MoneyMagpie

Feb 21

Make £25 an Hour as a Virtual Assistant

Virtual Assistants (VAs) are there to help small businesses which can’t afford full-time secretarial support or need to delegate occasional typing or admin work. As well as persuading clients to do things better, cheaper and faster, you in turn can choose the clients you want. The hours can be flexible, you can earn as much as £180 a day, and there’s no commute. What’s not to like?

If you’ve got a good background in secretarial or administration work then this could be an ideal way for you to become self-employed and run your own business.

One thing to watch out for is organisations that try to charge you a registration fee to be put on their books, or try to get money out of you in some other way. Companies who try to charge you are often running scams and will not enable you to make any money for yourself.  So don’t ever sign up for anything that says you have to pay – the agencies and organisations who will genuinely help you shouldn’t charge you anything.

 

What’s involved?

A Virtual Assistant is someone who works as a secretary outside the office from their computer at home. It’s not the kind of job that anyone can do – you’ll need real live experience in an office before you can consider taking up this role.

moneymagpie_make-25-an-hour-as-a-virtual-assistant_laptopThe job can involve a wide range of tasks, from simply answering phones and sending emails to book-keeping, business planning and desktop publishing. The more specialised your skills are, the more you’ll be able to charge. For example, if you’ve had five years’ experience working in the marketing industry and have extensive knowledge of Microsoft Publisher, you can advertise yourself as a virtual assistant specialising in marketing and desktop publishing.

Businesses hire virtual assistants because they don’t need full-time workers. This option saves them money on office space, full-time staff and benefit payments. A virtual assistant is not a temp or a part-time employee – they are self-employed professionals and deal with their own taxes, expenses and office supplies and equipment. You’ll be responsible for chasing up your own payments, finding your own clients and advertising your business in the most effective way.

moneymagpie_make-25-an-hour-as-a-virtual-assistant_virtual-assistant(2)To be a successful virtual assistant, you’ll definitely need to be computer-savvy. Even if you have good office-based experience, you have to know that you can deal with a PC meltdown because you’ll be working on your own at all times – without an IT department to come to your rescue.

Starting out as a virtual assistant, you’ll have a few upfront costs – such as setting up your own home office. You’ll have to have a broadband internet connection, a separate phone line (and a phone with holding facilities), a decent set of office stationery, utilities (some of which you can claim tax back on), a computer with all the necessary office programmes and a shiny new headset for optimum answering of phone calls.

The need for VAs will only increase because more and more large companies are looking for temporary staff solutions. If you sign up with an agency (you’ll need experience as a virtual assistant for this), they’ll charge the employer up to £150 a day for your services (of which you’ll only receive a percentage). If you’re advertising yourself however, you can either charge daily or hourly – typically £15-£25 per hour.

Here’s a guide at ThePennyHoarder to various services you can offer as a virtual assistant.

 

Becoming a Virtual Assistant – How do you do it?

Step 1: Sort your skillsmoneymagpie_make-25-an-hour-as-a-virtual-assistant_virtual-assistant

Before you embark upon the virtual assistant journey – you will need to decide which skils you have which are going to make marketing your services easy. Make a list for each of these categories:

  • Skills and programs you’re experienced in and are good at (for example Microsoft Word, Excel, customer service, handling telephone enquiries).
  • Skills and programs you have no experience in or aren’t particularly good at.
  • Skills and programs you want to learn.
  • Skills and programs you enjoy using – and those you don’t.

Once you’ve made detailed lists in all these sections, you should be able to work out what you want to specialise in.

What do you need?

You need to be familiar with word processing (i.e. Microsoft Word), email (Outlook Express or Outlook) and contact management software (i.e. Outlook).

An excellent telephone manner is essential. Typically, all calls must be answered within three rings, all emails and letters answered the same day.

And yes, clients are notorious for calling up and testing your efficiency.

Do you want or need formal training?

moneymagpie_make-25-an-hour-as-a-virtual-assistant_skillsBy far the best qualification for this job is experience. Most VAs will recommend you have at least five years’ office experience and have worked in a senior admin role such as a secretary or office manager. You will need to have expert knowledge in all Microsoft Office programs, and knowledge of a Mac is an added bonus. It’s possible to take courses in all of these things if you don’t feel you’re totally up to scratch. Remember that applications are always being updated so unless you’re always on top of the latest software developments, you might want to consider taking a course to update your knowledge.

There are qualifications that are solely devoted to becoming a virtual assistant – most of which are American. However, this shouldn’t affect the content too much as it’s possible to work with clients all over the world because you’re working from home. You could ask for recommendations from one of the virtual assistant associations mentioned below.

 

Step 2: Research the market

As with any business, you’ll need to do sufficient research so that you know what you’re talking about when speaking with clients. Not only this, but you’ll need to think about the demand for VAs and whether the market you’re aiming for really needs another virtual assistant. Are there already companies hiring VAs for this purpose? Are there too many as it is? What do others charge for their service? You need to think about every facet of the work, and then find out as much information as possible about each aspect.

