Virtual personal assistants (PAs) support professionals remotely by performing various administrative duties, from managing emails to making travel arrangements. The virtual personal assistant industry has grown in recent years for various reasons. Technological improvements like faster internet and improved video conferencing tools are one factor. Further, more people are working remotely than in the past, resulting in greater acceptance of outsourced, remote roles.

If you're an organized, detail-oriented, and communicative person who likes to help others, you might consider starting your own virtual assistant business. This guide explains how it's done.

Do You Need a Formal Education to Be a Virtual PA?

You don't need any formal educational credentials to work as a virtual personal assistant and set up a remote business. That said, you need to have basic reading, writing, and math skills to do the job well. A minimum of a high school education or a graduate equivalency degree (GED) is recommended.

Advanced educational credentials like a college degree can make you more marketable. Since virtual assistants work remotely, you have to compete for jobs with people around the globe. For example, some platforms promise cost-efficient virtual assistant services from places like the Philippines, where the cost of labor is cheaper than in the United States.

A bachelor's or associate degree in a relevant field like communications or business can help you stand out from the crowd and will justify a higher hourly rate to potential clients. Alternatively, you might consider certificate programs for assistants. Check your local community college for options. There are also online certification courses.

Education aside, there are some key traits you should possess if you're going to establish a thriving virtual assistant business, including:

  • Attention to detail
  • Good communication skills
  • Customer service mindset
  • Strong organizational skill set
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Trustworthiness
  • Ability to multitask

Steps to Take Before Starting Your Virtual Assistant Business

Before you can help other people get organized, you have to get organized yourself. Write a comprehensive business plan to help structure your virtual assistant business. This is your operational guidebook, covering everything from management to financial projections. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides templates that cover all of the key points you should include.

Take these steps to help write your business plan and prepare to open your virtual assistant business.

Define Your Niche (or Don't)

Most virtual assistants are generalized, offering an array of services designed to make their clients' personal and professional lives easier. Possible tasks might include:

  • Calendar management
  • Telephone and email management
  • Travel planning
  • Data entry
  • Running errands
  • Social media management

That said, some virtual assistants offer more niche services, like bookkeeping. Determine which services you will and won't offer while being mindful of the possible educational and licensing requirements connected to certain jobs. For example, you can't offer accounting services without completing the requisite education and being licensed in your state.

While it's not necessary to offer specialist services like this, doing so can help you stand out from the crowd. You might also consider addressing a certain target market. For example, you could cater to authors who use personal assistants for tasks like setting up online ads and managing email newsletter lists.

Determine Your Pricing

Scouring work-for-hire platforms for in-demand positions can give you an idea of what niche to pursue. This is also a great way to assess current market rates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average secretary or administrative assistant earns $41,950 annually. However, salaries range according to industry. For example, legal secretaries earn $48,980 annually.

Experience is another factor in determining virtual assistant rates. A seasoned pro will earn more than a newbie. A new VA may charge $10 to $15 per hour, while more experienced professionals can charge upward of $40 per hour. If you offer specialist services like bookkeeping, you can command even higher rates.

Invest in the Technology You'll Need

You'll need some basic tech tools to support your virtual assistant business. Hardware requirements include a computer, video conferencing tools (e.g., a headset), and a mobile phone. In terms of software, you might benefit from project management, transcription, and communication tools (e.g., Slack).

Steps to Take When Starting Your Virtual Assistant Business

With the preparatory points above checked off your to-do list, you can take concrete steps to formally get your virtual assistant business off the ground. Here's what you'll need to do.

Create a Formal Legal Entity for Your Business

Registering your virtual assistant business with your state allows you to establish it as a formal legal entity, like a limited liability company (LLC), sole proprietor, or corporation. Formalizing your business structure can provide tax benefits, such as making it easier to claim certain deductions.

It also helps protect your personal liability in case legal issues related to your business arise. Since virtual assistants may handle personal information and tasks, like financial data or private passwords, it's wise to take this step.

