Young woman wearing glasses works on laptop in cafe. On the desk is a coffee cup and open book.
A virtual assistant (VA) works remotely and assists clients with administrative and technical tasks. Becoming a virtual assistant can be a great option as a home-based business. — Getty Images/ Eva-Katalin

If you’re looking for a flexible home-based business, becoming a virtual assistant is a great option. The barrier to entry is low, but there are a few things you’ll want to do to set yourself up for success.

What is a virtual assistant (VA)?

A virtual assistant (VA) works remotely and assists clients with administrative and technical tasks. Typical VA work includes things like scheduling appointments, managing email accounts, and managing social media.

Usually, a VA has experience using different types of software. Some VAs specialize in helping clients with social media, marketing, or content management. Hiring a VA is a great solution for small business owners who can’t afford to hire a full-time assistant.

How to start a VA business

Register your business

Before you begin working with clients, you’ll want to register your business. The exact requirements will depend on where you live. Visit your Secretary of State’s website to see what you need to do.

You’ll also need to decide what type of legal entity you want to operate. Partnerships, corporations, sole proprietorships and limited liability companies (LLCs) are the most common business entities.

[Read more: How to Register Your New Business]

Decide what services you’ll offer

Next, you need to decide what types of services you’ll offer. If you’re brand-new, it may be a good idea to start out offering general VA services like email management, data entry or basic social media management. As you gain more experience, you can start offering more advanced services.

After you wrap up a project with a client, ask them for a testimonial you can use on your website. Testimonials are a great form of social proof and can establish your credibility as a VA.

Decide on your rates

Figuring out your rates can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to talk to VAs with a similar level of experience to see what they’re charging. Most VAs charge by the hour, or package their services by the hour.

Even if you’re a brand-new VA, you should charge at least $25-$30 an hour. You want to make sure you earn enough money to pay yourself, cover your business expenses and make quarterly tax payments.

Reach out to your current network

Once you’ve decided on your services and rates, reach out to your personal network. Let them know you’re starting a VA business, and ask them to keep you in mind if they know someone who’s looking for one. Since your network already knows and trusts you, this can be the fastest way to secure new clients in the beginning.

Outline a marketing plan

In addition, you’ll want to outline a marketing plan for your business. Set up a business website that outlines your services and lets clients know why they should hire you. You can also start networking in groups on LinkedIn and Facebook to promote yourself.

[Read more: How to Network From Home]

Figure out what software and tools you’ll need

As a VA, you’ll need different types of software to manage your own business and do work for your clients. You may want to invest in the following tools:

  • Software to track your time.
  • Accounting software to send invoices and accept payments.
  • Tool or software to manage your projects.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software to manage clients.
  • Software to track your expenses.

For example, Freshbooks is accounting software ideal for smaller businesses and freelancers. The software makes it easy to create automated invoices. And if you’re working with multiple clients, you may want to use a project management tool like Trello or Asana.

[Read more: Guide to Choosing the Best CRM Software for Your Business]

Ask for testimonials from clients

After you wrap up a project with a client, ask them for a testimonial you can use on your website. Testimonials are a great form of social proof and can establish your credibility as a VA.

It’s also a good idea to ask past and current clients for referrals. Referrals are an effective and low-cost strategy for growing your business. You may consider establishing a rewards program for customers who send referral leads that convert to new business.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO— is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Published September 23, 2021