 

Step 3: Take the plunge

Register your business with your company name

moneymagpie_working-from-homeA business name is really important. It’s the first thing a person will get to hear about your service – and first impressions stick. If you like, you can simply trade under your own name but the decision is down to you.

If you choose a name for your business then you have to be really careful that it isn’t the same as anyone else’s – you can check this at the National Business Register. You’ll need to firstly register yourself as self-employed with HM Revenue & Customs – this is free but if you don’t get it done within three months of working for yourself you’ll have to pay a £100 fine. Once you’ve registered they’ll send you information about national insurance and tax.

Business insurance and tax

Your household insurance may no longer be valid if you’re working from home. This is something you’ll need to check with your current broker, as you may need to upgrade your insurance. If so, get a quote from Direct Line – they’ve set up a dedicated home insurance policy and could save you money. Business link also provide a handy tool which works out what kinds of insurance you’ll need.

When you first start up – you probably won’t have to pay VAT as you’re allowed a £81,000 turnover before you have to pay it. If you’re planning on going over that then you’ll have to contact HMRC to register for VAT. You’ll need to complete a self-assessment tax return form at the end of every year. National insurance is paid on both a weekly and monthly basis and will depend on your earnings. See our Small Business Ideas category for loads more advice on freelance finances.

Financing and start-up costs including setting up your home office

moneymagpie_make-25-an-hour-as-a-virtual-assistant_keyboard-mouseBefore you decide to embark upon a life of working for number one, you need to figure out whether this is financially feasible. Until you’ve developed a strong client base money might be tight. Can you afford to run at a loss for a few months? You need to consider the worst possible scenarios (as pessimistic as it sounds!) and think about whether or not you can cope with them. It could be worth signing up to an accounting system like Kashflow, a really simple way to keep in control of your finances; and an easy way to save on costly accountants.

To get started, you will need a spare room (or at least a clear desk) a phone, office stationery, internet access and computer – packed with all the usual software applications. Try to work out from these costs how much you need to earn to break even and eventually make a profit. See what you can cut back on – search around for the best deals on office equipment, phone and broadband.

Research by Simplifydigital.com shows that 83% of customers save money by getting their broadband and phone from a single provider, with average savings of over £400 a year. Compare broadband and phone deals.

 

Step 4: Get work

Sign up to an agency

Your first step to getting customers should be to sign up to a decent agency. There are plenty of agencies out there that will happily take your money in exchange for a directory of clients. Don’t pay them. What legitimate company would ask you for money to work for them? Don’t listen to them when they start to talk about ‘administration fees and training costs’  because, once you’ve handed over the cash, you’re likely to get a single email and then probably never hear from them again.

Similarly, avoid anything that advertises ‘get rich quick’ or ‘make up to £1000 a day’ offers. If these really worked then everyone would be rolling in it, unfortunately they don’t work, so I wouldn’t waste any time even registering with them. Your best bet is to sign up with an agency such as VOT which doesn’t charge you a penny to sign up and will offer your services to companies all over the world.

One of the best websites we have encountered that supports Virtual Assistants of all levels of experience is the Society of Virtual Assistants. The site is completely free; it actually runs on the revenue it makes from selling materials to support a virtual assistant, and so you won’t have to fork out for a service which isn’t guaranteed to enable you to make money. The site has two different types of membership; approved and standard.

  • The standard membership is designed to support individuals who are looking into becoming a virtual assistant and includes access to the forums where any queries can be answered, access to the society blog and various other resources.
  • The approved membership is for businesses who must agree to a code of conduct and have professional quality websites and emails which will be checked. Once you’ve been verified, you will receive the site’s logo, be added to the searchable database and be given access to the ‘jobs available’ part of the forum, which will then hopefully lead on to paid work.

It may seem frustrating that individuals will not get access to these areas, however the reason behind the two memberships is to encourage new VAs to set up properly and therefore improve the industry, whilst still providing the resources for people to learn more about being a virtual assistant. Check out the site for more information or to register.

Signing up to an agency is the first step but you also must be prepared to generate leads one by one. There will always be someone out there that’s more qualified or with more experience than you, so signing up to an agency will definitely not ensure you a steady customer base. In all honesty, it will sometimes be a case of breaking out the Yellow Pages, calling all your friends and pulling out all the stops to find some decent clients.

Advertising

moneymagpie_make-25-an-hour-as-a-virtual-assistant_classifiedsMaking your services known will probably be the hardest part of the job. Sourcing clients that need you might be tricky, but once you’ve developed a strong client base then word of mouth should pull your business along.

To get your initial clients, you need to know what kind of people you want to offer your services to. By saying – “I want to offer my services to small or medium-sized companies” – you are being way too vague. On average, the response from a directed mailshot is 1-2 per cent. That means that even when you target specific businesses for your needs – you still only get a 1-2 per cent response. Now imagine that figure if you targeted random companies!

