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The coronavirus pandemic has triggered massive changes in the work landscape. Not only is more work being done remotely, but more work is being outsourced. For many companies, it is more effective and cheaper to hire freelancers and independent contractors for specific tasks rather than keeping a larger number of employees on the payroll. In particular, this has led to an increasing demand for virtual assistants.
What is a virtual assistant?
Virtual Assistants (VA) are essentially freelancers who work remotely in an administrative role for a company or a customer. They rent their administrative or creative support to various clients and companies and support their needs from home. It’s a win-win situation for employers and employees. From a business perspective, outsourcing work to virtual assistants means they don’t have to provide a VA with office space, utilities, tools, or other additional benefits. Key benefits to virtual assistants include freedom of choice, the ability to have more flexible hours, and the potential to earn more than £ 200 a day. Plus, you can do everything from home without having to commute. What is not to like?
Working as a virtual assistant can include a variety of tasks. It largely depends on who you work for and what they need, but it can include anything from simply answering phones and sending emails, to accounting, business planning, and desktop publishing. Do you have any niche skills? Great. The more specialized your skills, the more you can charge. For example, if you have five years of experience in the marketing industry and a thorough understanding of Microsoft Publisher, you can apply for a virtual assistant specializing in marketing and desktop publishing.
do i need qualifications
While technically no formal training or qualifications are required to be a virtual assistant, most clients are looking for background information or relevant experience in secretarial or administrative work. However, if you don’t have this, don’t panic! For one, you have numerous transferable skills from other roles such as problem solving, teamwork, and written communication skills. Additionally, the increasing demand for virtual assistants means they are needed in additional roles such as social media, content management, blog writing, and internet marketing. In these cases, experience in the specific role is more relevant than general administrative experience.
What do I need to get set up?
To start as a virtual assistant, you can keep costs incredibly low. While there are a few things you will need, chances are you already have them. You will need at least a broadband internet connection, a separate phone line, a computer with the necessary software and office supplies. While you are already paying utility bills, you can claim tax back if you work from home.
Steps to Become a Virtual Assistant
STEP 1: SORT YOUR SKILLS
Virtual assistants are hired for a range of skills and expertise. Before you start, decide what your unique selling points are and how you are going to market yourself.
Here are some pointers to start your brainstorming session:
- Do you have any niche skills?
- Do you have vocational training or qualifications in a specific area?
- Is there a work area that you would like to learn or focus on more?
Remember, this is an industry that is constantly evolving, so you will need to keep your skills and knowledge updated as software and programs change.
STEP 2: Let’s go
Register your company
To get started, you must first register your company with your company name. Think carefully about which name to choose as this is the first impression a potential customer will have of you. A popular option is to simply work under your own name.
Once you’ve chosen a name for your virtual assistant business, it’s time to check to see if anyone else is still using it. You can check this with the National Business Register. You also need to check that your company name is not registered as a trademark. If so, it can create serious legal problems. It is best to find out beforehand!
Finally, you’ll need to register as a self-employed person with HM Revenue & Customs, which is free. However, if you fail to do so within three months of your job, a fine may be imposed. As soon as you have registered, you will receive all relevant information on social security and taxes.
BUSINESS INSURANCE AND TAX
As a virtual assistant, you need to consider upgrading your insurance policy as working from home can affect your coverage. The Society of Virtual Assistants has a very useful article here on what type of insurance you need and why you need it.
If this is your first time starting out as a virtual assistant, you likely won’t have to pay sales tax as you will be granted £ 85,000 in sales before you have to pay. However, if your taxable sales are over £ 85,000 you will need to contact HMRC to register for VAT. It also means that you must comply with recent government changes to Making Tax Digital.
FINANCING AND COMMISSIONING COSTS
Initial funding and startup costs usually prevent you from making an immediate profit. In case you run into debt to start a business, be prepared and read more information.
STEP 3: FIND WORK AS A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
REGISTER WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT AGENCY
Signing up with an agency can be a great starting point for getting work and clients. However, be careful and avoid agencies that will bill you for the work. Once you pay them it will be in doubt that you will ever hear from them again. Similarly, avoid ads that “get rich quick” or “make up to £ 1000 a day”. Anything too good to be true in the job market always is.
One of the best sites to check out is the Society of Virtual Assistants. It’s a free service and they have a lot of useful information for virtual assistants. You can choose between two different types of membership: approved and standard.
- The standard membership is designed to support those who wish to become a virtual assistant. It contains some useful tools. You will have access to the forum where you can post your questions, the society blog, and other resources.
- Approved membership is for companies. They must agree to a code of conduct and have a professional quality website and email that are verified. Once verified, you will be added to the searchable database. They also give you access to the “Available Jobs” section of the forum, which will hopefully lead to paid work.
ADVERTISE YOUR VA BUSINESS
When it’s your first time starting a business, getting your services known and attracting customers is hard work. Our Finding Freelance Clients article has some useful tips on how to attract and find customers.
In order to get your first customers, you need to know who you want to offer your VA services to. Make a list of your key competencies, what you have achieved and what you enjoy. Then think about what type of company would need your services. Think about what you can offer to improve productivity, the benefits your service will bring to the business, and what will make you stand out from the crowd.
Your advertising medium depends on your target group. Ask yourself:
- What literature do these companies read / use?
- Where do these companies network?
- What type of media is this company likely to encounter most often?
Building your own website is also a great way to sell yourself as a virtual assistant. A website is a useful place to create an online resume, share experiences and recommendations, and thereby promote your services. There are plenty of free tools out there that make it easy enough. How to set up a website for your freelance business has all of the information you need to get started.
Step 4: Increase Your Skills, Increase Your Salary
Virtual assistants can make more money by improving their skills. Things like bookkeeping, web management, and copy editing are popular methods of making you more attractive to potential customers. The more you can do, the more you can offer a prospect, and this increases your chances of getting work. A variety of jobs is the beauty of being a virtual assistant. The more things you can do, the more you can charge.
How much does a virtual assistant earn?
According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a virtual assistant is just under £ 30,000. An annual survey by the Society of Virtual Assistant also found that the average hourly rate for a VA in the UK is £ 27. These numbers might help you with a rough idea, but of course it will largely depend on what skills and experience you can bring to a role.
There are a few important things to consider when determining your tariffs. First, you want to decide whether you want to charge a fee based on a daily rate or by the hour. Be careful about hourly topping up, however, as researching and doing your own administrative tasks may require you to work many non-billable hours, essentially making you earn less than you would with a daily rate.
However, as a self-employed person, you must also consider the following:
- Vacation pay
- Sick pay
- Maternity leave
- Guaranteed hours
- Pension contributions
- Occupational security; and
- Provision of office supplies and utilities
You need to factor in the fact that you are missing out on these benefits in your pricing. Realistically, an additional minimum of 25% should be added to your price to ensure that your expenses and taxes are covered. For example, if you think about charging £ 20 per hour, this should change to £ 25.
more useful reading
For more help getting started as a freelancer, check out these articles: