Wondering how to become a Virtual Assistant in the UK? It’s an exciting opportunity if you want to continue your professional career, from the comfort of your own home.

No long commute or smelly trains to put up with, as many or as few hours as you would like to work, a flexible schedule that fits around your children or other commitments… and super interesting work. The list goes on. What more could you ask for?!

At Virtalent you’ll get these benefits, plus you’ll join a community of other Virtual Assistants to keep you company, get guaranteed pay, access to holiday cover for when you’re away and your choice of who you’d like to work with out of a client base full of interesting small business owners to support. Oh, and if you aren’t happy with a client you’re supporting, you just let us know.

Pssst! Take a look at our Virtual Assistant jobs if you want to find out how to become a Virtual Assistant with Virtalent specifically.

Sure, there are also some caveats to watch out for. In this guide, we’ll talk you through how to become a Virtual Assistant in the UK; both how to do it on your own and touch a little on how that compares to working as a VA at Virtalent.

Firstly, what is a Virtual Assistant? What does a VA do exactly?

Well, it’s not exactly clear cut. The term ‘Virtual Assistant’ is an incredibly broad one – someone that assists someone else, virtually (aka remotely). Hmm.

Let’s break it down:

  • A Virtual Assistant provides a professional service, usually as an independent contractor.
  • Unlike a freelancer or employee, they always do this remotely or virtually. It’s rare for a VA to meet face-to-face with their clients.
  • The role of a VA focuses on providing assistance or support to their client, rather than leading from the front. This isn’t always the case, but most Virtual Assistants focus on the day-to-day ‘doing’ and not on consulting or providing strategic advice.

Some VAs choose to specialise in specific areas; whether that is financial administration, payroll and bookkeeping, or digital marketing. Yet others support their clients with a broad range of tasks (take a look at our services page).

Ultimately, it all depends on your own unique skills and experience, as well as what you actually enjoy doing. One of the key benefits of working as a Virtual Assistant is that you have complete control over the services you offer.

To give you a clearer starting point, however, 80% of the work we do for clients is essentially Virtual PA or Executive Assistant support. That could be:

  • Doing general day-to-day admin.
  • Keeping on top of a client’s diary/schedule.
  • Managing their inbox.
  • Making travel arrangements – booking flights, hotels, etc.
  • Helping with personal or ‘lifestyle’ tasks (e.g. buying gifts).
  • Organising events.
  • Researching something – exploring a new business idea or finding useful data for a report, for example.
  • Light financial admin – raising invoices, filing expenses and so on.

VAs with a broader background could also find themselves helping clients with:

  • Customer service tasks – answering emails or support tickets, as well as processing refunds, for example.
  • Project management – this usually focuses on organising other contractors in the team and ensuring they deliver on time.
  • Recruitment – this could involve advertising for a role and then shortlisting candidates for a client to interview.
  • HR support – for a larger team, this could involve co-ordinating staff holidays, for example.
  • Sales support – working with a client’s sales team. This could be following up on meetings they’ve had, sending our sales literature, updating a CRM, or a long list of other similar tasks.

Outside of the above, we then have a third and final category: virtual marketing support. Again, this reflects another area that many Virtual Assistants (whether they are part of Virtalent or not) could typically offer their support.

This could include:

  • Email marketing – sending a regular email newsletter or setting up email campaigns.
  • Market research – this could be anything from looking at industry trends to Google search volumes.
  • Social media management – whether that’s as simple as posting the occasional Tweet or creating a more in-depth social media marketing plan, depending on your level of experience in this area.
  • Content and blog writing. Many clients also appreciate it if you can make simple changes to a website, particularly if it is an easy-to-use interface such as Wix or a templated WordPress website (using something like Visual Composer).

So, the first step is to define what services you’re going to offer – whether that’s very specialised or a much broader range of tasks. Again, decide your service list based on what you feel you’re good at and what you’re passionate about.

Avoid the mentality that you will ‘have a go’ at something you’ve not built up some experience in doing before. It’s also recommend to not prioritise money above your happiness! Long-term, spending hours of your time every week working on tasks you either feel uncomfortable doing or simply don’t enjoy doing, isn’t sustainable.

