A virtual assistant (VA) provides administrative, technical, or creative support to clients remotely. It’s a great way to make money working from home.
With some good effort, you can build a successful VA business and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to start and grow a profitable VA career.
What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?
VAs assist clients with various tasks similar to an in-office assistant. However, they work remotely, usually from home. Common VA duties include:
- Administrative support – calendar management, email, data entry, organizing files, travel arrangements
- Customer service – handling phone/email inquiries, monitoring social media
- Bookkeeping – invoicing, payables/receivables, expense reports
- Marketing – creating content, managing blogs/social media, executing campaigns
- Executive assistance – scheduling, event planning, project management
- Tech support – troubleshooting, system implementation, setting up new devices
Many VAs specialize in certain areas based on their skills and interests. But offering a diverse range of services allows you to appeal to more clients. With technology, you can assist clients around the world from your home office.
VA Industry Stats and Outlook
The virtual assisting industry has grown exponentially in recent years. Here are some notable stats:
- Market size is projected to reach $5.6 billion by 2027 (Digital Journal)
- 72% of small businesses currently work with a VA (International Virtual Assistants Association)
- Top three skill sets clients look for are social media, executive assistance, and administrative support (IVAA)
- 25% of VAs earn $51-$75K annually, 13% earn over $76K (The Word Point)
- Virtual assistant job growth is estimated at 15% between 2020-2030, several times higher than US average job growth (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
This data indicates strong demand for skilled VAs now and in the coming years. Many entrepreneurs and small business owners recognize the benefits of outsourcing tasks to qualified VAs.
Becoming a VA allows you to tap into this growing remote workforce trend while enjoying flexible work hours and income. With preparation and commitment, you can build a rewarding and profitable career as a VA.
Key Skills and Qualities of Successful Virtual Assistants
WHAT MAKE A GOOD VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
To thrive as a VA, certain soft skills and technical abilities are important:
You’ll liaise with clients daily via email, phone, and video chat. Strong written and verbal communicaation skills allow you to understand and complete tasks efficiently. Active listening, prompt response times, and asking clarifying questions are also vital.
Managing multiple client projects and deadlines requires stellar organizational skills. Tools like calendars, to-do lists, time-tracking software, and project management systems help you stay on top of work.
When issues arise with clients or technology, you must troubleshoot solutions quickly to minimize disruption. Logical thinking and resourcefulness are invaluable for effective problem-solving.
With remote work, you manage your schedule and work independently. Self-motivation and discipline are essential. Setting daily goals and minimizing distractions help you get tasks done without office supervision.
Serving diverse clients with different needs requires adaptability. Being flexible and willing to learn/master new skills will maximize your capabilities and client appeal.
Most VA work involves using computers, software, and online programs. Basic tech skills like MS Office, data entry, email platforms, and social media are standard. Many VAs learn specialized software for bookkeeping, graphic design, web development, etc.
Running a home-based business requires strategic thinking. Financial tracking, marketing, networking, client management, and setting rates/policies are key to growing a successful VA firm. Study business principles to operate your VA career effectively.
This mix of soft skills and technical ability forms a capable, professional VA that clients can rely on. Constant learning and improvement will serve you well as you build experience.
How to Start a VA Business (Step by Step)
Follow these steps to launch your home-based virtual assisting business:
Choose a VA Niche
Evaluate your skills, training, and interests to choose a focus area. Specializing makes you stand out and attract ideal clients. Common VA niches include social media management, email marketing, bookkeeping, real estate, and executive/personal assistance.
Create Your Brand
Build a brand identity with a business name, logo, tagline, and website to appear credible. Your brand visuals and messaging should convey your niche, personality, mission, and value proposition.
Form a Legal Business Entity
Establishing a legal business structure like an LLC or S-Corp protects your personal assets. It also allows you to open a business bank account, get licenses/permits, hire staff later if needed, and look professional to clients.
Get Business Insurance
Insurance policies like general liability, errors & omissions, and cyber liability protect you from any client-related mishaps or data breaches. This gives clients assurance when hiring you.
Set Up Your Home Office
To work productively, set up an office space with a comfortable chair, computer, phone, stable internet connection, and basic supplies. This is also the space where you’ll meet with clients virtually.
Build Your Website
A professional website that showcases your services, niche, portfolio, and brand builds credibility. Make sure it has easy contact options for prospective clients.
