Every day, countless executives, managers, and business owners need help getting small tasks done so they can focus on the bigger picture. They want to develop strategic goals, ensure employees are on the right path, and grow their business—not create customer invoices and answer phones.
Enter the virtual assistant, an individual who provides support for busy professionals. Virtual assistants are essentially personal assistants who work from a remote location. While a personal assistant may bring coffee and donuts to the office every morning, a virtual assistant would order these items online or over the phone to be delivered instead. The result is the same—everyone gets to enjoy glorious caffeine and sweet treats.
Virtual assistant services vary but may include:
- Receptionist duties
- Administrative tasks
- Sales follow-ups
- Customer support
- Social media management
If you’re looking to start a virtual assistant company, it’s up to you to decide what collection of services you offer to clients.
Benefits of Virtual Assistant Services
Why is the virtual assistant business in demand? Here are a few benefits that help answer this question (and selling points you can use to attract clients):
- Clients save time. By outsourcing tasks to a virtual assistant, clients reclaim time to spend elsewhere, whether on more high-value tasks or personal matters.
- Clients reduce their overhead. Virtual assistant services are offered remotely and flexibly, so there’s never a need to have office space for the assistant or make a full-time commitment.
- Clients gain focus. A business owner wearing multiple hats can take off a few once they have a virtual assistant on hand. The owner can then focus on a few select areas of their business instead of spreading their attention too thin.
You can improve the quality of work-life for clients around the globe with a virtual assistant business. Keep reading to see the steps you can take to start yours.
How To Start a Virtual Assistant Business: 6 Steps
1. Develop your business plan (target audience and service offering).
Putting together a business plan is your first step. It doesn’t have to be long or complex, but it does need to lay out the foundational elements of your new virtual assistant business. The development process helps you assess your idea, strategize your approach, and identify needed resources. There are two key areas you’ll need to focus on most: target market and services.
Who you target and what services you offer go hand in hand. Some types of clients will have a greater need for certain services. For example, some businesses receive a high volume of calls, so they may be receptive to a more traditional virtual receptionist company that exclusively or primarily fields customer calls. In contrast, small business owners and entrepreneurs may be in the market for various virtual assistant services to help them grow their businesses.
Consider realtors as a potential target audience. These real estate professionals are often on the go visiting and showing properties. They also need to constantly communicate with multiple parties—buyers, sellers, development companies, lenders, title companies, etc.
Realtors looking for help will likely want a virtual assistant who can keep up with communications and scheduling and has some level of real estate knowledge. This could be a niche your virtual assistant business focuses on—support for busy realtors. You’d just need to tailor your services and internal processes accordingly. Plus, marketing would be simpler as you would only need to speak to the pain points realtors face.
2. Identify technology requirements.
You can’t run a virtual assistant business without help from technology, so you need to identify the types of solutions you’ll need. For example, at a minimum, you’ll need a phone system to make and receive calls. But today’s connected landscape necessitates something more robust—an omnichannel contact solution would be ideal. This type of solution enables your virtual assistants to keep in contact with your client’s customers across voice, email, SMS, webchat, video, and social messaging apps.
But it’s not enough to simply reach customers—you also have to manage them. That’s where a customer relationship management (CRM) system comes in. This type of software helps you keep up with customer interactions, manage their accounts, and gain important insights about them.
3. Hire assistants.
Much like any business, you have the option of hiring people as employees or contractors. Employing your own assistants gives you more control, but contracting them gives you more financial flexibility. You may choose to start with contracted assistants and hire them full-time once profits start coming in and your business is stable.
Where do you find virtual assistants? There’s always the standard route of using job boards like Indeed and Monster or remote-centered job boards such as FlexJobs and We Work Remotely. You can also try freelance marketplaces like Upwork and People Per Hour.
Wherever and however you choose to hire assistants, be on the lookout for skillsets that align with your virtual assistant business and the clientele you serve. For example, if you choose to target realtors, real estate experience is a plus—or you may choose to make it a requirement.
And don’t forget about training!
Even if you hire veteran virtual assistants, they won’t know how you like to handle your clients or how your operations run. They may also not know the systems you use. So it’s important to develop and include training as part of your onboarding process to ensure new assistants are fully prepared to take on the role.
4. Define your pricing structure.
The two most popular pricing structures for a virtual assistant business are hourly and subscription. Hourly pricing may work fine when you’re just getting started and have one or two agents, but you can quickly face logistical and profitability challenges as you scale up.
Subscription-based pricing has become the go-to pricing structure for many services, and virtual assistant services are no exception. Research the market and see what competitors are charging; this will give you an idea of how to set your own price points. Whatever amount you decide on, your best bet is to offer several packages that include different levels of service, with a price point that makes sense for each one.
5. Create a website.
You need a digital locale for people to find you and learn about your virtual assistant services. That’s where a business website comes in. It gives you the opportunity to be found by prospects on Google, Bing, and other search engines.
Be informative on your website—you want to make it clear exactly what you have to offer and what makes your virtual assistant services unique. Prospects have numerous options in the market, so it’s important to differentiate your business, so they choose it over your competitors.
6. Market to your target audience.
Marketing is critical to making your business known to potential clients. There are numerous options available to you, though you may opt for more budget-friendly options when getting started:
- Cold calling. This is probably the most affordable (but time-consuming) option. You can cold call (or cold email) businesses you’ve identified as potential clients. As an outbound sales method, you can’t be sure whether a business is in the market or even interested in considering virtual assistant services. However, it typically costs nothing but time, and you can sometimes get lucky.
- Search engine marketing. Businesses in the market for virtual assistant services are searching on sites like Google and Bing. Take advantage of these purchase-intent searches by using Google Ads and developing organic reach with search engine optimization (SEO).
- Social media advertising. Social sites like Facebook and Instagram provide advertising tools to reach thousands of people every day—as long as you have the budget. Create some interesting ads to generate interest with your target audience.
Starting a virtual assistant business doesn’t have to be a complicated undertaking. Use the above steps to make the process simple and manageable.