BEFORE starting out as a virtual assistant.
These are the 4 main questions we receive from people who want are interested in learning more about becoming a virtual assistant:
- What is a Virtual Assistant?
- Where do I start?
- How do I find clients?
- How does it all work?
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant can be a small business owner, independent contractor or merely self-employed person who works from their own home using the internet to deliver their services. Generally virtual assistants start by drawing on their admin and office experience to provide services to other SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) [Click here to view a sample list of services ]
Virtual assistants can also be known as Freelancers. This means that they can invoice their clients for the work that they do and they aren’t considered an employee if they meet the criteria set out by the Tax Office. The Australian Tax Office has a business tool on their website that you can complete to assess whether you would be classed as an employee or not.
It is worth noting that all the risk is with the client. If the Tax Office deems that the VA is an employee, then the client would be required to pay Superannuation and other benefits that the VA had missed out on while working for them. This is why it is important for the virtual assistant to be set up correctly and meet the rules of the Tax Office before taking on clients.
To also note, that when virtual assistants themselves sub-contract work or hire other virtual assistants to do client work that they themselves will be at the same risk as the clients above. Under these circumstances the VA becomes the client and must take the correct precautions to avoid a hefty expense that wasn’t expected.
Where you start
The basic equipment you will need to start your business includes:
- Computer or laptop – maybe even both.
- Reliable internet connection (the faster the better)
- Good headset with microphone
- Basic Software (browser, messenger, office or open office, simple graphics editor, accounting system)
- Decent chair and workstation that can be closed off when needed (especially if there are little fingers nearby).
- Smartphone or tablet gives you mobility to “work” on the go and in the car.
- Top notch anti-virus and any other malware detectors.
- Safe way to secure your own and your clients passwords.
- File sharing software like Dropbox or Google Drive/Docs.
- Schedule, calendar, project manager and good time management tactics to balance your life with your business and vice versa.
- Insurance. At a minimum Public Liability cover but if you are providing any kind of advice you will need the more expensive Professional Indemnity Insurance.
- Marketing collateral like good quality business cards, one page business profile or brochure and a good quality name badge if you go business networking.
- Online Networking and Social Media tools. You will need a range of images and personal professional headshots and other photos that you can use online as part of your profiles and business pages.
- A website that includes testimonials (social proof), a guarantee to take the risk of purchase away from the client and a free ethical bribe to encourage visitors to engage with you.
- An Email Management system like Mailerlite. This will handle your emails so that they don’t bounce or get flagged as spam. Mailerlite offers a free account with great features for up to 1000 email addresses. You should start to build your mailing list from the very first day that you launch your business. The advantages in the medium term are huge.
- Official documents such as a privacy statement, website policy, client agreement or contract, onboarding system for new clients.
Additional requirements will depend on whether you decide to offer a specialized service. For example, if you want to offer transcription you would invest in a foot pedal.
My advice is not to purchase anything additional until you know what services you will be providing as this often changes depending on what clients contact you and what their requirements are.
Complying with Australian Law
I have written a new VA Start-Up Toolkit that covers the compliance issues in more detail.
[View Toolkit Details Here]
However, the main areas you need to be aware of are:
- Your Income Tax Requirements
- Applying for an ABN (Australian Business Number)
- Your requirements in regards to GST
- Privacy Issues
- Pricing and the ACCC
You can find out about all of these issues through the Australian Government website
Pricing Your Services
First up it is illegal in Australia for competing businesses to get together and agree to fix their prices (or agree to charge certain fees). Price fixing agreements don’t need to be in writing either – a verbal agreement or an informal understanding is sufficient. Please don’t ask other virtual assistants how much you should charge as you are walking a little closer to this line.
For new virtual assistants, you can choose a couple of easy methods initially. Once you have more experience and confidence in what you are doing you can become more creative with your pricing structure.
For now, choose one of the following:
- Work out what you would like to earn over the year and divide by 1000. For example – $40,000 would make it $40 per hour. Most VAs work in their business around 20 hours per week so you would mulitply this by $40 and you would earn $800 per week.
- Double your lowest rate. Work out the absolute lowest you would work per hour and still feel respected. Then double it. Say the lowest is $15 per hour (on work you don’t have any experience in for instance, then double it, making it $30 per hour.
- Google it. Have a look at what others are charging on their websites for the same work you will be doing and average it out. As the new person on the block you can make it more attractive to clients to hire you by comparing rates.
As a virtual assistant who is offering services to others, you won’t have the ability to provide services to too many clients. I recommend that you start with one client and make all the errors with he or she and learn from them. Then you will be ready to take on 1 or 2 clients. Once you get these clients into a routine you can work out how many more hours you can offer to other clients. You don’t need too many before your schedule is full.
As a new virtual assistant there are quite a few things you can do to get noticed and become attractive to clients as a solution to their problems.
This is known as marketing. Before you start marketing there are a few things you should do. I have laid everything out in my guide called “20 Ways to Find Clients”. [more information]
How It All Works
Here is a list of steps for you to do to get things going.
- Set up your “office” with the equipment listed.
- Sign up for the software on the list. I don’t mean that you should pay a subscription or fee. Most of the software will have a free option that you can use to test out the software and become comfortable with it all.
- Start a 1-page plan. Include on the plan what services you will offer, who you will help and how you will help them. Think about benefits rather than the features of what you do. For example if you are a bookkeeper the benefits you would bring to your clients is healthier cash flow and less bad debts.
- Register your business name and apply for an ABN (you can’t invoice until you get one)
- Design or get someone on www.fiverr.com to design one for you. Get business cards while you are there. Order the business cards online.
- Set up your online social media profiles and get listed on www.vaplacements.com. It is like a mini-website, but much easier to set up. You will have these profiles active while you work on your Website that can take some time to do right.
- Register a domain and web hosting space with www.121information.com they have special virtual assistant hosting packages and will install WordPress on your site for you.
- If you need to learn WordPress go here the register for our online course that includes a content management course and SEO course.
- Set up your operations and documents you will need as outlined in the list above. Check out our marketplace for templates if you need help.
- Work through the 20 ways to find clients in our guide.
If you do the above in the order I suggest you will find that it is the quickest way to get up and running. There is a lot to do, but the rewards are many. Good luck.