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How To Become A Virtual Assistant – Where Do I Get Started?

Michelle Dale - Monday, October 04, 2010

This video is inspired by several comments I’ve had on the blog from new VAs looking to start a VA business and want to know exactly where they get started.  Also, I had an email this week from a woman who’s been telecommuting and working from home for a particular client for a while now and is looking to expand her VA business and she basically said that, to be honest, she’s looking where to start.

So, where do you get started when you’re trying to start a Virtual Assistant business?  Upcoming, at the end of the year, I’m launching a course called the VA Apprentice which is going to take you through from start to finish how you start a Virtual Assistant business.  We’re going to create it with you together.  So we’re going to, basically, hold your hand all the way from starting to creation to the finished product where you actually go out and you start marketing to your clients.  The course is going to give you everything that you need in order to do that successfully.  It’s basically going to be worked off my business model VirtualMissFriday.com.  So, anything that I say now to you is based on my own business model for VirtualMissFriday.com and virtualmissfriday.co.uk.  It’s a very successful model.  It’s taken me through from just myself to multi-VA company and we are earning 6-figures now.  It’s doing extremely well and we’re quite healthy and buoyant in the market.  So, what I’m telling you now is basically the business model for a business like that.  If you want to replicate it then you definitely need to join my VA Apprentice course.

So, in a nutshell, and this is really really in a nutshell because there’s far more to it and it’s quite complex but I’d like to give you some points to think about.  These points are based on the modules that are coming up in the course.

First of all, you have to get in the right frame of mind.  You need to set goals and, by this, I don’t mean to sit there writing out a business plan because in Virtual Assistance things are changing all the time and things will change for you.  So, basically, you need to feel your way around.  You need to find the techniques that work for you and then implement them.  What you actually need to do is set yourself some goals; whether this be that by the end of next year you want to be living abroad in another country, whether it be you want to be earning a certain rate at a certain time, it could be that you want a certain number of clients by a set date.  Set yourself a realistic goal and by realistic it all depends on how hard you want to work.  So, if you intend to work really really hard then your goals can be much bigger than if you intend to only work on your VA business 2 or 3 days a week.  So, set yourself a realistic goal.  Get in the right frame of mind.  You’re going to succeed in your VA business.  You have to be in this frame of mind and you have to make it happen.

The second thing is you need to decide on your client profile.  You need to decide who you are going to target.  Who is your market?  You need to sit down and think about the type of clients that you’re going to market to.  Who they are?  You need to develop your client profile.  Of the back of this you then need to think about your services and your rates.  You need to tailor your services and your rates to your client profile.  Obviously, the services are going to depend on the skills that you have and if you don’t have any skills at the moment it’s going to depend on the skills that you want to learn.  So, basically, you need to think about your services based on what you want to learn or what the skills that you already have are and then you need to formulate the rates around that.  Also, as well, the level of experience that you have will also determine your rates.  So, be fair with your rates.  If you decided that you want to do social media marketing and you’ve only been doing social media marketing for a couple of months then you wouldn’t necessarily want to be charging a rate at the moment which is something that a more experienced social media marketer would be charging.  So, just be fair.  You know what you want to charge and you know what you’re able to live on because also as well you have to factor in the cost of living, of course.

The third thing is your online presence and your branding and your design.  You need to start thinking about your website, your logo, your branding.  How you are going to present yourself and how you are going to present your virtual assistant company online.  This is very very important.  I cannot stress enough how important your online presence is going to be as a contributing factor to the success of your business.  You could be an extremely good virtual assistant but if your website presence doesn’t cut it then it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be really successful unless you do a hell of a lot of offline marketing.  Me, personally, I do all of my marketing online because I don’t actually service any clients in the country where I live so it’s no good to me going to my next door neighbor asking them if they want a virtual assistant because I can’t work with them the way my company is set up.  But, certainly, if you want to be a digital nomad and you’re intending to go down that route then you need to have an awesome online presence, absolutely topnotch.

