Do you want to start a virtual assistant business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a virtual assistant business with NO money and no experience plus a sample virtual assistant business plan template. If you have administrative skills and have always wanted to work from home, then starting a virtual assistant business might just be the business for you, especially as entrepreneurs are always in need of extra help. A virtual assistant is defined as someone who manages routine tasks online for clients.
The tasks usually vary especially in skill and complexity. The virtual assistant industry is one of the fastest growing industries due to the changing trend globally where entrepreneurs and businesses now prefer to use third party help for a fee than having to hire the required workers. To be successful in this business, you would need to be motivated, get the necessary skills and training and know what your strengths and weaknesses are.
The next step is for you to write a suitable business plan where you will be able to put all your thoughts and preparations in a document. While your business plan does not have to be technical in nature, it should however show how you intend to go from point A to B, till you are able to achieve all your goals and objectives.
It should also contain information about what kind of services you intend to offer, the equipment you would need, what you intend to charge for your services as well as what advertising strategies you have put in place that will enable you to not only penetrate the target market but also stand out from your competitors.
Due to the fact that the industry is one without standard rates, you might have to decide the right rates to charge your clients. You should be careful not to undercharge your clients for the services you offer. While setting the right rates for your virtual assistant business might be difficult, you should ensure that your operating and overhead costs are duly covered and that you are able to make a profit.
The next step is to ensure you engage in marketing in order to find clients and generate the required revenue to grow your business.
17 Steps to Starting a Virtual Assistant Business from Home
Table of Content
- 2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- 3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
- 4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- 5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- 9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- 10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- 11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- 12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- 13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- 14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- 15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- 16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
- 17. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
1. Understand the Industry
As at 2015, the virtual assistant market reached $750 million and was still expected to experience a substantial growth owing to an increase in adoption by several industries such as automotive, financial, healthcare and others who have all benefited in one way or another from this industry.
According to future forecast, the virtual assistant industry is expected to boost demand in the market. Organizations and entrepreneurs are using this industry to perform tasks such as call centers, marketing campaigns, social media and other forms of promotion.
The niche which has dominated this industry is that of customer service as this brought revenue of more than 58 percent as at 2015; and yet this industry is still expected to grow within the next eight years. The factor that contributed towards the growth of the customer service sector in this industry is that setting up a customer service by an organization is usually more costly and so they prefer to outsource this aspect to a third party.
Also, the customer service sector is likely to provide online assistance and since users prefer to go online to look for queries before contacting a call center, this is a perfect opportunity for this sector. Globally, North America is dominating the industry with a market share of 38 percent and this trend is expected to continue to grow especially with emerging technology which will allow for better market penetration.
Recent advancement in technology has resulted to increased usage of cloud-based tools like MS Office Online and this shows that a huge number of people are working remotely in order to help organizations and entrepreneurs become better. Following closely behind North America is Asia Pacific, where demand has risen especially due to developing countries such as China and india, where there is a huge source of pool for the virtual assistant industry.
According to prediction, the online virtual assistant market is expected to be worth $5 billion by 2018 as the demand for outsourcing by industries is expected to continue growing. The economic downturn in the uk for instance, has had more companies; new businesses and entrepreneurs keen to save costs outsource more of their business processes than ever.
The reason why there is so much growth and demand for the virtual assistant industry is the fact that it is far easier to employ a virtual assistant than it is to hire a permanent or even temporary staff who for most times will not have anything to do and therefore not earn the wage they expect to.
Online marketplaces such as Up work, PeoplePerHour and Fiverr have been seeing an increase in trends of task creation as the idea of hiring a virtual assistant by small businesses and entrepreneurs has been on high demand. Considering the growing economy in countries like the united states of America, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia, this trend is expected to grow and boom from 2016 upwards. Most of these virtual assistants usually source for talents from developing countries that tend to finish the jobs faster and at a better rate than US based virtual assistants.
