Everything you need to know about taxes as a Virtual Assistant. Interview with New York’s tax expert Rachel Michaelov
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.
Every year as we lead up to the holiday of Passover I feel my heart rate speed up. This is the single most dreaded holiday of the year for me.
Every observant Jewish woman is burdened with the yolk of the Passover preparation and its more work than you could ever imagine (Spring cleaning can't touch Passover cleaning!).
You know the cliché. Dress for success.
My mom has been pounding that in my brain for as long as I can remember. She's THAT lady who no matter what put's her face on, does her hair and can tell you which designer made your dress in a split second.
A couple of years ago she had double pneumonia yet dragged herself out of bed, put on make-up, high heels and a skirt suit to go to the doctor to get an x-ray. I stood watching this scene unfold in total awe. It was pointless to ask her why she is so concerned with her looks when she's so sick. I've heard it a million times.
"Because in life and in business you never know who you're going to meet so you better be ready".
It's taken me many years to fully appreciate her fashion advice but lucky for me, I get it now and I'm about to school you on why you need to dress for success or just go home.
It's time to break open your closest and take stock in what you own.
When you look your best, you feel your best.
Take a look at how you dress each day? Are you dressing for success or are you just throwing your outfit together? I'm not suggesting you need to go all ballroom on me, but do you take time to put the pieces of your outfit together? Hell it only takes some great jeans, the right t-shirt paired up with some awesome shoes and some accessories to hit a fashion slam dunk.
At this point you might be thinking, "okay Reese, we get it, we need to dress for success but we're virtual assistants! No one ever sees us, we work from home".
You're marketing yourself and your business every where you go. Your brand is YOU and when you leave the house and hit the gym, or the grocery store, or pick your kids up from school you should show the world that you're worth taking notice of. You never know who you're going to meet while you're out. You might just meet your next client but if you're wearing yoga pants and a scraggy shirt, no one is going to take you seriously.
Your brand among other things is how you make people feel when they encounter you in person or online. And considering most if not all of the work you do is online, doesn't it make perfect sense that your main marketing hub (your website) be as dressed for success as possible?
And since we're talking about that website of yours, how do you feel about it? Does it reflect who you are and how you feel?
Take a look at yourself, then take a look at your online presence. See any connections? What does the way you dress say about the way you present yourself to the online world?
It's time to take things up a notch and take pride in how you present yourself to the world around you. By dressing up both online and off you're making a statement and that's going to help you with your virtual assistant business.
There is a saying about cutting your teeth in business. You've got to go through the struggle and put in your time in order to get what you want in your career.
Have you ever wondered how I built my virtual assistant business and became successful in the first year?
I cut my teeth working as a receptionist in my early 20's. Within a few years I was working as an administrative assistant and by the time I was 22 I was rubbing shoulders with C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies as their executive administrative assistant.
I just didn't wake up one day and have a successful virtual assistant business. I worked my tail off to get it. I put in my time. I cut my teeth.
Here's a rundown on how I got started. It's important to know so you can gauge if you've got the guts to do this for yourself.
My first two years as a virtual assistant started while working for a virtual assistant search firm that matched me with clients. The great part was that I still had my day job and worked as a VA for a few hours at night. This was an easy entry into the VA industry and I'd recommend it to anyone that can handle it on top of their existing commitments and responsibilities.
Working with this VA firm meant that I didn't need to market myself, I just needed to show up to the conference call (with the prospect) and sell myself as the right choice.
Truth be told, I was really good at selling myself. I brought a whole lot of confidence to the (virtual) table and practiced all the possible questions that could come up. Because back when I had a day job I used to review things like this and this. I always showed up prepared.
I got the job 9 times out of 10. Sure, there was always someone that I just didn't jive with, but that's a chemistry thing and has nothing to do with experience.
My clients gave me a lot of work and that's not because they had an abundance of work for me. It's because I found ways to increase my billable hours (super important if you're trading hours for $ which I encourage you NOT to do). I found problems and suggested action plans to solve them. I didn't just sit back and wait to be told what to do. I took initiative and thought one step ahead.
Clients love this.
I was only making 18 bucks an hour back then (2007) as a VA (my day job paid me more, thankfully) and because I'm ambitious I wanted to make more. The way I saw it, If the VA company I was working for charged $35 an hour for my services I should charge $35 an hour for my services.
So in 2009 I opened my virtual assistant business and was hit with some hard realizations. I became acutely aware that I needed to learn how to run an online business..and quickly.
I started reading books about:
Marketing. Sales. Finance (as it relates to taxes and all that sexy stuff we do as business owners)and Project Management.
