Charlotte Wibberley, founder of VIP VA, shares her top tips on how individuals can succeed in becoming their own boss as a VA.
Did you know that one of the top search terms related to VAs is ‘how to become a virtual assistant’?
This makes sense – if you’ve got a few spare hours every day, a laptop and a super-fast broadband connection, what’s stopping you from being a VA as a ‘side hustle’ or quick and simple revenue stream? At the moment, nothing, and that is fine.
Obviously, there are a number of extremely talented, capable and professional individuals out there who do decide to set up virtual assistant or remote business support, but how can they set themselves apart from the people who lack their experience, professionalism and skills?
Here is our ten-step guide:
1. Set your business up the right way
Register as a self-employed Sole Trader, set up a Limited Business or form a partnership – whatever is right for you – but make sure that you inform HMRC and follow their advice and guidance, as hefty fines can be directed at those who fail to comply. For more information, visit gov.uk/set-up-business. It’s also worth talking to a professional if you aren’t sure what the right path for your business is
2. Identify your products and service.
Although it is all to easy to agree to do anything and everything that comes your way, I strongly advise against this. Occasional ‘learning on the job’ is fine, but if you want to add a service to the range you already provide, seriously consider sitting a course on the topic to ensure that you can carry it out effectively and to the high standard that your customers expect of you. Offer services that you excel in, and you’re more likely to receive the glowing customer reviews and referrals that will help your business to grow.
3. Get insured
Professional Indemnity Insurance is a must, as is Public Liability Insurance if you have meetings in your office or provide training or other events. Making sure that your computer equipment and phones, etc. are adequately covered by insurance is also important – if you are a VA, your computer and phone are invaluable, so make it as easy as possible to replace them just in case the worst does happen. Cyber Insurance is also well worth considering in this age of remote working, and can help to protect your interests, as well as your customers, from internet-based risks.
4. Register with the Information Commissioner’s Office
If you collect, record, store, update or share personal information, you need to register with the ICO under The Data Protection Act 1998. For more information, visit: ico.org.uk.
5. Set up Contracts/Terms of Business for customers and associates.
Set out clearly defined and legally binding boundaries around price and payment, hours of work, timescales and turnaround, and the commitments that you expect to be made by all parties to maintain a positive business relationship – contracts don’t just look ‘professional’ but can help to ensure that your business’s reputation is protected if something goes wrong.
6. Locate your peers, and collaborate, not compete
‘No man is an island’, and this holds true even in remote jobs where isolation and loneliness are real issues to wrangle. When you work remotely, the opportunity to chat – however briefly – with colleagues and share successes and failures is removed almost entirely. Everyone needs someone to rant to, someone to share a joke with, and someone to ask for help or advice if they need it. VIP VA and many other VA groups are perfect for this, just remember that collaboration is the key to a successful business. Don’t isolate yourself if you are wary of competition, embrace the challenge of working alongside passionate and successful business owners, and channel any energy wasted on ‘imposter syndrome’ into doing something (i.e. learning or reading) to bring you added confidence in your own abilities.
7. Set up a business account
For clarity and convenience, set up a separate business account away from your personal bank accounts. This will make it easier to manage your income and expenditure – anything to make your life easier is a positive in my book.
8. Keep reading, keep training.
Don’t rest on your laurels. With remote, freelance work becoming an ever more popular career option, you need to ensure that your skills are still competitive in the marketplace. Invest in yourself and your business by taking courses to boost your skills, and reading about developments in the areas you work in. It will help to ensure that your customers are getting the very best quality service possible and keep them working with you rather than a competitor.
9. Keep your accounts up to date
It’s all too easy to put your own work at the bottom of your ‘to-do’ list, focusing instead on the work of your paying customers. However, day to day admin work for your own business can quickly mount up, resulting in you having to spend hours or even days trying to clear the backlog. Take a ‘little and often’ approach to tackling your expenses and invoices, and schedule this in regularly to ensure you stay on top of these essential business tasks.
10. Ask for Feedback
Don’t be afraid to ask your customers and associates about what they like about your work, and what you could improve on. Use customer testimonials to promote your skills and experience and use any constructive feedback to further develop your business.