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A guide to becoming a virtual assistant and getting freelance clients

5-minute read

Sam Bromley

17 June 2022

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Virtual assistants are remote workers that small businesses can hire to do administrative tasks, for example appointment scheduling and arranging travel.

Their to-do list can also extend to research, bookkeeping, and customer service.

Virtual assistants are often self-employed, working as freelancers on a contract-by-contract basis.

An advantage to becoming a virtual assistant is that you can work from home for clients, giving you freedom and flexibility.

If you’re wondering how to become a virtual assistant, here’s what you should know.

What do virtual assistants do?

Virtual assistants work remotely for clients on a variety of tasks and projects.

You might commonly think of virtual assistants as doing admin and secretarial tasks for a business.

But their skills don’t have to stop there. Depending on the virtual assistant, they could also manage customer orders, maintain a business’s social media profile, and sort its accounting and other finances.

If you’re thinking about becoming a virtual assistant, consider your own skill set and what you can offer clients.

Here’s a list of what you might end up doing.

Executive and personal assistant

These are the administrative-based tasks including:

  • diary management (like scheduling meetings and appointments)
  • booking travel
  • managing email inboxes and other communications
  • event organisation
  • research and reports for executives and directors

Marketing

Some virtual assistants offer marketing support too, like:

Accounting

A further niche for virtual assistants is to offer specialist accounting services:

Customer service

Many small businesses don’t have a dedicated customer service team (for example, ecommerce stores), so you could be:

  • processing orders and managing shipping
  • dealing with customer enquiries
  • managing returns and exchanges
  • keeping an eye on stock and ordering new supplies when needed
  • maintaining the website and product pages

How much do virtual assistants make?

According to Indeed, virtual assistants in the UK make £11.96 an hour on average.

Payscale puts the hourly salary in a range between £10 to £26 an hour.

It’s always a good idea to research other virtual assistants in your niche and skill set and try to find out how much they make.

As you get more experience and skills, you should be able to increase your earning potential, whether that’s by taking on new work or upping your rates.

Keep in mind that being self-employed, you’ll need to pay your taxes and set money aside for holidays, sick pay, and retirement.

How to become a virtual assistant: step-by-step

List your skills, choose your niche

If you’re thinking of becoming a virtual assistant, it’s likely you’ve already got some of the skills listed above.

Take a moment to list them. Being clear about the range of services you can offer will help you market your business to clients.

After that, you can choose a direction. Will you lean towards marketing support primarily, or will your service revolve around office administration?

A business plan will help you answer those questions (and plenty more) when setting up.

Download a free business plan template to make writing yours easy.

Wondering how to become a virtual assistant with no experience?

You can do the exercise above to list your transferable skills. What jobs have you done before that you can market to clients as a virtual assistant?

Whether it’s customer service or content writing, they could be a great base to start your business with.

Ideally though, you’ll want to build your skill set to win more work. Think about taking online courses and qualifications to help you showcase your expertise.

Udemy is a paid online learning resource that has courses on learning the must-have skills for virtual assistants in 2022, as well as specific skills-based lessons on bookkeeping, for example.

Set up your business

Every new business needs to:

Discover the nine steps to starting any new business.

Check your budget and funding

You can get started as a virtual assistant without needing to spend too much initially. But there are a few basic things you’ll need to budget for, including:

  • a computer or laptop that runs well and has the necessary software (like an office suite, for example Microsoft Office 365)
  • a broadband internet connection
  • a separate phone line (or number) for your business – you might want to look at a virtual landline
  • office stationery and equipment to keep you organised

You can use our budgeting template and calculator to keep your finances organised.

You can also check out our cash flow forecast template to assess how much money you’ll have coming in and going out from your business over 12 months.

Sort your branding and marketing

When thinking about marketing, go back to your niche and skill set. These can help you work out what sort of clients you’re hoping to get.

Once you know your audience, you can develop a marketing plan to reach them.

While your marketing will be unique to your business, here are some guides to its specific elements:

As you’ll be working remotely, it’s important to have an online presence so that people can find and get in touch with you.

This means creating a business website, developing your social media accounts, and getting to grips with SEO.

For more on these parts of the process, read our in-depth guide to advertising your small business.

Find work as a virtual assistant

Once you’ve set up your business, you can get on with finding clients.

The Society of Virtual Assistants can support you in getting work as well as running your business in general.

Membership is free, although they ask for a recommended £10 donation. But you’ll then get their newsletter and have access to their forum.

They also have another level of membership: ‘approved’. You need to agree to their Code of Practice, but you can then be added to their ‘find an approved VA’ listings.

Here are some more ways to find work:

  • use a specialist virtual assistant agency – you can join the books of a virtual assistant agency, but make sure you research your options (and avoid scams that ask for money upfront or make claims that sound too good to be true)
  • sign up to freelancing websites like Fiverr and Upwork – businesses look for freelance virtual assistants on digital platforms and online job boards
  • use social media like LinkedIn to self-promote – we mention LinkedIn as it’s the professional networking platform, but social media in general can be a powerful tool when looking for work

Insurance for virtual assistants

As you’re running a business, an insurance policy can protect you against the unique risks you face. Virtual assistants should consider:

  • professional indemnity insurance – this covers you if you make a mistake in your work that leads to a loss for your client, for example if you lose documents or data or give bad advice
  • public liability insurance – this can cover compensation costs if clients, suppliers, or members of the public suffer personal injury or property damage because of your business
  • business equipment insurance – this can cover expensive equipment like your laptop against theft and property damage

Do you need to know anything more about becoming a virtual assistant? Let us know in the comments below.

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Photograph 1: Kateryna/stock.adobe.com

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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