Periodically I see discussions at VA forums that are really good topics for this blog.
In particular these questions are often asked:
- How much was your start-up cost?
- How long before you started with your 1st client?
My answer is this:
How long is a piece of string?
Kind of depends on a number of things for both questions.
Re start up costs, if you already have the computer and printer you need, and the software you want to use for providing services, then additional things would be stationery (business cards, letterhead, brochures), a website, web hosting (don’t use any of those free websites that have banners, etc on them), and so on. If you don’t have a computer, phone, desk, printer, etc then obviously the costs are going to be much higher.
The services you plan to provide – you should already know how to do what you want to do. If you don’t then you have a lot of learning to do, courses to pay out for and attend and the time put in to practice new skills. There is no way you should be trying to offer services for something you have no knowledge and experience of.
How long did it take to get started with my first client? I had him lined up before I even opened my doors for business – I put out feelers before I got started and kept networking and talking to people. I still do today, almost 16 years later.
How did I put out feelers? I started before the internet so definitely locally but I still recommend that even today. Until you’ve gained confidence in what you’re doing and how to sell your services, then often it’s easier picking up new clients on a face-to-face basis. And if others know how good you are at what you do, they could also be recommending you. People such as family, friends, former work colleagues, etc.
As for $$ figures which I guess many are really wanting to know, it really depends on who your service providers are, where you live, the cost of living, the currency and so on. I can only really speak for where I live in Melbourne, Australia.
If I were to start afresh today I expect I’d be able to get the following for under $5,000AUD:
- Desktop computer (I don’t recommend using a laptop fulltime for ergonomic and health reasons unless you have all the relevant add-ons to ensure your posture and keyboarding isn’t harmful to you)
- Good solid desk to work at which is big enough to house your computer and other items for working with
- Printer – many use multi-function centres these days that allow you to print in colour and B&W, scan, fax and photocopy
- Phone line – you may need to consider a dedicated line separate from your home line
- Back up system for backing up your data – this is worth gold to you so don’t miss it out
- Filing cabinet for keeping client and admin papers – you will find you’ll be printing stuff out
- Software – MS Office at the miminum plus any specialist software for providing services such as bookkeeping, web design, etc
- A bookkeeping program for your business – even if you aren’t providing it as a service you still need to meet the tax dept’s expectation of keeping good records and tracking your business
- Stationery – business cards, letterhead, and perhaps some brochures or with comp slips or anything else to help promote your business
- Accountant – you’re in business so you need the expert guidance of an Accountant for your finances
Additional items over time:
- A business coach – I find mine invaluable and have been with him for at least 3 years now but it’s probably closer to 4.
- Fax line – some need a separate dedicated fax line to receive client instructions or send out client work.
- Website and webhosting – whether you’re doing it yourself or engaging someone to do it for you, you do need some kind of web presence even if only small
- Refresher/update courses to keep me abreast of technology upgrades and changes
- Memberships to professional industry association and networks – not just Virtual Assistant networks but business networks as well as these will help put you in front of potential clients plus keep you informed on the business world in general
- Subscriptions to publications relevant to your service offerings
- Books or publications relevant to the industry or service offerings
And the list goes on.
Now, if you think the above is over the top or out of your reach consider that setting up a business as a Virtual Assistant is considerably cheaper than it would be for many industries. Think about the years of study some have to put in at universities to do what they do. If you have already been in the workforce in some sort of administration capacity then you would already have the skills developed to become a Virtual Assistant.