How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

If you’re here because you’re interested in working for yourself as an independent virtual assistant, you’re not alone. According to research done by The Harris Poll and clientflow management platform HoneyBook, 44% of people in the workforce have considered leaving their W2 job to go work for themselves. What’s the appeal, you ask?

There are a number of benefits of working for yourself. Common reasons people start their own businesses are to:

  • Increase flexibility in their lives
  • Make more money
  • Have more autonomy over their careers
  • …and many other reasons.

Naturally, like trying anything for the first time, starting your own virtual assistant business can be daunting. But there are many reasons to strike out on your own, and how straightforward starting a business can be may surprise you. Here, we talk you through how to start a virtual assistant business.

Why start a virtual assistant business?

Something drew you to the idea of starting a virtual assistant business, and we want to let you know we think that’s a smart choice for a number of reasons.

  • Low start-up costs: You typically just need a working computer and a smartphone to get started as a virtual personal assistant. You may eventually want to level up and invest in a high-quality webcam, a work-specific phone, and other office supplies, but to get started all you really need is likely at your fingertips.
  • Diverse and unique work: If you’re a virtual assistant for multiple people or companies, you may be in for a diverse day-to-day experience. If you love working in different industries and for different teams, starting a virtual assistant business will be invigorating.
  • Flexibility: You’ll have complete control over your schedule and be able to qualify clients depending on your mutual compatibility. Say goodbye to assignments due overnight or incompatible working schedules: you make your own.
  • Growing industry: The virtual assistant industry is forecasted to grow by 22% between 2023 and 2028, meaning no shortage of demand for your services.

For these reasons, we highly recommend starting a virtual assistant business.

How much does it cost to start an independent virtual assistant business?

Being an independent virtual assistant is a profitable move. With extremely low startup costs and low barriers to entry, almost anyone can give being a virtual assistant a shot. It’s when you decide that you want to continue and get better that becoming a virtual assistant will begin to pay off.

If you don’t have a computer, then you’ll need to purchase one either new or used. You’ll need one with a camera. You’ll also need a smartphone if you want to respond on the go. In the United States, this can cost you upwards of $2,000. In the grand scheme of starting a business, that’s not too bad. Not to mention you should save your receipts because as a business owner, you can write these items off on your taxes.

Steps to starting a virtual assistant business

There are as many needs for virtual assistants as there are businesses. It’s crucial to define your service offerings, create a comfortable workspace, create a strong online presence through marketing, develop a pricing structure, and create contracts that protect your business (and your clients). Here we teach you how to do just that.

Define your service offerings

When determining your services, there are a few key things to consider, namely:

  • Demand
  • Your skills

There are near-infinite types of virtual assistants, so you shouldn’t have to worry about finding a niche you can rock. A few examples of niche virtual assistants are

  • Social media virtual assistants
  • Bookkeeping virtual assistants
  • Personal virtual assistants
  • Customer support virtual assistants
  • …and the list goes on

If you’re good with numbers and have a background in QuickBooks, a bookkeeping virtual assistant role might be a good place to start. You can get certifications from places like the University of Virginia online and others.

If you excel at creating a strong social media presence, consider offering to manage comms for someone’s (or a company’s) social media account.

Whatever your target service offerings, be sure to research what you need to know to support your client. And remember: play to your strengths.

Decide how to market yourself

Part of owning and operating your own business is showing people that you have skills for hire. This requires marketing!

You’ll start marketing your services after you’ve decided what to offer. So if you’re aiming to be a bookkeeping personal assistant, you’ll target bookkeepers and their networks. Here are some ways to increase visibility with your target audience:

  • Decide on a brand: Choosing a good business name is an essential initial step in branding for a virtual assistant. Your chosen name should be unique, describe your services, and connect with your intended audience. While branding may not be a priority for some virtual assistants, having brand colors and a memorable logo is essential. Fortunately, this is easy with modern-day free AI tools like Canva. Use online resources to come up with a value proposition, mission statement, and brand. This will help prospective clients remember you.
  • Create a professional website: Sites like WIX, Squarespace, and others make it easy to start a professional website for cheap. Make your resume and credentials easy to find for your prospects, and embed a contact form so your leads go straight into the project pipeline of your clientflow management platform.
  • Establish a presence on networking platforms: Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook are your friends. Create a business page and start creating content that supports your brand.

Design a pricing structure that works for you

Determining a pricing structure is one of the trickiest parts of starting a virtual assistant business. Why? Because it requires a lot of research, trial and error, and it can effect your earnings. There are a handful of ways you can price yourself, including:

  • Hourly rates: Charging a client for hours worked on tasks
  • Project-based rates: charging for rates based on time and skills necessary to complete a tasks
  • Tiered packaging: Charge clients for the kinds of services you offer in bundles; this is good for long term contracts

Once you’ve figured out how you want to structure taking payment, you’ll need to figure out how to invoice your clients, and how much everything costs.

