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How to Launch Your Own Virtual Assistant Business in 2023

There’s been so much hype on socials around being a virtual assistant. And it’s no wonder: it’s one of the most accessible ways that anyone can start working online using skills you already have – or can easily learn.

Not only is it easy to get started, but many virtual assistants quickly replace their corporate income and make $5,000 a month or more because they can work with multiple clients at the same time.

Read on for the ultimate virtual assistant career guide. Find out what VA work entails and how you can become one today!

What does a virtual assistant do?

The title “Virtual Assistant” has come to include just about any type of work that can be done remotely.

Virtual assistants can provide all kinds of services including administrative tasks, personal assistance, graphic design, bookkeeping, social media, web design and maintenance, and more. The online space is huge and there’s room for just about any skill you can do at a computer.

Some virtual assistants work remotely as employees, or as independent contractors (freelancers).

Personally I think starting your own virtual assistant business is the way to go, because that way you have so much more control over which services you offer, how much you charge, and who you work with.

You can decide whether you want to work part time or full time, the days of the week you prefer, and so on.

Why become a virtual assistant?

When you become a virtual assistant, you’re free to work from anywhere with an internet connection!

As the name implies, virtual assistants work online. That means you get to enjoy all of the benefits that come with remote work! There are so many other benefits as well:

The pay.

Virtual assistant rates are all over the place, but in North America they start around $20/hr and can increase from there. Some virtual assistants are able to charge upwards of $60/hr – usually once they build up a client list, or by specializing in a high-demand skill.

Much of the reason virtual assistants can make so much money is that they can work with multiple clients at once.

If you’ve ever worked in an office before, you know how much time you spend trying to look busy! While some positions offer enough work to keep you occupied (especially if you’re in a lot of meetings) many just leave you surfing the internet for much of the day until you can finally go home.

If that’s the case, it makes sense to work from home for multiple clients! That way, your days are busy enough to keep you interested and fulfilled.

The accessibility.

Depending on how many hours you want to dedicate to it, you can keep your VA work a side hustle or grow it into a full time business built around your lifestyle.

You can start working as a virtual assistant using things you already have: an internet connection, phone, and laptop. Possibly a webcam and microphone if you really want to impress on video calls.

You don’t even need a super expensive laptop, unless you get into things like video editing. It’s an affordable career option for just about anyone.

The potential for growth and progression.

Some VA’s go on to be online project managers, operations specialists, web or graphic designers, copywriters, business coaches… the list goes on! Others develop a large enough client base that they build a team or agency of other freelancers.

The flexibility.

The online space is huge, and the further you dive down that rabbit hole, the more you’ll discover. Just about any skill you have that can be done remotely can be offered as a service.

The beautiful thing about the internet is that it connects people from anywhere in the world. Meaning if you have services to offer, or you’re looking for someone to help you set something up, there’s almost guaranteed to be someone for you, if you know where to find them.

Time and location freedom.

If you work as an independent contractor, you set your own schedule. (This is one of the things that distinguishes independent contractors from employees in North America.)

The ability to work from anywhere with an internet connection opens you up to possibilities like traveling when you feel like it, staying home with your kids, or just generally being able to fit your work around your life (instead of vice versa.)

Consistency of work (compared to other freelancers)

One of the major benefits of working as a virtual assistant is that most businesses need long-term support, so you don’t have to constantly hustle for new clients. The income is somewhat more consistent than with other types of freelancing where you need to keep finding new projects.

If you want to work full time and offer monthly retainer contracts, you only need 3 – 4 clients to consider yourself booked out.

What skills does a virtual assistant need?

  • Good organization and time management. A big part of your job will be helping busy people get their ish together, so you’ll need to have yours together first!
  • Comfortable with computers. You don’t have to be a computer genius, but you’ll want to know your way around a computer. At the very least, the ability to Google how to fix computer issues will take you a long way in the remote work world.
  • Able to work independently. Your clients will be looking for someone to take part of their workload off their hands, so they’ll appreciate it if you can figure things out for yourself!

Who hires a virtual assistant?

Some larger companies have started to see the benefits of hiring flexible workers over employees, but small businesses tend to be the main clientele.

Most successful business owners eventually realize that they could make more money by focusing on higher level parts of their business, instead of the day-to-day admin tasks. That’s where a virtual assistant can step in.

Many VA’s hone in on one niche (clients from a specific industry), which gives you the flexibility to work with business owners in areas you’re most interested in. Wedding photographers often hire VA’s to help with client management, photo editing and Pinterest. Real estate agents are another group that need VA’s to write and update listings.

These are two particularly profitable niches, but any business owner who could use more time in a day can take advantage of virtual assistant services.

Why would someone hire a VA over an employee?

VA’s provide their own office space (a tax write off for you!) so they can be less expensive than traditional employees.