According to research by Gartner, 50 percent of customer service interactions in the year 2015 will be conducted through virtual assistants. The popularity of virtual assistants has also spread as they have also been known to help shoppers especially during holiday shopping and in picking of gifts. The fact that virtual assistants are able to have remote access to information, data of enterprises and its communications systems have made the industry to prove a game changer for businesses and entrepreneurs.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic composition of those who require the services of a virtual assistant company is not restricted to large scale organizations only, but cuts across all forms of business and industries that have one or two aspects in their organizations that require outsourcing.
Therefore if you are looking to define the demographics for a virtual assistant business, then you should make it all encompassing as almost every industries as well as entrepreneurs within and outside the United States of America make use of virtual assistants.
3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
The virtual assistant business is one where people work remotely to help companies and businesses achieve their aims and objectives thus eliminating the need for these companies to have to go through the process of hiring permanent or temporary staff to fill these positions. A lot of virtual assistant companies usually try to handle all areas of virtual assistant duties, while just a few might decide to concentrate on certain niche areas in order to effectively compete as well as stand out in the industry.
Therefore some of the niche areas that some of the virtual assistant companies may decide to major in include;
- Managing databases
- Planning events
- Publishing electronic newsletters
- Creating presentations
- Internet marketing and social media
- Marketing support services
- Website design and maintenance
- Customer Support
- Social media marketing
- Word processing
- Writing, proofreading and editing documents
- Product purchasing
- Managing projects
The Level of Competition in the Industry
When it comes to offering virtual assistance, what most clients especially international clients want is the ability to deliver services within the deadline and within the agreed rate. If your virtual assistant business is also able to provide a safe, seamless and secured service, you will have clients all over the world eager to work with you.
Since most virtual assistant companies operate via the web space, you will always meet with stiff competition. Due to the fact that most clients are likely to come from the United States of America, Canada, the UK and Australia, if you intend to start your virtual assistant business in the United States of America, you will have an edge over competitors that intend to start their virtual assistant companies from other countries.
However, you need to be aware that it won’t be easy competing with large scale and already established virtual assistant businesses both in the United States of America and globally as well.
4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
The reason why some brands are well known more than others in the same industry is because of some measures they took such as offering niche products, deploying effective marketing strategies, offering clients’ rates that are fair, and having efficient customer relationship with their clients.
Therefore some of the leading virtual assistant businesses in the United States of America as well as globally are;
The virtual assistant industry is dominated by a few but large players who have a large number of individual virtual assistants. All virtual assistants either in the United States or globally are using the internet for their service delivery platform. According to a research report by Virtalent, the virtual assistant service industry will be worth $5 billion by 2018, as demand will not slow but continue to grow. This is especially as startups, small businesses and large scale organizations are now keen on saving costs as well as streamlining their business.
Due to the present global economic condition, it has become a bit more difficult for businesses to hire full staff to run all aspects of the organization as it has been found to drain costs. However, the virtual assistant business is able to offer same services to a business without having to go through any permanent commitments. This has allowed companies to be able to increase or decrease their workload depending on the available workloads.
Also, due to the global nature of the virtual assistant business, a virtual assistant can be hired from anywhere as most of the available virtual assistants come from emerging economies and not only finish the work faster but at a lesser pay than their counterparts in developed countries.
One of the challenges faced by this industry is that there are independent freelancers who are charging cheaper than what is being offered by professional virtual assistant companies, which is causing enough problems for the virtual assistant companies.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
There are several options that exist for entrepreneur who intends to go into this industry and this involves starting the virtual assistant business from scratch or buying an existing virtual assistant business. Starting a business from scratch can offer a learning curve experience but it can become very overwhelming especially as you would need to provide the right publicity for your virtual assistant company in order to not only attract the best hands that will help you achieve your aims and objectives but also companies that will be willing to outsource their tasks to you.
However, starting from the scratch will mean building relationships, which is what you will get if you buy an existing business. Buying an existing business will present an easier way of starting the business than starting from the scratch.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
If you decide to start your own virtual assistant business, there are some challenges you are likely to face, chief of which is sourcing for clients in order to stand out.