Running a business means you're a one (wo)man show (at least in the beginning). You've got to market your business (posting on your Facebook page and Tweeting everyday just isn't going to cut it) how to sell your services (hint: this means getting a YES from prospects every. single. time), how to manage your finances and how to stay on top of every project you've got in the pipeline.
I've always known that to be successful in life you have got to hustle. You have to be proactive and make choices to create the life you want to live.
I hustled day in and day out doing whatever needed to be done in order to get clients (I know what you're thinking. She's from Vegas...but I'm talking legit marketing tactics people!).
I never sat around and waited for clients to come to me. Who does that?!
I shouted it out from the roof tops that I was open for business. I told my mother-in-law, my cousin, my old boss, my neighbour, the lady standing next to me at the grocery store. Hell, I even told my dog (just kidding, I don't have a dog). I even wore this shirt (don't laugh, it's one powerful conversation starter at networking events).
I invested in my business.
I signed up for training courses that cost me hundreds of dollars. I invested in a website and worked with a coach. All of these things cost me money. Money that I made back and then some. Sure I was sweating at times over the investment because every single penny mattered. But I knew that old saying "it takes money to make money" was a cliche for a reason.
If you're not ready to cut your teeth and put in the time and effort to expand your skill set and experience and you're not able to invest in yourself, do you really think you can get clients to pay you and believe in you?
Think about it. When you go on a job interview, don't you dress for success and try to impress? You wouldn't just wing it and throw together just any outfit. Why would you wing it with your business? Your biz needs a professional appearance online and off and you're going to have to invest time and money into that. Remember, it takes money to make money.
A part of me wrote this blog post to discourage you OR encourage you (depends on the kind of person you are). You see, entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. It requires dedication, hustle, investment and perseverance. So if you thinking of becoming a VA you've got to be ready for the road ahead.
Part of what I do is work with women who are ready to do the work and create the kind of business that will change your life forever but creating a virtual assistant business and creating a successful virtual assistant business are two different things.
So, are you ready? Leave me a comment below and let me know.
Are you ready to create virtual assistant service packages that sell? It's all in the packaging. Perceived value. Let's talk about how to create your very own virtual assistant services package(s).
First it's important that I mention that most virtual assistants trade their time for $$$. This isn't a bad business model but it does make it hard to scale your business. Your earning potential will be directly related to how much time you can work during the day.
Imagine this. You hire a graphic designer to create a website. Would you expect your graphic designer to say "I will work on your site for 30 hours and I will charge you $3,000 for your site."?
This scenario would never happen. Graphic designers quote you a price for a product, your website. Whether it takes them 3 hours or 30 hours, that's their business, not yours. You are paying for a finished product....results.
It's up the graphic designer to know how to price his websites so that he can run a successful business that won't end up owning him.
We don't go into business for ourselves to become a slave to our desk. We don't go into business for ourselves to stress out over our work on the weekends when we should be relaxing.
We go into business so we can create the kind of lifestyle that we want. That's why it's important to recognize as early on as possible that trading hours for cash isn't going to be a scaleable business. The sooner you try to figure out how to package up your offerings, the better.
Because once you start selling a package for your virtual assistant services, you can actually start scaling your business.
But creating packages isn't always so easy. You need to know how much time it will take you to complete the services within in package. This way you can say, "if someone purchase package x, it will take me roughly 10 hours to complete, no more, no less".
Some VAs do this very well while others struggle to understand how to create packages to market to their prospects. That's why I firmly believe that you shouldn't create service packages until you've got a lot of experience as a virtual assistant.
It's important to remember that people don't buy virtual assistance, they buy solutions. I'm going to show you some great examples of how virtual assistants are packaging their services by highlighting the solutions they offer.
But how do you sell solutions? Ask yourself these questions.
What problem does my ideal client have?
What does my ideal client want?
How am I going to help them solve their problem or get what they want?
Don’t just think about the questions. Write out your answers. Brainstorm what your ideal clients really want and look at the world from their perspective.
To help you out, take a look below at some rock stars who started out as VAs but now market themselves using a different title (because titles really don't matter).
Jamie DuBose of ZenplicityNow has it all figured out. She started out as a VA that exchanged hours for dollars and now Jamie works on a flat rate only and has plenty of package options to offer her clients. Well done.
Next up is Amy Hall who is a WordPress and MailChimp specialist. Amy has some amazing packages focusing on MailChimp from creating a newsletter template to weekly or month newsletter management. This is a great way to package up a service.
