Whether it’s online or in person, one of the most commonly asked questions or pieces of information that people look for is how to become a virtual assistant.
Since I recently took on another VA client, I thought it’d be helpful to share what it is exactly that I do as a virtual assistant. I’ve written previously about how I’ve built a diversified business, as well as my experience becoming a virtual assistant and getting my first client, but I’ve never written much about the different activities I do for my clients as their virtual assistant.
Today, I’ll unlock some of the mystery behind it.
How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant
I didn’t set out to become a virtual assistant.
It kind of just fell into my lap. I’ve tried to remain open to different opportunities as I started building my web-based business. I’ve also been used to supporting the senior financial advisor I worked with for the previous six years, so VA work was a natural fit for me.
The first virtual assistant client that I contracted with is a successful webpreneur. Through back and forth emails, I sensed he was having a little trouble keeping up with his inbox. We had a friendly banter going and I sensed that I could help him, he’d be fun to work with and that I might benefit in more ways than just earning a paycheck (by learning the inner workings of his business).
Basically, I stepped out and boldly told him he should hire me.
He said yes and we’ve been working together ever since. I’m happy to say that my inklings were right on the money – I enjoy working with him, I’m learning a ton and the regular paycheck is nice!
Update: This relationship has been going strong for almost two years now. I’m happy to say it’s still a win/win for both of us!
How to Get Clients as a Virtual Assistant
As far as I know, there aren’t any job boards dedicated to finding VA work, like there are for freelance writing. You could go the route of looking for clients on sites like Elance, Odesk or People Per Hour, but I’m not sure you’d find the caliber of clients that can afford you, unless you are comfortable working for minimum wage.
Instead, if I were you, I would do something similar to what I did. Brainstorm if there is anyone you know or that you’ve recently come in contact with that you feel like would benefit from your help as a VA. Then boldly reach out and ask. You won’t know unless you try!
And for goodness’ sake, put it out there via social media (FB, Twitter, etc.) that you’re looking for VA clients and what it is that you can do them. Or set up a “Hire Me” page on your website if you have one.
These are a few ways to get started. Hopefully down the road, you’ll start getting some word of mouth referrals – this is how I got my most recent client!
Update: I still work with just two VA clients. I enjoy it, they appreciate me and I appreciate the predictable income it brings in, especially since I quit my job to freelance full-time at the end of 2014!
What I Do as a Virtual Assistant
There’s no cut and dry list of activities that a virtual assistant does (although we’ve recently compiled a list of 125 common ones to add to our upcoming course geared towards wannabe VAs).
A common example, is someone who checks email, returns phone calls and manages their client’s calendar.
Working with internet entrepreneurs (webpreneurs), it can mean this, but also a whole host of other things. One of the main things I do for one of my clients is to manage his inbox. I check and sort his email, respond on his behalf and draft templated responses for different inquiries.
We also have a weekly call (or Google Hangout), which has been hugely helpful. The more I can learn about his business, the better equipped I am to help him. He’s got a ton going on from consulting, coaching, writing courses, managing his blog and subscription list to much, much more.
He’s brilliant and an inspiration, but I like to think one of the ways I help is to reign him in from time-to-time and keep him accountable to some of the things he needs to do, that aren’t always his favorite tasks (like email!). He’s also voiced that our weekly meetings are his favorite part of working together (because we get so much done).
In early 2015 I started editing his blog posts and writing for his site as well. These tasks have crossed the line from VA work to the more traditional writing and editing work that I do.
As I said, there’s no cut and dry list of tasks for a VA. I think it depends on what it is your client needs and what it is you excel at doing. Here are a few great questions to ask in order to find out how you can best be of help:
- What are you doing right now that you don’t like doing?
- What do you put off doing, that needs to get done?
- What could I take off of your plate that would free you up to do what you do best?
If you’re still not sure what virtual assistant services you can offer, we’ve put together a list of over 150 services that webpreneurs need help with.
How Much to Charge as a Virtual Assistant
Everyone wants to know what the going rate is and how much is enough (but not too much) to charge. The reason this varies so much, is because the role itself can vary quite greatly – and so can your skill set.
When you’re setting your rate, figure out what would make it worth your time. Basically, you’re trading time for money, so start with a rate that makes it worth your while and excited to get to work.
Remember also, that you’re not an employee. You’re a subcontractor and in the US, for example, you need to pay both the employee and the employer side of taxes (i.e. self-employment tax). You also aren’t entitled to any benefits – no sick days, paid vacation, health insurance or retirement contributions are coming your way. Because of this fact, you can’t really compare what you make at your day job (or what you could make at a part-time job) with that of your new VA role.
Therefore, you need to take whatever wage you were thinking would make sense and inflate it by at least 25%. And if anyone questions you on it, feel free to break it down for them!
One of the perks of hiring a freelance virtual assistant vs. a part or full-time employee is that your client doesn’t have to incur the cost or the time involved with setting up (and many times training) a new employee.
But this doesn’t mean that you should be the cheapest solution available. You still need to pay taxes, self-fund vacation/sick time and produce your own benefits.
So that should be included in your rate.
To give you some personal context, I started out charging $34 per hour. My clients and I have since moved on from this hourly model and now have a daily rate. One of my clients pays me weekly and the other pays me monthly. Both are automatic payments, which makes it easy!
I charge a flat rate (rather than an hourly one), as I would rather have a set of tasks to complete and complete them on my schedule, rather than having to track my time and feel like I’m “on the clock.” This is why I escaped Corporate America! (And luckily this works just fine with my two clients, but be prepared for prospects to think in hourly terms.)
I like to believe I’m fairly educated and skilled (and learning new web-based skills by the day!), which is why I’m comfortable charging adequately for my time. It’s a bit of you get what you pay for here in the world of working via the web, so keep that in mind as you’re bidding for jobs or hiring your own support staff.
I’d suggest reaching a little higher than the number that pops into your head. It’s easy to undercharge in order to secure the job, but that’s not what’s going to keep either of you happy for the long-term.
What Else Should I Know about Becoming a VA?
Be careful just building someone else’s business, if it’s not your goal to become a full-time VA. I don’t know that I’ll do this type of work forever – it’s my goal to build my business and my brand after all. I like the work, the pay is nice (and consistent) and I’m still learning a ton, which is what makes it a good fit for me for now.
If this seems interesting to you, I’d suggest joining the VA community by taking my best-selling course: 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success. It will help you figure out what services you plan to offer, how much you’re going to charge and get started finding your first client.
I hope this post gave you an inside look at what being a virtual assistant means to me and how I’ve gone about building my business. Remember, there are plenty of people that need your help, so they can continue focusing on building their brand and business.
What other questions do you have about becoming a virtual assistant?