Since the virtual assistant business can be run globally, then the threats you are likely to face will stem from the arrival of more competitors offering similar services, pricing competition, the downturn of the economy which will affect the spending power of companies and entrepreneurs. As with all challenges and threats, there is hardly anything you can do about it but to remain proactive.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
The legal structure that you will choose for your virtual assistant business is important as you will need to consider several factors such as what tax you will pay, what paper works you will have to deal with and other such factors. It is necessary that you approach an attorney or an accountant to help you choose what legal entities would be best for your virtual assistant business.
There are majorly three entities to consider when starting this business and they are sole proprietorship, corporation and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
The Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a hybrid form of legal entity which combines the benefits of partnership and a corporation. In a Limited Liability Company, the owners are not held liable for any action or debt incurred by the business.
Also, while an LLC is easy to set up and maintain, it can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership or a corporation. Therefore choosing the right entity for your virtual assistant business is very important and should depend on your corporate goals and objectives.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
Every business needs a name to be identified with and your virtual assistant business is no different. Therefore, if you are considering starting your own virtual assistant business, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;
- Cloud workers
- Unique space
9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
Even though you will be running the business online, you are still required to have an insurance policy especially if you intend running your business from the United States of America. While you might not need to have all the kinds of insurance covers, there are however basic insurance policies that you are expected to purchase. If you are confused on which, you can approach an insurance agent or broker to help you choose the most appropriate insurance policies for your virtual assistant business.
Below therefore are some of the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing if you intend to start your own virtual company in the United States of America;
- General Insurance
- Liability Insurance
- Health Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- Errors and Omission Insurance
- Cyber Liability Insurance
- Payment Protection Insurance
- Business owner’s policy group insurance
- Employment practices liability insurance
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
The virtual assistant business is a service oriented business that requires you to work from your home or an office to meet with the goals and objectives of your clients. As you would be providing assistance to your clients, there is no need to apply for an intellectual property protection as you would most likely not be involved in inventing anything that would need to be intellectually protected.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
What is most important in this industry is that you are able to deliver what your clients want. Getting a professional certification might be necessary if your clients require it especially when they need a certain kind of job to be done. If you are going to be offering only certain specialized needs in your virtual assistant business, then you might need to make it compulsory for those that will sign up with you to acquire certain certifications.
However, most of the virtual assistant businesses do not need to have any sort of professional certification in order to get clients, as clients are attracted to the reputation of the virtual assistant business.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
The fact that you intend running your virtual assistant business from the United States of America means that there are certain legal documents that would need to be in place if you intend to run your business successfully without running afoul of the law.
Some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place before you can legally run your own virtual assistant business in the United States of America are;
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Operating Agreement
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Employment Agreement
- Non-Disclosure Agreement
- Insurance Policies
- Contract Documents
- Federal Tax Identification Number
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
While the idea of running a virtual assistant business might be a fantastic one, without having the proper finance for your business, your business is likely to remain just a business idea. Therefore, it is important that you acquire the necessary finance to start and run the business to a level where the business is able to generate the revenue that will enable it to run itself. It is for this and many other purposes that a business plan is required. Having a good business plan will enable you convince investors as well as your friends to invest in your business.
Therefore some of the options that you might need to explore in the acquiring start-up capital for your virtual assistant business are;
- Raising part of your startup capital from personal savings and sale of personal stocks
- Sourcing for soft loans from family members and friends
- Applying for loan from the bank
- Raising money from investors and/or business partners
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
The virtual assistant business is one that is service based and is therefore conducted online; this means that you do not have to physically meet with your clients, which then means that you can be located anywhere especially as most of your business will be conducted over the internet.
That you can operate your virtual assistant business from your home does not mean that the location you finally choose does not have a huge impact on your business. In studying already established virtual assistant businesses, you will find out that even though this business is one that is hugely conducted online, these players still go all out to rent a physical facility in order to stay in the business hub where their business can hugely benefit from.
Getting the right host and server for your business is very important as this is where almost all the business you conduct will be done. It won’t be good for your business if your website takes too long to open or isn’t giving users the experience they require.
