How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business
Do Business the Right Way
If you’re detail-oriented and an excellent multitasker, then starting a virtual assistant business might be the career move you’ve been waiting for. As people’s jobs shift into the remote realm more and more, the need for virtual assistants keeps rising. With the right tools and skills, you can start your own virtual assistant business from home.
Below, we’ve done the legwork for you to provide a free guide to starting a home-based virtual assistant business today.
Not interested in starting a virtual assistant business? Visit our generic Start A Business Guide.
What Does a Virtual Assistant Business Do?
A virtual assistant tackles administrative tasks from scheduling to shopping to trip planning to social media management to bookkeeping, all from afar. Some virtual assistants are even tasked with marketing, design, and content creation. Just as every client will be different, your deliverables will be varied too, and will change based on your experience.
Entities or individuals hire virtual assistants on a contract basis to accomplish specific tasks for a set amount of hours, rather than having to bring a part or full-time employee onto the team. Because clients are unlikely to hire you for full-time hours, working as a virtual assistant can also be a great way for you to supplement other part-time work.
Being a virtual assistant doesn’t require you to have a specific educational background, but if you already have years of assistant work under your belt, you will stand out from the competition. Clients don’t want to train you how to be an assistant. They expect you to come in ready to tackle whatever they throw your way.
Steps to Starting a Virtual Assistant Business
Create a Business Plan for Your Virtual Assistant Business
Before you get started, you’ll need an idea of what resources you’ll need—and how to monetize your business in a practical way. We’ve answered the biggest questions about clients, costs, and profits below.
Who is the target audience?
The target audience for your virtual assistant business will be business owners and executives. Anyone conducting high-level work presumably has an assistant need. But you might even connect with non-corporate individuals who need extra help with specific tasks. Sometimes people without companies hire assistants to help organize facets of their personal lives. That said, small businesses with few employees are the most likely to seek virtual assistants.
How do I get clients?
As a virtual assistant, you will primarily find clients through online job boards, freelance sites, and community networking. With sites like Upwork and Guru, you can create profiles that detail your experience and skills, and potential clients can contact you directly. VAinsiders is a job board and resource site that specifically aims to connect virtual assistants with clients (for $37 a month).
With assistant work, it can also be useful to post about your new business on your personal social media accounts. Maybe you have acquaintances in need of virtual assistant work, and your post is exactly the prompting they need to make it happen. Once you land your first few clients, it will become infinitely easier to find more, as word of mouth will help expand your network.
Before you start looking for clients, however, you’ll want to create a business website that explains your services, pricing, and experience. When you find a potential client, you want them to be able to verify your legitimacy and professionalism.
How does a virtual assistant business make money?
A virtual assistant business makes money by doing work on an hourly or contract basis for clients. Typically, a client will hire you for a set amount of hours per week to complete specific tasks. Prior to starting work, you will want to agree to an hourly rate, how many hours you’ll work, and what should be accomplished during those hours. You may want to agree upon a written contract so that the expectations are clear, and so that a payment schedule can be set.
How much money will it take to get started?
A virtual assistant business is a relatively cheap endeavor to start. Essentially, you’ll just need a reliable laptop (at least $1,000 if you don’t already have one) and good internet service. If the client requires you to work with specific computer programs, such as a certain bookkeeping system or customer relationship management system, they should provide you access to their own accounts.
How much do virtual assistant businesses make each year?
The average salary for a virtual assistant is around $67,000 a year, according to ZipRecruiter. At the low end, $15,000 is reported. At the high end, virtual assistants are reported to make as much as $130,000 annually.
How much should I charge?
Virtual assistants generally charge anywhere from $15 an hour to more than $100. The going rate for your virtual assistant service will depend on your experience, location, and the complexity of the job at hand. When setting your minimum price, you’ll want to take your overhead costs into account, as well as how much money you need each month to be profitable.
