02. Setting Up Your Business
Deciding what services to offer can be one of the hardest parts of getting started for some people. Many virtual assistants start off with very specific tasks, such as bookkeeping, social media scheduling, editing blog posts, etc. However, it's really best to put your talents into different categories and offer 2-3 at a time.
For example, when I was getting started I had my own website, blog and social media. So I created a package called "content management" where I helped business owners schedule their content. Start out by making a massive list of what you can do - It'll be longer than you think. I recommend doing this step on sticky notes, or something movable, we'll be re-ordering them later.
Write everything down, no matter how small or irrelevant they may seem. Here's a piece of on of my coaching client's list, she ended up with 97 ideas total.
- Researching online
- Sewing with a machine
- Image optimization for SEO
- Keyword Research
- Facebook Ad Campaigns
Just start writing down everything you know how to do. Even if you're not an expert. It's okay. You can always take a short ecourse before you offer the service officially. Once you have your list done, go through it and cross off (or throw out) anything you don't want to offer or anything you hate doing. Now we're going to put them into categories. Start looking for tasks that could be packaged together. Photo editing and Instagram post scheduling for example. Or blog post revisions and keyword research. Find talents that would compliment each other well. Some tasks might be able to go in multiple categories, which is great!
Now that you have your categories, you have your services planned out. You have tasks that you know you can do and you've packaged them nicely into packages that your clients can purchase together. If your services seem like they don't go together, you can also offer a sort of "a la carte" option. Just list everything you can do and let your clients build their own package. However, I recommend doing one or the other. If you give your clients too many choices it can be overwhelming and they won't buy. You want to guide people toward the package that will work best for their needs.
You have to understand what your offering and you have to communicate that with your clients. Most businesses could benefit from a virtual assistant, but most people don't know exactly what they need. It's your job to show them based on the skills you have. If you love social media, you might be a good website designer, or understand SEO, but you don't have to offer all three. KNOW what you're best off, and offer that.
There will be clients who love what you do and love your style, but they don't know exactly what they need. You need to understand your skills and offerings enough to tell them exactly what you can do for them and how it'll benefit them.
Here's an example:
Last year I had a referral come to me, she had been following my site for awhile and loved my tips and website. She had heard I offered VA services and she'd been feeling overwhelmed, so she needed help. I asked her what she needed help with, and her response was "everything". She was drowning in work and didn't know how to start getting back on track. I told her my specialty was in social media. I would help her build a social marketing plan, establish a library of content to pull from and then schedule weeks of social media posts ahead of time.
She didn't know it at the time, but social media was taking her between 3-6 hours every week. Not only that but she wasn't great at social media. She had no schedule, no plan, and no consistency. Her branding was not established on her accounts and her posts often were more personal than business related. After working with her for just 3 weeks, she was happy. She was posting blog posts again, taking on more clients and felt under control. I could've helped her in the same way if I was a content creator or a bookkeeper. Your job is to take some weight off their workload - it doesn't matter what weight that is, as long as you can hold your own.
This takes me to the second step in planning your services; what will your workflow look like. We'll dig more into this a bit later in the course, but you should have a rough idea in mind. Will you offer free video consultations? Are you offering your services locally and online? How do you want people to contact you? And how many clients can you take on at one time? Start thinking about these questions as we move through the next few modules.
Grab your favorite notebook, login to Evernote or open your go-to software. Brain dump everything you know how to do. Don't worry about if it's marketable or how many people need the service, just write your ideas for 10 minutes.
When the 10 minutes are up, find connections. Look at your list and start to build packages based on what you love to do and if you'd like to make money doing it. Build 2 packages and write out what's included.
Here it is, the question I'm asked most often by my clients. "How much should I charge for this"? It's a tough question. You don't want to ask for too little and end up broke and hating the work, but if you ask too much you won't get any clients. It's a fragile and tough decision, right? Wrong. Your pricing doesn't matter as much as you think it does. In fact, your pricing doesn't really matter at all (to an extent).
Before you get mad and write me a strongly worded email, hear me out. If you offer social media management services for $3 an hour, you're going to get a bunch of clients and have plenty of work. You might not have the best work because you're so busy, but your clients are only paying $3 so they're not expecting top-notch services.
If you offer those same services for $100 an hour, you might only get one or two clients and you'll have to spend a lot of time advertising, but that's all you'll need to pay the bills. And you'll be able to focus your time into those two clients and give them 100% of your effort.
What you want to price your services at isn't that hard. You just have to decide what kind of VA you want to be and how much time you want to spend looking for new clients. If you price your services at $10 or less an hour, you'll be able to find work relatively easy. You can list your services on sites like upwork and fiverr as well. However, you'll need to work more to make good money. You'll probably be taking on smaller project that can be done in a day or two and then move on.
If you offer your services between $10 and $50 an hour, you'll need to find a niche to market yourself in. Web designers, photographers, small local restaurants. You'll need to spend a couple hours a month advertising yourself and making sure your sales page is attractive and lead-driven. However, you'll make some decent money and be able to take on a few clients at a time for longer projects. You'll probably have repeat buyers and you can develop solid relationships with them to help word-of-mouth referrals.
