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How can you become a virtual assistant and make money working online? Do you need special training to do so? By the way, what exactly is a virtual assistant?
I can remember getting different versions of that last question when I first started working as a virtual assistant 8 years ago. Back then, the word "virtual" was still mysterious and gave people the impression you weren't really working. But the events of this past year have proved the doubters wrong! Many who had a job that allowed for such were forced to work from home and a light was shined whole different way of doing things.
Meanwhile, those of us who have been working online all along were like, 'come join us, it's pretty great!'.
If you're looking to explore an opportunity for you to work from home or anywhere that's got an internet connection and electricity, then read on!
What Is A Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant is a general term for an individual who performs work online. They can perform a variety of tasks in many different areas such as administrative work, scheduling, social media management, blog support, bookkeeping, customer service, recruiting, and more.
Some virtual assistants like to offer a variety of services. While some virtual assistants prefer to niche down and offer one specific service (for example, blog support).
Still, yet, some virtual assistants call themselves "virtual assistants", but they are performing roles such as project manager, business manager, etc.
What A Virtual Assistant Is Not
A virtual assistant is not a personal assistant. You may often see these terms intertwine, but they are technically not the same. A virtual assistant's role encompasses the business end of things. A personal assistant helps with personal tasks for an individual or that individual's family, at times, alongside business tasks. Both are honorable roles, but they must be differentiated.
Determining Your Services
As was mentioned, virtual assistants can operate in a variety of fields. Some may prefer performing in a variety of roles. While some prefer to find a niche. For example, for a while, I did a little bit of everything as a virtual assistant. However, over time, I started being asked to fulfill roles that involved more project management and then later, operations management. To date, operations are where my skills fit best.
It would be advantageous for anyone looking to become a virtual assistant to identify their strong skills.
First, ask yourself, what do you like to do?
Then, ask yourself, of those things you like, what are you best at?
This will take some honest analysis on your part. You need to identify what you do best so that you can market those skills. If you are especially good at something, you will feel more confident marketing those skills in your proposals, in your digital marketing, in your discovery calls, and on projects.
So think about it. What do you do best? Draw upon experiences from school, from previous jobs, or with your family and friends.
Now write those things down.
After you write them all down, circle the skills which you feel you are especially good at.
Now, of those skills, select the ones that you feel you are good at and that you enjoy the most.
These are the skills that you should draw from to create services to offer to your clients.
By focusing on both what you do best and what you enjoy, you will be able to provide the highest quality of services and be more motivated to continue your virtual assistant journey long term.
Determining Your Rates
Once you've determined the services you want to offer, you need to figure out how much you need to charge. Several factors need to be considered.
Will you charge hourly rates or flat rates?
What's a reasonable amount to charge for your level of experience?
If virtual assisting is to become your full-time job, how much do you need to make in accord with the cost of living in your area?
If you will be billing through a work marketplace, how much of a commission is taken from your income? This will mean that you will need to charge higher rates than your base so that you can still make a profit.
How much will you need to put aside for business expenses such as supplies, app subscriptions, and most importantly, taxes?
Research Your Competitors
You'll need to do some research on what others who offer similar services as you are charging.
A simple way to do this is to go to Pinterest do a search on "virtual assistant". You'll see a variety of Pins on the topic. Select a Pin that catches your eye and go to the profile of the creator. If their profile identifies them as a virtual assistant, check out their website to see if their rates are visible. Compare their services with your own. If you are offering similar services, you can gauge your rate against theirs and make yours slightly lower to be competitive as a new virtual assistant.
If you plan to offer your services based on a flat rate, you may consider different package tiers.
For example, you may charge $100 to support a client with social media management support for up to two social media accounts twice per month for about 2 hours. However, would you still charge that for social media management for up to 3 social media accounts, blog management, and content creation for all of those platforms? Probably not. That's a lot more work, thus your flat rate should increase.
You could start with offering 2 tiers of packages. Feel free to give them each a name so they can be easily distinguished from each other.
Under each tier, list all of the services included. So for example:
Give a thorough overview of what to expect from each package.
Also, you should take into consideration your availability when creating your packages. How much time will you have available to support clients each month? Each week? Each day?
Additionally, based on your availability, energy, responsibilities, and other contributing factors, how many clients can you reasonably take on per month? Those answers should affect what you offer with each package as well.
There are several ways you can go about finding clients.
Direct marketing to businesses
Driving people to your website from social media
The easiest way of all of those to find clients is via a work marketplace. One of the most well-known is Upwork. The advantage of Upwork is that potential clients are actively looking for support. Thousands of jobs are posted on Upwork every day.
You are able to present yourself directly in front of a potential client by directly submitting a proposal. It can take a considerable amount of time to drive traffic to your website or social media from scratch. Using a marketplace like Upwork can give you a jump start.
