Are you sick and tired of the 9-5 grind and working outrageous hours for peanuts? Are you one of the unlucky ones who had their hours cut or lost their job completely due to new health care regulations? If so, it’s time to take your power back. It’s time to become a virtual assistant and use your vast knowledge, skills and experience to become your own boss and finally make the kind of money you deserve.
So what is a virtual assistant and why is this the perfect opportunity for work-at-home moms? A virtual assistant is a highly skilled professional who provides administrative support and other specialized services to businesses, entrepreneurs, executives, sales professionals, and others who have more work to do than time to do it. Virtual assistants partner with clients to help make their businesses and lives run smoother. It’s the perfect opportunity for work-at-home moms because it gives the much needed freedom and flexibility in the career schedule while juggling a busy family life. You work as little or as much as you want, whenever you want. How you establish your business model is completely up to you—you’re the boss!
What does it take to start your own virtual assistant business?
Becoming a business owner is quite an undertaking. It’s important to know that you have the right personality and mindset to even consider it as an option. Not everyone is cut out to be in business for herself. Selecting the right business is equally important. In choosing a virtual assistant business you want to consider your: knowledge of various software programs, personality type, time management skills, level of self-discipline, and, desire to make it work, among other things. We suggest going through our free Virtual Assistant Self Assessment to help guide you through this process. It’s a very important first step.
Research, Research, Research
Did we mention it takes research? Lucky for you there is a great deal more information available today than there was when we got started. You can find a lot of information right here on this site to help you understand what it takes to be a virtual assistant, the skills required, as well as the types of services you can offer.
Check Out the Competition
You can learn a lot about the industry by visiting the sites of other virtual assistants. Look at the services they offer and their pricing structure, if they even post their prices on their site. As you visit their sites take note of the site structure and navigation as well as make notes about what you may like or not like for your own site. Check out their About page to see how they have worded their bio and begin to think about how you will write your own. Be sure to look for other virtual assistants in your area to see what they are doing. Make note of areas where you might be lacking as well as areas where you stand above the competition. This will aid in the makings of your business planning, specifically the SWOT Analysis.
IMPORTANT! While we encourage checking out other virtual assistants it is completely unethical to copy someone else’s work. Be creative and be original in how you establish your own sales copy, services, and packages—be unique in your own right and make yourself stand out from the competition.
Brainstorm Prospective Clients
Now that you’re armed with more knowledge on the different services you could offer based on your skillset, give some thought to those who could benefit from your service offering. Make a quick list of businesses and people you already know. And determine the best way to approach them about your new business once you get up and running.
Prepare Your Business Plan
When you go on a trip you don’t set out without a plan of how you will get from point A to point B. The same is true for business. Many businesses fail because they don’t plan. Don’t become a statistic. Take the time to write out a road map of where you want your business to be in the short-term and in the long-term. Then plan out step-by-step how you’re going to get there including the tools you’ll need, required licensing, resources you’ll need (including the finances!), how you will market to prospective clients, the services you will offer, your company name, the company vision and mission. You’ll want to include your hours of operation, too—be sure to carve out time for your own administrative tasks.
Establish Operational Procedures
As you begin to write out your business plan you will also want to make note of specific areas that will be the makings of your Operations Manual. For example, I plan to operate during these hours. I plan on having the work I do back to clients within this time frame. I plan on … Get our drift? Set these procedures early and stick to them. When you get a prospective client on the phone asking you about your daily backup procedure to ensure their data is protected you will be so glad you have a procedure in place and won’t be scrambling for an answer.
Preparing your business plan right off the bat will aid you in establishing the content and structure of your web copy and other such marketing materials, too. It’s much easier to write the copy when you know what you’re doing and how you want to bring those clients in.
Establish a Web Presence
From day one, it’s important that you represent your business well. That means you need to have a great online presence including a good website, positive social media branding, professional marketing message and so forth. It’s important from the start to speak directly to your target audience so they can clearly see what you do and how you can help them.
Market, Market, Market
Although getting referrals is a great way to land clients, it still is important that you are out there consistently marketing your company. Come up with a marketing plan that you can stick to. And no matter what, stick to it. We see so many virtual assistants forego the marketing once they get a client or two. You just can’t. Market all the time and you will not have down time. The good news is once you do this, it becomes a way of life.
Being New Doesn’t Matter
Even when you are new, there’s no need to tell every potential client you are just starting or share too much on social media about that fact. The fact is, your business may be new but you are not new to what you’re doing. Clients will often take advantage if they feel you are too green and also many will lose confidence if they think you are inexperienced. Now we aren’t saying you need to be dishonest. However, lead with your skills, strengths, and experience. That is what counts the most. And speaking of social media, realize that others are watching you way before they contact you. You want to watch complaining about clients or expressing how overwhelmed you are with the new work or new programs you are learning. This leads to lack of confidence in your abilities and time management.
Be Frugal Without Cutting Corners
Starting a virtual assistant business does not require a huge amount of cash outlay, particularly if you already had the makings of a home office, including a computer, printer, and appropriate software. Keep expenses down, but get what you need. We see so many just spend, spend, spend on every new training program they see or the latest shiny object. We firmly believe in training and getting help, but decide what your needs are and look for a coach who can help with those needs. Be clear on what your budget is as well. By knowing what you can spend, you make better decisions.
Networking is key to being successful in business. It’s not only important to network with potential clients, it’s also important to network with your industry peers. There are a number of virtual assistant Pages and Groups on Facebook and Linkedin—you need to be on a couple and actively engage. Also, know that although networking is important, you also need to not go overboard. Just being online at the various VA groups all day and not doing other marketing or running your business can be a set-up for failure.
Build Your Testimonials
As you get started it’s important to gather testimonials of your work. In the beginning you can do this in the form of references from prior employers or others who can testify to the quality of your work ethic, skills, and knowledge of specific areas. These testimonials can be added to your proposals, website, on your social media updates, and other marketing materials. Potential clients love to see that you are good at different skills so get those testimonials that show that.
See how easy it can be to start your virtual assistant business and build it into one you can be proud of? If you have more questions you are welcome to ask us on our Facebook Page or join us for our monthly chats where we discuss how to thrive in your virtual assistant business.
Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker are the co-authors of numerous books including Virtual Assistant – The Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA and accompanying Virtual Assistant – The Series Workbook Edition. Stop by their site for complete information on starting your own VA business http://www.va-theseries.com. Connect with them online via Twitter at @learntobeava or facebook.com/becomeava