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A virtual assistant who earns $4,000 a month talks about starting your business

  • Alanna Smith became a virtual assistant after leaving her position as a communications officer.
  • She earned around $4,000 a month in income from her virtual assistant business Ask Alanna.
  • She outlined four tips for starting your own virtual assistant business, like finding your niche.

When the pandemic started, Alanna Smith realized she no longer loved her job as a communications officer at the University of Portsmouth in England. She, like millions, quit her job as part of the Great Resignation.

“People should take the leap and work for themselves,” Smith said. “It comes with its challenges, but it also gives you so much freedom and opportunities to be yourself.”

For her next move, the 40-year-old wanted an occupation outside the corporate world that also combines her background in marketing and blogging. That’s how she found virtual assistance, where she organizes calendars and makes reservations for clients, including marketing and PR firms.

In September, Smith launched Ask Alanna, her virtual assistant business, and earned around $4,000 a month in revenue, according to documents seen by Insider. She plans to hire an assistant soon, which will allow her to grow from eight to 16 clients and increase her income, she said. She aims to register $100,000 in revenue by the end of this year.

Smith is one of a growing number of people who have recently turned to virtual assistant work, thanks to flexible hours, stable incomes and remote work opportunities. There were 25,000 active virtual assistants worldwide in 2008, said MyOutDesk, a virtual assistant company. Today, 1 million people work as virtual assistants, but this number is expected to at least double in the next few years.

A woman in an orange shirt is sitting at the computer

Most of her customers came by word of mouth, she said.

Kaye Ford

“Entrepreneurship is the way to go, and people shouldn’t be afraid of it,” Smith said. “If they do their research, prepare and have a small income, it’s surprising how quickly things can pick up.”

Smith shared four tips for starting your own virtual assistant business, including what tools were needed and how she found a niche using Instagram.

Do some research to find your niche

Smith spent a year researching the virtual assistant industry, including reading books such as “How to Be a Virtual Assistant” by Catherine Gladwyn.

She also studied the tasks that other virtual assistants were doing for clients and looked at their prices. Next, she combed through their Instagram profiles to see which virtual assistants they followed to better understand the competition and find their place in the industry.

Smith suggested identifying your best skills and making those talents the backbone of your work as a virtual assistant. For example, she tells her clients that she excels at working with marketing and public relations firms, given her previous experience in these areas.

A woman in a blue dress stands in front of a store

Smith also opened a physical location. She said it was a good way for her to get known.

Kaye Ford

The right tools keep you organized

Smith uses work management platforms Trello, Asana, and Airtable to track tasks. These services also allow her clients to assign tasks to her, she said.

She uses business management platform Dubsado to onboard new clients and time tracking software Toggl Track to monitor the time she spends on a task.

Finally, in Gmail, she creates folders, priority lists, and labels so you don’t lose anything.

Overcommunicate to avoid mishaps

Smith makes sure deadlines are clear with clients so she can balance her workload and their expectations. She also overcommunicates with clients by checking on her work progress.

As a virtual employee, she aimed to maintain frequent contact with clients so they no longer wondered about her progress on tasks, she said.

Network to find customers

Smith signed up for webinars, including those hosted by marketing firm Wern, motivational firm F*ck Being Humble and designer Sinead Taylor. These events often had breakout rooms that Smith used to network with potential clients. In fact, this strategy helped her find her first client.

Smith has also joined networking groups — such as The Stack World, a member organization that connects women entrepreneurs around the world — and a mentorship program where she works one-on-one with virtual assistant coach Amanda Johnson.

“There’s no shyness in this industry,” Smith said. “Find your tribe.”

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