Take some time to explore this: do you want to build a reputation and therefore generate more client referrals (i.e. more people to support with this type of work!) in this area? If so, you’re on to a winning strategy. If not, you should probably leave it off your list!

Become a Virtual assistant with Virtalent

Ok, so we have a list of tasks (the what). Now we need to work out the how.

Choosing a business structure

If you want to figure out how to become a Virtual Assistant in the UK (though this advice applies to anywhere else in the world too!), you’ll first need to decide exactly how you’ll ‘package’ your business.

You essentially have three options:

  • Work as a self-employed freelancer.
  • Set up a limited company.
  • Work with a company like Virtalent.

The option you select will dictate how you are paid by your clients, as well as have a number of tax and legal considerations to keep in mind.

Working as a freelance Virtual Assistant

It is very common that if someone wants to become a Virtual Assistant, they will work as a freelance Virtual Assistant.

You’ll need to start by registering as self-employed; telling HMRC that you intend to run your own business. This is a very simple process that can be done online in a matter of minutes. There are pros and cons to this approach:

You are your own business

When you work as a freelancer, there is no legal distinction between you and your business. That is to say, clients pay you and, importantly, you are personally liable for any debt or legal obligations. This means it is particular important to have good insurance in place to cover your work as a Virtual Assistant.

Pay attention to paperwork

Likewise, you’ll need to ensure your own name and address appear on any invoices you send out. You can also show a ‘trading as’ name for branding purposes, however this must not be the only name shown on the invoice.

For example your invoices could be branded as ‘Magic VA Solutions’ and even have its own logo displayed. However, your invoice will need to show ‘Sally Smith (t/a Magic VA Solutions)’ followed by your address, and not simply ‘Magic VA Solutions’ – in a legal sense, Magic VA Solutions doesn’t exist as its own legal entity.

Simple and convenient

This is the simplest way to get set up, with far less paperwork required than registering a limited company. It will be very simple to keep your own records and you’ll simply need to declare your earnings (minus business expenses incurred) on your annual tax return.

… but harder to scale up

If you want to earn a monthly income working as a Virtual Assistant and don’t intend to expand beyond that, working as a freelancer is likely the best option for you. You could even sub-contract work to other VAs (known as ‘associates’) under this business structure.

However, if you intend to hire other team members to delegate work to and grow the business beyond working for clients yourself, it could be an idea to explore setting up a limited company – either now or in the future.

Starting a limited company

Starting a limited company is a less common approach to become a Virtual Assistant in the UK, however that isn’t to say it isn’t the best approach either.

It takes a matter of minutes to register a company online with Companies House, however you might prefer to ask an accountant to do this for you and then manage the company’s finances going forward.

You are not your own business

Running a limited company is a little different. Your company is its own legal entity – you are effectively a caretaker and employee of that company, even though you may be the sole owner. This can be tricky to understand at first, however in practice this means:

  • Your clients hold contracts with your company (not you) and your company invoices your clients (not you, “Sally Smith”, personally).
  • You are the Director of that company, meaning you manage and administer it.
  • You are likely to be the main (or only) shareholder of that company, meaning you are entitled to any profits it generates. These are paid through dividends.
  • You are an employee of that company, meaning you (or your accountant) can run a payroll to pay yourself a salary from the company.
  • Importantly, you are not personally liable for the obligations of the company.

Remember, your company is it’s own legal entity. It makes agreements, buys things, sells things… just like a person can, but it is not you. This means any debt you take on is owed by the company and any sales you generate are paid to the company. This is important to understand.

Easier to scale up

Separating you and your business has a number of advantages. If you are already working a steady number of hours per week, there are likely some tax benefits to be had – you should speak with your accountant about these.

