How to set yourself up as a VA

Want to become a VA? Find out how to identify the services you can offer, and the steps you need to take to set yourself up as a successful VA from home.

Are you looking for something you can do, working for yourself from home? A job that’s varied and can be adapted to your skills and experiences (and interests)? For many mums, the answer is to become a virtual assistant (VA).

VAs are far more than just virtual secretaries or a place companies outsource the dullest admin chores. They can handle a wide range of tasks, some highly skilled, and can earn good money for their efforts.

What can you do as a VA?

So what can you do as a VA? Pretty much anything you like. I know people who use them for everything from social media, putting together presentations and updating their website, to the more expected answering phone calls, replying to emails and typing up documents.

Before you launch yourself as a VA, consider what skills you can offer, and also what you enjoy doing. You may be able to type 1,000 words a minute, but if you hate the thought of typing for a living you’re not going to make a very happy or successful VA!

Instead, consider this an opportunity to design your dream role. Cherry pick tasks you would enjoy doing, and feel proud to do. After all, working is about more than just money – the work we do is part of our identity.

Some services you can offer as a VA

To help you start considering ideas, here are just a few services that you could consider offering as a VA:

  • Taking phone calls and answering emails.
  • Organising diaries.
  • Planning travel.
  • Handling social media accounts.
  • Organising travel arrangements.
  • Helping with event planning.
  • Marketing back up.
  • Bookkeeping.
  • Putting together presentations.
  • Helping to recruit staff.
  • Writing web content.
  • Putting together newsletters.
  • Updating websites.
  • Project management.
  • Proofreading.
  • Compiling reports.
  • Research.

In fact, the sky’s the limit with the kind of tasks you can pick from. (For a more exhaustive list, read this compilation of 101 ideas!)

The key is to find a set of complimentary tasks you enjoy and create a ‘package’ out of them – an easily graspable bundle of services that collectively would help similar clients. In doing so, you’ll brand yourself a specialist in a particular area, and find it easier to attract the kind of clients you want to work for.

Work out your sales pitch

Once you have a clear idea of what you can offer potential clients, you need to identify who those clients may be, and how you can make your services attractive to them. Here’s the process in eight steps:

  1. Make a list of the type of businesses who would need the services you offer.
  2. Research (and create a spreadsheet of) actual companies who meet this criteria.
  3. Think about the ‘pain point’ you solve – e.g. small companies don’t have time to write newsletters.
  4. Write a list of benefits you offer to solve that problem.
  5. Identify your USP – the one thing that makes YOU unique.
  6. Consider how you can convey your offering. How will you describe it?
  7. What’s your ‘brand’? Pick three adjectives that sum your qualities up as a VA.
  8. Write and practise your elevator pitch.

Get a website

In order to attract clients and showcase what you can do, you need a website. If you’re starting up you may not have the budget to pay someone to help you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t design and build a perfectly respectable website yourself.

If you consider yourself really untechy, you can always use free sites like Wix and Weebly to build your own website. They’re extremely user-friendly, even for beginners (you can read about my experience in building one here).

If you’re more adventurous, and want a site that can really grow with your business, you can design a WordPress site yourself using a free or cheap theme. There are plenty of helpful YouTube videos that talk you through the process, and forums offering advice if you get stuck, so you don’t ned prior experience to start.

However you decide to do it, designing your own DIY site has the added advantage of teaching you new skills you can later offer to paying clients too (if you enjoy the experience!).

Embrace social media

With your sales pitch sorted and website live you’re ready to start sharing the word about what you do. And the first place to start is social media. As a general rule, we recommend picking a maximum of two social media sites to focus on (you won’t have the time or inclination to do more, and if you try you risk watering down your impact on all of them).

Take care to create a professional-looking and sounding profile, and research best practice for your chosen sites. You can read 10 social media mistakes you definitely want to avoid here. And if you decide to sign up to Twitter, check out our beginner’s guide to the site.

Start marketing to your ideal clients

Social media is one way to connect with your ideal clients. But what other ways can you reach out to them? Writing out a marketing plan can help you to brainstorm ideas for approaching potential customers, and structuring your activities so you can measure, learn and improve.

To give you a head start, read the five questions every marketing plan must answer. If you need inspiration, you’ll also find 10 free marketing ideas here (including several quick and easy wins).

Tap into your local networks

Social media isn’t your only networking opportunity – you can also make use of any local events to meet potential new clients. While, as a VA, your clients can be based anywhere in the world, there’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting to build trust and relationships.

So consider your ideal client and think about where they may network locally. It could be as formal as organised local networking events, or as creative as getting involved in local sport club social events or even just making a point of speaking to other parents at the school gate.

Basically, anywhere you can get the chance to chat to a potential client (or someone who may know one) is a possible networking event! Feel shy about networking? Read 10 tips to help you get the most out of them – without feeling awkward! And find out just how many networking opportunities being a mum offers you here.

Tell everyone you know

Don’t overlook your own existing network either. Once your website is ready, share a link on Facebook, telling all your friends on there what you offer and ask them if they know anyone who would benefit from your help.

Likewise, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date (you can read how to write the perfect profile here) and send a personal message to any contacts on there who may be helpful.

Set yourself up as a VA and enjoy a rewarding career

Many mums already have turned the skills they’ve acquired in their successful pre-baby careers into rewarding and well-paid businesses as a VA. And some, such as Rebecca Newenham and Sandra Lewis have even built up international businesses managing their own team of VAs!

So what are you waiting for? If you’re looking for a way to use your skills, experience and interests and work for yourself, on your terms, from home, becoming a VA may just be the perfect answer.