Leverage Social Media
Create business pages on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. to network and promote your VA services. Post regularly about your niche, business updates, and helpful resources to attract ideal clients.
Create Client Proposals & Contracts
Using templates as a guide, develop service packages that outline your offerings, rates, terms, and policies. This sets clear expectations with clients. Customize agreements for each project or client.
Define Your Process
Map out checklists and procedures for your core services so you can deliver consistent quality. Organized processes also help you work efficiently. Refine your methods as you gain experience.
Set Your Rates
Research industry averages based on your niche, skills, and experience level. Factor in your cost of living to determine competitive hourly/package rates. Offer tiered rates for different services. Clearly list rates on your website.
Manage Your Finances
Track income and expenses, create invoices, pay quarterly taxes, and stick to a budget. Making wise financial choices will build profitability. Consider hiring a financial advisor or accountant for guidance.
Take online courses and classes to keep strengthening your technical skills and knowledge. Subscribe to VA blogs and publications to stay on top of industry best practices. Join a professional association for continued training.
With these foundations in place, you can officially launch your VA business and start attracting clients!
Finding Clients and Getting Work
As a new VA, you’ll need to proactively market your services to find clients. Here are effective strategies to get your first (and next) VA contracts:
Tap Your Personal Network
Tell friends, family, and professional contacts about your new business. Offer them a promotional rate to get client testimonials and referrals. Many initial projects will come through referrals.
Attend Local Networking Events
Look for in-person small business meetups, chamber events, conferences, and trade shows to introduce your VA services. Prepare professional looking flyers or cards to give contacts. Follow up to convert connections into clients.
Pitch Local Businesses
Research small businesses in your area that could benefit from outsourcing assistance. Reach out via email or cold calls to explain your services and offer free consultations.
Run Promotions and Offers
discounts, giveaways, and free consultations attract new potential clients. Partner with related businesses to run joint promotions or give referral rewards.
Build a Portfolio/Case Studies
An online portfolio with client testimonials, case studies, and examples of past work/projects demonstrates your experience. Share this with prospects.
Create Free Resources
Publish blogs, guides, checklists, templates, and tools related to your niche on your website or Medium page. This shows off your expertise and brings in prospects.
Optimize your LinkedIn profile and actively connect with those in your target industry/niche. Engage on posts and share helpful content. You can also advertise your services.
Use VA Directories
Sign up for profiles on established VA directories like Belay, UAssist, Upwork, Fancy Hands, and Zirtual to be matched with clients.
Join Local Business Facebook Groups
Search for and join hyperlocal groups related to your region and niche. Post introduce yourself, share tips, and interact. Subtly mention your services.
Once you get your first VA clients, delivering exceptional service will generate referrals and repeat business. Be patient continuing these efforts until you build a solid client base.
Handling the Virtual Assistant Work
As clients start hiring you for projects, here are some tips for managing the workload:
Set Clear Expectations Upfront: Leave no room for ambiguity about the scope of work, your services, timelines, availability, policies, and other expectations through contracts and discussions.
Request All Needed Info & Access: Ask clients for full access, logins, resources, guidelines and contacts you’ll require to successfully complete the assigned tasks.
Give Clients Fair and Realistic Timeframes: When setting deadlines and schedules, consider your availability and give a buffer for the unexpected. Avoid overpromising turnaround times or taking on too much.
Communicate Proactively: Keep clients updated on progress and ask clarifying questions. Also let them know ASAP if any delays or roadblocks occur. Proactive communication prevents problems.
Deliver as Promised: Hit deadlines, follow brand guidelines, double check accuracy, test everything thoroughly, and uphold your quality standards for each job. This proves your reliability.
Be Responsive: Reply promptly to clients by email, phone or chat during agreed upon business hours. 24-hour response times maintain positive relationships.
Go Above and Beyond When You Can: Look for small ways to exceed expectations like sending helpful tips/articles, stocking their inventory, or comparing pricing for them. Clients appreciate the extras.
Master Client Management Software: Tools like Basecamp, Trello, Asana, and Zendesk help you organize tasks, track progress, share files, and facilitate communication for multiple clients.
Automate What You Can: Take advantage of apps like Zapier, IFTTT, and Buffer to automate social media, data entry, invoice sending, productivity reports, and more. This saves time.
Stay Organized: Keep client files, contracts, login info, correspondence, notes, assets, and other records meticulously organized in cloud storage or your CRM. You can access important details instantly.
