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If you’re a busy mom looking for legit ways to earn money from home, you may want to consider launching a virtual assistant business. Keep reading to see why being a VA is a great fit for busy moms, plus find a step-by-step plan for getting your business up and running.
When I first started my freelance writing business back in 2015, I was really confused by people talking about being a VA. Since my husband was in the Navy when we first got married, my only experience with the VA was with the Veteran’s Administration.
I was totally not seeing how people were using this to make money from home and thought it must be a scam. So I wrote it off and kept writing.
But, the more it came up, the more curious I became. So, I started researching for myself. In my research, I learned three important things:
- VA can also stand for Virtual Assistant – and that’s what people meant when they were talking about making money as a VA
- There are so many different services you can provide, and tons of potential clients out there
- If you land the right clients, being a VA is a flexible job, making it perfect for busy moms
It sounded interesting, so I signed up to Beta test a course that Gina Horkey was launching. I finished the course in December of 2015, and have been making money every single month since then as a virtual assistant.
Side Note: Gina is an expert at all things VA – she’s continued to keep her course updated to reflect best practices, and will give you the skills you need to be profitable. I highly recommend her materials!
Why Being a Virtual Assistant Is a Good Fit for Busy Moms
When you’re trying to juggle raising kids and raising a family, you need a business that’s flexible. You need to be able to work in small pockets during the day, and then in longer chunks of time while your kids are napping, sleeping, or otherwise engaged.
That means a traditional 9-5 work at home job isn’t a good fit for most moms. Life is just too crazy and full to make that work.
But, as a virtual assistant, you set the terms. As you work with each client, you can set work hours and expectations. (Make sure to set boundaries as well!)
While there may be occasional meetings and other activities that are scheduled, for the most part, my clients are very flexible with me working late at night or early in the morning. However, I was very up-front with them about this.
Note: Not all clients will want to have their VA working weird hours. That’s okay. Not every client is a good fit for you. So don’t despair if the first opportunity doesn’t work out. Keep looking and you will find people who need what you offer who won’t care when you work as long as you get the job done and do it well.
In addition to flexibility, most moms innately have skills that make them a great virtual assistant. I dive into these in more details in this post:
Now that you know why I’m such a proponent of virtual assistant work for moms who want to make money from home, let’s take some time to look at the how part. In the next section, I cover the basic details on how to start your own virtual assistant business and connect with potential clients.
How to Launch a Virtual Assistant Business as a Busy Mom
Before you start your own virtual assistant business, you need to have a good understanding of what a VA is. If you’re feeling slightly confused like I was originally, here is a working definition I use:
A virtual assistant is someone who offers services to assist another person, through virtual or digital means.
In short, as a virtual assistant, you will help other business owners take tasks off of their own plate. You will be a helping hand for their business, to help them grow.
But, instead of going into the office like a regular assistant would, you’ll be working completely virtually. You can work from your own home.
I’ve never met any of my clients in person (though I’d love to!). But we have met via Zoom calls and phone calls and communicate regularly through email and Slack.
Now that we’re on the same page of what a VA is, it’s time to think about the services you can provide. As a virtual assistant, there are no limits to what you can help your clients do.
What Services Do Virtual Assistants Provide?
Here are some of the tasks I personally have helped (or am currently helping) clients with:
- Formatting blog posts for publication
- Creating blog post images from templates
- Scheduling for social media
- Curating content to share on social media platforms
- Reaching out to other entrepreneurs for collaboration opportunities
- Researching contact information for potential collaborators
- Doing basic bookkeeping
- Managing Facebook Groups
- Scheduling project tasks and ensuring projects are getting done
- Sorting through client emails
- Video editing
- Data entry
- Creating a content calendar
- Scheduling travel and hotels for live events
And don’t worry if you read through that list and didn’t see any skill that made you jump for joy. These are just a few of the many tasks you can provide.
You can help people with Pinterest, and become a Pinterest VA.
Or help people with their podcasts. (Podcast Production School can help you prepare for that!)
There are VAs who specialize in one or two skills. And there are others who do a little bit of everything. The beauty of owning your own business is that YOU get to decide things like this.
So, one of the first things you’ll want to do after deciding to start a VA business is to make a list of services you could provide.
Get out a piece of paper and start brainstorming. Give yourself five or ten minutes, and just write down every skill you can think of. You want to write down ones that:
- You are comfortable doing and are good at
- People will pay for
If you’re not sure if people will pay for it or not, go search Fiverr and see what sorts of things people pay for. You might be surprised…
Ready to get started? Don’t stop to think and analyze right now, just brainstorm.
