How to Become a Virtual Assistant

Being a Virtual Assistant has several different benefits, such as the flexibility with regards to when and where you work, and the freedom to support people both nationally and internationally. However, often Personal Assistants and Executive Assistants who want to move from working in-house to working remotely as a VA do not know how to make this transition or where to start.

We are often asked how to go about making that transition from PA/EA to VA and what it takes to set up as a Virtual Assistant. As such, we have put together a few tips on how you would go about becoming a Virtual Assistant, so that you can make a fully informed decision on whether this career choice is right for you.

Business Model

First and foremost, you need to think about what type of business model works best for you as a Virtual Assistant. There are three main options that you can choose from. The first is to set up as a self-employed freelance VA; the second is to set up a limited company; and the third is to work for a company, such as us. Whatever model you choose will determine how you are paid by clients and also what tax and legal considerations are involved. There are a number of pros and cons to each option which are listed below:  

  • Freelance VA

    This is one of the most popular choices and most VAs will work as freelance VAs. This involves registering yourself as being self-employed and informing HMRC that you intend to run your own business, which can be done online in just a few minutes and is relatively straightforward. The positives of this business model are the fact that, as a freelancer, there is no legal distinction between you and your business and as such, clients pay you for your services (therefore you are liable for any legal obligations and debt management, so it is key to ensure you have good insurance in place). In addition to this, it is the simplest way to get the ball rolling with a lot less paperwork involved compared to registering as a limited company. Furthermore, it is easier with regards to keeping your own records, and you will only need to declare your earnings on your yearly tax return.

    The downside of being a freelance VA is that it is much harder to scale up, if using this business model. If you are happy earning a monthly income working as a VA and you are not looking to expand any further than this, then this will be the best option for you. You could, under this business model, sub-contract work to other VAs, but if you were looking to hire other members of a team to delegate work to and grow the business beyond working for clients yourself, then it may be better to look at setting up a limited company.

  • Limited Company
    Although this is a less popular model for VAs, it could be a great option, depending on what you are looking to build from a business. Again, it doesn’t take long at all to set up as a limited company and all it involves is registering on Companies House. However, this is something that an accountant can also do on your behalf, if you are looking at using an accountant to manage the company’s finances. Running a limited company means that your company is its own legal entity and, as such, your clients have contracts with the company and not you personally. In addition, with a limited company, you are typically the only shareholder in the company, so you are entitled to any profits paid through dividends. Furthermore, you are classed as an employee of the company which means that either you, or your accountant, can run a payroll to pay yourself a salary from the company.

    Finally, as a limited company, you are not personally liable for the obligations of the company. The positive features of setting up a limited company are that trading as a limited company with a brand can give off a better impression to your clients. It is also easier to scale up a limited company and, if you ever wanted to sell the company further down the line, having a limited company over a sole trading company means that it will be a lot simpler to sell. The main downside of a limited company is the fact that it is more complicated and could be more costly, especially if bringing an accountant onboard.

  • Working For a Company

    If you aren’t sure about setting up your own company, but still want the flexibility of working remotely, then working for a company, like us, may be the best option for you. The benefits of working in this manner mean that there is less paperwork to worry about, as all you would need to do is sign your initial contract and send over your timesheet. In addition to this, we would match you with suitable clients and be there for you, should you have any concerns.

    What's more, you would not have to rely on solely marketing your services yourself and there will always be people there to cover any holidays or sick days that you take, which is something to bear in mind, as you would need to factor this in, if you were running your own business.

Services You Provide

Once you have decided on your business model, the next step is to focus on what services you will provide to clients. Rather than looking at what people might want, it might be easier to look at what you enjoy, what you’re good at and what you are happy continuing to do, and then go out and find the people who need these services, as there is little to no point leaving a role to work for yourself if you end up taking on jobs that you don’t enjoy!