Back everything Up: Always securely backup client files and data offline and offsite in case of technical disasters. Encryption and password protection keep confidential info private.
Delivering excellent service and value will keep clients satisfied and returning for more support.
Pricing Your Services as a Virtual Assistant
One key business decision is determining what to charge clients for your services. Follow these best practices when setting VA rates:
- Know Your Cost of Doing Business: Calculate what it costs to operate, factoring in expenses, taxes, tools, marketing efforts, training, health insurance, and your required income. This informs rate minimums.
- Research Industry Rates: Review what competitors with similar skill sets, experience, and locations charge. Avoid going way below or above average market rates.
- Consider Your Qualifications: Higher-end rates are justified if you have advanced or niche skills, certifications, degrees, specialized training, and more years of experience.
- Charge by the Hour or by the Project: Track your time to determine hourly rates. Estimate costs for defined projects and package rates. Many VAs offer clients either option.
- Provide Packages and Tiers: Offer standard bundles for core services like social media, bookkeeping, or web assistance at varied price points based on features and effort involved.
- Factor in Value, Not Just Time: If your work generates high-value results for a client, charge premium rates compared to basic administrative tasks.
- Establish Minimum Charges: To ensure profitability, set minimum fees for any project or monthly retainer, even if it only requires a small time investment.
- Use Retainers and Deposits: Require an upfront percentage or monthly retainer from new clients before starting work. This protects you from non-payment.
- Increase Rates Annually: Review and adjust your rates higher each year in line with inflation, rising business costs, and your expanded expertise. But keep increases reasonable.
- Offer Discounts Sparingly: Avoid discounting just to win clients. Offer promotions judiciously like bundled packages or exclusive loyalty rates for repeat clients only.
Track your time on all tasks, measure results, and calculate your desired income goals. With experience, you’ll find the pricing sweet spot to run a profitable VA business.
Managing Your Clients Effectively as a Virtual Assistant
Like any relationship, the client-VA partnership requires nurturing and boundaries. Use these tips to build positive, lasting client connections:
1. Set Clear Policies
Convey policies for communication, availability, invoicing, cancellations, confidentiality, non-solicitation, disengagement, and more in your contracts and on your website.
2. Make Payments Easy
Offer hassle-free payment methods like credit cards, PayPal, Stripe, bank transfers, and/or payment plans to receive timely payment. Send invoices promptly.
3. Ask for Feedback
Check in regularly to ask if they are fully satisfied with your services and if any process improvements or adjustments are needed. Address issues promptly.
4. Stay Solution-Focused
If concerns arise, keep discussions positive and focused on finding solutions. Avoid getting defensive and making situations worse.
5. Maintain Professionalism
Even when working remotely in your pajamas, communicate formally via email and behave professionally on video calls. Choose words carefully in writing to prevent misinterpretation.
6. Keep Client Information Confidential
Take measures to safeguard clients’ personal and proprietary information. Never disclose their data without permission.
7. Customize Your Approach
Observe each client’s preferences for frequency of meetings, informal vs. formal communication, response times, and level of detail. Adapt your style to make each client comfortable.
8. Set Healthy Boundaries
While being flexible and responsive, set reasonable limits on your availability like closing over the holidays and weekends. Learn to say no if requests exceed your scope or availability.
9. Avoid Overpromising
Commit only to what you can realistically deliver to avoid letting clients down. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.
10. Part Ways Diplomatically
If a client relationship turns unprofitable or difficult, disengage politely and help transition them to other providers. Severing ties on a positive note protects your brand reputation.
By nurturing trust, exceeding expectations, and asserting your needs, you can develop win-win client relationships that stand the test of time.
Tools and Software for Virtual Assistants
Leveraging technology tools streamlines your workload, optimizes productivity, and allows you to manage remote teams efficiently. Here are the best software apps and platforms VAs should consider:
Client Management tools
- Basecamp – Project management and team chat
- Trello – Kanban boards to track tasks and workflows
- Asana – Tasks, schedules, file sharing, goals and reporting
- Zendesk – Shared inboxes, service tickets, knowledge base
- Calendly – Online calendar for clients to book appointments
- ScheduleOnce – Scheduling with buffer time built-in
- TimeTrade – Auto-adjusted calendar based on availability
- Acuity Scheduling – Flexible booking options for meetings and calls
- Slack – Instant messaging, channels and document sharing for teams
- Zoom – Video/audio conferencing and screen sharing
- Loom – Record video messages and tutorials for clients
- Trello – Kanban boards for task lists and workflows
- Asana – Shared tasks, projects, calendars and reporting
- Basecamp – All-in-one project management with message boards
- Airtable – Custom databases to manage shared contacts, leads, etc.
