October 4, 2020

Virtual Assistant

Photo by timage on Adobe Stock Images

The first 3 steps you absolutely need to take

You have a feeling that becoming a Virtual Assistant is right for you.

You’re excited.

Working from home would be awesome. In your pajamas, when you want to.

All you can think about is the freedom you will have. To set your own schedule. To choose what you work on. Who you work with. As a bonus, you will lose the mind-numbing commute and the annoying colleagues.

The only problem is, you don’t know how to start.

As exciting as the potential of freedom is, there’s a lot to think about. Especially if you’re new to entrepreneurship.

Don’t focus only on the potential for fun. You’re starting your own business. It is really important to set the foundations right.

Here are three things you absolutely need to do in order to become a successful virtual assistant.

1. You need a business plan even if you are the only employee

You may think that you don’t need to write a business plan if you’re not going to hire anyone.

“Who would I need to explain my plan to”? I hear you ask.

You need a business plan first and foremost, because it gives you clarity.

That helps in the early stages when you are getting started. And it will save your ass when things get rocky.

So many things can go wrong. And as a solopreneur, when the going gets tough, you need something to fall back on. And that something is your business plan.

My own business plan sits at the top of my daily organizer app. I look at it every day, even though I know it by heart. When I have tough questions to answer, I look to it for direction.

How do you write a business plan to become a Virtual Assistant?

The good news is, simple is best. A business plan for a Virtual Assistant startup is something you can complete in a couple of hours.

And you should keep it handy so you can continue to work on it, improve it and test it out in “real life”.

The business plan should cover 5 points:

  1. What service(s) you will offer.
  2. What companies or what types of companies need the service you offer.
  3. How much you will charge.
  4. Your costs and how much you want to earn on an annual basis.
  5. How your business will evolve over (at least) a 3 year time-line.

This list might look simple, but each point requires detail and thought.

If you need more incentive to write a business plan, just think: if you don’t have a business plan, you won’t be able to set goals and timelines.

And you will never know when you can take a holiday!

2. Accounting and how to impress your friends by expensing the next latte

You might know someone in your family or network of friends who has their own business. You have probably seen someone offer to pay for drinks or dinner and collect the receipt for expenses.

Like me, you may think that is a pretty cool thing to do. But trust me, if you try to do it yourself, without having your accounts set up, you will find it becomes less than cool. Very quickly.

Not being able to separate business costs and income to see the real picture is one of the top three reasons small businesses fail.

Right after not having a business plan.

In reality, so many companies all over the world start without a viable plan. And then don’t measure their business, to see if it is working.

Accounting is the fundamental way to measure any business. Including your new Virtual Assistant business.

Even if you begin as a sole proprietor, invest the time into separating your expenses and income from your day-to-day banking. Open a separate account for income. Use a different credit card for expenses.

And I believe it is worth every cent to invest in an accounting service to help you file taxes.

Just as you plan to be a virtual assistant, there are many online services that will work fine for basic accounting services to start.

Like first impressions, you can never go back and fix accounting errors from your first annual tax filing. When things are still simple at the start, get it right. And get help from the start.

There are financial benefits to working for yourself. Like expensing some expenses to the company. And the biggest benefit you get from that is paying less in tax.

But these benefits won’t happen if you don’t keep track of your accounting from day one.

3. Selling yourself without having a website

As a Virtual Assistant you will need to find your own clients.

I actually advise the people I am working with against using platforms like Upwork or Fiverr to build a Virtual Assistant business.

These sites do make it easy to start. But this low barrier-to-entry means there are already many people promoting themselves here. This makes it hard to stand out. And to charge what you want because others are already setting the bar.

It isn’t impossible to be successful on these platforms, but it will take longer. Longer to get work, and longer to earn the money you want.

I recommend reaching out to companies directly to offer your services.

That might sound scary. But it is going to be the fastest way for you to become a virtual assistant. And to earn the money you want.

When you do reach out, you will need to have a digital identity. Many people who want to become a virtual assistant believe they need to have their own website before they start.

A website is great, but getting this up and running can really slow you down. Unless you already have experience, it will take you time to build your own site.

At the start LinkedIn is your friend.

LinkedIn is literally a digital version of your resume. Sitting in a platform designed for business networking. Where millions of customers who might need your service also have their own profiles. And their company information.

There are many techniques and ways to use LinkedIn. It can be much more than just an online version of your experience. But at the start, this is the best way to use LinkedIn.

The free account version works fine. There is no need to pay a subscription fee. One of the main values they offer when you do pay, is credits to send “In-Mail”: LinkedIn’s version of cold calls. But there is a free workaround for this, that works better in my opinion.

Spend time to create a killer presentation of your experience using the simple LinkedIn user interface. Then when you do get the chance to talk to someone about your virtual assistant service, you can share the link to your LinkedIn profile.

This will be more than enough when you get started.

There’s no time like the present, if you take the right steps

There is nothing like the excitement when you start out as a new entrepreneur. That feeling will get you through many of the early challenges of becoming a virtual assistant.

It is easy at this stage to get caught up in the positives of working from home. But it’s important to remember you’re really setting up a new business. To give yourself the best chance of success, you need to get the first steps right.

You need a business plan which should include your costs, your expenses and your monetary goal. You need to work out your “runway”: how long your current finances can last before you run out of money.

When you have those numbers, you need to set up your accounts.

At a minimum you should separate your bank accounts and your payment cards. I always recommend hiring an advisor or a service provider to outsource your filing obligations to.

And finally, LinkedIn is a perfect place to start your online profile. You don’t need to wait to have a website up and running before you start.

Seize the day.

About the author 

Joe France

Founder at The Independent You. Author, entrepreneur, 20-year online tech veteran, Joe helps coaches and consultants to get more clients and market their services with a book. Check out my new book “Independent Wealth”. https://amzn.to/2G9Jj47

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HOW TO START AN ONLINE BUSINESS

Independent Wealth: How to Start a Business in 5 Steps. A step by step guide for online entrepreneurs, going beyond the side hustle with a blueprint for a business that generates passive income doing what you love.