Because virtual assistants charge higher rates than an employee, you might be wondering why a business would choose to hire one rather than taking on a new employee. (You might also have to explain the benefits to a potential client, in case they hadn’t thought of that themselves!)

Convenience

Working with a virtual assistant is much more flexible than an employee. Because virtual assistants work on a contract basis (usually hourly or on a monthly retainer), business owners can hire them during the busy seasons. Then they don’t have to pay a full time employee to be bored during the quiet seasons.

As an example, wedding photographers and many contracting businesses tend to be swamped in the summer and more quiet during the winter. It might not make sense for them to hire a full time year round employee, but having someone to help out when they are busy can save them so much time and sanity!

Finally the hiring process is much less intense, and doesn’t have to drag on for months. Hiring a full time employee can be more of a risk to a business because it’s harder to end the working relationship if they’re unhappy with their performance.

No overhead

Because virtual assistants work remotely, businesses don’t need to rent or buy office space, pay for electricity, heating, cooling, etc. There are no payroll taxes, benefits, vacation or sick pay to worry about. Virtual assistants provide their own electronics, software and internet connection.

The lack of overhead combined with being able to work with them only when they’re needed can make working with a virtual assistant less expensive overall than an employee.

Business knowledge

Virtual assistants are often business owners themselves, so they’re already familiar with the ins and outs of running a business. They can offer insights that an employee might not, and are able to work more independently.

Launching your Virtual Assistant Career

Pick a service to offer

The online space is huge and there are so many different skills a virtual assistant can specialize in. Many of these skills are always in demand, because just about every business in existence needs them.

Another huge benefit of working as a VA is that you can take advantage of skills you already have – or skills you can easily learn online. Most office workers can transition into a VA role with few hiccups, and make a lot more than they did at work!

Generalizing vs. specializing

A virtual assistant does not have to master every skill to be successful! Picking one specific service or group of services can actually make it easier to find clients, because your potential clients (and the people who refer them to you) understand exactly what you offer.

You can offer a “menu” of things you’re good at and love doing, and leave out the things you don’t like. Unlike in a traditional job where you’re pretty much stuck doing whatever your boss tells you to do – even if it’s outside of your job description!

A generalist is someone who offers a lot of different services, while a specialist hones down on just a few signature offers. Specializing has its benefits – you can usually charge more if you work in a very specific area, because you get better and faster at doing that one thing over time.

If you’re multi-talented, or you have no idea what you want to do, it makes sense to offer a bunch of different services. Especially when you’re just getting started, it can be a good way to get a feel for which services your clients need the most and what you enjoy doing.

How to price your virtual assistant services

There are three different ways to price your work as a virtual assistant: hourly, retainer, and packages.

Hourly pricing is a good starting place when you don’t know how long it takes you to finish tasks. You can just bill clients after the work is done.

Keeping in mind that you have to pay business expenses if you work for yourself – including taxes – you’ll want to charge at least $30 an hour, even when you’re first starting out. When you’re self employed, you can’t really compare the prices you charge with your hourly rate as an employee, because you pay business expenses from it.

(For more info on expenses, see How Much Does it Cost to Start a Freelancing Business?)

Most virtual assistants move to monthly retainers, where clients book a certain number of hours for the month. (This might be 5, 10, 20 hours a week, etc.) Generally if clients don’t use the hours, they don’t roll over into the next month, because you already blocked the time off for them on your schedule. (So you couldn’t take other clients during that time.)

Retainers can give virtual assistants more stability from month to month, and clients enjoy them because they know they’re guaranteed a certain number of hours ahead of time.

To make retainers attractive, you would usually give clients a bulk discount when they purchase more hours. So for example, if your hourly rate for one-time projects is $45/hr, your 5-hour retainer might be priced at $40/hr, your 10-hour package at $38/hr and your 20-hour package at $36/hr.

Hourly rates would be priced the highest because these are the least predictable income for you.

Giving clients a discount for booking lots of hours fills your schedule faster with fewer clients to juggle!

Register your business

It isn’t strictly necessary to register a business, but if you plan to be in it for the long haul and make serious money, you’ll want to get this out of the way as soon as you can.

Put a portfolio together

Because you don’t need a lot of clients to make a good monthly income as a VA, you don’t need to advertise as much as other product or service based businesses. 3 – 5 monthly retainer clients could fill your schedule, depending on what type of services you’re offering!

Still, it’s good to have something you can send potential clients to showcase your work and what skills you can offer them. Keep in mind that a portfolio is different from a resume – it’s more of a marketing document.

Portfolios are especially important if you’re in a creative field and want to work with other creative businesses. It’s a quick visual way to show off your style. But a portfolio can benefit any kind of virtual assistant business – it’s a quick way to communicate what exactly you do.

A portfolio is especially useful for your friends and family who might want to refer you, because they can easily send it to their contacts too.

