This is a question I see asked at VA groups and forums from those who want to enter into the industry.
It’s quite easy really. You simply make a decision and then start acting like a VA.
But to do that, there are some things you need to have set in place:
- You must have a good command of the skill set you want to offer as a service. No point in offering word-processing and data entry services if you can only type 20wpm. You would need to be much faster (at least 60wpm) and have around 98% accuracy. So be confident about the skills you currently have. You can add to them over time. There are a wide range of services that can be provided by VAs these days. And you don’t have to be across all of them. Just choose those that suit you.
- You must have the relevant equipment available in your home office already, i.e. computer that isn’t old, software such as Microsoft Office (for starters) and any other software that you’ll be offering a service with, reliable internet connection, comfortable chair and desk (you’ll be sitting at it day in and day out for hours on end, so you need to be comfortable), a phone service of some sort and a printer. There are other things you can get over time but these are the basics.
- An idea of how much you will charge for your services. There is no point in copying someone else’s charges as their financial situation may vastly differ from yours, especially if they have different skills, experiences and even live in a different region or country. You need to do the calculations. Nina Feldman has a good worksheet to use. Or, if you join the VA Network I run you’ll be given a formula to work with, to help you work out rates that are right for you.
- This is not a good time to be a shy type. If you’re going to be a business owner/operator you need to be able to get out and network, market, network, promote, network… did I mention ‘network’? Networking is probably the most important aspect of owning a business. People won’t know your business exists if you don’t let them know about it.
- On that point, you are not an employee – you are a business owner/operator. So you’re looking for clients, not a job or an employer.
- Join VA forums and groups and networks. The first two are free and you’ll get to join in discussions and learn what others have done to build their businesses. The third usually has a membership fee involved, you’ll get a listing on their well established website, access to client requests for work to be done, and some have training and certification programs included. Often there are other benefits too, such as web hosting, email addresses, domain registrations, and maybe other services such as insurances, and products, to help you with your business. A VA Network is like an industry based association. If you were a builder, for example, you would join the Masters Builders Association and if a CPA you’d join their relevant association. So, as a VA, it makes sense to join a VA Association or Network that has been established to help further the industry and help you grow your business. Any costs you incur are a taxable expense because you are running a business.
- Develop a web presence. If you can’t afford to pay someone to develop a site for you, and if you don’t know how to do it yourself, then getting a listing via a VA Network is the next best option. You can also develop a profile at LinkedIn, which is a good professional business tool for people online. To show what I mean, use Google to look up the name of someone you know in business. Chances are that their LinkedIn profile comes up on the first page of the search. So people would need to know your name to search for it, but it will serve you long-term as a good profile tool online.
- Purchase a domain name. Even if you don’t attach it to a website for now, you can use the domain for your email address. Better than using a free email address.
- Get a good Accountant. If you’re in business you need to make sure you’re doing all the right things regarding set up of your business entity and your taxes. So ask around and locate a good local Accountant who is familiar with small business. Asking at local business networks (such as BNI, Chamber of Commerce, Meetup groups, etc) will generally point you in the right direction.
I mentioned networking above as an important thing to do for your business. The reality is, if people don’t know your business exists, then it won’t last very long. So, where do you network? I suggest you should balance your networking – some local, some online. Some clients will engage you online but many more will engage you because they’ve either met you face-to-face, or heard about you from someone else they know, who knows you. Word-of-mouth referrals are very valuable to your business. And there are a number of different types of networks you can join. Joining your peers (fellow VAs) is a good way to learn about operating a VA business but to network for clients you need to join other networks to meet potential clients. If you already know your target market then look for industry associations with those people in them. For example, if you want to support business coaches, then look for Business Coaching networks or associations and join them online and locally. If Professional Speakers, then look for their networking events and associations and mix and mingle with them. Remember, both online and offline. Never forsake one to do 100% of the other. You should have a mix of the two.
The above will help get you started in being a Virtual Assistant and I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments below.