How to decide on your VA niche

How to work out your Virtual Assistant niche

Having a niche comes with numerous benefits not least because it’s far better to be the irreplaceable Virtual Assistant whose clients would pay anything rather than lose, than the average do-it-all VA who can be easily interchanged with another one. I know for a fact that you have an area of expertise in your repertoire, so let me help you work out what it is.

Simply put, a niche is just something you already know how to do and are good at – an area of expertise. After years of employment, you will possess more than one area of expertise.

Having a niche (or niches) is beneficial for many reasons:

  • You will never worry that you can’t do a task
  • You will always be able to explain what you do and how you can help
  • Clients can see you love what you do and are confident in your abilities
  • People like to hire someone who knows what they’re doing!
  • Marketing becomes easy because you know exactly what type of client you are looking for
  • You will be known as the superstar stand-out VA who is constantly recommended
  • Clients will see you as a valuable resource and consider you irreplaceable

My story

When I first started out as a VA I read somewhere that I should have a niche – but I had no idea what it could be so I didn’t do anything except look for work and earn money. My website said I offered admin support and that was that.

I just took whatever work I was offered.

After a while, I noticed that I preferred certain tasks and clients more than others. I liked very organised clients (and hated working with scatty ones) and, because I wanted to eventually travel, I liked project-based tasks that I could do whenever I wanted.

I didn’t particularly like doing expenses and I hated call-answering, but I loved social media and research as they played on my personal interests. I also noticed that I enjoyed helping people with ‘techie tasks’ such as syncing and importing emails in Gmail as well as setting up landing pages, newsletters and autoresponders.

I still wouldn’t say that I had a clear niche, though.

One day I realised that all my clients were consultants and solo business owners so I defined myself as someone who offered support to those types of people. I then decided that my niche was techie tasks for organised but time-poor consultants.

It was only after being referred to a global social media strategist to undertake research and analysis for her clients that I hit my personal jackpot. I simply adored the work she gave me and knew I’d be happy doing it all day long.

So that’s what I decided to do.

Once I was comfortable with her tasks, I contacted more social media strategists and consultants as well as digital marketers as they also needed the same tasks completing. After a short while, I had many more testimonials and case studies that showed how good I was to even more prospects.

I swapped my old clients out for the new ones by identifying, qualifying and contacting the people I wanted to work for directly using the carefully-honed method I now teach in this guide and stopped accepting every enquiry that came my way.

Discovering my niche changed my career. 

Although everything eventually worked out fine, I could have definitely made more money and wouldn’t have spent as much time struggling to find work or taking everything I was offered if I’d identified my niche sooner.

How to find your nicheThere are many types of Virtual Assistant

I know an extremely busy traditional PA who specialises in taking minutes for meetings. She is the only woman in the area who offers this on a freelance basis and she has more work than she can handle. She loves the work and is incredible at it.

I know another VA who specialises in e-publishing and Kindle work and prefers to work with chaotic creatives, one who solely works with freelance doctors and another who predominantly helps coaches set up online courses.

If I get enquiries for tasks that I don’t know how to do (or don’t like doing) then I refer them to a more suitable VA and they do the same. The thought of disorganised messy creative types brings me out in a cold sweat actually *shudders* so I don’t take them on as clients.

One size does not fit all and there are as many types of VAs as there are businesses.

But identifying your own preferences and any areas of expertise will make a big difference to your happiness and success and it also makes it far easier for your ideal client to find and hire you. 

Clients love experts

Personally, I’d always hire someone who really knows what they’re doing rather than an ‘all rounder’ who might turn out to be average at everything. I have a very techie business so I need a VA who knows their way around online tools – or who at the very least isn’t afraid of technology.

Yes, I could show them how to use my systems (and I do) but a director-level EA who specialises in travel and diary management, isn’t suitable for what I need – and I wouldn’t be a good match for them either.

Even though many VAs offer social media, I’d choose someone who knows the different platforms inside out, has an impeccable online presence and who can measure ROI and other metrics. I want someone who really knows this subject and I am more than happy to pay extra for their expertise.

Some clients will use more than one VA.

It’s worth knowing that many business owners often have a ‘regular’ VA for the day to day running of their business but will engage a more expensive techie VA to undertake specialist tasks such as setting up an online course platform or creating a landing page with opt-in boxes that deliver a lead magnet and automatically add and tag the subscriber in their email autoresponder sequence.

And I know this because I’m the VA they hire to do it!