Last but certainly not least is Tonya Darlington, a virtual assistant business that supports business leaders. Check out how Tonya has put together some awesome packages. I couldn't add all of them in this screen shot, so make sure to click over to her site to see all the packages she offers.
Now that you have a little bit more knowledge about how others are packaging up their services I'd love to see what you come up with.
What services would you like to create a package for? Leave me a comment below.
Rock on, Reese
Have you ever felt uncomfortable with the thought of calling yourself a virtual assistant? Have you been told that using this title means you're subservient to your clients? Not an equal, not an entrepreneur?
Get my free PDF '35 Titles You Can Use Instead of Virtual Assistant'
I've recorded a video below to give you my opinion on why you should or shouldn't call yourself a virtual assistant. Whether you choose to call yourself a virtual assistant or not you'll want to check out my video below to hear what I think and what I do.
Click on the video below and make sure to leave me a comment below.
I look forward to seeing you in the comments, friends!
When working virtually you need to be able to offer your clients convenient payment methods. Most people know and trust PayPal because it's one of the oldest online payment providers and the most widely used for millions of people around the world.
There are, however, several alternatives available. Read below to find the best alternatives for PayPal for virtual assistants.
Dwolla is attractive because it offers free transactions for $10 or less or a $0.25 transaction fee for anything over $10. You can send money to anyone even if they don't have a Dwolla account but they will need to create an account to collect the funds. When you sign up for Dwolla you have to connect your bank account as the transfer of money is solely from bank to Dwolla and vice versa. In other words, no credit cards. What’s unique about this service is that if both parties have a Dwolla account, then money can be spent easily through their name, Facebook ID, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, telephone number, or email address. This is the only drawback of using Dwolla because it means having your clients create an account in order to pay you and this is another step for them.
Unless you live in the U.S and Canada you can stop reading right here as it's only available in these countries (Stripe is coming to the UK soon. Stripe is comparable to PayPal across the board. They both take a 2.9% plus $0.30 processing fee for each transaction. If you need to refund money to a client PayPal takes a transaction fee for the refund and with Stripe, there is no refund transaction fee. Stripe's users claim that Stripe's customer service is far better than PayPal and because Stripe financially backed by former PayPal founders you can bet they will continue to up their game and strive to offer the best service that continues to compete with PayPal. In short, Stripe has the same pricing as PayPal but you can process credit cards right from your site unlike PayPal which sends you to their site for processing. Last but not least unlike PayPal, Stripe holds your money for 48 hours before it will become available. Consider this when making a decision.
Payoneer is an Internet-based financial services business that allows users to transfer money and receive payments through re-loadable prepaid MasterCard debit cards. Payoneer works as an alternative for wire transfer services and online payments that provides users with refillable debit cards. The cards are issued through Mastercard and can be used at ATMs or at the point-of-purchase. You can withdraw money from your debit card directly to your local bank account. This is a great option for virtual assistants who live in countries where PayPal is unavailable. There is an annual fee of $29.95 and transaction fees of $3.15. While expensive if this is your only option, it's better than none at all.
Paymate is an option for Australians and New Zealanders. Paymate works by crediting funds directly into recipients bank accounts. Paymate enables sellers in Australia to accept payments in AUD, USD, GBP, EUR and NZD while sellers in New Zealand can accept payments in NZD. With Paymate, you get your money in your account within 1 business day.
Payza is offered in over 200 countries worldwide and accepts 22 currencies. You can invoice your clients directly with Payza. You get paid directly into your Payza e-wallet account. You can withdraw your money to your bank account either by bank wire, bank transfer or with Payza's prepaid card that you can use anywhere in the United States where Visa is accepted. To receive funds into your Payza personal or business account you will be charged a fee of 2.50% +$0.25. Starter accounts pay no receiving fees on up to $400 USD or equivalent/month or $2,000 USD.
To use Venmo you need to download their smartphone app. Users transfer money for free from one account to another and sending money is as easy as it gets. Venmo is only available in the United States and if you're funding your account with a credit card there is a 3% fee.
Like Venmo, Square requires you to download their smartphone app. Creating an account is easy. Once your account is open Square will send you their Square reader (credit card swiper) and then you need to download the Square Register. These two work together so that you can swipe credit cards using your smartphone and the money is applied to your bank account minus a 2.75% processing fee. While this option is incredibly useful for many things, I think that as virtual assistants we won't benefit from the ability to swipe credit cards. This is a great option to offer our clients, instead.
What online payment processor are you using and why? Also if you'd like to see a PayPal alternative added to this list leave it in the comments below.