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This is guest post from Carmen James, a VA who loves what she does.
When I first started out as a Virtual Assistant, I was hooked. I knew this was my thing. Not only because I was doing what I really liked, I was also able to work anywhere I wanted to.
Who knew I could really be a work at home Virtual Assistant and make $30.00 an hour?
So now that I have a few successful years behind me, I can honestly say I am deeply flattered when people ask me how to get started in this lucrative field.
Along the way I learned A LOT and I think I have the chops to tell you how to get going as a Virtual Assistant. Not only is this a great way to make realistic money online, but there are two routes you can go: solo or as an employee (I’ll touch on this in a bit).
Because I went down the solo road, this article is dedicated to that route. Which is way easier than you might think.
Here’s how to do it.
Here’s How To Become a Virtual Assistant and Make $30.00 An Hour
How Did I Get Started?
My humble beginning as a Virtual Assistant (VA) started with my very first job. I was an Accounts Payable Assistant with a property management company but I did more than pay the company’s bills. I called vendors, sent out emails, dealt with banks, did a ton of data entry and even dabbled in helping out with the company ‘s website.
So, when I was let-go from my last job, I figured I could offer my skills to anyone who needed me. I wanted to become the next best Virtual Assistant, doing things that I already knew how to do. I set myself up on Elance and got to work. Oh, in case you’re wondering, Elance is now Upwork – a place where you can find freelance work.
I won’t kid you, It was a bit rough at first. I went through some trials and errors and only had a few clients.
Few clients = little money.
The Learning Curve
I learned a lot AFTER I got started. Looking back I wish I had picked up my learning resources BEFORE I started. But hey, I’ve always been a little ass-backwards.
Kidding aside, I would have saved myself a butt-load of headaches if I knew then what I know now. When all’s said and done though, everything turned out fine. I think It just took me longer than it could have.
So how did I break through the learning curve? I sucked up as mush information as I could. A lot though trial and error and figuring out what worked best for me, but mostly from taking this Virtual Assistant online course (5 hour online course, regularly $50.00 but often goes on sale for $10.00)
In this 5 hour online course, I learned:
- how to figure out my target audience
- how to determine what I should specialize in
- how to set rates
- how to create proposals and contracts
- how to figuring out costs
And because I love you, I will go into some detail on some of these points.
After a while, I bought this little ebook because I wanted to be sure I had all my ducks in a row: The Bootstrap VA: The Go-Getter’s Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant, Getting and Keeping Clients, and More!
This e-book focuses on how to get and keep clients. Well worth the $10.00
Isn’t A Virtual Assistant Just A Glorified Secretary ?
A lot of people hear ‘Virtual Assistant ‘ and automatically think of answering phones and drafting letters.
But a Virtual Assistant is so much more than that. A VA does just about anything a business owner (or fellow freelancer) doesn’t want to – or have the time to – do.
So, based on that simple description, there is a dynamic range of things a Virtual Assistant can do.
If you really want to become a Virtual Assistant, there’s great news. Most of us inherently have the skills to do a lot of things others can’t. Like customer service, social media, creative writing, and marketing. Heck, even if you have a working history of being an Accounts Payable Assistant you have some VA skills.
See how easily you can become a Virtual Assistant ?
Here is a list of the top 10 Virtual Assistant services you can do…and get paid for:
- Social Media Management
- Blogging Assistant
- General Admin. Assistant
- Graphic Design
- E-commerce Assistant
- Consulting and Coaching
To Become A VA, First Sort Out Your Specialty
When I first started out as a remote VA, I wanted to provide as many services that I could. After all, this would make me more “in demand” and get me more jobs, right?
I did just about anything I thought I could handle, even writing an article about dog grooming. And I didn’t even have a dog at that time. It took me for-ev-er to write that.
It’s tempting to start out this way but being a Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades is not the way to go.
Do you ever think that you can do some things better than others? It’s hard enough to make money when you’re really good at something but being “kind-of” good at something is a surefire way to only get mediocrity.
So remember this: The things you do well are the ones that will make the money.
What you need is a niche.
Sort out what you’re really good at and toss the rest. This is your niche and you are on your way to being an expert in it.
Here’s a free worksheet to help you sort out your niche:
A Standing Block = A Targeted Audience
I hear a lot of talk about how you need a platform in order to be a Virtual Assistant.
Yeah, it’s true. A platform will get you the jobs. It’ll let the customers know who you are and what you’re all about.
It is the sure-fire way to reach your targeted audience.
But I prefer to call it a standing block.
Something that’ll really hold your weight. Something that’ll make you stand out. Something that’ll bring in your customers.
And this is, I think, the most intimidating part of starting your VA career. So I’ll try to break it down so it is actually do-able for you.
You have two options for developing your standing block:
#1 Freelance Platforms
By far, the easiest way to build your block is to set up your profile on one of the many freelance platforms. This offers almost instant gratification. As long as you make your profile as compelling, interesting, and hire-worthy as possible.
My all-time favorite freelance platform is Upwork because it is popular and reputable. Here are a few of my tips to build a great profile:
- Put up a photo of yourself. Make sure it is pleasant and professional
- Give yourself a great title. Be specific and use keywords (words that are relevant to your specialty, like Pinterest Marketing or Powerpoint Presentation Specialist).
- Don’t neglect your skills. List them in order of proficiency. After all, when someone is looking for a VA they usually have a specific task they need to have done.
- Showcase your expertise and best work within your profile
Once your profile is set-up, take these steps to boost your success:
- Don’t wait for clients to come to you. Go ahead and send potential clients (those seeking Virtual Assistants) a proposal which outlines how you can solve their needs.
- Make sure you understand the job AND you have the proper amount of time to do it.