You should also consider how complex the work is when determining prices. If a client hires you to manage email and arrange travel, you will likely charge them less than a client who hires you to create marketing content and bookkeep in addition to sorting out email and travel. On your website, consider setting up tiered pricing that indicates how much you charge an hour for X service, how much you charge for Y, how much you charge for various combinations, and so on.
Select a Name for Your Virtual Assistant Business
Have a great name idea? Before you start marketing and branding your business, you’ll need to ensure your name is available. Most states prohibit or restrict businesses from adopting names that are already in use. Even if it’s legally allowed, a copycat name puts your business at risk of a lawsuit.
See if your business name is available in your state with our Free Business Name Search.
Trademarks and Domain Names
Plan to trademark your business name? You can see if the trademark is available on a website like Trademarkia. It’s also a good idea to see if the domain name is available, which you can do on websites like Network Solutions and GoDaddy. Even if you don’t plan on putting together a website right away, you can buy the domain name to make sure no one takes it in the meantime.
Choose a Business Structure
Should you form an LLC? A sole proprietorship? Your choice of business structure will affect many aspects of your business, from liability to taxes.
Sole Proprietorships & General Partnerships
If you don’t file any paperwork to legally form a different kind of business—you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Essentially, these are “default” business structures. A sole proprietorship has one owner, and a partnership has multiple owners.
These structures have a few initial benefits. They’re easy, fast and cheap to start and maintain. However, the limitations and risks of these business structures quickly become more apparent as your business grows. In both of these business types, you are your business, legally speaking. Your company’s legal business name is YOUR name—so you’ll need a DBA to operate under any other name. Any business debt is YOUR personal debt. If anyone sues your business, they are suing YOU personally.
LLCs & Corporations
Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are business entities formed at the state level. The entity is legally separate from its owners, meaning the owners are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. As a separate entity, the business also has multiple tax election options. For example, both LLCs and corporations can choose to be taxed as S-corps if they meet the requirements.
LLCs and corporations are not quite as simple and inexpensive as default structures. LLCs and corporations come with formal requirements like state reports. They also have more fees than default structures, such as formation and annual report fees. However, the benefits of an LLC or corporation—especially liability protection and tax flexibility—are significant.
Legally Form Your Virtual Assistant Business
If you opt for a sole proprietorship or general partnership, there’s no formal paperwork to file to legally create your entity—you just start selling your product or service. However, you will not have any liability protections or tax flexibility.
LLCs and corporations are formed by filing paperwork with a state agency, typically the Secretary of State. To start an LLC, you file articles of organization. To start a corporation, you file articles of incorporation. In most states, you can file these forms online or download a paper form from the state’s website.
Whether you’re forming an LLC or corporation, your articles will require certain basic information about your business, such as your company’s:
- business address
- registered agent and office
- business purpose
- members/managers or directors/officers’ names and addresses
- number and type of authorized shares (for stock corporations)
You’ll also need the signature of someone authorized to sign on behalf of the business, along with the state’s filing fee. Fees vary by state but are typically between $100 and $200. If you hire Northwest to form your LLC or corporation, we complete and submit your formation paperwork on your behalf for just $100 plus state fees.
Create Internal Policies and Procedures
It’s important to put your company’s internal policies and procedures in a written document, especially if you’re starting your business with others. Partnerships have partnership agreements. LLCs have operating agreements. Corporations have bylaws.
These documents look a bit different for each kind of business, but they serve the same general purpose. They ensure there’s a clear path forward for any major issue that may arise, from changes in ownership to closing the business. LLCs and corporations also typically need an operating agreement or bylaws in order to open a bank account.
Get an EIN and Register for Taxes
Nearly all LLCs and corporations will need to request a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. If you file corporate income taxes, have employees, or file certain franchise taxes, you must have an EIN. An EIN is also a common requirement for opening a business bank account. Most businesses can request an EIN by filling out the IRS’s online form.