Then you need to think about your lead generation strategy.  You need to collectively think about all the ways that you are going to get your clients, the clients which are in your client profile that you did in step 2.  This can be a variety of ways: online marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing.  There are literally dozens and dozens and dozens of ways that you can get clients.  So, you need to sit down and think about how you are going to do that for your business and where your clients are going to come from.

You then need to think about how you are going to deal with those clients once they contact you.  You have to think about your consultations and your appointments.  You need a procedure in place for dealing with those and a strategy for how you are going to take from a lead to an appointment, which may be just a call-back, to a consultation to then signing the digital dotted line because you don’t want any paper.  That’s basically the strategy that you need to think of then for how you’re going to convert these leads into clients.

Very vital important thing is you need to think about your finances and your accounting.  How you’re going to manage the flow of money and particularly, the most important thing at this stage, is how you’re going to take money in.  Most of the time I find that a PayPal account works just fine because people can pay by credit card, and they can pay by PayPal.  Certainly if you’re working online this is the most convenient way for people to be able to pay you.  If you are in a country which doesn’t accept PayPal where you can withdraw into your bank account you may want to consider something like money bookers.  Either way, you need a way for people to pay you online and you don’t necessarily have to have an expensive merchant account.  I don’t think it’s necessary.  I don’t use one myself.  So, basically, it will be intake of payments (you can do bank transfers as well, if people are up for doing that for you) and how you’re going to deal with your accounting.  How you’re going to deal with your invoicing, your bookkeeping and that type of thing.  You need to cover and get your finances in order because if you don’t do this earlier on it’s going to result in problems for you because it’s going to turn into a mess.  Wherever you are, find a good accountant so something is going to take all the hassle out of the accounting thing for you.  Generally, on the whole, being a virtual assistant, the accounting is very very simple.  But you still need a good accountant who is able to help you with the tax returns and things like that.

Then you need to think about how you are actually going to run your business.  So we’ve basically been through everything from the set up to generating the leads to generating the clients but then you need to think about your intake.  How you’re going to take clients in?  What is your procedure going to be?  How you’re going to welcome them into the bosom of your virtual assistant business?  You need to think about how you are going to ask them to assign work to you?  What are your procedures for that?  You then need to think about how you are going to process that work, and the easiest way that you’re going to process that work.  Being a digital nomad myself, all of this is done online so I use completely online systems.  But you need to obviously work out what’s best for you wherever you are.  You then also need to think about how you’re going to deliver that work.  Once you’ve done the work how you’re going to send it back to your client.  What are your procedures for that and then, obviously, invoicing.  Invoicing may be a deposit beforehand.  It could be after when you finished the services.  That’s also something you need to think about and have a procedure for.  I can’t stress enough the value of having procedures and setting things in stone and saying, “Right, this is how I deal with my clients and this is how it’s going to be” and you stick to it because, otherwise, some clients have a tendency to want to try and bend you and shape you to conform with how they want you to deal with them and it’s really a bad idea.  From the very very start make sure that you have your own policies and procedures in place and you make sure that you stick to them and don’t bend them for clients because you will find yourself really getting in a muddle that way.  It’s going to be a hassle for you and you’ll end up hating your business really.  So, make sure that everything is really on your terms right from the start from when you take the work in, how they delegate the work to you, how you process it, getting out right to the end when you deliver it back to the end and you invoice them.  Also as well I recommend that you have a follow up procedure especially if you are new to virtual assistance on how you can then get more work out of them at the time that you deliver their work back.  So, some sort of a procedure for following up with them seeing if they need anything else, seeing if they have anybody else that might need your services as well.

So, in a very very small nutshell, that’s what you need to be thinking about for getting started as a virtual assistant and that should basically see you on your way to then developing things much more so you can really get in your groove with your business, with your clients and just generally with your company.

So, that’s all for me.  I hope that helps.  Of course, I welcome your comments and if there’s anything else I can help you with on getting started as a virtual assistant please leave a comment and I’d be happy to help you, or reply on a blog post.

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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