If you are looking to get started as a virtual assistant on Upwork, Your Virtual Best is an affordable course that will equip you with the training and tools that you need. This is a self-paced, online course full of useful, actionable training to help you to start your virtual assistant journey using Upwork.
Creating A Website
The second best way to find clients is by creating a website and driving traffic to your website from social media. On your website you'll need to include:
A home page
An about page describing who you are and what you offer
A services page that lists your services and rates
A contact page
You may even consider adding a scheduling page so that potential clients can schedule a consultation with you directly, to avoid a lot of back and forth over "when are you available?". If you don't want the scheduling page to be open to anyone who visits your site, you can still have a private page set up, so that once a lead contacts you, you can share the link to self-schedule.
Driving Traffic To Your Website
Once your website is set up, you will need to learn how to use social media and search engine optimization to drive traffic to it.
Some of the marketing platforms that you can use include:
Of those, the best platforms to acquire leads as a virtual assistant include LinkedIn and Pinterest. LinkedIn is a professional social media platform and Pinterest is a visual search engine. Pinterest is quickly becoming a key marketing platform for online businesses because you can reach a large audience with the right methods and your marketing visuals can drive traffic even after a considerable amount of time.
To find training on how to use these platforms, it is suggested that you go to the blog of each site. They often will have a variety of training tools and best-practice guides.
Optionally, you can find affordable online courses that can help you to create a marketing strategy by doing a Google or Pinterest search. For example, you could search "Pinterest course" and a plethora of options will appear.
Search engine optimization is essential if you have a website. This post highlights a free, simple-to-understand course on search engine optimization for beginners, created by an expert on the topic.
Conducting Discovery Calls
Once you get your first lead, you'll need to conduct a discovery call with them. The purpose of a discovery call is to allow both you and the potential client the opportunity to discuss their business needs and to determine if your services can meet that need. This is also an opportunity for both of you to analyze each other's personalities to see if you will mesh well together.
Discovery calls last generally anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. They can be conducted via phone or video conference.
You'll need to document the questions that you want to ask a lead, prior to the call. Don't just wing it and come up with something last minute, because this can leave a poor impression of your professionalism.
Take time in advance to think about the questions you need to ask to get all the information you need about this potential client. A few basic questions may include:
Please, tell me about your business?
What is the size of your team?
How long have you been in operation?
For more ideas on questions that you can ask during a discovery call, you can grab the free Discovery Call Form that can give you a head start on which questions to ask during a discovery call. You may find that with time, you may add or remove questions as your skills and services change. That is perfectly fine and to be expected. The main goal should be to have a template of questions in place so you can know what to ask in advance. The impression you leave during a meeting with a lead can make or break the opportunity to convert them into a client.
Following Up After A Discovery Call
After the discovery call, take time to analyze how it went.
Are your services what they need?
Can you see yourself working with this person on a regular basis?
Is the mission of their business aligned with your own values?
Did you detect any hesitancy on their part?
If you determine that all looks clear, then it's time to send a follow-up email and proposal.
A follow-up email can include a thank you for their time, a short summary of how you can meet the needs that were discussed during the call, a call to action, and an attached proposal.
A few things a proposal should include are:
A summary of the client's needs
A list of services that you will provide
Billing details (when the first invoice is due and subsequent dates afterward, along with payment methods)
Duration of the project from beginning to end, or the start date if it will be an ongoing position
You can grab a simple proposal template here at The $3 Shop to get you started.
In regards to the call to action, this is the time to ask them if you can support them. This sounds daunting, but it is effective.
You could say something like, 'I believe that I can be an asset to your business. I'd welcome the opportunity to support you. Would you like to work together?'.
This direct approach can turn the right lead into the right client.
If you need some help crafting the right follow-up email, you can also grab a template at The $3 Shop.
Getting The Contract Started
If they decide to move forward with working with you, congratulations! At this point, you'll need to get a contract in place. If you are working on Upwork, there is a built-in basic contract that is automatically generated when a new job is started. The client is responsible for outlining this and starting it. The terms should be based on the proposal that you provided. When an offer is sent, you can review the terms and accept or contact them to request adjustments.
If you will not be working on Upwork, then you'll need to generate your own contract. You can do this independently, however, acquiring contract templates from a reputable source can ensure you cover all of your bases. There are free and paid versions available online that can be tweaked to fit your needs. When searching, you should look under "independent contractor agreement" or "service agreement".
You'll also want to find a Non-Disclosure Agreement. These are generally free and widely available. NDA's give you and your clients a layer of protection, guaranteeing that you will not reveal private information about the client's business.
Once you edit your contract and NDA templates, you can send them through a document signing tool. HelloSign is an easy-to-use e-signature tool that allows you to send up to 3 documents per month for free.
