Are you currently employed as a PA, EA or Office Manager? Do you dread the commute into work every day? Do you wish you had more time to spend with your family? Maybe you love what you do but just wish you had some flexibility? The team here at The Assistant Quarters have all been in the same boat and we often get asked about how we started out in business. So, how exactly do you make the leap from PA to VA?
Make the leap from PA to VA
Do your research
There is a vast amount of free and paid for information, and many resources available online to help you on your way. With anything from information on the must-have tools and apps, to VA training programmes and accreditations. Read as much information as you can and absorb as much as possible about the industry. There are a number of free webinars from VA trainers that will give you an insight into the world of VAs. This research is important in establishing if becoming a Virtual Assistant business owner is really right for you.
Join a Facebook community
Again there are a wide number of groups, both for the UK and internationally, for existing and aspiring VAs. Our favourite here at TAQ HQ is VIP VA Hub. Facebook groups are a great place to ask questions, get advice, collaborate and network with others in similar positions or at different stages in their VA business journey. The groups can also offer the potential to finding work. Whether it is supporting another VA as an associate or receiving a client referral. Our top tip for getting the most out of Facebook groups is to make sure you get involved (don’t be a lurker!), add value and join in with conversations. Most groups will try and limit members from overly promoting themselves/selling (nobody likes to be sold to constantly), but as long as you follow the group rules, you will be just fine!
Consider where you will work and what you will need
Whilst you are building up your business, it is likely that you will start out working from home. Whether this is sat at your dining room table or a home office, find somewhere that you can comfortably work. Personally, all the TAQ have found it beneficial to have a dedicated space where you are able to shut yourself away at times. But, working from coffee shops, hotel lobbies (basically anywhere with good wifi!) can offer a change of scene. Our Founder, Claire, also utilised a local co-working space which can great if you like having the interaction and things going on around you whilst you work.
The minimum things you need to get started are a laptop with a good wifi connection, a phone and a printer. As your business grows you may start to look at filing, storage, transcription equipment, monitor, keyboard, mouse etc but start off with the basics and build from there.
Sole Trader or Limited Company?
Once you’ve decided to go for it, we recommend talking to an accountant and getting some advice on whether you should set up your business as a Sole Trader or Limited Company. There are pros and cons for both and any good accountant will help you decide what is best for you. You may not have had any experience before in managing business accounts or completing self-assessment tax returns. If numbers aren’t your forte, we recommend using a simple spreadsheet or an online accounting system like Wave whilst you get started. By understanding what you need to bring home each month, you can start to work out what rates you need to charge your clients.
Insurances and legalities
There are no hard and fast rules about what insurances and legalities you should have in place. But it is important to assess the risks and take the necessary precautions for both you and your clients’ businesses.
We recommend as a minimum to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for Data Protection, hold Professional Indemnity Insurance and have a legal agreement/contract in place between you and your clients. TAQ highly recommends Koffee Klatch who specialise in freelance contracts and work with VAs to develop their offering for VAs. Depending on the services that you want to offer, you may also have to register with HMRC for Anti-Money Laundering Supervision. Some of these are quick to arrange and others can be a little more tricky. For example, before you offer any accounting or bookkeeping services (even if only light touch), we recommend seeking advice from HMRC.
There are also insurances that can cover you for your home office, your equipment, potential threats from cyber attacks and viruses, as well as public liability insurance if you are likely to visit a client’s premises or have a client visit your office.
As VIP VA accredited members, all the TAQ team have business insurance, robust contracts and the necessary registrations in place and we have found it to be of real reassurance to our clients.
Identify your core skills
The role of a traditional PA can be quite varied, allowing for quite a wide skillset to transfer into the role of a VA. Spending some time looking at what you can offer, what you are particularly good at, and also what you enjoy doing is important. Starting your own VA business will give you flexibility and control over what work you take on, and who you want to work with, so if you loathe minuting, don’t include it within your offering!
Think about who you want to work with
As a VA, you will now be in the driver’s seat, so you can pick who you want to be working with. Is there a particular industry you have worked in that you love? Do you a specialist knowledge of any systems or services that would appeal to a particular client? Have you maybe worked in the medical or legal sectors and could see yourself working with doctors or solicitors? Or maybe there are particular personality traits in clients that you’d like to work with (or not as the case may be!).
VA training – is it worth it?
Both our Founder, Claire, and Natalie in our VA team, have completed the CPD accredited Nurture Programme available from VIP VA. Both agree the training they received was invaluable and contributed significantly in the set up of their respective businesses. There are other courses available on the market, of course, so do your research and choose the training that is right for you and that you feel suits your learning style. Look for training that has modules on essential business setup, marketing, developing a brand, building a business plan, identifying your niche and making the shift from an employee mindset.
In our experience, we connected well with VIP VA for the fact that the Founder, Charlotte Wibberley, is passionate about raising awareness of the VA industry and increasing the industries core standards. This is something that has become even more apparent in the last 12 months thanks to the VIP VA Time to EleVAte Campaign.
The Society of Virtual Assistants also conducted a Nationwide survey in 2017 which revealed that VIP VA graduates earn at least £2,000 more a year than any other UK training course, and at least £6,000 more than VAs who had received no training.
The learning curve
Launching a business is a real rollercoaster. There will undoubtedly be a huge learning curve for anyone who decides to make the leap. Just because you make a great PA/EA, that doesn’t automatically mean you will make a great VA or indeed a great business owner. However, as our Founder Claire says.
Since launching The Assistant Quarters in early 2017, I haven’t looked back. Yes, it has been challenging, Yes it has meant long hours sometimes and lots of hard work. But, it has ultimately given me the opportunity to be more flexible around family life now that my daughter has started school. I’m my own boss now, without a long commute into London, with clients I love and I’ve been able to see much more of my daughter than I ever would in my old corporate role.