When you’re done, come back and we’ll start sorting through them.
Create a List of VA Services You Will Provide
Do you have your list created? If yes, great job. If not, go ahead and write down a few. Your list doesn’t have to be long or anything. But, having a few ideas will help make your launch go more smoothly.
Now that your ideas written down, look them over. Now is the time to reflect on each. Ask yourself, do I enjoy doing this? Can I do it well enough that I can help others do it as well?
If any don’t seem right, cross them out. The ones that are left are a great starting point for the services you will provide as a Virtual Assistant.
Note: These services are not set in stone. You can shift and pivot as you grow and learn. For instance, my very first client, I provided bookkeeping work for, in addition to a few other services. Today? There’s no way I’d take that on. I just don’t enjoy numbers that much and I really got stressed each time I updated his books.
If any of your services seem to together, consider bundling them up as a package offer. Perhaps you’ll take a client’s blog post draft and offer the following services:
- Proofreading and editing
- Inserting internal and external links as appropriate
- Create pictures to go with it
- Write social media copy
- Schedule the post for publication
- Schedule the social media posts
That’s several different services in one, but they really work together to take a ton of work off your client’s plate. Instead of having to hire multiple people to do all these things, you can do them.
Set Your Virtual Assistant Rates
I can’t tell you what to charge as a virtual assistant. I can tell you that no matter what you charge, some people will say it’s too much.
Don’t let other people set your rates for you. You need to be comfortable with what you are being paid.
As you think about rates, here is an essential piece of information:
You are not an employee as a virtual assistant. You are a contract worker. Thus, your client will NOT be withholding any taxes for you. They are your responsibility.
You can plan on setting aside about 25% of your income to go to the government.
So, if you want to earn $25 an hour to keep in your pocket, you need to pad that number. Add another 25% on to that, and you’d need to charge roughly $33.50 an hour.
When I first started out, I set my rate at $30/hour. It was more than many people were charging, but I have a master’s degree and didn’t want to earn much less than I did while teaching.
Yes, I’ve been told that my rates are too high, especially since there are plenty of overseas workers who will work for a couple of dollars an hour. But that’s okay. Clients who can’t pay the rate I want aren’t clients I want to work with.
Now that you have an hourly rate in mind, I want you to do something. I want you to think about a project rate instead.
You see, there’s no benefit to being efficient and an expert when you charge by the hour. You get faster at your job, and you make less money…
But, if you have a project rate, you are motivated to doing a good job quickly. Another benefit of this system is that your client knows what to expect. They won’t be surprised with an unexpectedly high invoice for a project that wound up taking more time. And, you won’t have to worry about keeping track of your time, which can be difficult as a busy mom since we interrupted a lot.
To set your project rate, think about what service you will be providing. Then guess how long it’ll take you. Multiply that amount of time by your hourly rate and add on at least a little bit (since you won’t be good at guessing at first). This number is now your project rate.
No matter which system you go with, take some time to say your rate aloud. Be confident and comfortable with it, or potential clients will be able to tell that they can talk you down.
Set Up Your Business Legally
You know what services you’re going to provide, and how much you’re going to charge. But, before you start finding clients, you want to make sure your business is legally set up.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and am not giving you legal advice. This is what I did to set my business up in my location as a sole proprietor. Talk to a lawyer to learn what is needed where you are and for the type of business you are creating.
When I started my business, I did three key things to get it legally established.
- Apply for an EIN
- Apply for a business license
- Create a business bank account
Here’s a bit more about each one and why I did it.
Apply for an EIN
When you pay your taxes with your business as a sole proprietor, you need to either use an EIN or your SSN. You will also need to share this with any clients who will send you a 1099 form.
I don’t know about you, but I’m much more comfortable sharing my EIN with people I don’t know then my SSN.
It took only minutes to apply on the IRS website, and gave me a lot of peace of mind.
Apply for a Business License
Where I live, I needed a business license for my business. You can learn more about requirements in the US by reading this post on the IRS site.
You’ll also want to look into the Small Business Administration in your state.
Here, I paid a small fee ($35 I think) and filled out a bunch of paperwork online. It only took about half an hour. Then, I had to wait a few weeks for the license to arrive.
Create a Business Bank Account
With my business license number and EIN, I was able to set up a new bank account for my business. I just opened a business account at my local credit union, where we have our household account.
While you don’t need to set up a bank account right away, I wanted to. Being able to keep the business funds separated from the household funds made it easier to keep track of income and expenses. Having this separation is important, especially if you were to get audited.
