How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant

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If you could have more income, more freedom, and work from home or anywhere in the world, would you?

That’s what becoming a virtual assistant can do for you.

It doesn’t take a fancy skillset to make it happen. You probably already have everything you need to start.

But you might need a little direction on how best to grow it into a real money-making opportunity.

That’s what this guide is for: To help you become a productive and profitable virtual assistant.

 A hand holding a mouse on the table_How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant

Not quite sure what a virtual assistant is? This can help with that, too.

Once you figure out what services to offer and how to get a job as a virtual assistant, you’ll be well on your way to success.

With endless opportunities, the sky’s the limit.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant (shortened to VA) is someone who provides services for someone else in exchange for an agreed upon rate of pay.

Basically, you do some work, and they pay you for it.

It might sound like any other job out there, but it’s very different.

When providing virtual assistance, picking the tasks you do and when you do them is totally up to you.

Setting your own hours to work around your family, school, or other obligations is a real possibility.

The best part is you don’t need any specialised training or certification.

(That said, we recommend investing in a virtual assistant training course if it’s in your budget.)

Virtual assistant requirements are simple. As long as you have skills that businesses are looking for and dedicate yourself to the task, you can succeed.

Most VAs are self-employed. The term “freelancer” is thrown around quite a bit when talking about virtual assistants.

If you’re freelance, it means you work for yourself instead of being an employee for another company.

Don’t let the idea of starting your own business overwhelm you. Yes, you’ll manage the invoicing, collect payments, pay taxes, and be the sole source of customer support for your clients.

But it isn’t as complicated as you might think. Having the right tools and systems can be a tremendous help.

It sure beats being chained to your desk and working a regular 9 to 5 job.

What Services Does a Virtual Assistant Provide?

A better question might be “what services DOESN’T a VA provide!” There’s no one-size-fits-all for how to be a virtual assistant.

From providing general tasks, like a virtual secretary would do, to specializing in bookkeeping or social media management, the variety of functions for virtual assistants to provide are countless.

VAs can do anything. Here are a few services that they’re getting hired to do right now.

  • Social Media Assistant
  • VA for Bloggers
  • E-commerce Assistant
  • Real Estate VA
  • General Administrative VA
  • Email Management
  • Calendar Management
  • Freelance Writing
  • Editing and Copywriting
  • Researching
  • Fact-Checking
  • Customer Service
  • Bookkeeping
  • SEO
  • App Development
  • Copywriting

This is a small sampling of the type of work available as a virtual assistant.

For more ideas, check out this list of 50+ services to find inspiration.

How Much Money Do Virtual Assistants Make?

How much you make as a virtual assistant depends on your skills, expertise, and level of commitment.

Everyone has different financial goals, and you can earn as much or as little as you’d like.

If you’re looking for extra money to help you get out of debt or to spend more time travelling, you can do that.

Taking your work as a VA full-time can unlock your earning potential and open up more opportunities than you ever thought possible.

Even if you’re doing this on the side while you continue working your regular job, working as an online virtual assistant can replace your income and give you more freedom.

Most VAs charge between $25 and $70 NZD per hour when first starting.

(Editors note: I made $35AUD an hour as a VA working for my former Sydney employer whilst travelling in Mexico. This was on the low end for my skillset, but I only needed to work 20 hours a week to fund our travels so it worked really well for me.)

After establishing a client base, working up to $100 or more an hour is achievable. 

Take Gina Horkey for example. She created the course Fully Booked VA, and walks you through the process step-by-step.

Considering her average income for part of 2017 was $42,499 monthly, Gina knows what she’s talking about.

Could you imagine how your life would change if you could increase your income?

It’s tough to know what you could earn. But one thing is certain: the amount of money you make is up to you.

How to Become a Virtual Assistant

Are you looking to be a virtual assistant at home?

It’s certainly an attractive alternative to the run-of-the-mill 9 to 5 job.