- RescueTime – Tracks and analyzes daily digital activity and site usage
- Toggl Track – Time keeping app for tracking work hours across projects
- Focus@Will – Provides distraction-free background music
- Freedom – Website/App blocker for distraction-free sessions
Email Marketing tools
- MailChimp – Email newsletters, campaigns and tracking
- Constant Contact – Templates, automation and analytics
- AWeber – Integrates with CRMs and e-commerce platforms
- ConvertKit – Great for bloggers/influencers
- Drip – Works with e-commerce sites to segment contacts
- FreshBooks – Invoicing, expenses, time tracking, reporting
- Xero – Reconciles bank transactions and manages cash flow
- QuickBooks – Popular tool for bookkeeping and accounting
- Wave Accounting – Free software with invoicing, payroll, tax planning
Graphic Design tools
- Canva – Quick design with templates and stock media
- Creative Market – Graphics, templates, fonts, etc.
- Venngage – Infographics and visual reports
- Easil – Collaborative design and feedback in one tool
- Piktochart – intuitive drag-and-drop infographic maker
- LastPass – Password manager and digital vault
- Dashlane – Password manager with auto form filler
- 1Password – Password security and encryption
- Keeper – Secure storage for passwords and sensitive documents
Payments Processing tools
- PayPal – Send and receive payments online
- Stripe – Allows online payment processing
- Square – Free invoicing and payment processing
- Zelle – Direct bank transfers to clients
- Zoho CRM – Sales pipeline and contact management
- Insightly – Lead tracking and task automation
- HubSpot CRM – Free CRM for tracking interactions
- Nutshell – Pipeline management with built-in communication
- Grasshopper – Toll-free, local and virtual phone numbers
- OpenPhone – Cloud-based business phone system
- Talkroute – Virtual numbers with call forwarding
- RingCentral – VOIP phone, fax, SMS and messaging
Appointment Scheduling tools
- Acuity – Flexible online appointment booking
- YouCanBook.me – Easy scheduling with calendar sync
- Appointy – Custom booking features for multiple services
- Setmore – Scheduling, invoicing, and client management
Writing Assistance tools
- Grammarly – Checks for grammar, tone, style and clarity
- Hemingway – Makes complex text clear and concise
- Writely – Assistant for writing content quickly
- Contently – Aids with research, outlining and structuring
Data Security tools
- NordVPN – Encrypts internet connection to keep browsing private
- Avast Antivirus – Protection against malware, viruses and cyberthreats
- TorGuard – Proxy VPN service for online privacy and anonymity
- CyberGhost VPN – Easy to use VPN for safeguarding data
File Storage & Sharing tools
- Google Drive – Cloud document creation, storage and sharing
- Dropbox – File hosting for accessing docs anywhere
- Microsoft OneDrive – Integrates with Office apps and suites
- WeTransfer – Free client file sharing up to 2 GB.
Social Media Management tools
- Hootsuite – Social media marketing platform to manage multiple networks and profiles
- Buffer – Schedule posts in advance and analyze performance
- Sprout Social – Social media monitoring, publishing, analytics, and reporting
- Sendible – Post scheduling, content curation,management and optimization for multiple accounts
With the right toolkit, you can drive productivity, collaboration, organization, and growth for your VA business. Invest time into learning these platforms and tools that align with your services. This enables you to deliver maximum value to clients.
Expert Tips for Running a Successful VA Business
Veteran VAs share these top tips for growing a thriving and profitable virtual assisting career:
Build a Website to Establish Credibility: A professional website that communicates your services, bio, portfolio and brand helps attract clients. Include strong calls to action to contact you.
Focus on Specialized, In-Demand Services: Offerings like social media, email marketing, SEO, and bookkeeping see high demand. Specialize in a few core niches rather than general VA support.
Create Systems and Use Tools Strategically: Develop efficient processes to complete repetitive tasks consistently and quickly. Automate what you can. Tools like CRMs help you work smarter.
Be Proactive in Client Communication: Don’t wait for clients to reach out with questions. Provide regular progress updates and ask clarifying questions proactively.
Set Hours and Stick to Them: Define your office hours and schedule non-work time off. Inform clients of availability upfront. Having boundaries prevents burnout.