It’s also far easier to scale your company, if this is what you want to do. For example:

  • Perception is everything. If you are just starting out as a Virtual Assistant, trading as a limited company with its own brand can sometimes create a better impression in the mind of your client. This especially applies to corporate or enterprise clients – they might prefer to hire ‘Magic VA Solutions’ instead of ‘Sally Smith’ (though small business owners can actually think the opposite way!).
  • As a business grows, it naturally works with more clients, hires more people, makes more commitments and generally spins an increasing number of plates. This is fantastic and very exciting, however it naturally also increases the risk of something going wrong. You just can’t be in so many places at once. This is when it could be wise to keep your business activities contained within the wrapper of a limited company, limiting your personal obligation and liability if something were to go askew.
  • You can begin to build out scalable, repeatable processes, all under a single brand: this is the ‘Magic VA Solutions’ way of doing things, not just your personal preferences. It’s also far easier to hire people.
  • If you ever wanted to sell the company, it’s almost impossible to do so if you are a sole trader. As a company is its own entity, someone else can eventually buy it!

… but keep an eye on the paperwork

Setting up a limited company, however, is more complicated and perhaps more costly.

Though some of this can be offset by tax savings (versus working as self-employed), you’ll need to hire an accountant to prepare your annual accounts and perhaps run a monthly payroll if this is how you would like to draw your income out of the company.

There are a number of pros and cons to each business structure, and you should always seek professional advice. Ultimately it all comes down to your objectives and your target audience (see the marketing section below).

It’s also perfectly OK to keep it small and do away with the time invested in growing a stand-alone company!

Take some time to think. Why do YOU want to know how to become a Virtual Assistant today; what is your dream? Where do you see your business in 5 years’ time?

how to become a virtual assistant - virtalent

How to become a Virtual Assistant with Virtalent

There’s also a third option: working as a Virtual Assistant with us!

Many VAs are looking for a more convenient way to enter the industry, without the need to build their own business from scratch. The benefits of working for Virtalent (or even some of our competitors) would include:

  • Minimal paperwork. Other than signing a contract with us and then sending in a monthly invoice (just jot down the hours it shows you logged to our portal last month!), there is very little paperwork involved.
  • Access to a community of other Virtual Assistants, who you can interact with on Slack. From restaurant recommendations to best practices on taking minutes, it’s nice to have a team of likeminded professionals to turn to.
  • Continual support and a unique matching process which ensures that you not only actively agree to work with any given client, but that you always have someone to turn to if you encounter any challenges when supporting them.
  • Holiday cover and access to an extended network. One of the hidden challenges of working as an independent Virtual Assistant is well, not working! With your own business to grow and multiple clients to support, it can become difficult to take any time off. If you disappear, your clients are left without the support they so desperately need. With Virtalent, we’ll arrange for your clients to have uninterrupted support, whenever you need a break.
  • No marketing. No questionable clients. At Virtalent, our team puts the hard work in to secure new clients for the company – day in, day out. As we have established an excellent reputation in the industry, we also attract high quality clients looking for lots of support per month, on a long-term, ongoing basis. Plus, not only do our team ensure clients we work with are going to work well with our team of Virtual Assistants, but you’ll get to speak with them directly and get to decide whether you would work well together or not.

… OK. Sales pitch over!

The point is that there is a very valid third option – working as a Virtual Assistant at another company, either instead of or alongside your own Virtual Assistant business.

Want to know how to become a Virtual Assistant with Virtalent? Read more about our opportunities.

Marketing Your Virtual Assistant Business

If you do go it alone, you’ll need to think about how to promote your new business to potential clients.

It’s easy to jump straight into launching a marketing campaign, but let’s rewind a second and first start by deciding exactly who you want to work with.

  • What size of business are you aiming to work with?
  • Do you have any particular industries you would prefer to work in? Perhaps you have spent most of your career as a Medical Secretary or in finance, for example.
  • Who exactly in the business are you aiming to engage? If you want to work with small businesses, this is likely to be the Founder, but if you would prefer larger, more corporate clients it could be a good idea to explore what job titles or roles you could best provide support to.

This doesn’t have to be an exact science. The idea is to form a picture in your mind of your ideal client(s). Who are is this person?

Now let’s help them! It’s a common, but often fatal, mistake for any business owner to first decide what their business is going to offer, before then deciding who to target and how to market their product or service to that person. This is the wrong approach entirely!