As companies realise off-site staff can save money, they’re adopting remote computing technology to allow for more virtual work to be done.

With a few sought-after skills that businesses need, you could be in high demand.

You don’t need a virtual assistant certification. Not having experience is no problem at all.

Even starting from square one, you can build a lucrative career.

If you’re wondering how to become a virtual assistant without experience, you’re in luck.

Having a few talents like typing, email, and scheduling can help.

As for the rest? Here’s what you need to begin your journey as a VA.

Decide on your Business Structure

An all-around best way to structure your business doesn’t exist.

It’s an important decision influencing your tax, personal liability, and legal protections.

Speaking with a lawyer or accountant to find what works for you is in your best interest.

The different types of structure vary and can include:

  • Sole Trader – This is the simplest and most common option. It doesn’t separate you from your business. That means you’re entitled to all profits but are responsible for all debt, losses, and liabilities.
  • Partnership – If going into business with two or more people, this might be a good choice. 
  • Company – As a company, you’ll need to register with the Companies Office.

Your structure can change later, but it can cost you and your business more time and money.

If you’re not sure which to choose, definitely speak with someone who knows what they’re doing.

Choose Skills to Offer Your Clients

Working as a virtual assistant can mean lots of different things depending on your skill set.
This is an area where a lot of people get stuck.

You want to work as a virtual assistant but have no idea what services to offer your clients.

The good news is you probably already have the skills you need to make money online.

When thinking about how to be an online personal assistant, most assume it involves typical office work like checking email, returning phone calls, and managing meetings or appointments.

And it can be – but it can include heaps of other tasks, too.

As someone new to the role, it can help if you stick to a specific area.

Concentrating on one skill or industry can sharpen your proficiency.

Plus, being seen as an expert in one field can work to your advantage when it comes to marketing and pay rates.

To get your thoughts going, here are some examples.

  • Administrative VA – Event planning, customer service, calendar management, scheduling, email management, real estate assistance, meeting minutes, and general research.
  • Bookkeeping VA – Bookkeeping, debt collection, invoicing, collecting and processing payments, financial statements, and spreadsheets.
  • Social Media VA – Pinterest, Facebook and Facebook groups, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, graphics creation, create status posts and updates, and scheduling.
  • Marketing VA – Press releases, Google ads, Facebook ads, email marketing, copywriting, branding, newsletter design and content creation, sales funnels, and webinars.
  • Technical Services VA – Web design, programming, CSS and HTML coding, podcast editing, app development, and video editing.
  • Blogging VA – Content management, editorial calendar, editing and proofreading, WordPress updates, managing comments, SEO, and generating topic ideas.

You may feel the temptation to skip over this step.

Wouldn’t it be better to see what jobs are available and design your services around that?

The trouble with that is you’ll have difficulty showing your value to prospective clients.

Once you put your energy into a specific niche, you’ll gain momentum to help you reach the next step.

Pick two or three ideas to begin and look for clients hiring for those services.

If that doesn’t work out or if you decide you don’t like doing those types of things, you’re free to change it.

Being able to grow and transform your business is one of the great perks of working for yourself.

Keep in mind that you can usually charge more for tasks that require a higher level of competence.

For example, email management, scheduling, customer service, and general research are relatively low-skilled.

If you have a knack for bookkeeping, Pinterest management, Facebook ads, web design, or app development, you may want to start with that.

It could help you grow your income faster.

Create a Pricing Structure

This is the part you’ve been waiting for, right?

Everyone wants to know how much a VA makes per hour.

It’s an important consideration since your prices determine what you can make as a virtual assistant.

But there is no one right answer. It varies according to your skill level and experience.

Plus, different roles command different rates.

The first step to creating your pricing structure is to decide if you want to bill hourly or charge a flat fee.

With an hourly rate, you’re trading time for money in much the same way you would at a traditional job.

If a client hires you to manage their email, you’ll keep track of how much time you spend doing it.

