On a VA forum recently a new VA was asking for advice on getting started. She’d outlined her experience and then went on to say she didn’t want to start her own business but work for someone else, building up enough experience to pick up jobs here and there.
My immediate thought was that this lady didn’t really understand the nature of being a Virtual Assistant. And this may well be as a result of articles online that continue to promote that VAs are employees of agencies. The reality is that they are not. Employees are virtual workers or remote workers, but they are not Virtual Assistants. Wikipedia gives a good general description of what a VA is, but so do many of the VA networks out there. Anyone engaging a VA needs to understand that VAs are self-employed and are responsible for their own taxes, insurances, computer equipment, software, etc. There may be occasions when a client purchases software for the VA’s specific use to carry out work for that client, but in most cases the VA already owns the software being used.
At no time should a client (not an employer) be required to pay superannuation and other insurances, taxation (other than GST or other tax related expenses for running a business), holiday leave or other employee-type expenses. However, clients may find that a VA invoice includes expenses related to carrying out the work required, such as printing, postage, and so on. Below is my response to this new VA in part.
[Name], the very nature of being a VA means you are in business for yourself. If you’re looking for employment then you need to check through employment websites in the hope of finding remote working opportunities.
But seriously, being a VA means you are self-employed. And that means putting yourself out there to get clients (not employers). By that I mean, register with VA networks so you can benefit from their web listings, so clients can find you, and also, so you can respond to their client requests that come through. The network that owns this forum is a good place to start. [name of network provided at forum].
You also need to find online business forums where your target client base may hang out. For example, I support professional speakers, authors and photographers so I participate in their discussion forums at LinkedIn but also Facebook and other places.
And you need to let people know on a local basis what you’re doing. That means going out to local business networks to meet local business owners, carry business cards around with you, speak to anyone and everyone. My very first client came through church, the second through a personal friend (who referred me to a company needing my support) and it grew from there.
While the opportunity may be there for you to sub-contract to other VAs the reality is that this will happen only if you spend time getting to know other VAs through their forums, conferences and other activities so that they can learn you’re the ideal support for them. That does take time too. Either way, you do need to be actively networking in a number of ways so people know you exist.
If you’re a new VA or wanting to become one, what questions might you have about getting started? Share them here in the comments.