Guest Author - Meredith Eisenberg
Last year I moved from Washington DC to Albuquerque, New Mexico to be closer to my family. As part of the cross country move, I decided that I wanted to work from home to spend more time with my daughter. I am currently enrolled in AssistU which is teaching me the basics of what I need to know to run my own home business.
A Virtual Assistant is someone who provides administrative or other support to business owners virtually. A VA is not just anyone who provides work for someone over the Internet -- they are a partner in the business providing support in a number of areas (not just bookeeping or web design for example.
At AssistU, I am learning more than just computer skills, I am learning skills that are important to anyone starting a small business. I researched the legal requirements for my business, I am visualizing my ideal client, working on my business plan, and creating marketing materials.
Here are the steps to putting together a successful virtual assistant business:
1) Find your Niche-the more targeted the market, the easier it is to set yourself up as the "go to" person in that market. Of course, many Virtual Assistants start out as generalists and let their niche develop as they get clients. Niche refers to who you serve (coaches, lawyers, non profits) rather than what you do.
2) Create a Business Plan- In a business plan, you are forced to look at competition, create real budgets and establish a marketing plan. A solid business plan is your map to success. You should revisit your business plan occasionally as your business grows and as you learn more.
3) Network- Join several message boards and online community groups that are Virtual Assistants or are in need of that you offer. Ask a lot of questions and keep a file of the things you learn. If it is acceptable, use your virtual business card in your signature line on your posts to the boards or groups, detailing your business name, contact information and service specialty.
4) Prepare your Elevator Speech- Know how to describe your business and services in 15 seconds. Practice this. It sounds silly but if you can tell people what you do in 15 seconds, it tells them that you understand your business and that you are confident in your skills.
5) Get your name out there- There is a lot of marketing to do. You need to register your website with search engines. Just getting listed takes at least an hour a month. To achieve top 10 ranking with a search engine is the ultimate goal and can take as much as 2 hours weekly to stay on top of your key words and get your website tweaked to benefit you.
Join organizations (online and locally). Sign up with local small businesses that meet in your city. Join your Chamber of Commerce. That is what they are there for.
6) Do your research- Do a keyword search for Virtual Assistant in any search engine and find out how those people at the top got there and what helps them stay there. Find out how many VAs offer what you offer. It might be a good idea to partner with another that offers services that you don't. Twice the exposure and twice the experience.
7) Get Certified- Many VA organizations offer certification programs for different skills. These certifications give your clients peace of mind in knowing that they hired the most qualified person for their project. Certain website offer FREE certification testing, like BrainBench.com . Try them out and see how you do. It's a great way to find out where you are with the competition.
8) Build your skill set- Maybe you don't consider yourself an expert in all of the services that you would like to offer. Search online for schools, classes and tutorials for your specific interest. AssistU provides excellent training for getting your business off the ground.
Most VAs earn anywhere from $20 to $60 an hour. The best arrangement is to have your clients commit to a certain number of hours per month for a slightly reduced hourly rate. This gives you a consistent revenue base and allows you to build a solid working relationship with your clients (as opposed to project work).
I have only been doing VA work for a few months, but I am really enjoying the time home with my daughter and the freedom to be my own boss. The virtual assistant community is also one of the most supportive I have seen. If you have a question, the other VAs will help you find an answer.
So, if you have top-notch skills, you might consider a career as a Virtual Assistant.