Build a Portfolio of Client Work: As you deliver projects, take before/after screenshots, performance metrics, and testimonials to highlight the value delivered. Show quantifiable results.
Continuously Learn New Skills: Sign up for online courses and certifications, read blogs, listen to podcasts, and join communities to keep expanding your capabilities.
Specialize in a Niche Industry: Develop expertise in a niche like healthcare, real estate, e-commerce, or construction. You can charge higher rates as a specialist.
Automate Billing and Payments: Using automated payment software ensures you get paid on time without chasing clients. It also looks professional.
Track Your Time Diligently: Use time keeping software to record all hours worked on client projects. This informs how you price and quote services.
Leverage Existing Clients to Get Referrals: Ask satisfied long-term clients if they can refer you to vendors, partners, or contacts that could benefit from your services.
Develop Clear Contracts and Proposals: Professionally crafted proposals and service agreements set clear policies, expectations, rates, and project details upfront.
Continuously Ask for Feedback: Solicit client feedback about your working relationship and services. Request testimonials. This helps you improve constantly.
Diversify Your Clientele: Avoid relying too heavily on one or two big clients. Grow your client base across industries and niches to mitigate risk.
By adopting these best practices and business development strategies, you can build a thriving virtual assistant career and be proud of the valuable service you provide.
Differences Between VA Agencies vs. Independent VAs
Aspiring VAs can choose to either work independently or join an established virtual assistant agency. Here are the key differences between both models:
How Work is Obtained
Independent VAs – Must find their own clients through marketing, networking, applying to job boards, etc. Requires lots of hustling initially.
VA Agency – Gets assigned clients and projects from the agency, resulting in more predictable, steady work.
Independent VA – Builds own relationships with clients they find and can communicate directly.
VA Agency – Interactions are only with agency, not the end clients. Seen as the agency’s representative.
Independent VA – Can define their ideal process, tools, rates, availability etc. aligned to personal preferences.
VA Agency – Must adhere to the agency’s established systems, rates, processes, and availability requirements.
Independent VA – Can charge market or premium rates directly to clients for maximum earnings. Higher upside potential.
VA Agency – Pay rate is pre-set by agency based on experience and duties. Caps income unless high performers are promoted.
Independent VA – No benefits beyond what they choose to provide for themselves. Must pay for own health insurance, time off, etc.
VA Agency – May provide benefits like insurance, retirement savings plans, PTO, etc. depending on size.
Independent VA – Can niche down and focus on serving specific industries aligned to skills and interests.
VA Agency – Often must be generalists handling a wider variety of client and project types based on agency needs.
Independent VA – Complete control over schedule, availability, niche focus, growth plans, etc. Autonomy can be a perk.
VA Agency – Less flexibility and independence. Must adhere to policies and direction from leadership.
Independent VA – Bear sole responsibility for marketing, advertising, promoting services to secure own clients.
VA Agency – Marketing and sales handled by agency leadership. Lower demands for business development.
So should you remain independent or join a firm? The ideal path aligns with your skills, personality, income needs, lifestyle preference, career stage, and professional goals. Assess what matters most to make the best choice.
Mastering Work-Life Balance as a VA.
Maintaining work-life balance while working from home takes intention. Use these tactics to avoid burnout:
- Create a Dedicated Workspace: Having an office helps you “clock in and out”. Don’t work where you relax or sleep. Keep space for personal life.
Stick to Defined Office Hours: Set firm hours and take breaks. Communicate availability to clients. Silence notifications during off hours. Disconnect fully.
Schedule Non-Work Commitments Too: Block off time for errands, exercise, socializing, hobbies. Treat them like real appointments, not just work tasks.
Take Regular Vacations: Don’t just work through holidays. Use vacation days to completely recharge at least once or twice per year.
Limit Multitasking: Avoid shifting between tasks constantly. Set blocks of time to focus on one project before moving to the next for efficiency.
Leverage Childcare If Needed: If parenting young children, utilize daycare or babysitters during work hours so you can concentrate.
Create Routines and Rituals: Follow set morning and evening routines to transition mindset, like changing clothes, pairings walks with coffee, shutting down devices.
Know When to Disconnect: Pushing late into the evening leads to burnout. Log off at a set time even if not everything is complete.
Focus on Results, Not Hours: Measure your productivity by tangible results achieved vs. hours logged. Work smarter, not necessarily longer.
Take Real Lunch Breaks: Don’t eat at your desk. Enjoy lunch away from your work area to refresh mentally.
