How To Start A Virtual Assistant Business From Home


As traffic continues to get worse and prices of goods climb to record highs, more Filipinos are making the transition from 9-to-5 employee to home-based entrepreneur. One of the most popular home based businesses is virtual assistance. There are 2 reasons for this.

First, there is a high demand for virtual assistance work. In the United States, small businesses prefer to contract the services of virtual assistants over hiring full-time employees.

Why? Virtual assistants are contracted, not hired. Business owners pay them per productive hour or per project. Likewise, they are not obligated to pay virtual assistants benefits.

The cost-saving benefit of contracting virtual assistants has been noticed by big businesses. Several top corporations in the United States have been integrating virtual assistants in their workforce since 2014. The results have been overwhelmingly positive.

Studies have shown that since outsourcing work to virtual assistants, on the average, productivity has risen by 13%. Cost per employee has decreased by $1,900 and employee attrition has improved.

Second, virtual assistance is a job that pays well! I personally know virtual assistants who earn close to 80,000 Pesos per month. Of course, you don’t go from zero to 80,000 Pesos in your first year.

Many virtual assistants I’ve spoken to started out earning 12,000 to 15,000 Pesos per month. By the second year, their expanded portfolio gave them better credibility with clients. At this point, their income increased from 35,000 to 45,000 Pesos per month.

Virtual assistants are entrepreneurs. You own a business that offers virtual assistance services. You set your rates and work hours. Thus, income will be matched by your productivity.

If you want to own a business that is easy to set up at home, you should consider offering virtual assistance services.

First, you have to understand what a Virtual Assistant does.

What Does A Virtual Assistant Do?

A Virtual Assistant or VA is a person who works from a remote location and is contracted to manage a project or a set of tasks. People often associate virtual assistance with secretarial work. While there are common tasks, the comparison is not entirely warranted.

Growing demand for virtual assistants work has opened up opportunities in the industry for people with varied skill sets.

Yes, administrative work is still in high in demand. However, companies are also looking for virtual assistants with specialized skill sets and can handle technical tasks.

10 Types Of Virtual Assistance Jobs

One of my clients in my outsourcing company, Benchmark Global Management Solutions, is an agency that provides virtual assistance work. The agency maintains a roster of Filipino virtual assistants who are assigned to manage tasks for various clients.

Here are the 10 types of jobs their virtual assistants do for the agency’s clients:

  • Administrative work
  • Accounting/ Payroll
  • Data entry
  • Transcription services
  • Graphic design
  • SEO
  • Email marketing
  • Social media management
  • Content writing
  • Market research

I can tell you with certainty that the virtual assistants are very busy. Our company provides market research and content creation services for the agency and we’ve worked with many of their virtual assistants. They are very capable and professional in their conduct of work.

For them, it’s also a fun job! They get to work from home, spend time with their families, and have built great relationships with other virtual assistants.

The money isn’t bad either! All of the VA’s I’ve spoken to say they are earning more now compared to their days as regular employees.

So where to start? If you want to start a virtual assistance business from home, find out first if you have what it takes to become one.

How To Start A Virtual Assistant Business From Home

Step 1 – Make An Accounting Of Your Skill Sets

There are two types of skills: Hard and Soft.

Hard skills refer to your technical and fundamental competencies. As we enumerated, there is a Virtual Assistant for virtually every type of job. What are your specializations? More specifically, what types of services can you confidently offer to potential clients?

Virtual assistants should have the following hard skills:

  • Proficient in various software programs – MS Office, Asana, DropBox, SalesForce, WebEx, Evernote, FreshBooks, and QuickBooks to name a few.
  • Good command of the English language.
  • Good typing speed – 48 to 60 words per minute.
  • Ability to write business communique in perfect English.
  • Comfortable conducting search queries.
  • Knowledgeable in email processes.
  • Excellent phone handling skills.

If you have some or most of these skills, you are already in good shape. In addition, list down any specialized skill you might have.

For example:

  • SEO
  • Web Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Social media marketing
  • Lead generation

Soft skills are your key attributes. These are the personality traits that best define who you are and your approach to work.

Virtual assistants should have the following soft skills:

  • Highly-organized
  • Disciplined; punctual at work
  • Professional; regularly meets deadlines
  • Respectful
  • Team player
  • Results oriented
  • Pleasant, positive disposition
  • Resilient versus stress

You may be surprised that most clients value soft skills more than hard skills. This is because they prefer to contract the services of someone they can work with. Hard skills can be taught. Soft skills are a by-product of one’s experiences.

Take note of your hard and soft skills because these will be indicated in your online profile.