The best way to go about it is to make a list of all the skills you have and which you feel you are the most accomplished in – or enjoy the most. Then think of what kind of companies would require a service such as the ones you can offer to the highest standard. Think of why they would need your services, what you can offer to improve their productivity, what the benefits of your service will be to the company and what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Your advertising medium will depend on your target audience. Ask yourself:

  • What literature do these companies read/use?
  • Where do these companies network?
  • What form of media is this company likely to come into contact with most often?

In addition to any advertising, it’s a good idea to list yourself on a virtual assistant directory such as the one on Virtual Business Solutions which also offers a package to help develop your own virtual assistant business.

Other ways of selling yourself online

moneymagpie_make-25-an-hour-as-a-virtual-assistant_blogIf you can, set up a basic website for yourself. This isn’t as hard as it sounds – you can use simple blogging software (such as Blogger or WordPress). You don’t need to be a computer expert to use them!

A blog is a great way to create a basic online CV selling yourself and your experience (you could throw in a few endorsements from previous clients/employers for good measure).

moneymagpie_make-25-an-hour-as-a-virtual-assistant_linkedIn-logoIf that sounds too daunting, you can create an online CV using the LinkedIn website (this also allows you to network online with colleagues and contacts).

If you’re really ambitious about promoting yourself online, you can also exploit other social networking sites. Set up a Twitter feed and Facebook page. (Facebook is an excellent means of gathering all your contacts – both social and business – in one place).

moneymagpie_CVMany businesses and companies (both large and small) will have a Facebook or Twitter presence. It’s a great way to get in touch and make your presence known to them – and some companies even advertise work opportunities through Twitter and Facebook.

And don’t forget good old-fashioned face to face networking. You never know who you might bump into – get some business cards printed for free with Vistaprint, and hand them out at every opportunity.

 

Step 5: Have a system

As Harry Hill said, “you’ve got to have a system” – a meticulous one. Let your systems break down for one client and you lose control of them all.

 

Step 6: Increase your skills, increase your pay

VAs can make more money by increasing the skills they offer. Things like book-keeping, web-management and copy-editing are popular ways to increase your attractiveness to prospective clients.

Now think, can you correct unintelligible emails while talking to suppliers you’ve never heard of about products you don’t understand?

 

How much can you make?

moneymagpie_making-extra-money-do-i-have-to-pay-extra-tax_moneyIt depends on the level of service you offer, with clients being charged a fixed hourly or daily fee (not including phone calls, postage costs, etc).

Agencies charge up to £150 per client per day, but typically you would charge between £15 – £25 per hour for routine admin work done by phone or email.

 

Useful contacts

 

Some other work from home options…

 

Make money My Survey

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

26 thoughts on Make £25 an Hour as a Virtual Assistant

  1. Hi there,
    It’s a great article, and would love to do this part-time. However, I would like to know the age restriction, or is there any? I’m a student who falls in the expectations mentioned above.
    Nithila.

    Reply
    1. there are no age restrictions if you work for yourself. With VA work people don’t even see you very often as you are working remotely. So really the only issue is whether you can do the job. If you’re 17 or 70 but can do the job you’re asked to do then you can be a VA 🙂

      Reply
  2. Great article! Everyody would love to read this post. Being with this job is such a rewarding experience: I have more time to spend with my family, no hassle of commuting to work everyday, and more time for myself means more time for relaxation.The biggest benefit, I can say, is the salary. VAs can make more money by increasing their skills set and eventually offering to do a whole bunch of work for the client.

    Reply
  3. We have seen a significant increase in VA registrations in the last 3-5 months. VA services usually get ordered over the holidays due to staff members having a break. Also in the last year we have seen quite a few VAs offer social media monitoring and maintenance services which is proving attractive to businesses, especially startups.

    Reply
    1. I have a start up business with very little capital – so everything is being done on the cheap. Not the way I imagined it – but can’t risk doing nothing. I have thought asking a friend who is struggling to find work to cover some of my ‘office’ needs which are inconsistent and not a lot at this stage – 1. to keep costs down, 2. to help her out. She has ran offices in the past – so I do not doubt her ability. My only concern is practicality – as I am in the UK and she is located thousands of Km away. It is feasible to do this or because of internet/mobile phone diverts etc, better to use a VA in the UK? Just your thoughts ..

      Reply
  4. I have been a virtual PA for 10 years and while I did start out on my own it hanse become so hard to find new clients as big companies are coming into the game. People like Odesk now called Upwork. While I am listed their I also found it hard to stand out from the crowd. Now I work for a firm called Avirtual see avirtual .co.uk I am one of their employees but can still work from home and get to choose my own hours, its not quite the same but its not bad and its half there risk!

    Reply
  5. I provide my own office space, equipment and supplies. Communication is handled efficiently through email, telephone, fax, overnight mail and online.

    Reply
  6. It might actually be the case that you would need prior physical office experience before considering working as a virtual assistant. But at this day and age, virtually anything can be learned online- by watching videos, reading blogs and downloading free resources which are all that you need to learn the fundamental aspect of becoming a virtual assistant. Learning this craft online, I dare say, can also serve as your metrics to know if your personality and learning aptitude is suited for a virtual job.

    Reply

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