State requirements regarding new business formation vary. Check with your local SBA office for guidance on how to set up an entity in your state.

You'll have to designate an official name when registering your business. Choose wisely, as your official business name will be used on business documentation like invoices, marketing materials, and your website. Pick something that's unique and easy to remember.

Obtain the Necessary Business Licenses and Insurance

In addition to registering your business with your state, confirm whether you need any licenses to operate your virtual assistant business in your region. For example, you need to be licensed if you plan to provide accounting services. If you expand your online business and open a brick-and-mortar location, you need to abide by regulations regarding building permits, fire codes, and more.

Further, determine which types of insurance you may need for your business. For example, you may want professional liability insurance in case something goes wrong on the job and a client takes legal action as a result. You'll be handling sensitive data like mailing lists and social media accounts so you can't rule out this possibility entirely.

Accidents happen. What if you post something on social media that ends up damaging your client's reputation? They could lose customers and money as a result and sue you for the financial damages. Being able to assure your clients that you have these safeguards in place also makes you look more professional.

Get Your Finances in Order

Once you've registered your business, you should receive confirmation from the state. You can use this documentation to open a business bank account. This will make it easier to separate income and expenses related to your virtual assistant business from other finances, which can expedite bookkeeping.

Separating your business and personal finances can also help streamline tax filing and prove useful in case you are ever audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As you get your finances in order, take the time to understand your tax filing and reporting obligations. These will vary depending on your state and the type of entity you establish.

Take Steps to Acquire Your First Clients

With the administrative business taken care of, you can make moves toward acquiring your first clients. This means it's time to start marketing. The first step is to build a professional-looking business website that details essential information like your credentials, specific services offered, and rates.

You can create your own site using tools like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix. Alternatively, you can find a web design pro on a platform like Upwork to do the job. Either way, make sure you are presenting a cohesive brand across your website. It should be consistent in terms of language (e.g., formal versus informal tone), color scheme, and presentation of any logo or slogan.

Your website is like your digital business card. With this step done, you can take some other marketing measures to promote your virtual assistant company, like:

  • Set up social media accounts. Social media is a great way to reach out to potential customers and engage with existing clients. For example, you might ask for LinkedIn introductions or post in Facebook groups. Your VA Mentor offers ideas for leveraging social media for marketing.
  • Set up Google My Business and Yelp accounts. In addition to general social media, add your VA services to online directories. This allows you to broaden your reach. Plus, people can leave referrals on these platforms, providing free word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Network, network, network. Networking is critical to acquiring new clients when you're first starting your virtual assistant business. Joining organizations like the Association of Virtual Assistants (AVA) can be helpful.

Check out these tips from the VA Handbook for more ideas on how to promote your virtual assistant startup. The handbook offers suggestions like search engine optimization (SEO) and running a Google Ads campaign. You might also use content creation, like blogging, as a way to connect with clients.

Look for Ways to Streamline and Scale Up Your Business

As you pick up your first clients and your business starts to get busy, look for ways to simplify and streamline your tasks to foster a successful VA business. Saving time will allow you to take on more clients and increase your earning potential as a freelancer. For example, you might start freelancing part-time as a new virtual assistant and later move on to full-time work.

Check out productivity and project management tools like Asana or Evernote to get started. Look for ways to alleviate your business's administrative burden, as well. From sending invoices to tracking expenses, you want to ensure you're on top of all of your money matters. Skynova's accounting software can help you organize your financials in a single streamlined system. You can also benefit from our business templates to save time on tasks like creating invoices.

Get Your VA Business Going With Skynova

Running a VA business requires you to juggle many tasks. Not only do you have to take care of duties for your clients but you also have to handle your own VA business administration. Let Skynova take some of that burden off your shoulders. Our business templates and accounting software can simplify your finances, giving you a user-friendly and streamlined platform for managing your money.

Find out how Skynova supports small business owners like you.