Many women (and some cool guys too) dream of starting a home business where they are available to their family, managing their own hours, making a difference in clients’ lives and simultaneously earning a good income for playing (and paying the bills).

The increasing popularity of becoming a Virtual Assistant makes this dream a reality for many.

The truth is: starting a Virtual Assistant business is not difficult. It is relatively inexpensive and if you have the right skills, the correct equipment such as a PC and internet access, as well as a client or two, you can be in business within a few days.

However, there is a huge difference between Virtual Assistants who deliver virtual services as a hobby and virtual assistants who are serious about making a success of their business and build it a level where they do have a sustainable and profitable income.

The problem is: to become successful as a virtual assistant is not always easy. You need desire, plenty of motivation, constant commitment, good planning, a truckload of perseverance and you have to do it right from the start.

So, here are 10 important steps to get your business off to the right start and to set up the foundation for success:

Step 1: Do a self-assessment. Understand your reasons for becoming a VA. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and ensure you understand what virtual assistance is all about. Evaluate if you have the right characteristics to be a self-owned business owner.

If you are of the opinion that: “Well, I own a computer, I have access to the Internet, and I own a few software programs with a printer—I can be a virtual assistant. Everyone else is doing it”,  you have to question if virtual assistance is the right career for you.

Step 2: Do the necessary planning. Starting a business without a plan might work in the short term, but research has shown over and over again that businesses without the necessary planning, fails within the first year of their existence. For me it is scary to think that something so trivial can cause so many people to fail, because planning is not really that difficult.  We do it every day of our lives – even if it is just to plan the next meal of the fastest trip to town and back.

Creating a plan for your business is the same. It only requires that you spend a little bit of time ON your business, to really think about all your ideas, to think about where you are now and where you want to be in 6 months’ time, a year, two years. Then it’s about creating the plan to take you there.

Step 3: Decide on your services. Avoid becoming a jack of all trades and delivering any service to any client coming your way. One of the secrets for long-term sustainability in your business is: master something and people will notice. In other words, have a couple of CORE services that you can offer to clients, do it exceptionally well  and use it to make a real difference in your clients’ lives.

Step 4: Take care of the financials. When starting a VA business, you take a risk in terms of a constant income. There is absolutely no guarantee you will have money at the end of each month to pay the bills – especially in the beginning when you first have to settle in. Thus, ensure you have enough back-up money to carry you through the first couple of months.

Another side of the financial coin is to ensure you are paid well for your services and earns an income. So before you can deliver a service you need to set your rates.  Although it’s good to know what other VAs charge for similar services, you have to set your rates according to your own situation, taking in account your own expenses and the value you provide to your clients.

Step 5: Set up your office. Create a comfortable space to work from and acquire the right equipment and tools. As a VA, your business is touched on so many different levels by the internet that you absolutely HAVE to invest in a stable broadband internet connection and a reliable PC. As part of the job, you may need to send/receive large files, and thus your bandwidth should be sufficient enough to upload/download these files effortlessly. Also establish a way of communication with your clients whether it is via email, telephone, Skype (or all of them) and ensure your equipment are set up accordingly.

Step 6: Create systems and procedures to take care of your business. Systems streamline your business operations and help you save a truckload of time. Important systems include things like an accounting system (to keep track of your income and expenses); a billing system (to send invoices and receive payments for your work) and a client management system (including a procedure for new client intakes, keeping record of client information and client communications).

Step 7: Target your clients. Conduct research to determine if there is a need for your services. It’s preferable to deliver a service that is in high demand – i.e. lots of people are looking for it, but not enough people are providing it. Then outline who your clients are, where they are and how you’ll find them.

Step 8: Develop your marketing materials. Create a marketing message to get your client’s attention. Use it to develop different marketing materials, such as an introduction letter, website, business cards, elevator speech and brochures.

Step 9: Spread the word via your marketing activities. Marketing is a process and the marketing you do today, will only bring you clients in a few months’ time. Do not make the mistake of waiting for clients and assume that because you have a website and your business is listed on various directories, the clients will come knocking on your door. Market your business daily, persistently and effectively to bring you all the clients you want in future.

Step 10: Take massive action. For things to happen, you need to create motion or movement in your business by taking action. A secret in business is that you create your own reality by the actions you take or the actions you don’t take. Thus, you cannot complain about something you are not willing to do. For example, if you want more clients, then you can’t complain about the things you have to do or the actions you need to take to make it happen. Nothing will happen, unless you take action on the opportunities in front of you in spite of the things that might stand in your way.

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If you are just starting out and trying to figure out how to do all this, then following a step-by-step system that authentically takes you through the total process will reduce your stress and make your start-up so much easier.  Jumpstart your Virtual Assistant Business takes you step-by-step through the most important things to do to set up all the different aspects of a Virtual Assistant business right from the start. It includes information on choosing the right business name, office and equipment requirements, business structures, tax & insurance, setting your rates, documentation requirements, business planning, marketing planning, creating a website, getting your family on board, planning your daily routing, growing your business and so much more). Jumpstart your Virtual Assistant Business gives you the confidence to operate your business effectively from day 1.

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