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
The virtual assistant business is one that requires virtual assistants to make use of the internet to work in order to offer the required services to their clients. Virtual assistant companies therefore create an enabling environment that allows both parties to work without any sort of hitches.
Even though a virtual assistant business is hosted online and therefore can be located anywhere, there is still a need to lease or rent a facility so as to conduct administrative services and support. If you have a large budget, you should consider leasing your facility as this will allow you focus on other aspects of the business on a long term.
The equipment you would need to run your virtual assistant business successfully isn’t much as most of the job is done online. You will need to get office supplies, a server, several computers, phones, broadband cable and CRM software.
As regards the number of employees you need to kick start and help run your virtual assistant business successfully, you would need; a chief executive officer (owner), site administrators, server administrators, ICT consultants, business development and marketing executives, human resources and admin manager, customer executive officer and accountant.
This therefore means that you would require at least 8 key staff in order to run your virtual assistant business effectively on a medium scale.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
The virtual assistant business is one where clients such as business organizations and entrepreneurs seek for services to be carried out by virtual assistants from any part of the world. It usually involves having clients and virtual assistants fill a form and register to be able to offer jobs or services.
Also, payment options are given in order to ensure that clients and virtual assistants pick that which is most suitable and convenient for them. Milestones are usually set for the virtual assistants by the clients and virtual assistants have to ensure that they get the job done so that they will get paid.
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
Before you can effectively market your virtual assistant business in the United States of America, you would need to conduct a market survey so as to find out what your target market wants and how you would be able to satisfy these wants.
After conducting a market survey, you should draft out effective marketing strategies that will not only allow you to penetrate the market and get a fair share of the target market, but also one that will allow you to stand out and be able to compete fairly against your competitors in the same industry.
It is equally important that you build the right profile by getting the best hands to work for your virtual assistant company and stating to your clients what you have been able to achieve as this will boost your chances when marketing your virtual assistant business.
Due to the intense competition in this industry, most virtual assistant companies usually seek the services of a proficient and experienced marketing consultant to help create effective marketing strategies that would help boost their chances of getting ahead of their competitors and also having a fair share of the target market.
Below therefore are some of the platforms that you can utilize in order to market your virtual assistant business;
- Ensure that you introduce your virtual assistant business by sending out cold mails to potential clients (small businesses, large scale organizations and entrepreneurs) as well as other industry stakeholders
- Ensure that your virtual assistant business is listed in online directories
- Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google Plus to market your virtual assistant business
- Place adverts in popular forums, websites and blogs in order to market your virtual assistant business
- Empower your marketing executives to engage in direct marketing in order to generate revenue for your virtual assistant business
- Attend related seminars, conferences and business fairs in order to network as well as market your virtual assistant business
17. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
The virtual assistant business, though not that old, is an intensely competitive one as businesses have to apply strategies that will enable them not only attract customers but stay ahead of their competitors. If you therefore intend to start your own virtual assistant business, then you must be deliberate about boosting the awareness of your brand as well as communicating your corporate identity to your intended target markt.
The reason why publicity is so important is that not only do you get to constantly create awareness about your business, you also generate revenue from the awareness you have created. This is why already established organizations always willingly spend large amounts of money yearly in order to boost their brand awareness and also deliberately communicate their corporate identity the way that they want people to perceive them.
In boosting the awareness of your brand, you might need to leverage on physical (such as print and visual media) and online measures (such as the internet). It is important that you research the right ways – which will be effective and wide reaching – by which you can promote your virtual assistant business without running bankrupt or putting a strain in your budget.
Below therefore are the platforms that you can leverage on in order to boost the awareness of your brand as well as create a corporate identity for your virtual assistant business;
- Encourage your satisfied and loyal customers to give testimonials on your website
- Leverage on the internet as well as your social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google Plus to promote your virtual assistant business
- Ensure that your website is search engine optimized so that it pops up amongst the top sites during searches by prospective clients
- Advertise your website in popular forums and blogs in order to help pull traffic to your site
- Install billboards and banners in strategic positions all around your city
- Place adverts in newspapers and related magazines as well as on radio and television stations