Need a Virtual Assistant Job? Try Subcontracting!

As a virtual assistant, you can find clients on your own or you can choose to subcontract under another virtual assistant or agency.

The process for subcontracting is simple:

  • Find someone to subcontract with
  • Discuss your rate
  • Sign an agreement
  • Get tasks and complete work
  • Invoice and get paid

Find someone to subcontract with

A great place to start looking for subcontracting opportunities is Facebook. There are many great virtual assistant Facebook groups.

Some of my favorites include:

Often someone in these groups will post that they need a subcontractor. You can apply and see if you’re a good fit for the company.

If you already know someone who has a virtual assistant or marketing business, you could reach out and ask if there are any opportunities for subcontract work.

Subcontract work is very low risk for the company or person participating. They are under no obligation to send you a set amount of work and can end the contract at any time.

That’s not to say that subcontracting work isn’t good for freelancers too!

It gives freelancers another income stream and helps diversify their client base. It ensures that one client cannot end your business by moving on. It gives you the opportunity to gather more positive testimonials/reviews for your website. It also allows you to peek inside someone’s else’s successful business to see how they run things, what their pricing structure is like, and how you can grow your business to their level in the future. Subcontracting can be a great learning experience as well as an income generator.

I currently have three subcontracting positions. One is with my former employer and two are opportunities I found in Facebook groups.

Discuss your rate

The person who needs a subcontractor must be making enough to pay your rate. If you want to earn $30 per hour, you’re not going to be able to subcontract with someone who consistently makes $20 per hour.

Don’t be afraid to suggest what you think you’re worth. Remember, on average VAs are making $15-30 per hour. When you’re first starting out, you may want to ask for $15 per hour, but don’t go too far below that. Keep in mind, there are VAs making six figures per year.

The average amount I’ve seen for subcontracting jobs falls between $18-25 per hour.

That said, I’ve had to turn down a few subcontracting opportunities because the pay was too low. In one instance, I was told that the person couldn’t afford me, but would circle back as soon as they could because they wanted me on their team.

There’s no harm in pursuing as many leads as you have time to follow up on. They can often plant seeds that grow into business opportunities, partnerships, or relationships in the future.

Sign an agreement

When you subcontract with someone, you should be asked to sign a subcontractor agreement. If the person does not ask you to sign one, I would question whether it was a legitimate opportunity.

Typically the subcontractor agreement includes information on your pay, hours, confidentiality and noncompete disclosure that prevents you from poaching clients.

Get tasks and complete work

You will be assigned tasks by either the owner of the agency/company or the client themselves. It depends on the agency/company’s policies whether you will have direct interaction with clients.

When you receive a task, complete it correctly and efficiently. You want to make sure that you are using your time wisely so you don’t bill the agency/company unnecessarily.

Be honest about your skills. If you don’t know how to do something, ask the VA for help or instruction. You can also offer to research the topic on your own time.

Invoice and get paid

The company/agency will have a schedule for submitting invoices and receiving payment. Most companies use Paypal, but you can ask if you’d like to use another method. I’ve worked with subcontractors that pay weekly and some that pay monthly. It’s more common to be paid monthly.

Becoming a virtual assistant subcontractor is a great way to learn about someone’s else’s best practices and procedures. The process will make you a stronger VA and give you an idea of what else you can be offering. I’ve been able to learn a variety of programs that my current clients don’t use that may come in handy with future clients one day. If you’re looking for more work, you should consider subcontracting.

 

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Should Freelancers Trade Services?

As a new freelancer, it can be hard to find clients. While you can spend time working on your own brand, you also need to gain experience working with clients. However, I don’t think you should ever work for free. If you can’t get paying work or you have some extra time on your hands, you could consider trading services.

How does trading services work?

Trading services is where two business people exchange beneficial services instead of cash.

First, think about what you value. Even while trading services, you don’t want to work for something that has no value to you. Perhaps you’d like to do social media work for a local gym in exchange for a free membership. Maybe a free membership wouldn’t be worth it to someone else.

Who should you approach to trade services?

Online business owners and solopreneurs

Small businesses owners and solopreneurs are usually handling a lot of the administrative and marketing aspects of their business on their own. Sometimes they try their hand at making a website or just set up a Facebook page and have no web presence. Depending on your skillset, you could offer the following trades:

  • As a website designer, you may want to approach a copywriter to help you with your site. In exchange, you could spruce up their site’s layout
  • As a social media manager, you may want to offer your services to a photographer in exchange for images you can us
  • As a graphic designer, you may want to offer a new logo to a copywriter in exchange for a rewrite of some website pages.
  • As a virtual assistant, you can offer to send invoices for a marketing company in exchange for social media postings about your business a few times per week.

 

Local businesses

Some local businesses could use help, but may not have the means to pay for your services. You could offer your services in exchange for theirs.