Unless their regular day-to-day VA is actively invested in the success of their business and goes out of their way to suggest ideas and help make their business stronger, they could easily be replaced by any other ‘general’ VA.

But, imagine if you were a VA with general admin skills AND some in-demand techie abilities… you’ll find it much easier to find work and will always be an irreplaceable asset to your clients.

You will already have a niche

Unless you’ve never worked a day in your life, you already have AT LEAST one area of expertise – you just can’t see what it is yet.

A niche (which is basically things you already know and have experience of) fall under the three main categories of tasks, people and industry.

  1. The tasks you know how to do: newsletters, minutes, landing pages, events and project management, transcription, website support, social media, creating systems, specialist report writing etc.
  2. The types of people you do (or have done) the tasks for: coaches, HNWIs, creatives, consultants, trainers, directors, agencies, authors, speakers, marketers, event organisers etc.
  3. The industries you have worked in: the arts, education, healthcare, manufacturing, HR, events, finance etc.
  4. A combination of these things – because you will definitely have more than one area of expertise.

How to work out your own individual specific niche/s is covered in great detail in the niche section of my DIY VA course. I also help my trainees identify their niche and who they can work with via one-to-one calls.

You will have more than one niche

Remember, a niche is just something you already know how to do and are very good at. For example, you may have director-level experience, are brilliant at event support and have worked for many years in the finance sector.

Therefore, you have at least three niches.

You could stick to one incredibly specific niche and offer event support to executives in the finance sector but it would make more sense to spread the risk and increase the chances of being hired by marketing yourself as a director-level VA AND offering event support to freelance event managers AND working with businesses who work in or alongside the finance sector.

Having more than one area of expertise does mean that you’ll need to adapt your marketing depending on who you’re targeting though. Where you find and engage them will vary depending on what they do, but you might find certain prospects in Facebook groups, some would be better contacted via my direct marketing method and others might be found at industry-specific expos or tradeshows.

You may also find it prudent to create different categories or pages for your different services on your website so you can direct prospects to the page most relevant to them. Any testimonials for that specific service would then be added to the correlating page.

You still need to diversify

Your niche/s shouldn’t be the only services you offer but should always be offered in addition to regular business support. I mean, of course this makes sense – if you were a VA who was incredible at making websites then you’d earn far more money as a web developer!

Spread it out.

Niches are fantastic but it’s important to have clients across a variety of industries in order to future-proof your business. VAs who had all their clients in one impacted industry during the Covid-19 shutdown for example suddenly found themselves desperately scrambling for new ones.

Clients are not for life, and if you put all your eggs in one basket and the basket explodes, you’ll have egg all over your face.

Some niches are more lucrative

Although the services you offer should always be things you are good at and enjoy doing, you also need to make a decent income.

The Covid-19 lockdown saw techie VAs massively in demand and rushed off their feet whereas it was the more traditional PAs who had to take rapid action to find more work. Small businesses needed to quickly pivot to online working and the tech-savvy VAs were able to immediately present viable ideas and then swiftly implement them.

Although it now seems quite obvious, because Covid-19 was a unique event that had never happened before, it was only when the lockdown occurred that VAs discovered how vital it was to have an understanding of virtual technology and knowledge of online solutions.

Tech skills will always work in your favour.

There are many examples of tech tasks in the blog post in my “Coronavirus and Little Ships” post but creating newsletters and virtual training solutions were popular requests.

I have a Resources page containing a number of useful apps and tools as well as many free and paid courses that will help you brush up and add to your skillset.

You can always move sideways

Don’t worry if you have zero interest in specialising in the things you already know. You don’t have to take everything from your employed career into your freelance career, but I advise you to at least begin with who and what you know (the low hanging fruit) and then move slowly sideways into a different niche later.

For example, if you have worked for years in finance but you ideally want clients in the wellness sector, it makes sense to work with people you already know in the finance industry whilst you research and make contacts in the wellness sector.

Start with what you know.

By starting with what (and who) you already know, your confidence will grow, you’ll bring in money and you’ll gain valuable experience in managing clients and running a business. If you do it this way, you’ll have an operational business while you build connections, figure out what tasks your ideal market needs doing and ascertain if that niche is even viable.

You might also move into another niche by accident. Sometimes a client will show you how to do a really enjoyable task, over time you become familiar with the process and then one day you realise you’re proficient and feel comfortable offering it as a service.