Step 2 – Set Up Your Home Office

Setting up a home office for virtual assistance work is easy. All you need are the following:

  • Computer
  • Headset
  • Workstation
  • Ergonomic chair (or something comfortable)
  • Stable internet connection

While it will be great if you buy new equipment, you don’t have to. Just make sure your computer is dependable. Upgrade the processor, expand the memory capacity, and download the latest anti-virus programs and firewalls.

Internet stability is a problem in the Philippines. Before you sign up for a service, do a quick survey around your neighborhood. Find out which Internet Service Provider (ISP) performs better. Your minimum bandwidth should be 3mb. This will be good enough to handle both voice and data.

If your budget can afford it, you can include the following items in your virtual assistance home office:

  • Whiteboard
  • Wall clock
  • Printer
  • Scanner
  • Small filing cabinet

The whiteboard and a wall clock are essential tools to help you manage time. I would suggest two whiteboards. The first one will be for your clients. It should summarize your set of tasks, goals for the day, and important reminders.

The second whiteboard will be for your personal obligations. It should list down your bills payment schedule, errands, and other items that are not directly related to your virtual assistance business.

The printer and scanner are not that important unless your job requires you to frequently produce hard copies of files and documents. The small filing cabinet shall be used to organize your business papers including tax payments.

Step 3 – Create An Online Profile

An online profile is your resume on the Internet. Give it some thought, purpose, and strategy. Don’t rush through it.

Recruiters and headhunters may spend only 6 seconds reviewing a resume but not potential clients. They take their time combing through your details.

Here are 6 tips on how to create a great online profile:

  • Create a draft on Word. This will act as your guide.
  • Key sections of a resume include contact information, objective statement, strengths, work experience, education, certifications (if any) and personal information.
  • Use bullet points to summarize details. 5 to 8 bullet points will suffice for work experience.
  • Think of your objective statement as your voice on the resume. What would you say to the client if you met him/her for the first time? How would you state your value proposition? That’s how you should write your objective statement. Keep it short. No more than 4 sentences.
  • Don’t sound technical. Write in a conversational manner. Keep your sentences short; no more than 15 words.
  • Absolutely no errors in spelling and grammar.

Once you have completed your resume, it’s time to post it online. Where should you upload it?

Here are 3 of the best places to upload your resume:

  • Website – If you have the time and the money, put up a personal website. You can use the website to present more information about yourself, what you do and the services you offer. You can have a portfolio page to showcase your previous works. Set up a blog page and fill it up with content related to your services, expertise, and general interests. A personal website shows you are invested in your career.
  • Social Media – LinkedIn is the preferred choice of professionals. You can set up your own LinkedIn page and use the hard copy of your resume as a reference for the details. Always remain consistent when it comes to indicating details. Facebook and Twitter are also good platforms for promoting your services.
  • Online Job Sites- These online job platforms function as a marketplace that connects clients with service providers. Upwork (formerly Elance), Freelancer, and Guru are among the best online job sites for virtual assistance clients. Some of these websites, like Upwork, have their own format for an online resume. Again, be consistent with your details. Use the resume hard copy as your immediate reference.

Step 4 – Establish Your Rates

Now comes the tricky part! How much do you want to get paid as a Virtual Assistant?

Let me simplify the thought process for you. If you are an entry-level Virtual Assistant, do not price yourself out of the market.

Before setting your rates, go over the rates posted by other entry-level virtual assistants. Look for VA’s who are offering the same services as you.

Most entry-level VA’s charge $2.50 to $3.50 per hour. It may not be encouraging but when you are starting out, your focus should be to gain experience. Signing up that first client will be very difficult. Experience is a top priority for the majority of clients.

Your resume can state an arm’s length of your skills and competencies. However, the proof of the pie is in the eating. Land that first client first. Build up your portfolio. In time and by consistently performing great work, eventually, you will be in a position to demand your rates.

What should you do if a potential client asks you for a trial period?

First, do a background check on the prospect. A simple Google search can produce valuable information. If the client has an online profile go over it and take note of the following:

  • Total amount paid out in services.
  • Comments or feedback from other freelancers.
  • The number of years in the platform.

If the prospect has been a good payor and the feedback is generally favorable, you can take a chance with the trial period. The best clients will pay for it. This is the advantage with Upwork. They have a feature that requires the prospect to post a bond to cover your fees.

I have met virtual assistants who earn between $7 to $12 per hour. It took them 3 to 4 years to bring their rates up. They had to work hard to build credibility.

A good strategy would be to ask clients to give favorable reviews of your work. If they are happy with your services, they may even give you strong testimonials without having to ask them. They can post the reviews themselves on your online portfolio.

Step 5 – Network For Clients

You have your VA office set up and your online resume has been posted on various platforms. Now comes the most challenging aspect of starting a VA business at home: finding a client. It goes without saying that without a client, you have no business.