  • You could offer your services for a monthly membership fee (like a gym or club).
  • You could offer your services in exchange for goods or food.
  • You could offer your services in exchange for displaying your business cards or an advertisement for your business.

Special events, conferences, summits

You could offer to do work in exchange for a seat at the conference, event or summit. There are many great online conferences and summits that you could have access to if you helped out with marketing, design, or administrative tasks.

How to get started

  1. Make a list of the skills you’d be willing to trade
  2. Figure out who or what would be worth your trade
  3. Create an email pitch to send to potential swappers

Sample email:

Hi Person,

I’m a content creator/website designer/virtual assistant. I wanted to see if you’d be interested in trading services? I was thinking something like X for X. Does that sound fair to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks,

You’ll never know what business connections you can make through reaching out and offering a trade. Trading services will add to your portfolio of work and could also lead to more paying gigs in the future. If you need more work, trading services is another way to get your name out there.

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What I’ve Learned from Two Years of Working at Home

This August was my second anniversary of working from home. I left my job as an Information Specialist in a biotechnology company’s corporate library in 2014 after the birth of my daughter and began working at Zirtual as a virtual assistant. After six months there, I left to start my own marketing company. Now I mostly work as a marketing specialist, but I also do some virtual assistant work and contract work with my former biotechnology employer.

I’ve learned a lot while working from home. Some days are great and others are not, but I could say the same thing about a traditional job. Here are the most important things I’ve learned from working from home for the past two years.

  • Organization is king

In my previous job, I was used to having systems in place. We had a metric board where we kept track of weekly projects and a daily stand-up meeting to discuss outstanding work. I took those skills to my own business and set up schedules and an organization system.

I track all of my projects in Wunderlist and Asana. Most of my clients are in Wunderlist. When someone assigns me a task, I add it to their list with the agreed upon deadline. Personal work, like this blog and The Sturm Agency website, is in Asana. I like both platforms for different reasons. Wunderlist is perfect for client’s work because it’s simple and easy to use. However, I also love Asana’s interface and prefer to keep my personal work organized there.

I timeblock my Google calendar. My calendar is blocked off during my working hours (6-9 am, 12-2 pm, 7-9 pm, and some time on the weekends). Each day I check my client’s requests and work on them for roughly one hour per day except for a client who has a time-based agreement with me. Timeblocking allows me to check in with each client Monday through Friday. Having things set up this way ensures that I never neglect a client for a few days and come back to missed projects or admin tasks. Sometimes the client won’t have anything for me to to do so I’ll move on to the next person. I started this system when I was working full time at Zirtual and managing 8-10 clients. I don’t have that many clients anymore, but the system still works.

I write a daily to-do list in my notebook each day. Every morning I go into Wunderlist and Asana, check which tasks I need to get done that day, and write a to-do list in a paper notebook. I like doing this because crossing things off a list gives me a sense of satisfaction that clicking a button doesn’t. I only write down the five or six most important tasks for the day. I can’t get more than that done on a given day and seeing a 20+ item list stresses me out.

I check what I accomplished and what’s outstanding each evening. Before I go to bed, I check what needs to be done the next day and review the list of things I accomplished that day. Before doing this, I was having a hard time falling asleep because I was running through my to-do list over and over in my mind. Reading a list of my daily achievements makes me feel like I accomplished something even on my worst days. This five-minute routine has helped me fall asleep more quickly.

I track all of my time in 17hats and Toggl. For clients that I invoice, I use 17hats. For everyone else, I track in Toggl. I even track the time I spend writing this blog. It helps because I have a visual guide that I can review at the end of the week.

  • Take a day off

During my first year freelancing, I worked seven days a week. I still have not taken a proper vacation where I stop client work for a week.

That said, I need to have one day off per week that does not involve doing work for anyone else. That doesn’t mean I don’t work on my personal projects, set up my social media feeds or write blogs, it just means that I don’t work on anyone else’s stuff. Every night, it’s my goal to stop computer work an hour before I go to bed so I can read books and relax.

Typically, I don’t work on Saturdays at all. We spend time together as a family during the day. In the evening, my husband and I rent a movie or watch one of our shows.

  • Your word is gold

Some people have a negative perception of freelancers or those who work from home. They think that remote workers are spending their days watching TV and napping. There’s even a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial which mentions “working from home fakers.” Unfortunately, I’ve found that there are some freelancers who are flaky and unreachable. I’ve had to work with some web designers who took 3-4 emails about the same topic before they’d respond. I recently had another marketing specialist completely blow me off after hiring me to do some work.

I do what I say I’m going to do. I work hard to make sure that I meet all deadlines and deliver what I’ve promised. One of the biggest keys to doing that is setting realistic deadlines. I try not to let other people set deadlines for me.