This is why it’s vital that you remain open to change and regularly review your skills so you can adapt as your career progresses. I could never do what I do now when I first started out because I didn’t have the technical skills. But I had a personal interest in social media and as I became more proficient and confident, I tweaked my services, content, marketing and ideal client to reflect this.

Conclusion

Don’t worry if you don’t see your niche straight away and don’t fixate on it or you’ll never start – just go with what you know.

However, I promise that discovering your specialist areas of expertise will lead to better-paid and more enjoyable work and benefit your business in more ways than you can possibly imagine.

32 Comments

Joanne A

Very helpful. Thank you. I feel better about starting my VA business now.

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Joanne Ransom

Hi Joanne, some great tips here. I am hoping to start up as a VA and would like to offer travel booking and event organisation as part of my service. However, I am a little unclear as to how payment would work for this type of service. For example, would I need to pay the costs and claim back from the client when invoicing? Finally, please can you recommend any free online tools to help VAs with travel/event booking? Thank you very much in advance.

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Joanne Munro

Hi Joanne, great questions but ones that would be best to ask in my VA Handbookers Facebook group as I don’t offer travel services and the questions have been asked a few times before.

Usually, the client either gives you their card details or sets you up with a company card. Sometimes they just want quotes and twill then make the booking themself – never pay for anything out of your own pocket in case the client fails to pay you! I don’t know about the tools as I don’t offer this as a service but plenty of VAs do and they can give you some options in the Facebook group. x

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Melanie

I am in the very early stage of becoming a VA, literally days, I’m currently a Senior Administrator in a Primary School. I’ve hit a dead end and have been looking for a way to move on for a while. Covid-19 lockdown, while completing my admin role from home, highlighted to me how flexible my skills are and that I do not need to be sat in an office to use my skills set. I just do not know what I need to do first to find clients etc. I’m sure I have a niche but just need to work out what it is. I really want this to work for me so any pointers would be gratefully received. Thank you. Mel

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Joanne Munro

Hi Melanie, I have a number of posts on marketing as well as a free mini marketing course. I would start with the Marketing and Finding work category of the site (in the right-hand side sidebar) and sign up to my free marketing course at http://www.munrocourses.com

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Lucy Hinojosa

I really like your post. It is all very encouraging. I feel I have much to offer, 11 years being a nurse in different fields including private and agency organising my own schedules and time. Prior to that, I spent years organizing peoples flight and travel itineraries both pleasure and business. I can do more than basic admin, but might start out with that just to find a feel. I could then branch out into medical fields. There must be clients out there who would be happy with me. Hopefully the Facebook closed groups I am starting to join will give me more ideas.

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yassine moussa

thank you. I would ask you if it is possible to be a VA if you are not good at English

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Rachael

Hello!
Came across this article after searching “Finding my niche as a virtual assistant.” And after being in business for almost two years, I do not think I have my niche. I have clients that need monthly virtual administrative support. But I think my true passion is helping those same clients execute proper delegation of those tasks that they have me complete. Now I find my work fun to say the least but I have continued to have this pull to help others with how they can benefit from learning AND executing their Google Apps. I can’t tell you how many family, friends, and clients reach out to me to help them. Now, while I can’t coin the term as a Google expert, I want to narrow it down to help and make some money. I will keep working on my niche but I just wanted to thank you for this article!

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Joanne Munro

Thank you for your comment Rachael! You don’t necessarily NEED to have a niche, it just helps to identify areas of expertise (especially when starting out) that you can leverage and charge more for in addition to your admin services. These ‘niches’ usually reflect what the VA did as part of their career before they went freelance. Looking at your website however, it looks like social media and tech services might be one of your niches!

A niche could also be the type of clients you work with (I like very organised yet busy people, and not chaotic types) as well as the industry or types of tasks you undertake. Sometimes your specialised area becomes apparent after a while, but you don’t need to have a niche to be a successful VA. x

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Rachael

I’ve been wanting to become a VA for a while now but the more I read the more disheartened I get. I was so excited to begin with (probably being a bit naive had something to do with it), but now I just want to give up. I read over and over and over about finding a niche, but I don’t have one and don’t know what mine could be. I work in a bank, that isn’t a skill that could translate into becoming virtual! I don’t know what to do, I’m so upset 🙁

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Joanne Munro

Don’t get upset and don’t worry about it. VAs are freelance administrators; they are professional organisers. You’re just helping someone with their admin – it isn’t rocket science! My background was events and hospitality. Just offer admin services to busy small business owners and have your niche as your local area until you niche down. A niche can be the types of people you work with but it’s usually the types of services you offer. It’s not a huge deal my lovely. Plus you work in the financial sector so start brainstorming people who work in or alongside that industry – financial consultants etc. x

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Caroline

What do you mean by “suck it and see then adapt”?
Wondering if this is a typo and you mean, “try it and see”?

