How to choose your niche

How to decide what Virtual Assistant services to offer

When you first become a Virtual Assistant, you need to have a good think about what services you want to provide. If you’ve already decided on your niche then you’ll know exactly what your chosen target market needs help with but if you haven’t, here are a few things to think about that should help you decide what services to offer your clients.

Questions to ask yourself when deciding what Virtual Assistant services to offer

Because the answer to “who do you want to work with and what can you do?” isn’t actually “everybody and everything”, it really helps if you know what it is you do and who you do it for.

Here are a few questions to help you clarify your offering.

What are you good at and what do you like doing?

Because they’re often two very different things!

It’s highly likely that you became a Virtual Assistant because your job wasn’t making you happy any longer and you wanted a more flexible working life. So don’t take on work you don’t enjoy doing or that prevents you from having the kind of lifestyle you want.

I know this advice may sound obvious, but because many VAs need to start earning money, they say yes to every enquiry that comes their way – whether they can do the task or not – they’re not doing work they enjoy and they start to become despondent and unmotivated.

While they may have income coming in, they’re unhappy and because they’re then too busy juggling (unenjoyable low-paying) work and family responsibilities, they don’t have the time to rethink their situation.

They’re also scared to be without work which means they end up in the same unhappy position as when they were employed.

Not good

Of course, you need to bring home the bacon, but taking on work you enjoy doing from the start will ensure you end up loving your new career – which is the reason you went freelance in the first place.

How do you want to work?

Have a think about whether you:

  • Want to go to clients’ offices or whether you’d prefer to be completely virtual.
  • Prefer working with very organised people who know what they want or if you like whipping chaotic “creative” types into shape.
  • Want ongoing tasks that need to be completed every day (such as diary and email management) or prefer more deadline focused tasks. Or a combination of both.
  • Want to be deeply involved in helping your client run their business day to day (almost like a traditional PA – thinking for them and helping them plan) or if you’d prefer clients who simply give you tasks but don’t require much hand-holding.
  • Have any niche skills (such as event coordination or logo, newsletter or web design) you can charge a project rate for rather than an hourly rate.

I personally like being location-independent so I only take on tasks that don’t tie me to a desk all day and I also don’t do sales calls as they make me uncomfortable.

Obviously, the tasks you decide to take on will depend on your circumstances and other factors such as:

  • Family obligations such as childcare and/or caring for elderly relatives.
  • Whether you own a car or know how to drive.
  • Your skillset and experience.
  • Your existing client work.
  • The income you’re aiming for.
  • The number of hours you want to work.
  • Your health.
  • A million other things.

Make sure that the tasks you take on work for you because versatility really is the best thing about being a Virtual Assistant!

Keep it simple

When you first start out it can be really tempting to offer every service under the sun.

But if you can help everybody, you’re suddenly competing with every other VA who claims to do the same and you’re then only competing on price – which you’ll never win without bankrupting yourself.

Also, a Virtual Assistant offering 50 unrelated services is trying to be all things to all people – and who wants to buy from someone like that?

I recommend having a niche service in addition to your regular admin and business support services because you’ll not only see a much better rate of return, but you’ll also like your job more.

When you specialise, clients understand what you actually do, you’re seen as the go-to specialist in that particular area, and when someone needs that service they’ll come to you.

Most new Virtual Assistants offer what they think clients will want but that’s the wrong way around.

If you offer things you know how to do, are good at doing, like doing, and want to keep doing then you and your clients will always be happy bunnies.

Suck it and see

I actually didn’t keep it simple when I first set up. I offered services that I thought people would want but what they actually wanted was different – so my services developed over time until I eventually had a niche.

It was a backward way of doing it and I recommend the niche approach from the start but, if you’re still not too sure of your niche, offer the things you know how to do and general admin/organisation/lifestyle tasks and adjust them depending on the response.

You don’t have to set a fixed timescale for this – just try stuff out, see what happens and remain flexible to change.

There’s a great book called ‘How to get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be‘ by Jack Canfield (I read this then set up my business within a week) where he likens starting projects to firing an arrow.

Everyone spends so long agonising over the ‘Ready, Aim’ bit that they never get around to Firing! He says to just shoot at the target then re-adjust if you’re slightly off the mark – and I completely agree with him.

If you wait until everything’s perfect then you’ll never set up your business.

Revise and refine

Because one of my first clients hired me to look after their financial records, I listed expenses management as one of my services.

I’m not a trained bookkeeper, I wasn’t advertising myself as such and I wasn’t telling clients that I was qualified. Clients just needed their expenses sorting into some kind of system and I either created this system or maintained the one they already had.

The problem was that I didn’t particularly enjoy doing it.