I’m completely open about working at home with my daughter, but I want clients to forget that I’m also taking care of a child. I strive to be so responsive and consistent that it seems like freelancing is the only thing I’m doing.

  • Choose the right clients

One of the best things about being a freelancer is that I can choose my own clients. I try to find people that I believe I can help. I find people whose business sounds interesting to me or whose mission and vision I agree with. I like to work in areas where I already have some knowledge.

I like working with other small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.

That’s also why working with nonprofits is so important to me. I want to spread their message and make sure the community is aware of the good things they are doing. We need more positivity in our lives especially where I live in Rockford, Illinois which was ranked the 3rd most miserable place to live in the United States.

My ideal client is someone who is organized and realistic. I need someone who has a clear vision for what they want me to do. I also appreciate people who are quick to say thank you and slow to criticize.

  • Stay grateful

I have blessings on blessings; there is no hint of sarcasm when I say that. I think some of my success has to do with the fact that I am so grateful to be able to do this. I don’t personally know anyone else doing something like this. I know a few people with their own businesses, but they are brick and mortar operations or businesses selling actual goods (photos, invites, etc.) I live in a small town and the idea of “working on the internet” is not commonplace.

Many days I’m amazed that I’ve come this far and am so appreciative of my clients. I have the attitude of I get to do this instead of I have to do this.

2-years-working-from-home

Your Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant

If you are considering working from home, but don’t have a specific business idea in mind, being a virtual assistant is a great option. A virtual assistant handles many of the same duties that an in-person administrative assistant or receptionist does. Average pay for virtual assistants can range from $10-$40 per hour with the rate increasing depending on demand and experience. Virtual assistant may also choose to charge clients by hourly packages or work on a retainer.

I started off my remote working career as a virtual assistant. I didn’t have administrative assistant experience, but my previous position as an Information Specialist required me to be meticulous and organized. These traits came in handy when I applied for a virtual assistant position with Zirtual. After a short interview process, I was offered the job. It paid $12 per hour with optional healthcare and 401K. Other benefits were added a few months after I started.

I went through a two week training process which detailed all of Zirtual’s policies and procedures. The training process was very organized and helped clarify what would be expected of me as a virtual assistant. The company had created an organizational system through Google Apps that included documents and templates for most requests and a list of things that a ‘Zirtual Assistant’ could and couldn’t do. Anything “specialized” such as writing, photography, accounting, etc. was considered out of scope. Everyone who worked for Zirtual was college educated and many had advanced degrees.

Although I enjoyed working for Zirtual, I felt constrained by the set work hours and inability to do creative tasks. I’d been slowly picking up marketing clients throughout and I had enough business to strike out on my own. I left in February 2015 to pursue my marketing business. In August 2015, Zirtual imploded and 450 employees were instantly out of jobs with no warning. Many of these employees went on to create their own successful virtual assistant companies.

I currently maintain one virtual assistant client. My work with this client is a mix of administrative assistant, project manager, writer/editor, and social media management job duties.

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?

Some of the regular duties I perform as a virtual assistant include making and returning phone calls, digitally filing emails and documents, invoicing and creating expense reports, and inbox maintenance. Other responsibilities include booking flights, hotels, and restaurants, making appointments and scheduling meetings.

Many other virtual assistants offer some level of social media management, data entry, transcription or other tasks suited to their skillset.

If you work for yourself as a virtual assistant, you can set your own hours and decide which job duties you’d like to do and which ones you don’t.

Where to Find Virtual Assistant Jobs

Consider starting your own business

Most virtual assistant companies will have you work as a 1099 independent contractor. This means you’re a freelancer. You will not be provided healthcare or benefits. Some companies may offer to have you work as an remote employee which would give you whatever benefits that company offers to traditional employees.

If you’re going to work as an independent contractor, you may want to consider starting your own business to cut out the middle man and maximize your full earning potential. You can look into filing as an LLC, C Corp, or S Corp – each choice offers different tax benefits. My business, The Sturm Agency, is an S Corp.

How to get started

  • Build a website

You can hire someone to do this for you or you can use a premade template option like Squarespace. My professional website was created on Squarespace and I highly recommend the platform; my site was easy to make and looks beautiful. Squarespace offers easily to install ecommerce plugins that allow you to sell through your website. If you’d prefer to invoice and manage your business through another program, I’d suggest 17Hats. I use it for time-tracking, invoicing, and project management.

  • Create social media pages

At the very least, create a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page for your business. Consider each social channel a difference customer acquisition point. The same people on Facebook may not be on Twitter and vice versa. Your social media profiles should be updated with some frequency, but you can decide how often that should be. One to three times per week for a business page is good. You don’t want people to think you’re out of business, but you don’t need to fill people’s profiles with constant self promotion either.