You can offer services over $50 an hour and work with only a couple companies that are larger. You'll most likely have long-term contracts with the same couple clients. You'll also need to position yourself as an expert VA and make sure your site is extremely professional to target larger businesses. You'll most likely need to APPLY to jobs and convince people why you're the best candidate, rather than having businesses stumble across your site.
None of these options are better or worst than the others. It all depends on what kind of services you want to offer. Just pick a number y'all. Keep in mind that it looks more professional to raise your prices every year, than to drop your prices when no one is interested. So don't be afraid of starting a little low and working your way up.
If you're still not sure, start at $15 and hour. Boom. Done. Move on to the next step ;)
Price those two packages you wrote down in the last module. Pick a range if you're not sure about the pricing. Choose an hourly rate if it's an on-going package (ex. Social media management or content writer) and choose a base price for one-time projects (ex. website design or social media setup process).
There are hundreds of videos, ecourses and professional website designers to help you with this step so I'm not going to spend 4 hours here explaining how to build a website. You're going to become a virtual assistant, you need to learn how to be resourceful and figure things out for yourself. However, I do want to give you some suggestions and resources to help you build a professional looking website without spending thousands of dollars.
The first tip might make some of you mad - don't build your site on Blogger or Wordpress.com or any other "free website builder". You're a business. People are going to pay you for your services, you need to PAY for your website. Even if it's just a one-paged landing screen with a "contact me" button. It'll look better with your own branding, your own domain name, and your own words.
I HIGHLY recommend Squarespace. Especially if you're not a web designer, Squarespace is just so easy to use and so easy to make professional. Plus, Megan Minns has an entire free ecourse dedicated to this.
Second tip - White space is your friend. Virtual assistants help business owners feel less overwhelmed and stressed. Your site design needs to communicate that. A clean and well-organized site reflects how you can organize their tasks. A white background looks much more professional than a navy blue one, or fuchsia. Pick colors and fonts that are simple and easy to read. You shouldn't have more than 2 fonts on your site (maybe 3 if you have quite a bit of blog content or pages).
Third tip - Keep the focus on your services. Your homepage should tell people where to go and what to do on your site. Great examples of this are Lauren's site, Kelsey and (not to toot my own horn too much), my own site. The common denominator, all of these sites have a homepage that draws you to pick your adventure (blog, shop or services in most cases). If you want visitors to go to your services page, but a big-ass button for it on the homepage.
Fourth tip - Keep it simple. You don't need all the bells and whistles to have a great site. Something as simple as a landing page with your info will work. Here's an example page I made using Squarespace cover pages to give you an idea.
Create some way for clients to (a) understand what you do and how it'll benefit them, (b) how much you charge and what they can budget for, and (c) how to get in contact with you.
If you decide to go with Squarespace, I have tutorial videos on the program as well.
Create a website or take a look at the one you already have. Your site should list your 2 service packages, give a description of what's included, list your prices (transparency will help your business grow) and add a "contact me" form or button.
This can be done for VERY CHEAP. Use a free weebly site and a domain name from GoDaddy ($1/month). Or invest a little more for a Squarespace Cover Page ($5/month) and a Google Domain ($12/year). You don't need to hire a $2000 website designer and pay $200/year for a new site. Start small and let your business build so you can invest with the money you make.
Your Social Media
I could talk about this section for HOURS. Literally. I have an entire ecourse dedicated to automating your social media strategy. But for your sake and mine, we'll keep this nice and simple.
You need to pick 2-3 social networks to establish yourself on. Get a Buffer or Hootsuite account and schedule out some of your blog posts, relevant content in your industry or "quick tips". If you need some help scheduling social media posts, check out this blog post.
Social media, especially Facebook, is one of the best places to find clients. We'll get more into this later on, but essentially you need to get a social presence going as early as you can. Join Facebook groups in your industry, participate in twitter chats, follow a crap ton of people in your niche.
Start growing your accounts. If you're looking to get hired to help people with social media or content, you need to show off what you can do. If you tell your customers you can get them from 10 to 5000 Instagram followers, you better have at least that many on your own account. Show your customers you can walk the walk by getting your business well established.
As you post content to social media, always ask yourself these questions before hitting "publish":
- Does this content fit my brand
- Is this content helpful or entertaining
- If this was the only content a potential client saw, would they hire me
If the answer is no to any of those questions, don't post it. Every tweet, image or blog post you share should relate to your brand and help your audience in some way. If you keep that the focus of your social media and blog, your audience will grow.
Create social media profiles on 2-3 networks under your business name (or convert your current accounts to match). Make sure the SAME EXACT name is open all all networks. Reserve them early. Add colors and images that match your website. Someone who visits your twitter account should recognize you when they follow you on Instagram. Use the same profile photo and same bio for all your accounts.