Have you ever thought of becoming a Virtual Assistant? It’s becoming an increasingly popular career choice due to its ability to work flexibly from the comfort of your own home.
So, what exactly is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is a highly-skilled, independent professional who provides administrative business support services to clients remotely from home.
They are generally sole traders, who set their own working hours and have often been a PA, EA, Secretary, or Office Manager in their previous role.
Each VA will usually have certain tasks that he or she specialises in. Some of the many tasks they can handle include:
- Taking incoming calls and scheduling bookings
- Updating the content of your website
- Social media management
- Data entry
- Calendar management
- Creating monthly newsletters
- Document formatting
- Booking travel
- Email management
Virtual Assistants are especially in demand by entrepreneurs and small businesses who need support with administrative work but don’t want to hire a full-time member of staff.
I interviewed Catherine Gladwyn from Delegate VA – Virtual Assistant and author of How to be a Virtual Assistant, to find out more about how to successfully start and run your own VA business and here is what she had to say.
What was your own journey to becoming a VA?
I have always had a career in secretarial and admin roles. My first job was as a secretary. In around 2020 I was an Admin manager at the National Trust for 11 administrators. After then having neurosurgery and radiotherapy, which made some changes to my body as you would except, it became apparent that I couldn’t manage my health, going to work every day 9-5 and the stress of the place as well. So, I thought, “Well what can I do? Surely, I can do this from home.” So, I came up with the idea of Virtual Assistant. I was able to research and find out what I needed to do and so here I am now in my third year of being a full time Virtual Assistant, so it is possible for anyone.
Should you set up on your own as a Virtual Assistant, or should you work for a VA Agency?
My advice is to go and set up on your own as a Virtual Assistant. If you go and work for an agency, you’re still and employee, so you’re not getting anything from it. It doesn’t give you any extra skills or experience because as a Virtual Assistant you’re only ever going to offer services that you can do and that you enjoy anyway.
You could work as an Associate Virtual Assistant and that means finding established VA’s, contacting them and saying “Look, I’ve just set up. If you’re too busy, I can help you with X Y and Z, here are my details, get in touch. You will be paid a little less doing this because that VA is doing all of their marketing and finding their clients but it starts getting you working.
How did you find your first clients?
I sent out emails to local business owner, introducing myself, explaining what a VA was and also put what I could help them with. I also asked friends and family to like my Facebook page. I have a friend whose wife, I knew ran her own business so I sent her and email and just again explained what a VA was, what I could do and she jumped at it. She wanted me to help with some proof reading and the rest is history. I still work with her now every week.
Is it important to have a website and Facebook page?
One of the investments you need to make is in a website, so that you can direct potential clients to it, they can see what services you offer, what you do, how you can help them and how much it’s going to cost them and then when they have all of that information, all they need to do is phone you and say “Yep, I need you for an hour a week.”
I think it’s really important to have your rates on your website so people know what the investment is going to be.
What should you charge as a VA?
My hourly rate as a VA is £30 per hour and I’d say the minimum now would be £25 per hour. If you’re going to be an associate, you would charge slightly less but as a VA, I would advise a minimum of £20 and upwards.
I have seen a lot of Virtual Assistants go in at £10/£15 per hour and that makes sense because you want to undercut the competition and try and get the clients but trust me, trying to up your prices at a later date is very hard work and also when you are going in with something like £10/£15 when you’ve taken out your tax, national insurance, software licenses, insurance and goodness knows what else, you’re then paying yourself below the minimum wage
Do I have the right skill set?
As a VA, you don’t need to offer everything that your client wants. My advice is to only offer services that you can do confidently and that you enjoy. If you say yes to everything you will create stress for yourself, you won’t enjoy it and you will create stress for the business owner that your trying to help also.
What is the Investment?
It’s so easy to set up as a Virtual Assistant. All you need is a printer, a laptop, a couple of pens. I also said before about a website being an investment. One thing I haven’t invested in yet which I will be soon is a business coach.
How to manage your time when you have responsibilities for different clients
This is entirely up to you to negotiate with the clients. Remembering that you work ‘with’ them and not ‘for’ them – you are an equal business owner. Allocate the days and time you work and see how it fits in for the clients.
You will naturally be good at organising and prioritising as a VA – it is an essential skill to have.
Do you recommend offering packages, in addition to hourly rate?
Yes, some VA’s do this and offer an incentive of a reduced rate per hour for blocked time. It’s a good way of getting clients to commit to a certain number of hours per month.
Do I need insurance to set up as a VA?
Yes, I’d recommend getting insurance not only for your peace of mind, but for your clients too.
Do I need to let HMRC know that I am about to become self-employed?
You don’t need to let HMRC know you’re self employed until you are, so no need to tell them in advance. I always recommend taking a look at the gov.uk website or tweeting any questions to HMRC.
Want to find out more?
If you have anything you would like to ask Catherine about becoming a VA and whether it’s the right career for you, or if you have any questions about career change for me – just ask us in the comments section of the LinkedIn post below.
You can buy Catherine’s book from her website
Fay Wallis is a Career Coach with a background in HR and Recruitment. She is the founder of Bright Sky HR, where she helps people in their 30s, 40s and 50s overcome their career challenges with confidence. Fay creates free resources via blogs, videos and templates to help tackle many of the career issues her clients come up against. To have her latest resources sent to you as soon as they are created just sign up here. If you would like one-to-one support from Fay you can learn more about her coaching solutions here.