  • Join some Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups

Search for freelancers or virtual assistants groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, join the groups and introduce yourself. One of the most active Facebook groups I belong to is the Freelance to Freedom Project Community. People regularly post business opportunities in groups that may not be listed anywhere else. You can also network with your fellow virtual assistants to share tips and tricks. If you have questions or encounter a situation you don’t know how to handle, you can ask for advice from other professionals who have been there.

  • Work with an established company

There are a number of established virtual assistant companies that you can work with (FancyHands, Zirtual, EAHelp). Most, if not all, will employ you as an independent contractor. If you’re concerned about how quickly you can get work, it may be a good idea to start with an established company because they will supply your clients. Keep in mind some companies will have you sign an agreement that you won’t create a competing business or poach clients.

Being a virtual assistant can be a very rewarding job. You will interact with people in many different roles in a variety of businesses. You will become knowledgeable in a multitude of fields, making you a Jack or Jill of all trades. You will be able to keep a flexible schedule and work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. You will be able to develop meaningful relationships with people that you may never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Whether you start you own business or work with an established company, being a virtual assistant is a fulfilling remote career option.

 

How To Choose The Right Client For You

During your freelancing career, you’ll work with many different clients. The great thing about this is you get to choose your clients! In a lot of ways, choosing a client is like choosing a friend or significant other. An ideal match should bring together two people with a shared interest in success, similar working styles, and equal amounts of trust on both sides. Ultimately, your goal should be maintaining long-term relationships with your clients. After all, good clients can be hard to find.

What Type of Client Are You Looking For?

Your working preferences should point you towards your ideal client. If you want to hold traditional 9-5 hours then working with a night owl entrepreneur may not make sense. If you want to work at any time of day then a CEO at a Fortune 500 may not be the best fit. In addition, it depends on the type of freelancing work you’re doing. If you’re a virtual assistant, you may need to have regular check-ins and be available all day on email; this may not be the case for a website designer.

Other facets to consider are a client’s communication and management styles. Some clients are hands-off while others are micromanagers. Some want to speak daily while others prefer shooting off weekly emails. Being aware of your preferences can help you find your ideal clients.

I don’t like talking on the phone. I can do it, and I have a professional and friendly demeanor that would not tip anyone off to the fact that I don’t like phone conversations, but being on the phone is my not favorite thing to do. Adding a loud toddler to the mix has only furthered my dislike. I express myself more clearly and succinctly in writing and I like having a paper trail that I can look back on and double check for accuracy and completion. Regular phone calls are not a deal breaker, but they are something I’d consider a “con” when choosing a client.

Finding Your Best Client Fit

There’s something special about finding the right client; someone who just gets you. You don’t have to worry that an email came off too brusque or that the client didn’t think your joke was funny. People that don’t make you feel like you have to be “on” are good fits for clients.

However, you are still running a business and delivering a service so you don’t want to be too casual. You’re not doing a favor for a friend, you’re being paid for your services and that deserves a certain level of professionalism.

My ideal client is tech-savvy and wants to communicate primarily over email, text, or messaging service. I prefer someone who can give me orders then trust that I’ll have the vision to carry them through. I prefer an easy-going personality and don’t like clients who try to make their urgency my emergency. I’ve found my best clients from a variety of sources.

When you’re choosing clients, two things are important to keep in mind.

Know Your Interests

If I have no interest in agriculture then I’m probably not going to look for a client who runs a family farm or sells pesticide. Although I’m confident that I could research the industry and gain a working knowledge over time, I would find absolutely no joy in it.

Time flies when you’re doing things that interest you. You should look for clients that are working in fields or industries that you feel a connection to. It’s tempting to grab whatever clients you can get when you’re just starting out, but that strategy will ultimately cost you time (and money!). If you have to do a lot of background work before you start the part of your job that you get paid to do, you’re going to make very little or even lose money. For example, if you need to research trends in industry X to write a blog post, because you have no familiarity with the industry, it may take three hours to pull together a few reputable references. A person who is already interested in the industry may be able to get their sources within 15 minutes. This could be the difference between making $100 per hour or $10.

Know Your Deal Breakers

Do you hate when people are late? Are you allergic to small talk? Knowing your deal breakers will give you a better sense of who your clients should be. Even when you work for yourself, you still have to work with and for other people. If you can’t get along or see eye-to-eye, you won’t be able to achieve your goals. Don’t waste precious time trying to force a relationship with a mismatched client. There is a client out there for everyone and you cannot be the best person for every job. If you keep your standards high, your profits will be too.

Clients are the lifeblood of your business. Although you can’t please everyone all the time, you have a much better chance of keeping clients and making them happy if you only work with people who are a good match. Take your time vetting potential clients before starting work together. You may not earn as much as someone who takes every client, but not having to work with difficult people is one of the greatest perks of being a freelancer and you can’t put a price on that.