As Founder and Director of the Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group (GHVA), I receive many inquiries from individuals wanting to know how they can get started in this field. My schedule does not allow me to respond to each one personally, so I have written this article to answer the questions that I receive most often.
For anyone who is thinking about starting a virtual assistant (VA) business, I highly recommend joining Virtual Assistant Forums (VAF). There are many online networks for VAs, but VAF is open to anyone, regardless of geographic location or specialty (or lack thereof), and there’s no cost to join. The forum is very well organized, and the members are extremely helpful and friendly. You must contribute a certain number of posts to be eligible for certain benefits, such as access to RFPs.
If you’re not familiar with the term “RFP,” it stands for “Request for Proposal.” Most VA associations, including the GHVA allow clients searching for a virtual assistant to submit the details of their requirements, and members can then send their information for consideration. This is similar to applying to job postings, except that you’re not looking to be an employee but an independent contractor, so instead of a resume, you’re sending a proposal.
The Virtual Assistant Networking Association (VANA) is another great source of information about the VA industry. It has been around since 2003, so you can probably find the answers to most, if not all, of your questions in the archives, and if not, you can post them and count on receiving a number of replies. A basic membership is free, and for access to additional information and resources, including access to RFPs, you can purchase a membership to the VAinsider Club.
Canada has two VA associations, the Canadian Virtual Assistant Connection (CVAC) and Canadian Virtual Assistant Network (CVAN), and each offers different benefits. CVAC has two levels of membership – a “partial” membership, which is free, and a “full” membership, which is relatively inexpensive and entitles you to access RFPs and some of the other membership benefits. The discussion group is very active, but uses a Yahoo! Group rather than a forum, so it’s not very user friendly in terms of searching for information in the archives. CVAN doesn’t offer a free membership, but offers a number of valuable benefits, for a yearly fee.
In addition, there is the International Virtual Assistants Association, as well as organizations for VAs who specialize in supporting coaches, authors and speakers, the real estate industry, clients with ADHD, or other areas. Since I’m not involved with any of these groups, I’m unable to provide any details, but you can find information about them by clicking on the links provided or Googling your area of interest.
Then, of course, there are regional groups such as the Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group (GHVA), who meet in person on a regular basis.
I know quite a few people who have been able to go through the government’s Self-Employment Program and found it to be very helpful, but if you’re not eligible, there are lots of other places you can get information and advice on starting a business, such as through your local Small Business Enterprise Centre or community college, or from a business coach. There are even coaches who specialize in working with VAs, not to mention a large number of VA training and/or certification programs, and you’ll find a number of these programs listed on our site.
It’s not a “get rich quick” scheme, so don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise, but if you’re prepared to work hard and to learn new skills on an ongoing basis, and committed to achieving your goals, you can certainly make a decent living as a virtual assistant.