Last updated Jul 10, 2024 and written by Aditi Mohan

The Side Hustle Series: Virtual Assistant, our handy guide to the what and how.

Looking to make some money alongside your full-time responsibilities? Look no further than our side hustle series. Today, we delve into the world of virtual Assistants. Are you an organised and social person looking for remote job opportunities online? Read our handy guide to learn more. 

Don’t think being a Virtual Assistant is for you? Our Side Hustle Series here to help you find the best side gig for you.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant is a remote and online assistant who aids in everyday admin. This can be anything from proofreading to diary management to website updates. As a virtual assistant, you may not be asked to fetch impossibly hot cups of coffee but you can find yourself doing varied daily tasks requiring various levels of skills and administrative knowledge, making it the perfect side hustle for those who have a knack for interpersonal skills and organisation. 

In 2022, ‘Virtual Assistant’ became one of the fastest growing remote jobs. There are plenty of reasons why, but predominantly, being a virtual assistant offers a considerable degree of flexibility and agency over your work. Secondly, as a virtual assistant, you will be a freelancer, meaning you can set your own hourly rate. Finally, virtual assistant jobs have massive potential for growth. What may start off as a 1-3 day a week job, can become something you do full time and pay you a great salary while offering the chance to work for yourself and on your own time. 

What skills do you need to be a Virtual Assistant? 

On the whole, a virtual assistant should be reliable, trustworthy, organised and excellent at communication. However, to be a great virtual assistant you may want to work on your intuitiveness, your IT proficiency (Excel, Google Sheets, etc.) and your personal branding and marketing skills. 

1. Intuition  

A good virtual assistant will try to deliver above and beyond their client’s needs. By being intuitive to your client’s needs you can prove your necessity to your client and their business function.

For example, say your client needs a guest list put together for an event. You may begin by using a spreadsheet to create a guest list of names and numbers and use a formula to count the RSVP replies. However, to take it a step further, you may want to make a quick draft for the invite or the reply to RSVPs which lists crucial information such as date, time, location, dress code etc. Whilst your client may not have asked for the draft, it can help them when composing their invites or responses and additionally, prompt them to include anything they may overlook or forget. 

2. IT Skills 

As being a virtual assistant is fully remote you need to have excellent IT skills. Familiarise yourself with all of the commonly used technology for remote work, such as video conferencing tools or cloud-based software like G-suite or Sharepoint. Not only will you be using these tools to hold meetings and as tools in your work but you may also be asked to fix issues for your clients if their tools have problems. 

You will find yourself using email, spreadsheets, and documents/notes a lot. Make sure you know how different systems of the same product work and how to use them for your efficiency. Make use of email labelling systems, this makes your life easier but also shows your client you are streamlining your work and their emails. Spreadsheets are an extremely useful tool for lists or data of any kind and in order to use it effectively there are a number of formulas you can learn to perform functions such as counting empty cells, certain words, adding etc. On Google Sheets, you can make use of the ‘explore’ tab to find the specific formulas. 

Finally, you may want to consider familiarising yourself with specific tools such as Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) such as Salesforce or Shopfronts like Etsy and Shopify or Website Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Craft CMS or Squarespace. While these are more specific skills, these may help set you apart from other Virtual Assistants in terms of skills. 

3. Personal Branding and Marketing 

A lot of Virtual Assistants get their clients through word of mouth. However, it is still important to have a strong and recognisable personal brand, so your future clients can find you and determine who you are through your brand. You may want to consider making a social media profile for your business, a logo and picking a company name. Remember, your company name has to be unique and showcase your business well! 

A way to boost your brand is through incorporating, as an LTD company type your business shows clients a level of professionalism that being a sole trader doesn’t garner. As an LTD, you also gain extra financial protection, your company will be considered as a separate entity to yourself and this protects your personal assets. Whilst setting up as a sole trader is the easier option, in the long run, an LTD company structure allows for growth and gives you greater borrowing power and a level of professionalism

How to start a Virtual Assistant business

1. Identify your skills and find a niche

Not all virtual assistants do just administration, you may find yourself doing accounting work, marketing or even customer service. This is dependent on the skills you bring to the role. So before beginning your business, list any and all skills you have that will add to your work as a virtual assistant. By doing this you can focus on a particular industry. For example, if you have skills in writing and editing, you can seek our marketing professionals or agencies which require a virtual assistant who can chip in on editing and writing copy. If your skills lie in numbers, you can seek out clients looking for a virtual assistant who can help with balancing books and budgets. 

By listing your skills you can find your unique selling point as well as narrowing down your market. This will improve your prospects and make the search for clients less daunting. 

2. Set your prices 

By researching your competitor rates and including your experience you can set a price structure to show to clients. The Society of Virtual Assistants lists all approved virtual assistants and you can access their database to see what other VAs are charging. 

You can also use this as an opportunity to explore how other virtual assistants are building their website, and how they are marketing and branding. 

3. Market and go! 

Next, you may want to start building a website and/or social media page where clients can find you, read testimonials and see examples of previous jobs or your work. This website should reflect your personal branding clearly. 

There are many easy website creation options available. Such as WordPress, Wix or Squarespace. Your website doesn’t have to be incredibly technical, but it should reflect yourself and your services. A few useful pages to include on your site can be: 

  • About Me– which goes over your qualifications, DBS check, any additional certifications, something about yourself and maybe a professional image of you.
  • Testimonials- which include positive reviews of your services. 
  • Services- this will include what sort of VA services you provide, and include any of those skills you determined in step one- accounting, personal assistant, marketing and business support. etc.
  • Contact Me- this includes all of your contact details (email and/or phone).

You can add as many pages to your site, however, the most useful pages for your side hustle will be the ones above.

3. Getting clients as a Virtual Assistant 

Of course, your most pressing business aim is to gain clientele. Virtual assistant work is heavily determined by word of mouth, so one way to start building a client base may be to reach out to former colleagues, managers or companies and ask if they need any additional support. You can do the same within your personal network and ask friends and families if they know anyone who may require your services.

After each contract make sure to ask for a testimonial of the work done and ask your clients to share your details within their network. Since being a virtual assistant is so dependent on word of mouth, you must make sure your reputation and the work you have done is to a good, if not excellent, standard. However, don’t find this daunting! If you are interested in being a virtual assistant you most likely possess the core skills and traits to succeed. 

Final considerations before becoming a virtual assistant 

As a business, you’ll have to make sure your books are all legal and compliant with the law. Follow any tax requirements, or if you choose to incorporate make sure you’re filing your yearly annual accounts and confirmation statement. 

Now, you may be thinking this is a lot for a simple side hustle, but most administration or bookkeeping can be digitalised now. It may be that once a month you’ll have to spend a few hours making sure your business is running smoothly. By picking the right kind of services you can optimise your admin work. Opting for business-friendly banks such as Tide, ANNA, or Cashplus will help save you hours of invoicing time due to its compatibility with bookkeeping services such as FreeAgent. All in all, by picking the right software your business can run smoothly with just a  small time commitment. 

Being a virtual assistant can be the perfect side hustle if you are looking for a flexible job. With the right strategy and execution, you could turn it into a full-time business and become your own boss.