With some boundaries and intentionality, you can sustainably balance work and personal life as a VA Never let your business overtake other important priorities.
Qualities Clients Look for in a VA.
Understanding client priorities helps you position your services appealingly. Beyond basic skills, here are the top traits clients seek in a virtual assistant:
Clients rely on VAs to keep things moving efficiently, so prompt communication and rapid turnaround times on requests are vital. Being consistently responsive builds trust and satisfaction.
Juggling multiple clients means mastering organization. Keeping task lists, schedules, files and team communication orderly and easily accessible makes you able to switch gears quickly.
Don’t wait for clients to come to you with issues or delegated tasks. Take initiative to ask how you can help, share ideas and resources, request feedback, and solve problems before they arise.
Deliver consistently high quality work on time without constant oversight. Follow through fully on what you commit to give clients confidence in your accountability.
Demand is high for VAs adept with popular software, workflows, devices and digital platforms to jump in handling specialized tasks versus general admin duties.
Becoming an expert in specific niches, platforms and functions allows you to offer greater strategic value beyond basic assistance. Clients want depth.
Understand and interpret clients’ goals to provide strategic guidance. Offer insights that elevate their business versus just checking task boxes.
With remote work, clients seek driven self-starters who take initiative and manage their workload independently without frequent oversight and input.
Adapt to different client preferences and expectations without friction. Willingness to learn anew skills and systems is a plus.
Bring fresh ideas to the table. Offer innovative solutions and process improvements versus just following instructions.
To attract and retain high-quality clients, demonstrate these characteristics consistently in your work and interactions.
Mistakes to Avoid as a New VA
While launching your virtual assisting career, sidestep these common missteps:
Taking on Too Much Too Fast
Eagerness to fill your schedule can spur overcommitting. Take it slow until you perfect systems. Only accept work you can handle with excellence.
Discounting Your Services
Underpricing services won’t attract quality clients long-term. Have confidence to charge profitable rates aligned to your value.
Thoroughly onboard new clients. Get all necessary access, assets, requirements, contacts and permissions to avoid scrambling later.
Not Using Contracts
Formal service agreements protect you and set clear boundaries. Never start work without signed contracts detailing scope, terms, rates, policies, etc.
Poor Client Communication
Inconsistency, lack of proactivity and slow response times will lose clients fast. Overcommunicate clearly about timelines, progress, roadblocks, solutions etc.
Weak Time Management
Missing deadlines or scrambling last minute looks unprofessional. Use productivity tools to schedule tasks smartly with ample time built in.
Taking Clients for Granted
No client is 100% locked in forever. Consistently deliver exceptional service, not just adequate. Routinely ask how you can improve too.
Expecting Instant Cash Flow
Steady client flow takes months to build through consistent marketing and referrals. Work pipeline is not immediate. Financially prepare for slow ramp up.
Attempting Too Much Variety
Initially offer a narrow scope of services you can execute on extremely well. Get more niche over being a generalist.
Forgetting About Future Goals
Don’t just work in the day-to-day. Also make time to nurture your skills, update your website, network, read industry resources, outline growth plans, etc. to build long-term success.
Set yourself up for stability by avoiding these common pitfalls of new virtual assistants. Be patient with scaling your business and talents.
How to Price Your VA Services
Pricing services profitably yet competitively is crucial for revenue growth. Consider these factors when structuring your rates:
1. Research Competitor Rates: Review the hourly or project rates of other VAs with similar experience levels and specialties. Get a sense for price benchmarks. Don’t veer drastically above or below averages.
2. Calculate Your Cost of Business: Factor in all your operating expenses and the income you need to determine minimum rates. Include taxes, tools, marketing, continuing education, insurance etc.
3. Consider Your Expertise: Higher experience levels, certifications, niche skills, and degrees warrant charging premium rates. Offer client proof points of your expertise.
4. Understand the Client’s Budget: Some clients have inflexible budgets or just value lowest possible cost. Others will readily pay for quality. Tailor rates based on the client profile.
5. Use Retainers and Minimums: To avoid spending time on unprofitable work, establish minimum fees for projects. Require retainers from new clients.
6. Offer Bundles and Packages: Quoting bundled offerings for a fixed monthly rate vs. hourly allows you to preserve margins on routine services clients want.
7. Review Pricing Annually: Increase rates gradually over time in line with inflation (3-5% per year) and your growing expertise. Notify long-term clients first.
