How to choose your niche

How to decide what Virtual Assistant services to offer

When you first start out as a Virtual Assistant, you’ll 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 doing but, if you’re like I was when I first started and you haven’t, here’s a few things to think about that might help you work it out.

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

Because they’re often two different things!

You’ve probably gone freelance because your job just isn’t making you happy any longer and you want a more flexible work life – so don’t take on work that you don’t enjoy doing or prevents you from having the kind of lifestyle you’d envisioned.

This may sound obvious, but a lot of VAs just want to start earning money so they end up doing tasks they don’t really like, start to hate being a VA and don’t have a clue how to fix it. They’ve got clients they don’t want to let down, income coming in, and they’re so busy with work, home and other things (called Life) they don’t even have the time to rethink their situation.

Not good

Of course you need to bring home the bacon, but try to take on work you enjoy doing from the start, because I’m guessing that’s why you went freelance in the first place.

Click here to find out how to analyse your CV to work out your skill set and what your niche and services could be.

How do you want to work?

Think about whether you:

  • Want to go to people’s offices or whether you want to be completely virtual
  • Can or want to go to clients’ offices
  • Prefer to work with organised or chaotic creative types
  • Want ongoing tasks, would prefer more task-specific ones or are happy with a combo
  • Have any skills (such as event coordination or logo, newsletter or web design) that 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 my desk all day. I also don’t do sales calls as they make me uncomfortable and I also don’t want ongoing tasks that can potentially conflict with the nature of my event work either.

I like that I can  work from all over the world so I don’t want anything time or location specific.

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

  • Where you live and the opportunities available there
  • Whether you have family obligations (children or caring for elderly relatives)
  • Whether you own a car or even know how to drive
  • What your skills are
  • Any existing client work
  • How many hours you want to work
  • Your health
  • Your finances
  • 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

It’s been proven that too much choice makes people unhappy. A person offering 100 unrelated services can appear to be trying to be all things to all people – and who wants to buy from someone like that?

When you first start out as a Virtual Assistant it’s really tempting to offer every service under the sun but that means you don’t have a niche. 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.

Make yourself different.

So try to have a niche service in addition to offering regular admin and business support because you’ll see a much better rate of return and you’ll like working more. By specialising, people understand what you actually do, you’ll be seen as the go-to specialist in that area, and when they need your service they’ll either hire you or be able to refer you to someone who does.

Most new VAs offer what they think people will want but that’s the wrong way around. If you offer the things you know how to do, are good at, like doing, and want to keep doing then both you and your clients will always be happy.

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 ideally 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 mark – and I completely agree with him.

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

Revise and refine

Because one of my first clients hired me to look after their financial records, I listed bookkeeping as one of my services. I’m not a trained bookkeeper, I wasn’t charging professional bookkeeping rates, and I wasn’t telling clients that I was qualified (so they didn’t mind and would hire me – there is a lot of demand for this service by the way) they simply 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 like book-keeping…

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

Simple.

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 doing things I do enjoy.

(I actually go out and find my own clients instead of waiting for them to find me. I have a method that works every time I use it and is now the only thing I do when I want a new client. Find out more here.)

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 a niche.

Conclusion

Only you know what you’re good at and how you want your working life to be. You might know exactly what services to offer because you’ve been working in that industry or niche area already, or you might just have to offer some general admin services, see what happens and adapt after you see whether you like doing them, there’s a need for them, whether they fit in with other work you have and if they suit you.

Just make sure that your services DO work for you because there’s no point in being a Virtual Assistant if you hate the tasks people give you!

My DIY VA course covers all this and everything else you need to set up your own VA business

7 Comments

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

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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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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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