by Janice Byer and Elayne Whitfield-Parr, Founders, CVAC
Although the term “Virtual Assistant” is still very new to the business community, there are thousands of home-based administrative workers around the world who now refer to themselves as VAs. The opportunities for the professional services offered by these VAs are endless.
So, how exactly do you start and build a Virtual Assistant practice, let alone expand it to a level where other VAs are working with you? The first thing you need to do is determine if you have those necessary skills. Having a computer does not make you a VA. You really need to have some real-life experience doing the tasks that are generally expected of VAs. If you have a background in the administrative field or a history of providing other VA-related services, you are well on your way to having what it takes to build a successful Virtual Assistant practice.
You also need to ensure that you have the passion and commitment to make your business successful. “If you build it, they will come,” does not work in the real world of building a small business. You also need to learn how to actually run a small business so the following are just some ideas for starting your Virtual Assistant business.
One of the first steps you will take will be deciding on a name for your business. Many VAs have ‘Virtual Assistant or Assistance’ in their business names. This definitely helps others to determine what you do (well… if they know what a VA is and does) much more than if you pull some name out of a hat and use it just because you like it. Make your business name meaningful, easy to pronounce and understand, and easily adaptable should you decide to change the focus of your business.
Once you have decided on your business name, it is time to register it. Every province and state in every country has different procedures that they require you to follow so your best bet is to contact your local small business enterprise centre or local government office and they will help you with everything that needs to be done.
Next step… your business plan. You don’t necessarily need to write out a formal business plan, although you do need to plan your business. Planning your business is 100% thinking, analyzing, investigating, choosing and decision-making.
Some benefits of producing a business plan include:
- the process of preparing a business plan will force you to think about your business, research some options, recognize opportunities and risks, and test some of your assumptions;
- a business plan will help you identify the cash needs of your business;
- a business plan can be used to raise funds from banks and investors;
- a business plan provides a benchmark against which to compare the progress and performance of your business.
It is a good idea for all businesses to prepare and regularly update their business plans. Once you have made the decision to start your Virtual Assistant business and have made a plan of action, it is time to set up your office. Your office equipment is extremely important to the success of your business. You need to have the most current software to provide the best services as well as an up-to-date and reliable computer system. Other peripherals that you will need could include a multi-line phone system with an answering machine and a printer that allows you to scan and perhaps even fax. You may also need to get other dedicated equipment depending on the services that you will offer.
Once your office is set up and you have determined what services you will be offering, it is time to think about how you will market your business and who you will target your marketing to. Your first step will be to develop your business cards and other marketing pieces. You may want to have a brochure ready to hand out at networking events and possibly provide in a direct email campaign. Other means of getting the word out about your business should include a website and you can also write articles for distribution both online and in print publications as well as offer an online newsletter which can help you have a form of keeping in touch with your clients and contacts.
Owning and operating your own Virtual Assistant business can be very rewarding but does require a lot of work. However, if you are passionate about making your business a success, the entire journey will be a labour of love.
This article is just a taste of How to Build a Successful Virtual Assistant Business. You may also need help with determining your rates; getting clients; training and certifications; moving your business; and even expanding your business. The new book of the same name as this article, written by Janice Byer & Elayne Whitfield-Parr, has over 200 pages of information to help you with these and other challenges that you may face during all aspects of running your business. Visit http://www.howtobuildavirtualassistantbusiness.com for more information and to order your copy.