Small Business Ideas: Virtual Assistant

Personal assistants often help their employers with daily chores, such as typing documents, making appointments or answering emails. A Virtual Assistant does exactly that, but online instead of from the client’s office. This means hiring a virtual assistant is much more affordable, and explains part of the popularity of Virtual Assistants among small and medium businesses. This makes it an easy option if you are looking at starting a business.

What Do You Need To Get Started as a Virtual Assistant?

In terms of equipment you will need a computer, and a phone to make and receive calls. As a Virtual Assistant you’ll probably have clients all around the globe, so learning about cloud computing for business, specially VoIP systems such as Skype, can greatly lower your costs. As with any online based business you’ll need a fast broadband connection, and in many cases a computer camera for videoconferencing will come in very handy.

As for skills, Virtual Assistants are often expected to have similar skills to a traditional personal assistant. This means great typing skills and experience in word processing, spreadsheets and even slideshow presentations. In most cases you’ll also need good telephone manners and great organization skills, specially if you work for several clients at the same time. However, most virtual assistants will choose to offer additional services, such as blog or Twitter management, forum moderation or even SEO and marketing for small businesses.

How Do You Start A Virtual Assistant Business?

Provided you have the equipment and skills, there’s not much more to starting a Virtual Assistant business than creating a website where people can read about you and your services and pricing, check your qualifications and hire you. However, it’s advisable to get some legal support to draft in some suitable legal contracts and payment schedules that you can use for your clients, as well as getting some business management training or a good accountant to make sure the paperwork is all up to date.

Finding clients is often challenging when you are starting, as people don’t know anything about you, but as soon as you get some satisfied clients you should encourage them to send you testimonials and references that you can use to get new ones. Most VAs make business primarily through word of mouth recommendations, so make sure you always deliver above expectations results. You can use online job boards to get those crucial first clients, but expect heavy competition from people from low cost countries competing on price.

How Do I Make Money?

As a VA you can decide whether you want to work full or part time, and the way you prefer billing. Regular clients will probably want a steady, weekly fee while occassional work may require higher but hourly rates. Technically the sky is the limit, but make sure you don’t get so much work your work-life balance suffers or working from home may lose most of its appeal.

If you want to increase your effective hourly rates without charging your clients more you may need to learn how to optimize your work and schedule yourself for best results. Many VA use time management systems such as the Pommodoro technique, and group work from several clients based on its type (research, mail replying, etc…) but that demands lots of organization and a heavy dose of willpower.

Does It Have Any Legal Requirements?

As a virtual assistant is a small business, you’ll need to start your own business legally, but it’s highly likely that you won’t need to get special permits or certifications. However, check out your rental agreement in case it specifically forbids starting a business at your home.

If you are looking for working from home ideas that can be performed mostly online and you have experience as a personal assistant or secretary opening your virtual assistant business can be the perfect solution. It’s a great option for stay at home mums and dads, or people with a previous career as a secretary that want to work from home, and the fact that it doesn’t require money to start up means it can be a great way out of unemployment as well.