How do I become a Virtual Assistant is a question I’m often asked. And so I wrote the article below for the Australian Virtual Assistants Association of Australia (AVAA). Some of the content relates to setting up business in Australia. However, all of the content is suitable for anyone in any country and where Australian organisations are listed, please use this as a prompt to seek similar organisations in your own country, if not based in Australia.
Things you need to get started:
- Good reliable computer, printer and internet connection.
- At minimum Microsoft Office and then any software that relates to your niche service offerings (e.g. if you do bookkeeping, transcriptions, etc)
- Dropbox.com has 2gig free storage and is what most VAs use. Files are not encrypted and works on a drag and drop principle. Can share between multiple computers.
- Via the various VA forums you’ll find examples of agreements, contracts, etc.
- Insurance: business equipment, public liability perhaps. Depending on the service you’re providing maybe professional indemnity. And later income protection but you might not be able to get that till 6 months after you’ve officially started. We do have insurance partners on our website.
- You do need to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN) in Australia.
- You don’t need to register for GST unless you are earning over $75K, however this may mean you cannot claim for GST on your tax returns. In other countries there may be similar tax requirements.
- You don’t have to have a registered business name. You can operate under your own name.
- If you do register a business name consider getting it Trademarked, along with any logos you plan to use also.
- Consider buying the .com.au and .com versions of a domain to match your business name, even if you don’t do anything about a website for awhile. You can use the domain for email and save it for future use, when you’re ready.
- You should get an Accountant from the start to help advise you in your business structure set up, i.e. Sole Proprietor, Partnership, Company, etc
- Think about the services you want to offer and what you will charge for them, be it on an hourly or per project basis. The VA networks will assist you on this but there are resources online also.
And what about getting clients?
- Tell people about your business
- Find local networking events close to home (councils and shires often have networking events) and attend them. Spend time getting to know other business owners and let them get to know you.
- Network online via Facebook groups, LinkedIn discussion forums and other networking avenues – not just groups for your own peers, but groups that will have potential clients. For example, joining groups that relate to a passion or interest may well lead you to an interested audience in what you do.
- Be proactive about promoting your business but don’t spam people and don’t make a nuisance of yourself.
- Make sure you have an online presence. If funds are short, the following items are free or low cost:
- LinkedIn profile – make sure it’s up to date and complete
- Facebook page for your business (not your personal profile)
- Get a domain (these cost under $40 for an Aussie domain for 2 years or around $12 or less for non-Aussie domain for a 1 year period)
- Get low cost hosting and set up a site using WordPress or other website builder. Or, pay someone to create your site. Make sure you have your phone number, suburb (and/or postal address) and a contact form that delivers by email. People will bypass your site if there is no obvious way to call you, or no indication of where you are located.
- Even if you don’t have a website, use the domain for your email address.
- Register with VA networks so you can get a listing on their site and benefit from their client requests, and their online forums.
- Get business cards designed and printed. They can just have your name and contact details, and perhaps some information about what you do on them. They don’t have to have a logo or business name. Consider adding your photo or an image that relates to what you do. Give them out at networking events and elsewhere. Do add your suburb even if you don’t include your home address. Having a post office box is even better.
Even if you don’t have a client and work straight away, get in the habit of developing routines and systems. Checking your email first thing in the morning. Checking the networking groups you have joined online. Participate in regular networking events, be it weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Read our blog at this site and the blogs of other VAs.
Be aware that you are NOT an employee but a contractor. Important you are aware of what that means to you as a VA, if in Australia. Read this article for more information.
Got questions? More than happy to answer them. Leave them in the comments section below or simply fill out the contact form on this site so I can reply privately.