What problem are you solving?

Before you decide what to sell, you need to work out who is going to buy and, most importantly, what they want to buy.

The best way to add value to a client and their business is to solve a problem for them. Clients will pay you to solve their problems; they’ll pay more and stay longer the more important the problem being solved by you is (and the harder they find it to go elsewhere).

Think in terms of the end benefit to your client (“I will save you 5 hours each week, which you can use to play golf”) and not in terms of features (“I will do your admin”).

So now revisit your ideal customer. What problems do they need to be solved? Examples could be…

  • A small business owner with a day job. This means they can only work on their business at evenings and weekends, meaning they struggle to do work that needs to be done during the working day. It is also taking a long time to grow their brand as a result!
  • A more established business owner who is growing their business alone, meaning they have to do everything. There are some tasks they don’t enjoy doing or aren’t very good at, and it can feel overwhelming at times. They need to streamline their day and have more space to focus.
  • A freelance copywriter who is very good at what they do (i.e. the technical skill of writing), however they don’t have the necessary skills to market their business and secure new clients.

… the challenges often boil down to time, focus and skill. But it’s a good idea to hone down exactly what issues your particular target customer is facing.

work as a UK virtual assistant with Virtalent

How will you solve their problem?

Now go back to your service list.

Is there anything on there which now seems out of place? Is there something missing?

Once you’ve identified the solutions you have for the client’s problem, you’ve done the hard part. Most businesses – Virtual Assistants or otherwise – don’t stop to figure this out and then waste plenty of time, budget and energy in failed marketing campaigns.

The marketing part is much easier now. This post isn’t going to be able to explore marketing strategies in much detail, but try to find out where your customer ‘hangs around’. If your target market is business consultants, they are likely to be searching for a solution on Google and will be well connected on LinkedIn. They’re probably too busy to be spending much time on Instagram!

Think logically: these channels should naturally be where you start first to promote your Virtual Assistant business.

Tips For Success

Getting started is just the first step in working out how to become a Virtual Assistant – to do this long term, you’ll want to continually grow your business and build a great reputation!

Working from home allows you to build a flexible working schedule which fits around your other commitments, but some days feel harder than others. Try to:

  • Take regular breaks away from work. Take 15 minutes to have a cup of tea (away from your screen!) or go for a short walk around the neighbourhood. Likewise, make sure to have an occasional afternoon out of the office entirely or, at the very least, try to keep your weekends and evenings free from client work. Long-term, you’ll feel much better for it!
  • Be curious: continually push your boundaries and learn new skills. Not only will learning new skills mean you can add more and more value to your clients, as well as win new clients looking for help in a certain area, it simply keeps your day more interesting! Why not dedicate Friday afternoons to a course on Udemy or a programme from a Virtual Assistant training provider?
  • Professionalise your business. It’s easy to think that you are ‘just a PA’ or ‘only doing admin’ and therefore aren’t running a fully-fledged business. Remember: if you take yourself seriously, so will your clients! A professional brand, a simple website and a polished approach (to everything from invoicing to handling time off) will help give your clients more confidence and peace of mind. Your business is something to be proud of!
  • Build solid relationships. The key to understanding how to become a Virtual Assistant is to think in terms of relationships. People buy from people and, regardless of the marketing channel you use to promote your business, you’ll eventually end up speaking directly with your potential clients. First to convince them to work with you and then, later, to convince them to stay! Building rapport with your clients will make a great first impression and then keep them loyal to you.
  • Try networking! Likewise, building such a people-orientated business means that networking can be a great way to get started. There are quite literally thousands of networking events out there – many of which are filled to the brim with small business owners looking to grow their companies. Though it can seem daunting, chatting with a prospective client over a coffee is easier and more enjoyable than you might think… and it certainly beats trying to figure out a social media strategy!

Still want to learn more about how to become a Virtual Assistant? Take a look at our blog for more tips on everything from marketing to time management. And remember, if you’d prefer a done-for-you approach, take a look at working for Virtalent instead!

ELLIE BEKALO

Co-Founder

Ellie looks after Operations and Recruitment at Virtalent.

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