You know what services you want to provide, and how much you’re going to charge. You have your business set up legally.
So what’s next?
Start marketing and looking for clients.
This step causes a lot of people to stop in their tracks and give up on their dreams. But it doesn’t have to. There are three simple methods you can use to land your first client.
- Reach your network
- Hang out where your ideal clients are
- Search on social media
Let’s look a bit more closely at each strategy. While one might not be a good fit for you, you can give the others a try.
1. Reach Your Network
Announce your new business on your personal social media profiles. Just something short and simple like this:
I’m so excited to announce I launched a virtual assistant business. I’ll be helping business owners manage their social media profiles and keep their websites up to date. If you, or anyone you know, need help in these areas, please shoot me a DM.
You’ll find that there some of your biggest supporters come from your network. Now, they may not be your ideal clients or need your help. But, because they know you and know that you do good work, they’ll be happy to share things about your business.
I have an aunt who falls into this category. She shares nearly every blog post I write, and it’s such an encouragement.
All of that to say, even if your immediate network doesn’t need your services, it’s highly likely that someone in their extended network does. So, introductions can be key.
Now, don’t go spamming your friends and family. There are definite rules about posting work related things to your personal Facebook profile. But, a message or update every once in a while is not a bad thing.
2. Hang Out Where Your Ideal Clients Are
Who do you want to work with? My ideal clients are bloggers and authors, so I’ve joined many blogging and writing focused Facebook Groups. From those, I’ve landed many different clients.
Think about where your ideal clients are and join them.
If you go this route, it will take a little bit longer. You need time to establish a relationship and get your name out there. So, jump into the conversations where you can and be genuinely helpful and friendly.
Then, when the opportunity is right, you can reach out to members who need some help. Just make sure you don’t violate any rules of the group in doing so.
3. Search on Social Media
LinkedIn and Twitter can be a great place to find new clients. You can search on Twitter for #virtualassistantwanted, #onlinejobs, and #virtualassistant.
You can also use social networks to connect with other VAs and potential clients. This way, you can start building your relationship. Connecting with other Virtual Assistants is important, as you never know when they may have a client come up that they don’t have time for. I’ve gotten referrals from other VAs several times in the past five years.
Onboard Your Clients
Once you find a client who may want your help, don’t sign on the dotted line right away. First, spend some time talking to ensure it’s a good fit and that everyone is one the same page as far as expectations go.
A phone call or Zoom meeting is the most concise way to handle this. However, it can also be accomplished through email.
You’ll want to know:
- Exactly what your duties would entail
- How much you’d be compensated
- How often you’ll need to send an invoice
- What your client’s expectations are (so you can deliver work that makes them happy)
- How to best reach out with questions as they arise
- What procedures and protocols are in place (so you can follow them)
You may also want to agree to a trial period of 2-weeks or 1-month. This way, you can both get a feel for each other and see if it’s still a good match after the trial. Just make sure you don’t accept a free trial. It should be paid – you are worth it.
You’ll also want to sign a contract, to get all the details in writing. You can outline the terms and conditions, duties, payment details, and have both of you sign it. There are also contract templates you can find online, or you can go to a lawyer for help drafting one.
The contract helps protect you both, so don’t skip this step.
Note: Not all clients are good clients. Not all clients are worth the hassle they put you through. So don’t feel bad saying no if you don’t get good vibes. There are plenty of good clients out there!
For more on finding clients, and potential red flags to watch for when doing online work, read these posts:
Red Flags for Freelance Writing Gigs: What I Learned from Being Scammed (though these are specifically for writing gigs, many potential problems will be the same for VA work.)
Do Great Work
Once you begin working with a client, do your best work. If you aren’t sure how to do something, ask for help. It’s better to ask for clarification then to do something incorrectly.
Remember that you will get better at this with time, and things that seem hard now will get easier. So just keep going.
You want to build trust between you and your client, as you never know when more opportunities will arise. Having a good working relationship also means you can ask for recommendations. Your client may even be willing to give your name to anyone they know who also needs help.
As you work, make sure you keep in contact with your client, and have good open lines of communication.
You don’t want them to be wondering what’s going on. However, you also don’t need to send an update every ten minutes. There’s a definite balance, and it may be different with each client.
Just make sure you’ve also set boundaries, so you aren’t feeling overwhelmed with email requests or text messages late at night or on the weekends (unless you work during those hours.)
Make Time for Your Business
As a busy mom, this might be the most important part of launching a virtual assistant business. If you don’t have time to work, you won’t be able to get your client’s task done.
