How to Start a Freelance or Virtual Assistant Business from Scratch
By Craig Cannings
If being a freelancer is more than a side hustle, consider establishing it as your own business. A freelance business is run by an individual who works independently. Most freelance businesses are sole proprietorships, which are owned and operated by one person. A virtual assistant business provides clients with administrative, creative, or technical support in a variety of fields.
The most common types of freelance and virtual assistant businesses include:
• Content writing/blogging
• Graphic and logo design
• Social media management
• Data entry
• Virtual marketing
Who is a Freelance or Virtual Assistant Business Ideal For?
A freelance or virtual assistant business is ideal for entrepreneurs who want to get away from the 9 to 5 work schedule and be their own boss. Additionally, freelancers and virtual assistants enjoy working alone at their own pace. The most sought-after benefits of starting a freelance or virtual assistant business include:
• Flexibility to create own schedule
• Few overhead costs
• Control over workload and job security
• Freedom to choose clientele
• The ability to start small and grow a business
8 Practical Steps to Start Your Business
Want to launch your freelance or virtual assistant business but not sure where to start? Consider following these steps to get started:
1. Establish Your Purpose for Starting Your Freelance Business
Ask yourself why you want to start a freelance or virtual assistant business. Do you enjoy the freedom of working when and where you want? Do you prefer to run a business on your own with little overhead costs? Perhaps you’d like to work from the comfort of your home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If your answer is “yes,” then starting a freelance business may be the right choice. Read on to learn about the next steps in launching your freelance business.
2. Register as a Sole Proprietorship
Registering your freelance service as a business is a great way to get started. The benefits include:
• Small business banking, which allows you to separate your business and personal assets
• Business loans that help you pay for overhead costs
• The ability to write off business expenses as tax deductions
• Building a better relationship with customers
Start by registering your freelance business as a sole proprietorship or DBA (doing business as). This business model involves only you and must be registered with your local, state, or federal authorities (depending on which country you live in).
If you plan on hiring employees or freelancers in the future, consider upgrading your business to a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation.
3. Find Your Niche and Identify Client Base
It may be tempting to be a jack of all trades but it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle when focusing on too many markets at once. It’s best to find a profitable niche in your area of expertise. For example, if you’re a content writer, think about which industries you want to work with and narrow them down to a few. This allows you to market yourself to potential clients who value your knowledge and expertise in a specific field. Be aware that you may face competition from other freelance businesses or marketing firms within the same niche, but the industry is so vast and continuing to grow at an exponential rate so there are plenty of opportunities for all.
4. Determine the Cost of Your Services
Determining an hourly or flat rate for your freelance services can be tricky. We strongly suggest doing your homework to build a solid marketing foundation and stay competitive. Don’t base your rates on what your competitors charge; be realistic about the quality and value of the services you provide. To get started, you may have to charge low rates until you’ve established a solid reputation with your clientele.
You must also base your service rates on the cost of doing business. Be sure to factor in office expenses, equipment, supplies, marketing, software, and online tools.
5. Set Up a Website with a Portfolio of Your Work
In today’s market you need a strong online presence. It should start with an easy-to-navigate and SEO-friendly website.
Your website should include the following elements:
• Your business’s mission statement
• Services you offer
• A blog/article section
• Your processes
• A contact form and/or contact information
• Service rates
• Calls to action on pages and blogs
Potential clients will also want to see samples of your work before deciding to hire you. Be sure to include a portfolio of your best work. If don’t have a sufficient portfolio, consider providing free services so you can showcase your work and build industry contacts.
6. Set Up a Virtual Office
A virtual office allows you to have all the perks of a physical office without any overhead costs. You can work from anywhere in the world (and move around) and still have the luxury of phone answering services, a mailing address, videoconferencing, and meeting rooms.
7. Market Your Business to Potential Clients
So, you’ve got your business and website set up. Now it’s time to make yourself stand out among the competition. Here are some marketing tips to help get your freelance business off the ground:
• Create business pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social networks.
• Optimize your website and content to rank on search engines.
• Use Google AdWords to target certain geographic areas.
• Network with people in your target industry and offer free products and services.
• Join community groups, business associations, and chambers.
• Advertise via social media and search engine marketing by leveraging pay per click ad programs.
• Get referrals from existing customers.
8. Get Customer Testimonials
Once you’ve established a customer base, you may want to grow your business. Potential clients often want to know what other customers say about you. Adding testimonials to your website and social media accounts is a great way to draw in new clientele. They provide a sense of authenticity and value that can boost your business’s reputation.
Ready to Learn Your Freelance or Virtual Assistant Business?
Once you’re ready to get started on your freelance or virtual assistant business, make Freelance University part of your journey toward success. We offer several courses, certificate programs, and workshops for aspiring freelance and virtual assistant entrepreneurs. Plus, we represent more than 75 countries including North America, Australia, and the UK.
Download our free 60-page, step-by-step startup guide for more information on how to get started.