How to Get Started as a Virtual AssistantWritten by Irakli on October 01, 2018
According to Upwork, over 57.3M people freelanced in 2017 and the majority of workers will freelance by 2027. As freelancing becomes easier and more convenient, so does the gig economy. The virtual assistant market size alone was estimated at $1005.2M in 2016 and is expected to grow even bigger than that.
But first, what exactly is the gig economy?
A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.
Learning a new skill and freelancing is now easier than ever.
But this is bigger than just the gig economy.
The freelance market has been steadily growing for some time now and shows no signs of slowing down. This may sound intimidating but it shouldn’t discourage you from breaking into the VA (virtual assistant) market. The industry is growing at breakneck speed, yes, but it’s still possible to find your spot and stand out.
As a virtual assistant, you’d be something like a jack of all trades.
Depending on your niche (something you can read more about below), and your clients – you have a bit of a wiggle room in terms of what you’d be doing. From simply finding out more information for your clients to writing ads and emails, you’ll be doing it all as a virtual assistant.
So, get ready to pull yourself up by your bootstraps as you dive into the deep world of the virtual assistance market.
“Alright, that’s great and all, but how do I actually get started?” – you might be thinking. Well, first of all, you:
1. Decide on a specific niche
I realize I just said that you’d be doing a little bit of everything, but it’s still important to have a niche.
Ideally, it’s something you’re actually interested in and are good at. Remember: if you’re really passionate about it – you’ll have no problem standing out.
So, get a piece of paper, and write a list of 10 things you’re interested in and are passionate about. This shouldn’t be too hard.
Some questions to help you going:
- How do you like to spend your free time? What do you look forward to doing when you’re not working (there is no wrong answer here, anything goes).
- What topics do you love to read about? (Again, no wrong answer. What matters here is finding what you like).
- What problems can you solve or what services can you provide?
At the end of the day, it’s about providing some kind of a service or value to your clients. And finding a niche is vital to your success.
There’s a ton of challenge and competition out there. You can’t compete with everyone. Once you find your lane, only then can you start making a name for yourself.
Of course, before you move on, it’s important to do your research. Because, chances are, there are also a million and one other people who are willing to do the same thing – and for cheaper.
2. How do you stand out?
Because it’s easier than ever to start freelancing, there are a lot of freelancers undercutting others. But this tactic can only get you so far.
As a virtual assistant, the market might seem oversaturated at first. But since you’re here, looking up guides on how to get started as a VA – you’re already ahead of the curve.
Quality is always better than quantity.
Keep that in mind while freelancing and you’ll have no problem standing out from the rest of the crowd.
Here’s what you might find in an oversaturated market:
- Low-quality content (that usually is a result of working as a virtual assistant for a very little amount of money).
- Unpredictable and random schedule (being reliable as a virtual assistant is essential).
- People specializing in only one field (when the market is oversaturated, a lot of people settle in their small lanes and refuse to branch out).
So, now that you think about it, competition doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
If you want to stand out in your niche, be ready to put in work, practice and dedication. These traits don’t require much, only discipline.
By being on time – you’ll already be more reliable than the majority.
So far, you’re already better than some people and you haven’t even put in actual work yet. Nice, right?
3. Developing a portfolio
Here’s where things start to pick up the pace.
If you want to get anywhere as a virtual assistant – you need to prove your skills with some concrete and hard proof. Because, let’s face it, it’s hard to prove you’re reliable and willing to put in work to your potential clients (who isn’t?)
Here’s where your portfolio comes in handy.
Depending on your specialized niche (e.g. logos, writing, etc.) you’ll want to have a sample of your work. Even if you’ve never had a client before and it’s your first time working as a virtual assistant – what you can do is create a sample of work, for free, for your potential clients.
Find someone you’d love to work for, and create something that would give them value (blog post, new logo, ads, so on). You can then either pitch that to them, or publish it as a blog. It’s a win-win situation, even if they say no, you’ll have something to add to your portfolio and show off to your future clients.
4. Finding clients
Once you decide on what you’re going to be doing and how, the next step is actually finding and reaching out to them. Because of the sheer size of the freelance market, there are a lot of sites where you can find work as a virtual assistant.
Once there, you need to set up your profile, make it as detailed as possible, and get to work.
Pitching can be hard at first, especially when your profile is fresh and has no reviews. So, you might still be forced to start cheap. Once the reviews start coming in though (this shouldn’t take too long if you’re good at what you do), you can then increase your freelance rates and fees.
If you’re truly confident in your knowledge and skills as a virtual assistant, don’t be afraid to charge more than the minimal rate. If anything, this will signal to your potential clients that you know your stuff.
Working as a virtual assistant might be confusing at first, you might feel like you have impostor’s syndrome, and that you don’t know what you’re doing. But it only takes one or two reviews to get the ball going, and in due time, you’ll be confident in your skills.
Once starting though, don’t settle on one platform.
Be relentless. Pitch to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
If you’re having no luck on Fiverr, try Upwork or virtual assistant Facebook groups.
So, to recap so far: find your niche (i.e. what you’re passionate about), get to know your stuff, develop a portfolio, and then focus on finding and pitching to clients.
Finally, once all is said and done, you can move on to the next step:
5. Setting the price
Here’s where things get a bit complicated.
Invoicing can seem hard for virtual assistants at first, but once you start figuring out your skill level, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Generally speaking, there are three different ways you can set your rates as a virtual assistant:
- By the hour – the most popular approach for most VAs. You’ll need to be tracking your time for this method. (Experienced VAs make anything from $15 to $50 per hour).
- By the project – this is usually the case for experienced VAs who know what they’re doing and how much they’re worth. Also, it’s a good way of clarifying expectations.
- By a retainer – usually the client pitches the amount they’re willing to pay, for a set amount of hours. Alternatively, you can also use an invoicing software to set up custom invoice templates and automate them.
Putting it all into practice
It’s worth noting that these are just 5 of the many things you need to know working as a virtual assistant.
At the end of the day, you can spend the whole day reading guides on becoming a virtual assistant, or, you could instead get a portfolio and a few samples going – and then start chasing clients.
Start working as a virtual assistant for your side hustle as a source of secondary income at first, and as you start gaining more clients and samples, see where things go from there.
If you’re ever feeling unsure, know that experience is the best teacher. Given enough time and dedication to your craft, your side hustle as a virtual assistant might become your main hustle.
So, with that said, good luck and get out there!
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