When you finish, you add up the total number of hours and multiply that by your hourly fee.

And then you invoice your client for that amount.

Billing by the hour is relatively simple to calculate.

Some companies prefer this way because they use it for their employees.

Do you want a fulfilling and lucrative career you can do from anywhere? Becoming a virtual assistant could be the ideal solution. A virtual assistant (shortened to VA) is someone who provides services for someone else in exchange for an agreed upon rate of pay. When providing virtual assistance, picking the tasks you do and when you do them is totally up to you. Setting your own hours to work around your family, school, or other obligations is a real possibility. Click through to learn how to work as a virtual assistant.

Charging a flat fee doesn’t require you to track your hours.

Instead, you pick one set rate, which your client will pay for your services.

This type of pricing is popular with attorneys, freelance writing, and web design.

In this instance, you might agree to create ten status posts for your client’s social media profile in exchange for a single fixed price for that project.

Whether it takes 20 minutes or two hours, you’ll get paid the same. As a VA, both options could make sense.

You could use different fee structures for various clients and services to experiment with how they work.

Then you could decide which is better for your business.

When it comes to setting your rates, start by figuring out what it would take to make it worth your time.

Don’t forget you’re responsible for paying self-employment taxes.

You also won’t have access to any employer benefits like paid annual leave or superannuation benefits.

You will have overhead expenses like software, a computer, and website hosting to pay for, too.

After you pick a wage that makes sense, a good rule of thumb is to add 25% to it.

Reaching a little higher can help to keep you happy while doing the work.

To start with an hourly rate, charging anywhere from $15 to $50USD per hour is reasonable.

If your skill is in high demand or you have expert status in your niche, pricing at $100 or more an hour is possible.

It’s tempting to undercharge to secure work with a new client.

But remember the adage “you get what you pay for.”

Charging what you’re worth can raise your credibility and demand more respect in your niche.

Establish an Online Presence

Working online generally requires you to have an identity online.

That means you probably need a website and a social media presence. Without it, marketing becomes difficult.

Having a site makes it much easier to prove to new prospects that you’re a real person.

This is an important step and an exciting part of launching your new virtual assistant business. It’s the point where your idea starts to take shape.

Putting yourself out there to be found by potential clients can feel nerve-racking.

After all, their decision about whether or not they want to work with you will depend on your online presence.

As terrifying as it might seem, creating a website isn’t too difficult.

WordPress is the most common platform, and they make it pretty simple. It’s popular, too.

It powers over 33% of the internet as of March 2019.

When creating your website and social profiles, put your client first. Adding a little personality to it is okay but don’t go overboard.

Generally, keeping it professional is the primary goal. Making sure it appeals to clients and that it’s easy to navigate also helps.

Having an online presence is an excellent way to kick off meeting new clients.

When you’re networking, building a relationship is crucial.

Giving prospects a link back to your site is a peek inside who you are and what your business is about.

It’s an excellent opportunity to share your talents, too.

After you complete a few projects, ask clients for testimonials to showcase on your site.

This social proof can help communicate your value so new clients can see what sets you apart from other VAs.

How to Find Work as a Virtual Assistant

Starting your own virtual assistant business can be a great way to work from home
With all the talk about being your own boss and starting your own business, choosing to work as an employee is an option.

Two of the top companies hiring for virtual assistant positions are Taskmolly and Time etc.

Just remember that working for someone else comes with a lot more restrictions.

The pay isn’t usually as good, and you won’t have much freedom to set your work hours. But it might make it easier to find clients.

To have the most flexibility with scheduling, choosing projects, and how much you make, setting up your own business as an online assistant is the way to go.

Some blog posts and articles point you to job boards like Upwork and Fiverr to find jobs.

If you’re looking for a quick way to land your first client, that might work.

When becoming a virtual assistant, the best way to find well-paying jobs is to network and build relationships with your target clients.

Start by reaching out to people you already know.

If you know bloggers or anyone already making money online, ask if they’re hiring.