8. Charge Rush Fees If Needed: If a client needs a last minute project completed, charge a rush fee above your usual rate for the inconvenience.
9. Track Time Closely: Using timesheets and project management software gives insight into costs which informs pricing for efficiency.
10. Consider Location’s Impact: Your region and cost of living impacts rates. VAs in expensive urban areas can charge slightly higher fees.
Set competitive yet profitable rates that reflect your true value. Don’t sacrifice margins just to win clients through rock-bottom pricing.
Top Software Apps Virtual Assistants Should Know
Leveraging software and tools for productivity and automation allows you to maximize efficiency. Here are the best apps VAs should have in their toolkit:
- Basecamp: All-purpose project management for tasks, file sharing, messaging, schedules, reports and more
- Zoom: Leading video conference platform for meetings and screen sharing with clients
- Asana: Flexible teamwork software for managing projects, workflows and tasks
- Wave: Free suite of accounting and invoicing software
- Trello: Best kanban boards to organize contacts, leads, projects and visualize workflow
- Grammarly: Checks writing for errors, enhances clarity, improves tone
- Calendly: Scheduler for clients to book calls and appointments in your calendar
- Mailchimp: Best email marketing platform for creating and managing campaigns and newsletters
- Slack: Best Messaging app for communication and file sharing with clients
- Zapier: Best software for connecting favorite apps to automate repetitive tasks
- Toggl: Best time tracking software to record hours worked for billing purposes
- Dropbox: Best for Cloud storage and collaboration for managing client files and assets
- Evernote: Best note taking app to capture meeting minutes, project ideas and share notes
- Freshbooks: Best for accounting, invoicing, expense and reporting features for your VA business
- Canva: Best graphic design tool to create social media posts, presentations, infographics and other visual assets
Leveraging the right software maximizes productivity and elevates how you support clients. Continually expand your toolkit with must-know apps.
Time Management Tips for VAs
Between various client projects, tight deadlines are inevitable. Apply these time management best practices:
Block Time for Each Project – Rather than context switching constantly, assign set time blocks for focused work on each client task to completion.
Assign Deadlines to Everything – Applying due dates and reminders ensures important items get prioritized and completed on time.
Review Schedule Daily – Give your calendar a quick scan each morning to see upcoming time commitments, deadlines, and schedule tasks accordingly.
Tackle Tough Items First – Completing big priorities that require mental energy first prevents procrastination and ensures you meet deadlines.
Limit Meetings – Block time for focused work first before scheduling meetings and calls. Cluster meetings on certain days where possible.
Establish Routines – Follow consistent morning and evening routines to maximize work time during the day.
Record Time Spent – Tools like Toggl help analyze how much time different tasks take so you can estimate timelines and bill accurately.
Take Breaks – Schedule short breaks to walk, stretch, and refresh. This boosts mental clarity and productivity.
Assign Realistic Timelines – Be honest about what’s achievable each week as you take on new work based on capacity. Don’t overpromise.
Automate What You Can – Leverage apps like IFTTT and Zapier to eliminate repetitive manual tasks so you can focus on high-value work.
Delegate When Possible – Bring on subcontractors to handle overload or specialized work that isn’t the best use of your time.
Focus on Most Important Goals – Prioritize projects and tasks that align with immediate revenue goals and KPIs versus minor assignments that creep onto your plate.
Consolidate Communications – Check emails and messages just a few times per day during designated windows to preserve productive stretches.
Say No – Politely decline requests that fall outside your niche or availability. Taking on too much hurts quality.
With intention, you can maximize time and avoid unnecessary stress while managing multiple client projects and deadlines. These habits allow you to work smarter.
Pros and Cons of Virtual Assisting
Like any career path, virtual assisting has both advantages and challenges. Consider these pros and cons:
- Flexible schedule
- Location independent
- Low overhead expenses
- Variety of projects
- Creative freedom
- Learn new skills
- More career options
- Helper’s high
- Feast or famine income
- No benefits
- Self-employment taxes
- Finding clients is ongoing
- Steep learning curve
- Limited human interaction
- Hard to “turn off”
- No sick pay
Weighing both sides will give you reasonable expectations about this career path. With business savvy and self-discipline, the pros can outweigh the cons.
Should You Specialize or Be a Generalist VA?
