In April 2020 I started a part-time role as an Amazon customer-service representative alongside my undergraduate studies in Florida. I loved working from home, but it wasn’t flexible.
I needed permission to take time off, and I was not allowed to work abroad because of heavy home-office equipment and security concerns.
Approaching the end of 2020, I found out my temporary contract with Amazon was ending. With my degree due to end in summer 2021, I scrambled to find a job that would allow me to work anywhere as a travel blogger. I remembered the virtual-assisting course I had invested $600 in but never completed. Instead of job searching, I completed the course.
In January 2021 I posted that I was a virtual assistant on an Instagram account I’d created to market my services, even though I hadn’t secured my first client. Shockingly, I received seven inquiries from people needing a virtual assistant.
I didn’t have any startup costs, as I already owned a laptop and had internet. I secured my first three clients within a week of my impromptu launch date. I created social-media content for a branding-and-marketing agency, managed the email inbox of a therapist, and performed data-entry tasks for a finance agency.
I still had three weeks left on my Amazon contract, working 16 hours a week — I balanced my new clients around that and my studies at first, which I found fairly easy. After graduating, I moved to Ghana for graduate school in August and took my business with me.
When I moved, I had accumulated more clients. Getting acclimated to a new environment and culture was challenging, especially with not-great WiFi in Ghana, but I gave myself two weeks to establish a productive working environment.
I’m grateful I found a job that was a bridge from losing part-time work to moving overseas for grad school.
These are my four tips for getting started as a VA.
The course taught me concepts like what to put into my contract for clients to protect myself as a VA and how to conduct calls with prospective clients. But I had to decide which of the skills I had developed I could offer.
Common tasks include managing email and scheduling appointments, but you can offer whatever services you’re qualified to provide. Are you good at creating YouTube thumbnails or writing grant proposals? You can offer both.
Write down a list of tasks you would enjoy doing for other people and have done in past roles. Then think of how much time those tasks may take and how much money you would want to earn hourly for them. This will give you an idea of a price range to quote.
For example, writing grant proposals takes detailed research on the business at hand. You could charge $20 an hour for this or a base rate of $200 if it will take 10 hours to complete.
I created an Instagram account and an email account for my business. Having a social-media presence allowed business owners and brands to find my page and see the services I offered. I also posted about what led me to become a virtual assistant and how hiring one can help take a business to the next level.
Having a separate email was essential in keeping me organized. It ensured that ongoing client communication didn’t swamp my inbox.
If you don’t tell people about your services, how will they know? When I started, I’d talk about being a virtual assistant on social-media platforms and in casual in-person conversations. I mentioned the services I offered and suggested that anyone curious schedule an interest call with me.
Also, don’t be afraid to pitch yourself to business owners you see venting online about how overwhelmed they are.
Post about your services on various platforms multiple times and tell your family and friends. Even if they aren’t your next customers, they can spread the word.
As a student, I found that most of my followers were also students who were not financially able to hire me. However, one of my classmates told her friend who owned a financial firm about my services, and they became my client.
Virtual assistants don’t have to have startup costs if they already have a computer and internet. Many of the platforms that will assist you are free.
Once I had prospective clients, I set up a Calendly account so they could schedule a call with me to see if we would be a good fit to work together. I chose it over other scheduling platforms like Acuity because it is free and worked great for time-blocking my appointments.
I found free freelance-contract templates online. I made sure my contract that clients signed outlined important things like my hourly or set monthly rates, which tasks my client and I agreed I would be performing for them, and my hours of operation.
I used Wave’s invoice system to send invoices and keep track of payments. I learned about it from the course and found the platform very easy to use for getting paid and automatically notifying my clients of their pending invoices.
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