Does a virtual assistant need a website?

Having your own website can position you as a professional right away. It shows potential clients that you’re organized and proactive, giving them confidence that they can trust you with their own business.

If you want a website right away, it’s not hard to get up and running within a day for around $110. Here’s my guide to DIY-ing your website if that’s the route you want to take.

If you aren’t in a position to create a website right way, you could put together a nicely designed online brochure with a service like Carrd (which is $19 for the entire year – not monthly!)

Software that Virtual Assistants Work With

The right software can make your life, and your clients’ lives so much easier!

Software can greatly streamline your virtual assistant business and save you hours and hours of repetitive manual tasks like booking in clients, sending routine e-mails, and status updates on tasks you’re working on.

These are my favorite free tools to get your business off the ground:

  • Wave Apps is, amazingly, a free accounting software. I definitely recommend you set up accounting software from the beginning because It’ll make everything effortless come tax time. Wave Apps is super easy for anyone to use. You can send invoices, see your earnings at a glance, and sync your business bank account so that it automatically categorizes your income and expenses for you.
  • Notion is like an Evernote, spreadsheet making, and database app all rolled into one. And everything is searchable! When you work with multiple clients this is a must-have to keep all of your files, tasks, and random notes organized. ClickUp, Asana, and Trello are similar tools, but personally I find Notion to be THE most flexible tool I’ve ever used. And it’s so easy to use, it blows them out of the water! Did I mention Notion’s personal plan is totally free?
  • Google Docs is like a free alternative to Microsoft Office. They have Sheets as well for spreadsheets, and Google Drive for sharing files. You can even save files in MS Office format from Google docs if your client prefers it. Google Docs are collaborative, so you can edit files with your clients in real time. It’s a must these days for remote teamwork!
  • Voxer. I HIGHLY recommend using an app like Voxer rather than giving clients your personal phone number. This completely side steps issues with them calling you at wild hours and on the weekend. You can send each other recorded voice notes (or text, just like any other messaging app) so that you can chat when it’s convenient for both of you, and you don’t interrupt each other’s work.

Once you have the funds for it, I highly recommend an all-in-one freelancing software like Bonsai. It keeps basically your entire business in one place, and comes with all of your contract and proposal templates, invoicing, time tracking and onboarding forms.

Bonsai is designed specifically for freelancing businesses like virtual assistants so it’ll save you a ton of time trying to piece together everything from scratch. You can spend less time on the admin of your own business and more time working directly with clients (i.e, making money!)

How to Become a Virtual Assistant With No Experience

Fiverr is a fantastic place to get your feet wet in the online work world without too much commitment. You could offer any service that’s simple and easy for someone to order, just to get a feel for what remote work is like.

Here are some ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • An inbox zero service: many business owners are drowning in e-mails and probably missing something important because they just can’t keep up! You could clean out their inbox, put important messages into folders, and flag any e-mails that they need to respond to.
  • Pinterest pin creation: If graphic design is your thing, you could offer to create pins, and even add scheduling and planning into the mix. Go check out Fiverr to see how much people charge for this service!
  • Proofreading or document editing: if language is your forte and you’re good at spotting errors. You could price this based on the number of words or pages you edit and use track changes in Google Docs to show your corrections.

You don’t have to have everything figured out right away. Offering a single service is such a great way to practice working online until you’re more comfortable!

I don’t recommend staying on Fiverr for the long term if you can help it. They do take a chunk of your earnings in exchange for using their website! It’s usually better to move off their platform onto your own website as you build confidence with clients.

Some virtual assistants will offer friends or family a favor in return for a good testimonial. This is the ONLY time I would recommend working for free, as you’re just building up your portfolio.

You can also practice without a client by creating graphics, documents, websites etc. for imaginary brands! Even if the company isn’t real, the work you show in your portfolio will still speak for itself.

Finding your first client

You may have to be extra persistent to win that first client, but it gets easier from there!

The number one most effective way of finding clients is to let your friends and family know that you’re starting a new business and ask if they know anyone who might need your services.

Instagram is another fantastic place to find business owners you might want to work with. You can follow them, get to know their business and interact with them before you suggest working together. That’s usually more successful than just “cold DM’ing” people wanting them to pay you money before you even know each other!

Beware of these common online job scams before you start your search. If you know about them ahead of time, you’ll recognize them right away when you see them on places like Facebook and online job boards. This is why you’ll hear so much advice recommending that you reach out to potential clients or let them find you on social media, rather than applying to sketchy job postings!

No matter what kind of business you’re in, your first client is always the hardest and scariest! Some VA’s luck out and find someone who is ready to work with a VA right away, while others have to be more persistent and keep networking. It can take time, so keep your head up and keep asking around!

In Conclusion

I hope that cleared up a bunch of questions you had about virtual assistants! Does it sound like a good career choice for you? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments! 😊