Virtual assistants are independent contractors who work remotely (usually at home) and use technology (like computers, fax machines and the Internet) to deliver their services to clients from around the world. In essence, virtual assistants are entrepreneurs, and the products that they sell are their “services”. They work out projects by communicating through telephone, e-mails or online-web chats.
The common notion is virtual assistants perform administrative and secretarial jobs. While it is true that most virtual assistants function as virtual secretaries, the role of VAs has dramatically expanded, as more and more people with different backgrounds are entering into the field. Thus, virtual assistance services have extended to other areas like web designing, marketing, transcription, translations and research. Others have even gone as far as providing legal assistance and accounting services.
Many clients feel that it is much cheaper to hire virtual assistants than to maintain an in-house staff. For this reason, the demand for the services of virtual assistants is growing fast. So, if you want to start your entrepreneurial career as a virtual assistant, here are some helpful tips:
Helpful Tips for Start-up Virtual Assistance Business:
1. Assess yourself and determine your business niche
Make a personal assessment as regards to background and skills before deciding what type of services you want to offer. Also assess if you have adequate experience in the field.
Carolyn Moncel, a consultant and president of Mondave Communication, also has this to say, “Determine your business niche – consider specializing in just to three services.” (Read full article here.)
Sam Baker also shares: “It goes without saying, that if you want to be the best, you will need to pick an area to specialize in. As you go to choose your area of specialization, keep your skill set and natural abilities in mind. Don’t choose an area simply because it seems lucrative, or sounds interesting; choose jobs you can already do, and do well. If you’re a talented receptionist, but would rather be a web designer, that’s fine. Earn enough as a receptionist to pay for web design courses, and then switch. When it comes to succeeding as a VA, expertise is everything.” (Read full article.)
2. Prepare a business plan
“Your dad would tell you that ‘you didn’t plan to fail; you failed to plan.’ And most new entrepreneurs who start their new venture without an adequate business plan do fail. A good plan will include a market analysis, a look at your competition, a financial plan and a business model, among other sections”, advises Baker.
With this insight, it is easy to understand that just because a virtual assistance service is an online business does not mean that you’re spared from preparing a business plan. Well, you can always choose not to, but bear in mind that every successful business starts with a good business plan.
3. Identify budgetary constraints.
You need to project your expenses against your projected income. Remember that you may need some buffer before your business can run successfully.
“You don’t have to be a financial genius to turn your money making ideas into successful business, but you do need to be organized and disciplined. Create a realistic budget for expenditures, such as office supplies, postage, software and an additional phone line (if needed)”, says Baker.
4. Ensure you have the stuff that you need
You need to invest in some equipment to make your VA business work. A computer is one of your must-haves. Baker adds:
“You’ve got the skills and the ambition, that’s obvious. But what about the actual stuff? Research your proposed VA niche to learn what kind of equipment you’ll need. Is your current computer adequate? Do you need another phone line? What about software? A postage meter? Some positions require a quiet environment to give phone calls and video conferences a professional aura; can you provide a kid-free, clutter-free zone? Don’t let a lack of equipment or money discourage you; you may just need to be creative. Use the office equipment at a local copy shop or library; barter child care with a friend or hire a reliable teen for in-house babysitting. You may need to start small, but as your client list grows, your office will, too.”
5. Market yourself
You need to seek for opportunities to get clients. You can check for job postings or post your resume in known websites like Guru, oDesk or Elance.
“Network, network, network! Every opportunity you get, give your literature to someone. Even if they may never need your services, they may know someone who does, or someone who knows someone who does. Attend your local networking meetings”, advises Janice Byer, owner of Docu-Type Administrative & Web Design Services. (Read more.)
The beginning stages of becoming a virtual assistant can entail working for longer hours. You also need to anticipate that your business does not follow the regular or “normal” office schedule. There will be times when you need to continue working even on weekends and holidays.