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How to start a virtual assistant business

Follow these tips to set yourself up for success as a virtual assistant.

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As the world of remote working continues to expand, there's an increasing need for virtual assistants in almost every industry imaginable. But where do you start if you want to become one? It's relatively simple to run a virtual assistant business from home if you're willing to put in the hard work.

Read on to discover the key steps of setting up your own virtual assistant venture.

What is a virtual assistant business?

A virtual assistant is a person who provides administrative services to businesses remotely. Duties can include appointment management, invoicing, project management, social media management, accounting and email communication services, amongst many other things.

Learn key industry skills

The great thing about becoming a virtual assistant is that you may already possess the skills you need for the job. With admin and organisational talent as a key factor in this role, it's likely you could have picked these up from previous jobs or even from your time at university. Along with these essential skills, you'll need to:

  • Have great time management skills
  • Be a creative thinker
  • Be comfortable working on projects alone
  • Have excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Be motivated to find new contracts with clients

To be successful as a virtual assistant, you'll also need to have a solid working knowledge of online communication tools such as Slack, Zoom and Skype, various types of email software, file-sharing software like Dropbox and Google Drive, and task management tools like Basecamp and Asana.

Virtual assistant

Sign up for an online course

Suppose you already have a background in administration or secretarial work. In that case, you may be able to transfer these skills to the online world of virtual assistance without taking an online course. However, you may choose to upgrade your knowledge via a course, as there's a broad range of online skills required to work efficiently with a variety of clients.

While you don't necessarily need any formal qualifications to become a virtual assistant, undertaking some training will help you develop a range of skills. It can also build your confidence in starting your business, especially if you don't have any experience working as an assistant just yet.


Virtual Assistant Startup Program

A virtual assistant startup program from training.com.au could help start your virtual assistant career.

Choose your niche

A virtual assistant isn't just your average secretary in disguise. As a virtual assistant, you can provide help and support with a range of different tasks. While most start off in the industry as a general administrative assistant, many choose to specialise in a niche later down the line.

Here are a few areas you could pursue when you start a virtual assistant business:

  • Email management
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Calendar management
  • Data entry
  • Human resource management
  • Social media management
  • Customer service
  • Content creation
  • Web design
  • Internet research
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Accounting
  • Press releases
  • Affiliate management
  • Webinar set-up and assistance

Pick a memorable business name

As one of the first things potential clients will see about you, it's essential to pick the right name for your business. Not only should it reflect you and your services, but it should also stand out from the rest of the competition. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you settle on a name:

  • Will it reflect the type of services you offer?
  • Do you want to include your own name?
  • What are other virtual assistants in your industry called?
  • Is there a domain name available for your chosen business name?
  • Is it easy to spell and say?
  • What do your friends and family think?
  • If your business grows in the future, is your name scalable?

Choose a business structure that works for you

To get your virtual assistant business off the ground, the first step is to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN). You'll certainly need an ABN first up for tax purposes.

If you plan to operate as a Sole Trader or Partnership, you can trade under your personal legal name/s. However, suppose you want to operate under a separate business name. In that case, it's a good idea to register the name with the Australian Business Register, and you'll need an ABN to do this.

You'll also need to decide on your business structure. Most virtual assistants operate as a Sole Trader, however, you may want to expand and go into a Partnership with a friend. Here are your options.

  • Sole Trader. A Sole Trader structure means you run your business as a solo operator and are legally responsible for all aspects of the business. You can, of course, outsource some of your work by hiring external contractors.
  • Partnership. If you want to work together with a business partner and combine your skills and time, you'll need to form a Partnership. This means you'll both share equal responsibility for the business, including its profits and losses.
  • Proprietary Company. Further down the track, you may wish to expand your business into a Company. This means you can have up to 50 non-employee shareholders and the company becomes a separate legal entity from you.

Put together a business plan

You don't have to spend days putting together a business plan, but it is worth spending some time getting it right. Your business plan will give you some clarity on the type of client you're looking for, the services you're offering and its earning potential.

Check out these sections to include, to make sure you don't miss out anything essential:

  • Business description. Discuss how your business will make money.
  • Product description. Explain what services your business will provide.
  • Market research. Choose what kind of customers you'll be targeting.
  • Sales. Outline a marketing plan for your business.
  • Finances. Include how much money you'll need to invest in the business and projected sales.
  • Future. Set goals for the future and think about where you'd like it to be 5 or 10 years from now.