So, you’ll need to carefully examine your day and figure out when you can work. Perhaps you’ll get up early and get a couple of hours of work in before your kids wake up. (This doesn’t work well for me – my kids just get up earlier if I do…)
Maybe you’ll work during quiet time or nap time.
Or put in hours after your kids go to bed (like I do.)
There are plenty of ways to get time in, but you must be willing to be creative and flexible. I know that if I can make time as a homeschooling mom of soon to be 10 kids, you can probably make time as well.
To help you free up time for your business, read these posts.
What Are You Okay at Failing At? (When you start a business, you may have to give some other things up…)
How to Get Started with Family Writing Time (I often do client work during this quiet work time)
Be flexible and willing to adapt as necessary. What works for one season of life may not work in another. So keep changing and tweaking until you have a flexible schedule that works for you and your family.
Remember to Invoice
Being a virtual assistant is not like being an employee. You’re not magically going to get paid every other Friday or once a month.
You must take the time to create an invoice and send it out each time. I use Wave for this, though there are plenty of other invoicing apps you can use.
Each invoice you send should have:
- Your contact information
- Your client’s contact information
- The date
- An invoice number
- Details of the work completed
- A total amount due
- A due date
- Your information for how to pay (such as your PayPal email address or a link to click on to pay via credit card)
Send your invoice in a timely manner, and always follow up if you don’t get paid. With Wave, you can send a reminder out, which helps when life gets busy. You can also set up recurring invoices, which are nice for clients who pay the same amount each time you invoice.
Do Your Paperwork
Invoicing isn’t the only paperwork you need to keep track of as a virtual assistant. You’ll also need to keep track of your business expenses and income.
I use an Excel Income Tracker that my husband made me for this. If you’re interested, you can purchase it here.
No matter how you track your income, you’ll want to document your income and expenses. This way when tax time comes around, you’ll have the information you need to quickly get those done.
What Expenses Will You Have as a Virtual Assistant?
When you first start your VA business, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. However, as you scale your business, you may need to purchase some tools, software, training, or other items to help you grow.
Here are some of the things I’ve spent money on as a Virtual Assistant:
- A good computer (I use a laptop most of the time)
- Headset for cutting out background noise during meetings
- A Zoom subscription (for holding meetings with my clients)
- Courses (I highly recommend Gina Horkey’s materials – there’s a class where you can get started for only $19!)
- Office supplies
- A planner (you’ve got to stay organized!)
- A website (I use FastComet for hosting and highly recommend it. However, I have multiple sites and other needs that you may not. HostGator is another hosting company I’d recommend!)
Your specific expenses may vary. Just make sure you analyze each purchase before you buy it. It’s very easy to spend too much at first, and then you’ll be running in the red which is never good for a business.
I’d recommend creating a business budget. You can learn more about that in this post:
Do You Need a Website as a Virtual Assistant?
I’ve had people ask me if they need a website for their VA business. Here is my answer.
It is a great way for potential clients to find you and learn more about you. In today’s marketplace, most people will expect you to have a website.
Hosting a website comes with some expenses that not every beginning VA can afford. So, don’t let not having a website hold you back.
Instead, get creative. Perhaps you type up a Google Doc that explains who you are and what services you offer. Then you can share that with others.
You can also create a business page on Facebook and have the essential information there. It’s a nice way to connect with others.
As you get your business up and running, I would recommend setting up your own site when you’re able.
I wrote a post sharing more details of what your VA website should include. You can find it here:
Keep Searching For Clients
Virtual assistant work is usually fairly consistent. However, you may wind up with several one-time clients and find yourself in a vicious freelance feast-famine cycle.
To avoid this, make sure you keep searching for clients and building relationships even when your business is going well. Otherwise, you may lose a client and be out of luck for a while.
Marketing is essential to a home business, so plan to spend about an hour a week on this at a minimum. It is essential to your growth.
Scale Your Business and Services
When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, you will need to invest in some training. Investing in yourself is a great way to motivate you to do even better work and grow your business even more. It can give you the skills and confidence you need for even more success.
If it’s time for you to scale, I highly recommend enrolling in Gina Horkey’s Fully Booked VA program. You can learn more about it and jump on the waiting list here:
You Can Earn Money as a Virtual Assistant as a Busy Mom
If you’re looking for a great side hustle, go ahead and launch a virtual assistant business. It’s a great way to earn money from home, and allows you to use your skills and knowledge to support other business owners.
For even more advice, check out these resources from Gina Horkey. You’ll find a list of services to offer, a step-by-step guide, and more.