They might not be, but they could point you to someone who is.

Networking can lead you to referrals. Look for Facebook groups geared toward virtual assistants and bloggers to connect with others in your industry.

LinkedIn is another place where potential clients might hang out.

If you’re looking for work in the real estate industry, for instance, find a real estate business group on LinkedIn.

Adding value to conversations and offering help when you can is an excellent way to build rapport and land new clients.

Free Tools for a Successful VA Business

how to become a virtual assistant and work from home
Being a virtual assistant requires more than finding a client and doing the work. Making the most of the time you have is key.

If you look behind the scenes of any successful business, you’ll see they use tools to optimise performance and streamline workflows.

Using programs and apps can help get your business off the ground and keep it running smoothly.

Documents and Storage

Google Drive – More than just file storage, Google Drive is a free alternative to the Microsoft Office software suite.

It has online file storage, calendars, word processing, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations, and more. Plus, it’s easy to share files with clients.

Dropbox – As one of the best-known cloud storage tools, Dropbox syncs your files and lets you organize everything in one place.

It makes sharing files and entire folders with clients a simple process.

Using Dropbox Paper, collaborating to brainstorm and share rough drafts is possible.

To Manage Projects

Trello – For a visual approach to your to-do list, Trello is the answer. It’s incredibly flexible and easy-to-use, making project management a snap.

Assigning due dates, attaching files, and creating checklists are just a few of the features.

Asana – If you like checklists, Asana can help you. It’s clean layout and organization capabilities make it an excellent option for project management.

For Scheduling & Calls

Calendly – Setting up appointments is time-consuming. How many emails do you send back and forth before you settle on a time that works?

Calendly solves that problem for you. Plus, it syncs with other calendars, like Google Calendar, to keep everyone in the loop.

Zoom – Sometimes, a phone call isn’t enough. With Zoom, you have the capability for video conferencing and screen sharing.

Recording calls to reference later is also an option.

Track Time and Invoicing

Xero, MYOB and Hnry all provide options for invoicing and most New Zealand accountants are familiar with them.

Toggl – If all you need is to track how much time you spend on projects or a specific task for a virtual assistant,

Toggl is a great option to do just that. It has advanced reporting to see precisely where you spend your time.

Social Media Management

Hootsuite – When running your business, you probably won’t remember to post on your social channels daily.

Hootsuite lets you schedule them in advance and can manage Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for you.

Buffer – To keep up on social media, Buffer has a clean layout that’s easy to use.

Scheduling your social sharing in advance makes it easy to concentrate on client projects instead of getting bogged down with day-to-day operations.

Other Tools

Canva – As a VA, you’ll need graphics. Whether for yourself or clients, Canva makes it easy.

It’s powerful graphic design software for beginners. Using the templates is a quick way to get started.

LastPass – Every time you create a new account, you get a new password.

How do you organise them and keep them straight? LastPass can help.

It’s a secure way to store all of your passwords and login information.

It syncs to your mobile device or computer and has a browser extension so you can always access it.

Noisli – Working from home can get quiet. Sometimes, you need background noise.

Noisli lets you pick from rain, white noise, and even a coffee shop to help boost your productivity.

Get Started as a Virtual Assistant

When asking yourself what you need to become a virtual assistant, the answer is just to start!

Being your own boss comes with many perks, and it isn’t as complicated as you might think.

It’s the perfect way for stay at home mums to make money.

Narrowing down your choices to a few services you’re good at, like social media, data entry, writing, email, or customer service, can help you focus on a client base.

Don’t get stuck on how much to charge. Pick a rate and go with it, and know you can change it for the next client if you want.

The most critical piece to remember is to keep it simple.

The more complicated your process, the more difficult it will be to manage your projects.

What are you waiting for? Making money online is more than wishful thinking.

It’s time to launch your business and start living a life you love. 

Related guides:

How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant


About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Stuff, NZHerald, Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.