It is also definitely worth considering whether you have a niche service, or services, that you can offer in addition to the general administrative support you will be providing, for instance, social media management or event planning. Providing a niche service, or services, means that you can leverage off this and become a go-to person in this field and look at clients who need assistance in your area(s) of expertise. Have a list of general duties you are confident and happy undertaking and then add your niche services as well, so that prospective clients can see clearly what you have to offer them.

Pricing

Another important factor to consider is what your charge rates and pricing will be and whether you will charge by the hour, charge by project or work on a retained basis. Typically, VAs tend to charge, on average, £25 per hour, but this can vary depending on their level of experience, expertise, what work they will be doing, the type of skills required and who the client is. For instance, a VA who has experience of working at director level or for High Net Worth Individuals will charge a higher rate than those VAs with basic level administrative skills. Remember not to undersell yourself, if people can see the true value of the resource you are offering, they will pay a good price for it!

Branding

Once you have decided on what services and price options you offer, you will then need to work on a company name and come up with your branding and company logo. It is key that your branding and your online appearance is strong and appealing, as your website and social media will no doubt be the first place your clients look when thinking about using your services. However, the branding and logo and things that you can make changes to and re-vamp over time, so don’t bog yourself down too much with this initially; your main focus will be building up your client base, as you won’t be able to improve on your branding or website if you have no money coming in from clients!

Marketing

This is probably what you will spend most of your time doing, alongside working with clients, and is something that you will have to continue to keep on top of for the duration of your time as a VA. For those who don’t have a great deal of experience in marketing, this can be the most daunting part of setting up a VA business, however, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become and the easier it will get!

Having a strong LinkedIn page and regularly updating your social media platforms can go a long way, but why not look at writing a weekly or bi-weekly blog as well, as this can really help you with regards to building your SEO? Another great way to market your business would be to attend as many face-to-face or virtual networking events as possible, making sure that people know about you and the services you provide. You never know who you might meet at a networking event and, even if you don’t meet a client straight off the bat, you may connect with someone who knows someone who requires your services! Networking is a great way for VAs to start building up their client base. The key is to have conversations, build relationships and provide solutions wherever possible!

Brush Up On Technology and Keep Learning 

A VA is not the same as a traditional PA and, as such, you will need to be pretty tech savvy and comfortable working with and using the different technologies and software out there, as this will make your life and your clients' lives easier. Although you can offer services as a more traditional freelance PA, the people who are assisting clients the most are those who can do more than just diary management and travel booking, such as helping with social media, project management, database management using CRM systems, etc.

Those VAs who are well-versed with regards to suitable tech on the market are those that will be of more use due to the constant advancements in technology and the changes in business landscape brought on by COVID-19.  VAs who continually look to upskill, develop their skillsets and try the latest technologies available on the market will be able to work more productively and efficiently and will have a more varied skillset. This will result in being able to provide clients with more value for money than a traditional admin heavy PA.

The transition from EA/PA to VA is a serious career change, which requires you to have money in the bank, hard work, determination, commitment and resilience. Being a VA means that, in addition to continually marketing your business, you need to think about managing multiple tasks for multiple clients, keeping on top of your own admin, bookkeeping, website and social media, as well as the other day to day duties required by your clients. It takes resilience, resourcefulness and adaptability and shouldn’t be seen as an ‘easy way to make money from home’. However, if you are committed and are at a stage in your life where you can set up your own business, then choosing a career as a VA can be a hugely rewarding and enjoyable!

If you are still interested in being a Virtual Assistant but think being self-employed or setting up a limited company isn’t right for you then perhaps partnering with a company, like us, who will find assignments on your behalf, is the best way to go about it.

Photo by Gabriel Beaudry on Unsplash.

Contact the Lily Shippen Team

To learn more about our Virtual Assistant offering and how it might work for you in the future, please contact us. All future VA vacancies that we are hiring for will be posted on our website, so keep an eye out!

Topics from this blog: Virtual Assistant Careers

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