- While they’re screening you, you should screen them. Check out their history on Upwork to see if they had any complaints or issues with past freelancers.
- Only take on projects you know you can handle – skill-wise and time-wise.
#2 Showcase Your Expertise With A Website or Blog
In my honest opinion, this option is a bit more difficult and better suited to someone who has been doing Virtual Assisting for a while. Why? because you have to rely on your own marketing skills. That said, the simplest way to go about this is with a website. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of pages stuffed with information. All you really need is an “About Me” page that tells who you are and your experiences; a “Hire Me” page, a “Contact” page, and a page with specific examples of your work and maybe even a few testimonials.
A blog, on the other hand, will require you to do a lot of writing. In addition to the pages similar to that of a website, you’ll want to write about your experiences as a Virtual Assistant. Not only will this show off what you have to offer, it will give potential clients a taste of your style and long-term abilities.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you specialize in Pinterest marketing. You convinced your client to make all their Pins match the color scheme of their logo. Are their newly colored Pins getting more shares than the old ones? Hey, there’s a blog post you can write.
Setting up a website or a blog can be a bit daunting if you don’t have any experience in this area (you could hire a VA 🙂 )
But, if this is the route you want to go, then I’ll tell you that I love InMotion Web Hosting for getting a site or blog up and running because it is so easy to set-up. They pretty-much walk you through the entire process and you can even buy your domain name through them.
Here’s The Wary Worker’s tutorial on how to get started with a website or blog.
Virtual Assistant Salary: What Should You Charge ?
Boy, this is a toughie. And there is no right answer. You can charge whatever you want but there are several factors that come into play. Such as:
When I first started out, I charged $15.00 an hour to manage websites. My first client turned out to be long-term work, lasting over two years. I continued to charge $15.00 an hour for each new client because that’s what I thought I was worth.
After a while I rose my price to $20.00 an hour because I continued to gain experience and narrow my niche. I eventually made it to $35.00 an hour !
To be honest, you can charge whatever you want. People will pay for your services if they think you are worth it.
I think it’s reasonable to charge $30.00 an hour in this growing field.
When Can You Expect To Start Making Money ?
Now all you need are the paying clients, right?
Not so fast ! Making money as a Virtual Assistant can take anywhere from a few days or several weeks. Especially if you’re going the solo route.
The easy answer to making money quicker as a remote virtual assistant is to work for one of the reputable companies (and individuals) that hire people to do simple VA tasks. Pay is usually every two weeks and consistent.
Solo or Employee: Which VA Option Is Best For You?
Ok, now that I have filled your head with a ton of information on how to become a Virtual Assistant, I want to talk a bit about the pros and cons of going solo AND/OR being an employee.
Solo Based Virtual Assistant
Going the solo route (or ‘freelancer’ as many call it) was my choice and it worked out great. Even through the tough, lean times I am glad I went this route. Here are some of the “yay’s” and “boos” of going solo:
Pros of going solo:
- you can set your own hours
- you can set your own rate
- you can select your clients
Cons of going solo:
- you have to do your own marketing
- you have to search for your clients
- you have to do your own tax withholding (estimated taxes)
Companies That Hire Virtual Assistants
If hustling for clients is not your thing, you have another option. A big part of my wants to say you can be an employee for a great company and get paid for doing virtual assistant work. Well, that’s partly true. You CAN be paid by a company doing this kind of work, but you MAY NOT be an actual employee. You may be an independent contractor…basically a solo VA but with the company doing all the hard work for you. Like getting clients and marketing.
These companies hire Virtual Assistant. Even if you don’t have a ton of experience.
Here are some of the “count me in’s” and “count me out’s” of being an “employee”:
Pros of being an employee:
- you have a ready-made client base
- you have a boss to handle any difficulties that may pop up
- you have set hours (if you need a certain schedule)
- you have a set pay
Cons of being an employee:
- you have a set pay
- you are not the boss
- you have set hours
- you don’t have much variety
So, as you can see, there are plenty of pros and cons for both sides of the aisle. Whichever way you go is totally up to you. But how do you decide? Mull over the pros and cons and determine if you have the gumption to hustle and work when you’re ready OR have clients handed to you with defined boundaries.
Tools of The Trade: I Use These Free Tools:
No doubt, you will need some tools. The ones you use will depend on your niche so here is a nice assortment of free tools to help you with any virtual assistant niche you take on.
No matter what your VA specialty is, you’ll still have plenty of writing to do. Contracts, emails, teaching materials…whatever you create will most likely need to be proofread. This free tool makes everything you write easy to read and mistake free.
Whenever I need to make a professional-looking Pinterest image or infographic for a client, I turn to Canva. I LOVE Canva and use it all the time. This free-to-use tool lets you modify any of their templates or use them as-is for eye-catching graphics.
Another free image creating tool, Pic Monkey is a lot like Photoshop. There is so much you can do with your images – re-size, crop, add text overlays, you name it.
Probably the most popular blogging platform, I consider WordPress to be a “must know” for all Virtual Assistants.
You can’t beat a face-to-face conversation but most of the time – especially for the work at home VA – this is impossible. The next best thing is to use a free video conferencing service such as Skype.
With so many Social Media options it gets tough keeping things sorted out. Buffer has a free tool that lets you connect social profiles and schedule up to 10 posts in advance.
Google has several free tools that’ll enhance your VA expertise. You can create, edit and share documents, presentations and spreadsheets through Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms. If you’re not familiar to the tools Google has to offer, head on over to their learning center.
Stick With It and Start Making Money
You’ve probably heard it before, and it’s true: Getting the first client is always the hardest. If becoming a Virtual Assistant is something that really interests you, then for goodness sake GO FOR IT ! Just prepare yourself for rejection, followed by success.