This is why I strongly stressed in the previous section to focus more on landing the first client than earning the big bucks. That can come in later. First get the ball rolling by getting a client onboard.

How will you find a client for your VA business? Some were able to get their first client by scoring a referral from a close friend or trusted associate.

I know people from the BPO industry who contacted a client of the company and offered his/her services. Since the client already had prior experience with their work, it became easier to sign them up.

If you don’t have referrals, you have to network. Hard. There is no escaping this. The good news is there is a high demand for VA services.

When I started my outsourcing company, I had client deals fall through even before I could formally launch the business. These were deals that I thought I had secured while the company was still in its planning stages.

Now that the deals fell through, I had no choice but to network otherwise there would be no business to manage.

Here are 4 tips that I can share with you on how to network successfully:

  • Dedicate Time in the Day – and Night – for Networking

As a Virtual Assistant, an organization is one of your strongest assets. Put it to good use by dedicating time in the day and night for networking.

For startups that need clients, you have to prioritize networking. I set 8 hours of my day just for networking. These hours were as follows:

  • 8 am to 12 pm
  • 8 pm to 12 am

I was targeting clients from Asia in the morning and North America and Europe in the evening. My research had shown that businesses checked social media networks and sourced for talent from online job sites first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and again at 6:00 pm.

By having my project bids and business proposals before those hours, they would have a better chance of being seen.

  • Qualify Your Target Jobs

When networking, you want to be as efficient as possible. Don’t just apply to any project bid or posted job. Target those that fit your skill sets. Of course, read the project or job details carefully. If you are entry-level, prioritize jobs that do not require experience.

I targeted projects that fit the core competencies of Benchmark Global Management. These core competencies included:

  • Market Research
  • Content Creation
  • Business/Legal/Medical Transcription
  • Customer Support Services
  • Moderation Services

If you’re putting up a VA agency, make sure you have the team in place to handle all of your proposed services. My team had 3 transcribers, a web designer, a digital marketer, and 3 customer support agents.

  • Network Through a Variety of Channels

In networking, you have to explore all the possibilities. The more avenues you explore, the greater the possibility of opportunities presenting themselves.

Here are the channels I used for networking

  • Social Media – LinkedIn was my primary platform of choice. People who are active on LinkedIn are looking to expand their business, improve processes, and find talent.

I joined focus groups related to outsourcing, connected with people in the industries I was knowledgeable on, and frequently posted blogs from my LinkedIn page.

Don’t just send proposals to contacts. The first thing you should do is to establish relationships. Let them know who you are before stating your purpose.

  • Online Job Sites – I bid for projects posted in Upwork, Freelancer, and Guru. My first client sign up came from Upwork.

However, I secured my biggest paying client from Guru. To this day, the company remains a client of mine. These online job sites are very useful and can generate successful results.

  • Existing Contacts – Prior to starting Benchmark, I co-owned another BPO company. I had built a good network of contacts; mostly former clients and associates of the company.

Since they already knew who I was and how I worked, it was easier to build on the relationship. Unfortunately, it did not result in any successful signup.

  • Traditional Networking – This means old-school legwork! I attended networking events, trade shows, BPO forums, and breakfast meetings set up by foreign chambers of commerce.

If you have an opportunity to get on a podium and present your services, take it! Make sure you have a lot of calling cards, brochures, and contracts with you.

  • Family and Friends – If you have family and friends living in other countries, ask them if they can help you find clients.

Some could be working in companies that need virtual assistants or want to outsource work to cut costs. In exchange, pay them a commission for every successful signup.

In theory, this seems like a good idea. In reality, friends and family are likewise busy with their everyday lives. Find someone who can dedicate time in a day to actively search a client for you.

I experienced the best results from social media and the online job sites. After 6 months of networking 8 hours a day, I was able to sign up the first client for my company.

Yes, it took time and a lot of work. Keep in mind that the amount of effort you put in will pay you back over the long term. Think of networking as planting seeds for your business. In time they will bear fruit.

One month after signing up my first client, I signed up 2 more. They came across my project bids and online profile and contacted me via email. After a few Skype meetings, they came onboard.

  • Understand Networking is a Numbers Game

The more proposals you send out, the better your chances of landing your first client. I estimated my success rate to be 2% for every proposal that I sent out. So in order to get my first client, I had to send out 50 proposals every month. That meant 2 proposals or project bids every day.

Out of the 50 proposals I sent out, 60% would respond favorably and invite me for an interview. Time for a reality check – you can be rejected every time! Again, remember it took me 6 months of non-stop networking to sign up one client. There was a time I was rejected 17 times in a span of 10 days.