You'll also need to send your first invoice. It is recommended that you have a billing tool in place that will allow the client to easily make payments online. The right tool can even allow you to set up invoices to be sent out automatically on a specific date each month.
There are many options for this, such as a simple Paypal invoice or using your bookkeeping software such as FreshBooks.
Only after the documents have been signed by all relevant parties and the first payment has been received should the contract be considered fully active.
Post Hire Kick-Off
Now, it's time to send a welcome email and a welcome packet. A welcome email should include:
Your hours of operation
An invitation to schedule regular check-ins along with a link to your scheduling page
Tools you will use as you work together
A welcome packet should include all of the above plus:
A mission statement
A reminder of billing dates and how they can expect to receive invoices
Links to the log in dashboards of any of the tools you will use together
Links to training resources for the tools you will use together
Links to shared folders
A great tool to use to compile a visually appealing welcome packet is Canva. Canva is a simple to use graphic design tool that makes designing accessible for everyone. There is a free plan available that gives you access to:
More than 250,000 templates
100+ design types (social media posts, presentations, letters, and more)
Hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics
5GB of cloud storage
The next plan available is Canva Pro. The Pro plan offers amazing extras that can really speed up your design process. If in the future, you need to create a lot of graphics for your business or clients, Canva Pro is well worth the money at $12.99/USD per month.
Working With A New Client
When you start working with a new client, laying a good foundation for communication is one key to the success of your working relationship. From the beginning, you need to lay out the grounds for communication, such as:
When you're both available
When neither of you are available
The expected response time of both parties
Which platform you will use for communicating on a daily basis and a backup for emergencies
When you will conduct check-in meetings
How you will communicate and coordinate on projects
It is recommended that you take the initiative to have all of this in place prior to the beginning of the contract. Then, you can present your suggestions on communication to your new client and only make adjustments if they request them. Otherwise, many clients are glad to see they don't need to be the one to figure that out and are happy to move forward with what you suggest.
You should try to designate a tool for daily communication that is not email. Email is fine for working with short-term, project-based clients. However, for long-term roles, having a communication tool in itself can greatly facilitate communication. It will allow you to conduct all communication in one place and also make previous conversations searchable.
You need to use a digital tool for coordinating tasks and projects. Once again, this is not the time to use back-and-forth emails as a way to complete major projects. Using an app can allow you to:
Coordinate with your client in real-time
Document your work
Document the steps that were taken to complete a project so as to utilize this for crafting "best practices"
Stay better organized overall
There are a lot of task and project management tools available. You'll need to determine which one is easier for you to adapt to. One that provides a simple, clean platform is Wrike.
However, if you are OK with technology and want something fully customizable, ClickUp is the way to go. The free forever plan is loaded with features to make this app your go-to work hub.
You will also need to determine a secure place to store your digital files and make relevant files accessible to your client. Storing your files in a cloud-based, online system will make collaboration easier and also minimize the chance of them being lost or destroyed.
Google Drive is an excellent choice because if you are using a Google account for email, you will automatically have access to Drive. If you need more space in the future, you can upgrade to Google Workspace at an affordable rate. Google Workspace also is essential if you want to brand your Google email address with your domain name (email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org).
Another file storage system that many use is Dropbox.
It is suggested that you review both and determine the app that best suits your needs.
As was mentioned earlier, you will need a scheduling tool to schedule discovery calls with leads and ongoing check-ins with clients. This can minimize the back-and-forth and the other parties can self-schedule time with you at their convenience.
Calendly is simple to use and integrates with several types of calendars. Acuity has a bit of a learning curve, but the free plan is very robust. Two of the best features of Acuity are the ability to create different appointment types and the ability to create intake forms. Appointment types allow you to create various appointments and set various schedules. Intake forms allow you to collect information from leads even prior to a discovery call so that you can prepare for the call in advance.
We've reviewed some of the primary steps you will take towards becoming a virtual assistant. However, the journey is just beginning for you. You will find that as time goes on, your skillset or services may change. You may take on larger roles. You may change your preference for clients. All of this is to be expected.
Don't be afraid of change, rather, look for ways to grow amidst it.
Additionally, seek opportunities to receive free, ongoing training. Read blog posts of other experienced virtual assistants, find Youtube videos that will enhance your skills, learn new apps that can make your work easier.
Hubspot offers a plethora of free training and some of the courses even offer a certificate that you can utilize as a marketing advantage. Take advantage of all the free training available that is related to your services. You will only grow from there!
May the next steps you take be precise, enlightening, and successful. Becoming a virtual assistant can offer you the flexibility to shape the life that you desire. There may be downs, but you can rise up from each one if you remember your whys.
Why did you decide to become a virtual assistant in the first place?
Let that reason continue to motivate you.
Don't be afraid to pivot if needed.
Focus on what you can offer to your potential clients and seek to provide quality.
And most importantly, remember the whys.
You can accomplish big things.