Your EIN is for federal taxes—but you’ll likely have state and local tax obligations as well. You will most likely need to set up an account with the state’s Department of Revenue, and you may need to apply for a state tax ID or a sales tax license as well.
Learn more about how to Get an EIN for your business.
Open a Bank Account
A business bank account keeps your personal finances separate from your business finances. For LLCs and corporations, keeping separate finances is essential for maintaining liability protection. To open an account, LLCs and corporations typically need to bring to the bank a copy of their articles, their operating agreement or bylaws, and their EIN.
Obtain Required Licenses and Permits
Many businesses will need a business license to operate. Licensing information—as well as any zoning requirements or other permits—can usually be found on the city or county website.
If your home is part of a homeowner’s association, you’ll also be subject to any of their restrictions for home-based businesses. Some areas may also require home-based businesses to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (a document certifying the property owner has given the business permission to operate).
Next Steps for Your Virtual Assistant Business
After your business is up and running, there are a few additional steps you may want to take as you grow:
- Get online: With your domain name, you can create a business website. You can hire a professional or use a website-builder like Wix or WordPress. You may also want to invest in online ads through a program like Google Ads.
- Hire employees: Hiring employees requires quite a few steps. You’ll need to collect W-4s and I-9s from employees, report the new hires to the state, set up withholding, pay for unemployment insurance, distribute any required documents and notices to employees, and display wage and safety info in the workplace. Employer.gov is a good place to start, followed by your state’s tax or labor office.
- Get business insurance: While LLCs and corporations protect you from personal liability, you don’t want your business to go bankrupt in the face of an accident, injury or other disaster. At minimum, it’s a good idea to look into general liability insurance. Home-based businesses can sometimes add insurance onto their homeowner’s policy.
For your virtual assistant company, it’s also a good idea to look into Errors and Omissions insurance. This will protect you against claims regarding inadequate or negligent work, and is especially relevant if you’re posting to clients’ social media accounts. E&O insurance costs most small businesses between $500 and $1,000 a year, according to Insureon. Cyber insurance is something else to consider, as it protects you in the case of computer hacking or theft resulting in a data breach. Plan on spending $1,000-$1,500 a year for this, depending on your coverage.
Is a Virtual Assistant Business Right for Me?
What’s it really like to work in a virtual assistant business?
As a virtual assistant, you need to be able to take direction well, but also be a self-starter. Though your clients will assign specific tasks, you need to be ready to hit the ground running and learn as you go. One of the reasons people seek out a virtual assistant, rather than hiring a full-time assistant, is because they anticipate the virtual assistant will require less training. It’s up to you to confirm this logic through your actions and ideas.
Once your business is in full swing—and you’ve acquired multiple clients—your keen attention to detail will be your most valuable asset. You will have an abundance of passwords, accounts, contacts, plans, and appointments to keep track of, and will likely have access to confidential information. It will be extremely important to keep all of this information safe and organized. You’ll also need to be prepared for an ample amount of screen time. Remember, you’re a virtual assistant. If you’re not at least moderately tech savvy and comfortable sitting in front of a computer all day, this is not the right career for you.
Although the day-to-day realities of this job differ greatly depending on your clients and their needs, this is always a job where organization, a can-do attitude, and the ability to juggle projects are daily requirements.
What does it take to succeed in the world of virtual assistants?
To be a successful virtual assistant, you need to be a top-notch multitasker who can be the go-to person for a variety of assignments. Though you’ll be hired with specific tasks in mind, the wider your skill set, the more valuable you’ll be. And when it comes to temperament, you need to be level, patient, and aware. A good assistant can anticipate their clients’ needs and work proactively in order to solve problems before they even arise.
Ready to Form an LLC or Corporation?
Northwest Registered Agent is here to help with all your small business ideas and needs. Answer a few simple questions about your business, and we’ll prepare and submit your formation paperwork to the state. We also provide your new business registered agent service, free business forms and guides, and much more.