Virtual Assistants (VAs) are popping up all over the place every single day. I wouldn’t like to guess how many hundreds of thousands there are world-wide, but does this mean that this industry is now saturated and too late for you to join in?
No. Definitely not!
The VA business model is riding high on this new wave that is sweeping the whole world by storm – the digital era phenomenon. It’s really only just got started and no-one can guess where this is all heading in the future.
But what I do know is that people like us; stay at home mums, women wanting to leave work and work from home, should be excited with what this new digital era is bringing onto our door-steps.
Why There’s Plenty Of Room For Everyone
You need to really grasp this.
More and more small and large business are being forced to go digital or at least change and update their business practices to adopt to this new digital era.
For example, I’ve just received a letter from my local Royal Mail office this morning (15th Feb 2013) informing us of important changes to the way the Royal Mail services are being run. This is a quote from the letter in addressing the issue:
“We need to modernise the way we operate in order to maintain services and to keep our prices as low as possible” ….
“As I’m sure you are experiencing, the way in which we communicate with each other has changed dramatically. Unfortunately, fewer letters are now posted every day. We need to organise our delivery routes to be as efficient as possible”
So this is the huge Royal Mail reluctantly making changes. So what about small businesses and individual business owners? Well, they are seeing it in a more positive way in that there is a lesser need to employ permanent secretarial staff and instead hire their work out to virtual assistants.
It’s much cheaper for these small businesses to outsource their work to a virtual assistant. They have no overheads, equipment to buy, no sick pay, no holiday pay etc..
The other benefit is that you don’t need to be local any more, you can take your business nationwide or worldwide – it doesn’t matter where you or your prospective clients live.
But not only are more small businesses looking for virtual assistants, the flip-side is also happening in that the Internet and the digital concept is opening up a whole new bunch of opportunities for more small businesses to start-up and expand. It’s a growing win-win situation for small businesses and virtual assistants – they go hand-in-hand!
Look at how retail websites are taking over our High Streets. More and more High Street shops are being forced to close down because they cannot compete with the Online retail world.
More and more ‘new era’ small businesses are looking to hire virtual assistants as opposed to employing permanent staff.
So let’s grasp this with both hands and let me help you get started to become a VA working from home and enjoy doing the jobs you love and do best!
Your Skills & Background
First you need to look at your background and what skills you have acquired over the years. Have you got secretarial skills? P.A. skills? Clerical? Administration? Customer service? If so, write down exactly what you can do.
Here are some examples to get you going:
- Transcription Typing
- Medical Secretary
- Legal Secretary
- Accountancy Secretary
- Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint, Publisher
- Data Entry
- Customer Service
- Diary Keeping
- Systems Management
- Team Management
- Event Planning (e.g. conferences)
Those are the ones that just came off the top of my head, but that list covers most of the main areas in which virtual assistants are hired for.
Defining Your Target Market
Now you have your list of skills, you want to fit them around a target market. What type of small business or individual business owner uses your skills? Where are your skills best suited?
You should have a pretty good idea of your niche market anyway depending on who you worked for in the past.
Setting Your Pricing
Virtual assistants tend to charge by the hourly rate. Here is the UK, the norm seems to be from £15.00-£25.00 per hour depending on your level of expertise. Don’t be put off by people telling you that you’re too expensive. If they want a quality, reliable service then they are going to have to pay for it – stick to your guns, you’re worth it!
If people do question you about your rates, gently remind them how much they are saving by not employing a permanent secretary or even hiring one from a recruitment agency who would have to come into their office anyway – do they have the equipment to house a temporary secretary?
Not every service suits an hourly rate. For an example if you want to be a virtual typist, then this isn’t necessarily an hourly rate. Audio can be charge per minute and copy typing per thousand words etc.. Just use your judgement when taking on individual jobs.
Building Your Online Presence
You need an Online presence and a website is mandatory. It doesn’t have to be huge and complicated, a small simple website is all that is needed to let your prospects know what services you offer, your rates of pay and how to contact you.
At this point I would like to emphasise that you should not use a free website host such as Blogger (blogspot) or WordPress. You must have your own domain name and website hosted on a reliable web host such as Hostgator, Godaddy or Madrooster.
This is your business focal point, what would happen to your ‘Online brochure’ (website) if Blogger or WordPress decided they didn’t want to host free websites any more? Also, I’ve known both of these free services shut peoples blogs down at the drop of a hat for a whatever or no-apparent reason.
Keep in control of your business and have your own domain name and hosted website.
Marketing & Advertising Your Services
You need to submit your website to all the right places such as Online directories, VA directories, and business services offered directories – this is just a general marketing strategy for any type of VA service.
However, it does depend on who your target market (niche) is as to where you find your clients.
For example, if you were going to do transcription typing for Internet marketers (transcribing webinars, interviews, podcasts etc.) then you will have to find where they hang out Online and contact them there.
Think where your niche clients work and then target your advertising and marketing there.
As with any small business, you need to keep up with all the legal aspects of running a business, even from home. Don’t forget to register with the Inland Revenue (IRS in US), set up a business bank account and get adequate business insurance.
Starting a virtual assistant business isn’t expensive or difficult, you just need to be organised and adapt your own skills to that of the market-place in which you want to service. You’ll be happy by becoming a virtual assistant doing the jobs you love, and your clients will be happy because they have a VA who not only loves her work, but provides an efficient and professional service, once again its win-win!