Of course, virtual assistance is different. Because of its high demand, you might sign up your first client within a shorter time frame. My point of bringing this up is for you to temper expectations. You will be competing with other virtual assistants who are gunning for the same clients as you are.

Networking is hard. It is exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. Many a night I spent thinking about hitting the networks one more time or just hitting the bottle of rum. It’s a good thing I chose the former.

Be strong and never quit. If you are committed to starting a virtual assistance business – or any business – from home, it will be worth all the pain and sacrifice.

Step 6 – Grow Your Business

Will it be smooth sailing once you sign up your first client? No. In fact, you’re still far from calling yourself a success. Sure, take the time and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Once the euphoria of landing your first client has come down, get back on the networking trail.

You will have less time for networking because now you have to dedicate hours to your new client. However, still find at least 4 hours every day to network.

Your first client will probably sign you up for 2 hours of work 5 days a week. This is the trial period. If the client is happy with your performance, he/she will escalate it to 4 hours per day.

Put it this way, even as an entry-level VA, if you can sign up 2 clients at $3.50 per hour, you will earn 38,584 Pesos per month working from home! Imagine if your rate doubles to $7 per hour?

Once you’ve gotten the feel of the business, why not grow it by putting up an agency? Hire 2-3 more virtual assistants so you can scale up your earnings. If you have built a good reputation, it will be easy to find clients. The VA’s you hire will be more than happy to capitalize on your reputation so they can earn as well.

Sign up clients at $7 per hour and pay your VA’s at $3.50 per hour. Incentivize through performance bonuses and new client sign up commissions. Ask them to network for your agency as well.

If your team can sign up 6 clients, your agency will be earning 463,008 Pesos per month!

Frequently Asked Questions About The Virtual Assistance Business

  1. “Do I have to pay taxes as a home-based business owner?”

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Yes, you have to pay taxes as a home-based business owner. Every person who earns income has a duty to pay the correct amount of taxes to the government.

Trust me, I feel your pain. I’m reminded of where my tax money goes whenever I drive over a pothole.

I get frustrated when the government pays someone 100,000 Pesos a month from tax money to manage communications and the person won’t take the time to do honest research, check for spelling and grammatical errors, and only propagates fake news.

The 100,000 Pesos could have been better served by a team of virtual assistants.

If you want to know how to register as a taxpayer, check out this link.

  1. “Should I be a freelance VA or join an agency?”

Joining a Virtual Assistance agency makes it easier for you to get clients because they give them to you. An agency will assure you of consistent work as long as you do a good job.

However, it will feel as if you are privately employed. Your hours will be set by the agency. In some cases, you will have to commit your time to the agency. This may undermine your stream of income as you won’t have the flexibility to adjust your rates and manage more clients.

  1. “Should I be a freelancer or should I set up a company?”

I suggest you start out first as a freelancer. Setting up a company requires spending on incorporation and an office (required by the SEC and DTI to process your business permit).

Limit your risk exposure by starting out as a freelancer. If your business gains traction and you feel optimistic about expanding it into a career, then consider setting up a company.

  1. “How should I receive payment?”

The short answer is, “Whatever is convenient for your client.”

In our case, we receive payment via direct deposit to the company’s bank account or through PayPal. There are processing costs to both. With PayPal, it will take a while for your money to be deposited in your bank account. Ask your client to be a verified user of PayPal so you can cut down on the charges.

  1. “How do I deal with delinquent clients?”

It does happen. I’ve had many delinquent clients over the last 5 years. I subscribe to the Don Peppers school of thought, “People don’t do things with malice in mind.”

If you have a client who is delinquent in paying your fees, the first thing you have to do is let them know about it. Send them a short email. It should include a reminder as well as an advisory that work shall be temporarily suspended until the account is updated.

A good client will understand and will make the necessary payment. Don’t be too generous with the waiting period. If they haven’t paid you within 10 days, terminate the arrangement.

In this regard, always cover your engagements with contracts. This way, everything is black and white. What contracts do you need?

  • Memorandum of Agreement – Covers the provisions of the working engagement such as the period of a contract, mode of payment, and conditions for pre-termination.
  • Service Level Agreement – Outlines the work standards, details of the project, and other particulars.
  • Confidentiality Agreement – Summarizes the technologies, information, and other assets that are proprietary to each party.


If you want to start a Virtual Assistance business from home – go for it! There is a high demand for the service and the industry shows promising growth over the next few years.

Businesses are increasingly migrating operations online. They will need people who can handle different aspects of their enterprise without blowing up their budget. Contracting a Virtual Assistant is the smart way to do it.

The Virtual Assistant could be you! With perseverance and luck, you could be the company’s most important VA – Valuable Asset.

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