In 2008, I was 22 years old. I was a recent college graduate and I couldn’t get a job in my field, so I settled for working as an Administrative Assistant (a boring position with a terrible commute and a boatload of stress that wasn’t worth the pennies I was paid).
I was a newlywed living in a city far away from family and friends, with the burden of being the provider while my husband was furthering his education. I was unhappy, I wasn’t being challenged at work, and every month I just prayed we’d be able to pay our bills.
So in an effort to stimulate my brain, I sunk my teeth into all the blogging, Internet marketing, and online business information I could find. I started up projects on the side, taught myself new skills, and experimented with everything I was learning.
When I stumbled upon an opportunity to work with a well-known blogger, I jumped in full throttle. A few months later, I had more clients coming my way than I had time for, so I quit my job to become a virtual assistant (VA) full-time – and I’ve never looked back.
If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that there has never been a better time to create a work-at-home business as a VA. So why aren’t more people taking the plunge? I’ve learned (from the ton of emails I’ve received from people over the years) that it’s not a lack of passion or marketable skills. It’s not knowing where to start!
I totally get that. When faced with a huge goal, I get lost if there isn’t a step-by-step plan to reach it. So that’s what we’re going to tackle right now (and I’ve covered this in a lot more detail in my eBook, The Bootstrap VA). If you’re looking to work from home as a virtual assistant, here’s a five-step plan to get you on the right track.
Photo by dmachiavello
1. Familiarize yourself with what web working and being a VA is and entails.
It’s important that you move forward with your eyes open. There are definitely pros to being a virtual assistant (creating your own schedule, for example), and there are definitely cons (like needing to be plugged in constantly). Is this the right career move for you?
Do your research and connect with and interview VAs (the Virtual Assistant Forums is a good place to get in touch with virtual assistants and research the industry).
2. Create your business plan.
What you’re really doing is creating a roadmap and organizing your thoughts. Some things to include in your plan are:
• Your ideal client. Who (specifically) are you going to be catering your business to?
• Your target market. For what segment of the population are your services best suited?
• Your brand. What do you want people to think of you? How do you want to make them feel about you and your business?
• Your services. What services are you going to offer? How much are you going to charge?
• Your marketing plan. How are you going to market your services?
• Your business goals. Make them S.M.A.R.T. What do you want to achieve and how?
• Your business policies. What rules will you and your clients follow?
• Your schedule. How will you manage your time?
Don’t get stuck on this step! You’re not committing to forever here. Your business will change as you change, so just focus on where you’d like to start.
3. Acquire the tools you need and get set up offline and online.
Figure out what tools you need to get started and make sure you have them. Things like a reliable Internet connection, a computer, and an email account are must-haves. But maybe you also need Skype, a way to share and store files (like Dropbox), PayPal, project management software, etc.
Once you have the tools you need, get set up offline by doing things like looking into creating a business entity, getting a business bank account, and getting a PO box. Then set yourself up online by creating your website, blog, and social networking profiles.
4. Focus on getting your first client, and make a plan for how you’re going to get, keep, and work with clients going forward.
What offline methods can you use to get new clients? What about online methods? How will you encourage referrals? How can you go above and beyond for clients and keep them happy?
Think about how you can grow your business in the future. Are there other income streams you can explore? Will you bring on contractors in order to take on more work?
I know you have skills that you could turn into VA services. Improving clients’ lives, while owning more of your time and security and enjoying your work, is a wonderful feeling. If you’re interested in working from home as a virtual assistant, I encourage you to work the plan above. I just know you’ll be successful.
What services could you (or do you) provide from home as a VA? If you’re an experienced VA, what’s your best advice for those who are just starting out? If you’ve worked with a VA, what did and didn’t you like about the relationship?