Purchase the necessary equipment and software

If you're starting your virtual assistant business from home, you'll want to set up a good office space where you can easily step into (and out of) work mode. Here is some essential equipment you may need:

  • Computer, with a least 100GB storage space
  • Desk and chair
  • Mobile phone and business number
  • Email provider and business email
  • Good headphones for online meetings
  • A reliable broadband connection
  • Cloud storage and file sharing (Dropbox and Google Drive)
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote and Outlook)

As your business grows and develops, you may also want to look into software that will make your life as a virtual assistant a lot easier:

  • Time-tracking tool for keeping track of your hours
  • Scheduling software (Calendly, Doodle, Google Calendar)
  • Online meeting software (Skype for Business, Zoom, Slack)
  • Project management software (Asana, Basecamp, Google Workspace)
  • Accounting software (QuickBooks, Xero, PayPal, Stripe)

If you're looking for an all-in-one solution to your software needs as a virtual assistant, it may be worth investing in software like FreshBooks. This combines time tracking with an invoicing tool, project management tools and accounting software.

It's important to establish your business with a solid legal footing from the outset. Firstly, it's worth looking into Australian Consumer Law in relation to your business to ensure you're meeting the required standards.

While it can all seem a little overwhelming when starting off as a small business, there are plenty of online legal services to help you get through this initial process.

Here are some of the important legal documents you'll need for a virtual assistant business:

  • Client Agreement. It's really important to write up a Client Agreement to protect yourself and your clients.
  • Privacy Policy. Your website will be your headquarters for your business, and it will need a Privacy Policy. This will ensure your visitors know what you are going to do with their information and is required by Australian Privacy Law.
  • Employment Contracts. These will come in handy when you hire staff or contractors and will lay the ground rules so that both parties understand their obligations.
  • Tax Invoices. It's a good idea to keep a record of all your tax invoices so you can submit your tax return each year without confusion or complications.

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Price up your services

Most virtual assistants charge by the hour and rates can range from $20 to $40 in Australia, with the average rate being around $27 per hour.

Your pricing will depend on factors such as the requirements of each job and your own experience. If you have high expertise in certain areas, you could set your rates anywhere between $40 to $200 per hour for specific jobs.

In some cases, it may be better to bill your clients by project, rather than by hour, especially if there is a great deal of work involved. In this case, it can be helpful to make a menu of your services and your rates for each one. You can then give this to each potential client.

There are lots of factors to consider when setting your prices. Take your time with this and do some research to see what other virtual assistants are charging in your area.

Accept payments from your customers in person and online with Square's card readers, payment terminals, digital invoicing and e-commerce tools.

Build your customer base

The online space provides multiple opportunities to attract clients for your virtual assistant business from leveraging your social media presence and blogging to building an email list and making YouTube videos.

One effective way to get people interested in what you do is by creating a free offer on your websites such as a checklist, an infographic, a resource list, or a how-to ebook or guide. People can sign up to your email list in return for your freebie, and then you can start sending out weekly email newsletters and promoting your services.

A quick and hassle-free way to start building your customer base is by using online marketplaces. You can create a profile and breakdown of your services on sites such as these:

  • Airtasker. Find job requests in your category and make an offer to the customer.
  • Upwork. Find clients from all over the world with this popular freelancing platform.
  • LinkedIn. Boost your professional profile by making your presence known on LinkedIn. You can post comments and articles, write blogs and grow your network.

Frequently asked questions

What does a virtual assistant actually do?

Your work in the virtual space will require an agile approach to online work and software. Duties include responding to emails and phone calls, scheduling meetings, preparing customer spreadsheets and maintaining online records, updating social media accounts, creating presentations, making travel arrangements and content creation such as writing blogs.

How do I become a virtual assistant with no experience?

You can start small to get your virtual assistant business up and running. Take a look over your resume and pick out the skills you have that are relevant. Offer to do jobs for family and friends either for free, to begin with, or for a low price to build your experience. Freelancing sites such as Upwork or Fiverr can be a great way to get started and make contacts.

What areas can I specialise in as a virtual assistant?

It can be helpful to pick a niche in order to position yourself as a specialist. Popular niches for virtual assistant work include social media, blogging, ecommerce, content production and general administration. You could also pick a specific industry you have experience working in, such as real estate or law.

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