VAs face the choice between being generalists or niche specialists. Consider each path:
- Wider client base
- Varied projects
- Broad skill development
- Lower rates
- Jack of all trades, master of none
- Spread thin
- Less strategic impact
- Higher income potential
- Position as expert
- More interesting work
- Establish thought leadership
- Narrower clientele
- Pigeonholed into niche
- Must keep skills extremely sharp
- Declined unrelated work
Evaluate your strengths, interests and income goals. Try offering core specialized services while also meeting general needs for the same clients. Find the right balance.
Legal Considerations for Virtual Assistants
Navigating legal issues protects your home-based business. Be aware of:
- Business licenses and permits – Register your business and obtain necessary licenses based on location.
- Zoning laws – Ensure your residential area allows home-based businesses. Consider using a coworking space address if zoning is an issue.
- Insurance – Obtain general liability insurance and understand homeowner’s insurance implications.
- Employer requirements – Follow regulations if hiring subcontractors. Ensure correct worker classifications.
- Taxes – Pay estimated quarterly income taxes and understand self-employment tax obligations. Track all expenses and keep receipts.
- Contracts – Use contracts and get deposits/retainers. Include policies and legal protections.
- Copyright issues – Obtain licensing for any content or assets belonging to others. Don’t claim ownership of anything you didn’t create. Give credit.
Though administrative in nature, virtual assisting still requires awareness and compliance with various legal considerations. Do your due diligence.
While virtual assisting has no formal educational requirements, obtaining certifications demonstrates your expertise. Options include:
- International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) – Offers Certified Virtual Assistant (CVA) credential by exam. Also provides training courses.
- Virtual Assistant Certification (VAC) – independent exam-based certification from the VAC Institute.
- ** projectVA** – Comprehensive program focused on Microsoft Office tools and productivity. Awards Virtual Office Skills (VOS) certification.
- VA Certification.com – Self-paced video training program to earn a VA certification.
- Admin Awards – Global VA skills validation through exams like the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credential.
- American Association of Administrative Professionals (AAAP) – Options like the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) demonstrate executive/admin skills.
Consider a certification that aligns with your niche like social media or bookkeeping. While optional, credentials convey your commitment to professional development.
Continuing Education for VAs
Ongoing learning expands your skills and keeps your services relevant. Resources include:
- Virtual Assistant Forums & Blogs – Keep up with industry news, best practices and insights from peers.
- Online Courses – Take classes in software, marketing, project management, and other VA-related topics through sites like Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning etc.
- Virtual Summits – Many associations and websites host regular online educational summits featuring expert speakers and panel discussions.
- Classes, Workshops & Bootcamps – Local options may exist for in-person or virtual classes. Search for options in your city.
- Webinars – Free and paid webinars provide training in specific topics like email marketing, social media tools, etc.
- Industry Publications & Newsletters – Subscribe to sites like SmallBizTrends.com, Business News Daily, and Entrepreneur magazine to stay on top of small business advice.
- Mentoring – Seek guidance from experienced, successful VAs in your niche.
- Conferences – Attend in-person or virtual VA conferences and networking events.
- Meetup Groups – Join local groups related to virtual work, small business owners, and your specialty.
Allot time and budget regularly for professional development to keep your skills fresh. Position yourself as a thought leader.
FAQs About Working as A Virtual Assistant
Still have questions? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How much do virtual assistants earn?
What skills do you need to be a VA?
Do you need a degree to become a VA?
Do virtual assistants require a lot of training?
How do I find clients as a new VA?
What types of clients hire VAs?
Should I register my VA business?
Where can I get VA contract templates?
How much should I charge as a beginner VA?
Should I specialize or be a generalist?
This covers the key questions prospective virtual assistants have. Reach out for clarification from practicing VAs in your local community too.
Ready to Become a VA?
Congratulations for considering launching a virtual assisting career and absorbing this guide!
As you can see, diligent marketing, polished services, business acumen and self-motivation drive VA success. But the fulfillment and income potential make the effort worthwhile.
Here are final tips as you embark on your VA journey:
- Take time to build skills and trial services
- Create systems and templates right away
- Have a solid marketing plan
- Network consistently
- Exceed client expectations
- Automate and outsource grunt work
- Charge rates aligned to your value
- Keep overhead low initially
- Commit to continuous education
- Discover your niche superpower
With hard work and persistence, you can steadily build a profitable VA business helping clients while working remotely. Expect ups and downs, but remain focused on consistency and gradual growth.
Now put these lessons into action! The freedom of working flexibly on your own terms awaits.