Setting up a virtual assistant business is relatively easy, but it’s important to have a complete plan of action set out in advance. I’m a firm believer that the initial planning phase of a business is crucial to its success. This ensures that you don’t leave any vital steps unaddressed and also prevents any unexpected surprises down the road. Therefore, I recommend first writing a complete business plan for your business. This plan doesn’t need to be anything technical, just how you plan to operate your business including advertising methods, pricing, business hours, equipment and supplies needed, etc.
The next step is to select the appropriate name. Take your time here as you want your business name to be an asset by appealing to your potential clients. Your name needs to clearly express what services you provide and not limit you if you choose to expand your business into other areas. Decide on a name that people would want to call if they have virtual assisting needs.
To operate a business you are required by law to have the appropriate licenses. This is your permit to do business locally. It’s a simple procedure that doesn’t require a considerable amount of time. Contact your city and county officials under occupational licenses for complete details or go online. Most VAs start out initially as a sole proprietorship and then might change later.
Now it’s time to set up your bookkeeping. I find that the most important ingredient to keeping good books is keeping it simple. If it’s easy to do, and doesn’t require a lot of effort, I tend it do it more regularly. You will want to keep track of all your income and expenses. Save all receipts and pay all your expenses out of your business checking account. A software program such as Quickbooks is ideal for our type of business. Not only does it allow you to keep accurate records, but it also enables you to track exactly where the most money is coming from. This enables you to target your marketing efforts more in that area.
Now you must decide how much to charge. Don’t undercharge your services. Many make this mistake. They feel if they price their services substantially below everyone else, they’ll get more business. That’s true–you might get more business, but you’ll also be working outrageous hours and not making the kind of income you should. The average prices being charge today are between $35.00 and $100.00, depending on the specialty. I personally recommend starting no lower than $35.00/hr.
Now you need to get those clients. The key to successful marketing is to tell clients what benefits they will receive by answering their main question, “What’s in it for me?” Keep in mind, you’re not selling your services, you’re selling the benefits of your services. What can you offer them that would make their business run more successfully? An example of this would be accurate dependable service done on an “as needed” basis.
It is also important to have an impressive marketing piece. Your brochures, letterhead, flyers, business cards, etc., should look sensational. Think back on what has caught your eye in the past. Now design your material with that in mind. The most important requirement is that it must be professional and convey that you are more than someone typing documents. Businesses want to deal with other professionals. They don’t want to risk their work, and possibly their clients, on someone who is not. Let them know this is exactly what they will receive when they seek your services. Places such as Vistaprints offer affordable printing.
Once established, word of mouth is your best advertisement. When people get professional, accurate, and friendly service they tell others. If you offer such exceptional service, you can be assured that you will need to advertise only at the onset to get your business started. From then on, your repeat clients, and referrals from them, will keep your business thriving.
Recognition is also a key to success, whether it’s through the press releases, articles, message boards, newspapers, chats, your website, radio or TV, when clients see your business repeatedly, they become familiar with your company and when the need arises, they will call you. Therefore consider where you can advertise that can keep your name out there.
Now that you’ve got the clients, you need to keep them. The best way to do this is to always provide them with more than they ask for. Go the extra mile on all assignments. Let them know that you value their business and are eager to help them succeed.
And finally, enjoy your business. Many start their own business to spend more time with their family. It’s the perfect way to stay at home and still make an excellent income. Firmly set your hours and learn to say no. Remember it’s your business and often your dream come true. By learning your limitations, you can keep it a wonderful experience that both you and your family will enjoy.
Diana Ennen is the author of numerous books including Virtual Assistant: the Series, Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA, available at Amazon and other leading bookstores. She specializes in publicity and book marketing and is president of Virtual Word Publishing, http://www.virtualwordpublishing.com/. Articles are free to be reprinted as long as the author’s bio remains intact.