasonable schedule to balance your work, personal life, and well-being.
  • Be open to pivoting: Flexibility is important as you learn more skills and technology evolves. One of the best things about freelancing is it’s easier to pivot and evolve than in a traditional job.

We hope this guide on how to start as a virtual assistant was helpful to you. If you want to learn more about starting your VA business, check out these articles:

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