How to invoice your clients

There are many ways to receive payment for your services, and every single one of them requires an invoice. There are a few ways you can issue invoices to clients to get paid. One way is by creating individual invoices using free apps. This is easy to do, but the drawbacks are that there are no automations autofilling your client information; this means entering the same information time and again.

Another option is to use a clientflow management platform like HoneyBook. With HoneyBook, you have access to over 20 invoice templates and automations that automatically fill your invoice with your client's information. You can also program your service packages so there’s no reentering information and prices time and again. Lastly, HoneyBook offers attorney-drafted contract templates, so you can send your contract, service selection, invoice, and take payment—all in a few clicks.

A third way to send invoices is by working with a contracting agency like WishUp. WishUp can help you find best-fit clients and get paid seamlessly because all the contracts and invoicing is managed by the platform.

How to figure out what to charge

Pricing is one of the number one biggest challenges for small business owners, and virtual assistants are no exception to this rule. Figuring out what to charge requires

  • Understanding what the going market rate is for your services
  • Knowing how much you need to make to operate your business and maintain a high quality of life
  • Learning what people are willing to pay for your services

Nothing replaces diligent market research and personal financial management skills when it comes to understanding what to charge. You may end up changing your pricing over time. You can offer prices initially based on this research, then adjust as you find success by increasing or decreasing your prices.

Another way to figure out what to charge is to work with an agency like WishUp. WishUp will help you price yourself accordingly by your skill set and region, taking much of the guesswork out of pricing.

Develop contracts and agreements: Create a contract template or service agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of your work, including payment terms, confidentiality clauses, and project scope. Consult with a legal professional to ensure your agreements are comprehensive and protective.

Work with a lawyer to create strong contracts

If you offer your services to businesses, it means you’re a B2B business. It’s a good rule of thumb to have lawyer-sanctioned contracts. In fact, it’s something we always recommend.

For this reason, it’s important to consider working with an agency, especially when you consider the costs of a lawyer. Template contracts are great, but you’ll always want a lawyer that represents your best interests to assess the contracts protecting your business—aka, your money and your time.

Agencies like WishUp provide protective contracts for you, so there’s no need to stress about raising money to have a lawyer oversee your contracts.

Set up your workspace

For most, this one is pretty straightforward. Create a dedicated workspace at home with all of your necessary equipment, where you’ll be comfortable doing your best work.

We recommend prioritizing:

  • Good lighting
  • A strong internet connection
  • A comfortable place to sit and stand

Basically, make it your own.

Exploring Alternatives to Starting Your Own Virtual Assistant Business

While starting your own virtual assistant business can be an exciting and rewarding venture, it's essential to acknowledge that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It demands dedication, risk-taking, and time investment. If you're hesitant about starting your own business or feel it may not align with your current circumstances, there are several alternatives worth considering.

Title: Exploring Alternatives to Starting Your Own Virtual Assistant Business

While starting your own virtual assistant business can be an exciting and rewarding venture, it's essential to acknowledge that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It demands dedication, risk-taking, and time investment. If you're hesitant about starting your own business or feel it may not align with your current circumstances, there are several alternatives worth considering. In this section, we'll explore some alternative paths to explore within the virtual assistant industry:

Freelancing Platforms:

Instead of establishing your own business, you can join popular freelancing platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiverr as a virtual assistant. These platforms provide a vast marketplace where clients post projects, and freelancers can offer their services. While freelancing won't give you the same level of control as running a business, it does offer flexibility in choosing projects and allows you to focus solely on virtual assistant tasks without worrying about managing a business.

Remote Work Opportunities:

Numerous companies, both small startups and established corporations, are embracing remote work as a viable option for their workforce. You can explore job boards, company websites, and remote work platforms to find virtual assistant positions within organizations. Working as a remote virtual assistant for a company can offer stability, benefits, and a consistent income without the responsibilities of running a business.

Virtual Assistant Agencies:

Joining a virtual assistant agency, like Wishup, can be a great alternative to starting your own business. Agencies often have an established client base, handle administrative tasks, and provide you with a steady stream of work. While you may not have complete control over the clients or projects you work on, agencies can be an excellent choice for those seeking a structured work environment with less administrative burden.

Lastly, do good work and consistently improve your service offerings

It’s time to get started. Part of managing your own business is offering great services and learning from your mistakes. You may not get many gold stars from the outset—but if you fail once or twice, the most important thing you can do is learn from your mistakes.

An extension of this advice is to learn continuously. Learn not only from your mistakes, but from books, resources, and other people in the same field. A good resource for building a network and finding educational resources is LinkedIn. You can also find online courses that support your niche.

If things are difficult at first, don’t give up. Starting any business from scratch is difficult, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Bio: Erin is a writer and content marketer. When she’s not brainstorming resources for independent business owners, she’s reading a novel, cooking, or writing essays.