Starting my own virtual assistant business reminded me of how I used to experiment in the kitchen as a 7-year-old. I would throw together a lot of ingredients that seemed to go well together, do some taste tests, and adjust where necessary.
Sometimes my concoctions were a success and sometimes I threw everything in the trash and started over.
That’s how it is when you’re just getting started a virtual assistant. There is a lot of trial and error, creating, editing, revamping and pivoting.
After doing this for 8 years I know a thing or two about how to build and run a profitable virtual assistant business. Here are some tips to help you get started on the right track.
Define your services
Write down ALL of your skills. I mean all of them. It’s important to put your skills on paper so you can see with your own eyes. You should come up with a long-ish list, not a short list. Then write a separate list of skills you’d like to develop. You know the areas where you’d like to gain more experience (i.e. WordPress, email marketing, social media marketing, graphic design, etc).
Once you have your lists, start thrashing them. Narrow the lists down. The goal is to narrow down your skills to marketable services. It's never a good idea to have a long laundry list of services you offer. Keep things simple. Clients like that. Then take a look at the list where you wrote down areas you’d like to learn more about. Narrow those areas down to one or two things and make a point to spend some time over the next month or two getting up-to-speed on those skills.
Write a killer LinkedIn profile
Most new business owners including virtual assistants assume you need a website out of the gate in order to get clients. That’s just not true. I’d rather see you focus your time and energy on getting clearer about your services and the clients you want to work with BEFORE you invest money on a website. A LinkedIn profile is an excellent stand in for a website while you’re building your business.
In fact, I didn’t have a website for the first 12 months I was in business and I closed the year with 10 clients. Once you have an idea of the services you want to offer, write an amazing summary on your LinkedIn profile telling the world about what you do and who you do it for and then optimize your LinkedIn profile for more visibility. Wait, you don’t know how to write a great summary? No problem, check out this great post to help spark your creative writing skills. Then check out this video "How to use LinkedIn to grow your virtual assistant business" that explains how I used LinkedIn in to get 10 clients in 12 months.
Network like your life depends on it
I don’t care WHAT any other marketing experts say, the way to grow your business is by building your network of connections. The more people you know, the more opportunities you have in life and in business. But don’t network with anyone and everyone, be targeted about who you network with. You should target prospective clients who need your services and have the ability to PAY you for them (that's important for obvious reasons!). Not sure who your target market is? You can sign up for my free e-course, “Your First Client” to help you define it.
There are several ways you can network and my favorite is joining groups where my target audience is hanging out. Beware! There are groups on LinkedIn and Facebook where self-promotion is rampant. Stay away from those groups and find yourself a group that has conversations full of value. Even if the group is small, it’s better to be in a group of 20 highly focused members than to be in a group of 500 that are barely paying attention. The key to networking is to HELP and offer solutions to others.
Be of service! Get known because you’re a giver, not a taker. The worst thing you can do is join a group start promoting yourself as a virtual assistant before you've offered value. Another great option is to join a group of your peers, that is other virtual assistants like The Virtual Assistant Tribe. In VA groups, network with a few select successful virtual assistants who can refer clients to you when they are at capacity or use your services to outsource when their workload is heavy. Again focus on the SUCCESSFUL virtual assistants, not the ones struggling or just getting started. I found that I spent up to 30 minutes a day networking online when I was just getting started (sometimes longer). It pays off if you're consistent.
Set up your back end systems now not later
My growth happened so quickly the first year that I didn’t have the proper structures and systems in place and found myself wasting precious time backtracking to get things setup properly. Learn from my mistakes. You’re going to need the following things set up once you bring in clients. It's best to have them ready to go BEFORE you land your first client.
- A client contract/welcome packet and intake forms - This is the most basic yet often overlooked thing for any service based business owner. You can grab my virtual assistant contract here.
- Project management system to handle the work (Asana, dapulse Trello)
- Online file storage system like Google Drive or DropBox to save critical documents to access where ever you have an internet connection.
- Online scheduler to make booking calls easy because gone are the days when you email back and forth trying to find a convenient time (ScheduleOnce, YouCanBook.me, Calendly)
- Time sheet and invoicing software to track your time and invoice clients easily (Invoice2Go or Freshbooks)
- Payment processors - You've gotta get paid, right? PayPal is my go to payment processors but others love Stripe as well.
Set up your business legally
I’m not going to tell you how to do this because where you live will dictate that but suffice to say that you want to have all your ducks in a row BEFORE you start collecting money. You may want to set up a sole proprietorship or an LLC. Talk with a local accountant and figure out the best type of business for you at this stage in your life. Some States in the United State require a business license while others don’t.
If you live in the United States you can check out the secretary of state website for your specific state to get more information on what you’ll need to set up your business. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you are advised by your accountant on everything you’ll need to start your business including what you’ll need to put aside for taxes.
Have any questions about getting your virtual assistant business off the ground? Leave a comment below. I read every one.