As mentioned, over time I’d discovered that I prefer projects rather than ongoing tasks and I also liked to work remotely – so this task wasn’t floating my boat AT ALL. So I stopped offering it as a service, removed it from my LinkedIn skills and removed the testimonials from my website.

Even though I might have lost out on some work, I didn’t like doing the task and money isn’t a big enough motivator for me when I can get paid to do things that I do enjoy.

Try new things

Occasionally a client would ask if I knew how to use a certain system or do a specific task – and I didn’t. This was never a problem and they just showed me how to use the system or do the task – then suddenly…

BOOM! I had a new skill.

Sometimes this new skill turned out to be something I loved doing so I learned more about it and then became really good at it – and then I was able to offer it as a service or even turn it into one of my niches.

Conclusion

When it comes to deciding which Virtual Assistant services to offer, you might already have a good idea because you’ve been working in that industry or niche area already.

However, if you’re not sure then I suggest that you start out by offering general business support and then move into a niche later on once you have a little more experience under your belt.

Just make sure that your services work for you because if you hate the tasks you’re doing, you’ll be no better off working for yourself as a Virtual Assistant than you were in full-time employment.

Remember, you run the show now doll, so you get to decide what you want to spend your time doing!


Ready to set up your business?

If you’re done researching and just want to get going then maybe it’s time to enrol in my DIY VA course.

You get lifetime access and I support you throughout the entire process – I even help you work out what services to offer!

FIND OUT MORE

14 Comments

Kachiri

I am thinking of creating a website to offer my services, but I can’t afford to buy a customized domain and I don’t have a credit card. Do you have suggestions on any free website creator that will still be professional. I am thinking of using Wix, but I will have to use the free version.

Reply
Paul Finch

Thanks Joanne
A hugely helpful article, that has certainly started me thinking about how I can adjust my website to better promote the niche that I want to fill, but didn’t think I should!

The original article was written a little while ago it seems and I’d note that bookkeeping has since fallen into money laundering regulations and it’s no longer possible to offer it (unqualified) as a VA, without fulfilling certain additional criteria.
There’s a useful article on .gov which talks in detail about VA’s and bookkeeping
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/money-laundering-regulations-accountancy-service-provider-registration

Reply
Titilola Fashina

Thanks for this piece, really makes sense to me. My specialist area is Data, but i do struggle to write that in VA speak world.
I will take the doing what you love approach, gives me clarity.

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Ruth Dunnng

Hi I am currently undertaking a book keeping course so am I able to add this to what I can offer, obviously I won’t put that I am qualified until I have completed the course.

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Joanne Munro

Hi Ruth, yes, you can add this to your services, however, I do know that Bookkeepers charge a lower hourly rate than VAs. VAs charge £25+ an hour and Bookkeepers usually charge around £15+, apparently. You could charge £25 for it though, of course.

So I would either add Bookkeeping to a separate services page (Have a services tab which drops down into different distinct category sub-pages – but no more than 3). Or you could consider creating a one-page mini-site just for bookkeeping work.

I suggest you also ask in the VA Handbookers Facebook group whether any other VAs also offer Bookkeeping and how they charge and showcase the service on their site.

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Caroline McPhail

Thanks for all the great articles on your website. They have really inspired me and I am starting my own business on Thursday after taking voluntary redundancy, so here goes!!

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Erica

I served as a secretary for my former church. I was even the MSA (member service aid) at a Boys and Girls Club for several years. I did those two simultaneously. And I really loved what I did. I have been thinking about becoming a virtual assistant for a while. A few years actually. At the time I first thought about it, I wasn’t sure it such a thing existed, but thought it was a really good idea. I just never really looked into it. I decided to do that today and came across your website. Now, I’m even more encouraged and excited about taking on the endeavor as I am already a SAHM, running a business as a Licensed Cosmetologist from home. It’s been slow in building so I’m looking into other endeavors that I love to do that I can build my own business from. I really believe that after I lost my job in 2012, that God wanted me to go into business for myself. So, I’m excited about this. Your website has been very helpful. I haven’t been able to leave since finding you. And I definitely will be coming back.

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Sarah Bowles

I have just starting considering being a VA, having been a PA prior to children. Your website has been very useful and given me a lot to think about. I hope I can make it work.. …but what’s my niche?!!!

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Joanne Munro

Good to hear you’re considering setting up your own VA business and you’ve found the site useful so far. Have you read the blog posts on finding your niche yet?

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Carmen MacDougall

Sarah one suggestion I give to PAs on my VA training is not to worry too much if you cannot come up with a niche immediately. It is very important to stand out and you can achieve that with a clear message for your ideal client. I get my students to create an avatar and describe everything they can about that person. It means they can understand what their specific challenges and concerns are, as well as what their important goals are. This helps you to get clear with your sales and marketing. You will find you will naturally attract certain businesses and your niche could find you. Good luck

Reply

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