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How to become a virtual assistant – plus a guide to getting clients


Virtual assistants are remote workers that 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 – all depending on the individual skills of each virtual assistant, meaning you can build your business based on what you’re good at.

Sound like the right job for you? Keep reading our guide to see how you can become a virtual assistant – plus helpful tips from a veteran virtual assistant.

What is a virtual assistant?

Assistants aren’t a new concept – but virtual assistants are. Instead of limiting yourself to one client or one location, being a virtual assistant means you can enjoy this role as a freelance, contract-by-contract career. 

Virtual assistants are often hired by small businesses who don’t have the staff (or skills) to do the work themselves. They typically work virtually from their own location, such as at home or even abroad, and communicate with clients via email, phone, or online tools – offering freedom and flexibility to those with the right skillset.

Joanne Manville, virtual assistant and founder of The Indispensary, specialises in working with small businesses and the self-employed. Over her almost decade-long career as a virtual assistant, she’s learnt firsthand how valuable the profession can be to small business owners.

“For a relatively low-risk investment, small businesses can get a huge amount of help from virtual assistants. As virtual assistants, we’re not emotionally involved with their business (at least at the start), so we can just get on with things.

“We have a wide range of skills and have experience working with a large variety of businesses, so we have a lot of ideas that we can bring to our clients. We also very quickly become a trusted colleague and our clients often use us as a sounding board, as they know everything will remain confidential,” she said.

What does a virtual assistant 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 stop there.

Depending on your specific skills , you could also manage customer orders, maintain a business’s social media profile, and oversee its accounting and other finances.

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

Here are some examples 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


Some virtual assistants offer marketing support too, like:


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

Project management

If you’re interested in virtual assistance, you’re probably already a highly organised person – so why not build on it even further? Adding project management services means you could be:

  • helping with project coordination
  • setting deadlines and defining responsibilities
  • ensuring deadlines are met
  • managing team resources

Personal assistance

Depending on your client, you may even be required to help with more personal matters. This is your choice as a virtual assistant, so it’s completely up to you whether or not you offer these services. But if you do, you can expect to help with:

  • online shopping
  • booking personal appointments
  • managing household matters

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

Choose your niche and virtual assistant services

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.

Virtual assistant Joanne started her career as a personal assistant in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2015 that she became a self-employed virtual assistant – but the idea had been brewing for a while.

“Over the years, people had said to me that it would be great if I could offer PA services to people who were self-employed – but neither they (nor I) had heard of virtual assistants at that time.

“Eventually, I realised that there were already people out there doing what had been suggested to me. I decided that I wanted a change and left the public sector company I was with to become a PA in the private sector. But I was only there for eight months when I began to realise that it still wasn’t what I wanted.

“It was at that point I decided to go self-employed. I took a month out to do research and launched in October 2015,” she said.

Wondering how to become a virtual assistant with no experience?

Joanne’s career path isn’t the only route to becoming a virtual assistant. If you’re new to the role, you can do the business plan 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 looking for a virtual assistant course 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 2024, as well as specific skills-based lessons on bookkeeping, for example.

Set up your business

Every new business needs to:

Discover the steps to starting any new business for a full overview of becoming a virtual assistant.

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 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 if you’ll be talking with lots of clients
  • 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.

Finding virtual assistant jobs

Once you’ve set up your business, you can get on with finding clients. Joanne believes visibility is key to finding clients, telling us: “Our clients come from all over – from networking connections, our website and social media, and referrals from people we’ve supported.

“We don’t have any particular pitching methods, we just ensure that our marketing is consistent and that we always ask for testimonials and case studies.”

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, 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)
  • become an Upwork virtual assistant – businesses look for freelance virtual assistants on digital platforms and online job boards such as Fiverr and Upwork
  • 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

Virtual assistant salary: how much can you charge?

According to Indeed, virtual assistants in the UK make £11.72 an hour on average.

Payscale puts the hourly salary in a range between £10 to £25 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.

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

Expand your virtual assistant services

Once you’ve been up and running for a while, you might be looking for a way to grow your business. The first thing you could consider is offering additional services, such as the ones listed above.

Start by assessing the needs of your current clients and consider which services will complement your existing offerings. For example, if you currently offer administrative support, you could expand into project management too.

But while the needs of your clients are important – it’s also important that you enjoy what you do. When thinking about what services to offer, virtual assistant Joanne has a helpful reminder:

“Make sure you know what your skills are, what skills you’d like to develop, and what tasks just don’t float your boat. Don’t be afraid to say no to work or clients that don’t make you feel excited.”

Another way to grow your business is by asking for feedback. Asking your clients how you can improve gives you a unique opportunity to develop.

And of course, networking is key when finding more clients. If there’s a particular industry you enjoy working in, seek out industry events or join networking groups. You may even find new clients or referrals.

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

Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business specialising in side hustles – as well as all things freelance, social media, and ecommerce. She’s been writing professionally for nine years. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world.

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