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Vanessa Datu

I found this site very helpful for an aspiring VA like me. I’ve worked as an IT professor for 5 years, then as a Technical Trainer for a multinational company for a year. My last job was as a branch manager for 6 years, a Japan-based company which also offers travel services. I am now seriously considering of finding a home-based job as a VA. But then, I do not know how to start. It’s like rebuilding a career all over again. I am confident regarding my knowledge, capabilities, and experience but then I do not know how I will be able to market these skills to clients. I’ve been reading lately regarding “finding your niche” and VA jobs. I hope very soon I’ll be able to start my VA job, and find a lot of help from sites and pages like this. Thank you very much.

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Joanne Munro

Hi Vanessa, I would suggest reading the ‘Marketing and Finding Work’ category in the sidebar (or at the bottom if you’re looking at the site on your phone) as well as signing up to one of my email sequences here. You definitely have the skills.

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Tanya

Hi Joanne, thanks for this post. You have given me hope. I have toyed with the idea of being a VA for the better part of a year now and now need to take the leap. Unfortunately the course is little too expensive at this stage but I am taking notes from all your blog posts. I really am looking forward to going forward. Tanya

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Ivy

I like the advice. Suck it up and see then adapt. I thought it was the end for me when I got hired as an ecommerce virtual assistant which was not my strength at all. My boss had all the patience in the world and had me working for him tirelessly for 2 years now. Until now, I am still learning.

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Nichole

Thank you for sharing this story. I have been flirting with the idea of becoming a VA for the last 7 years. Up until last year my life was really a roller-coaster so I was not ready. For years I was also working on my BA in web development, but could no longer afford both school and my family. Over the past year I have been focusing on creating a web design business, but found thats not what I really want to spend everyday doing. I realized I can do it sometimes to satisfy that interest I have for it, but I can also do other creative things like photo and video editing, blogging, marketing and typical admin duties so I do not get burnt out (which is my biggest struggle since I love working). I have always been an entrepreneur, I had my first business when I was 8 selling things I made door to door, eventually around 11 yrs old I started a neighborhood lawn care and babysitting business where my friends worked for me as I set the appointments and did the “marketing”. Those were always some of my favorite childhood memories. So I find myself now self training in marketing, SEO, and brushing up my skills in business management and most of the Adobe CC apps. My ebook & training library has taken at least 300GB of space. I feel so passionate about learning and becoming successful that I stay up all night trying to grow my skills. So I am truly thankful for business minded professionals who can share their stories to help inspire and motivate business minded newbies like me.

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Joanne Munro

That’s fantastic! It sounds like you have a whole lot of desirable skills that would be valuable to clients – especially the web design, marketing, SEO and other techie stuff. The great thing about being a VA is that you get to mix up what you do so you don’t get bored of doing the same things all day. You might even have a Scanner Personality like I do – read Barbara Sher’s book “Refuse to Choose” to see. I bet you are.

Thanks for the comment and sharing your story – I look forward to hearing how you get on! x

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Joan

Joanne, thanks for sharing all of this great info! You mentioned that in the past you’ve gotten assignments you weren’t sure how to do, but your client showed you and you wound up learning something new, were those happy accidents?

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Joanne Munro

Hi Joan, yes they were very happy accidents! The interesting thing is that often people will just Google ‘Virtual Assistant’ then call you without even looking at your website. Then, when you speak to them, they like you and want you to do the work even though you’re honest about your limited capabilities in that area. They’re usually very happy to show you what to do (they just don’t have the time to do it) and POW! you now have a new skill.

I’m actually working with 2 experts I know to offer you guys info on SEO, email marketing and how to build a WordPress website in a day. They’ll be low-cost products but they’ll not only show YOU how to do something, you’ll also be able to offer them as services afterwards. I’m pretty excited about them actually, these are people who really know their stuff and are happy to provide the content to my readers. x

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TOYO Tony

Great post! A virtual assistant generally can do most admin tasks but it definitely helps to determine what your specific skills are. This leaves room for you to make relevant changes to your website, social media profiles and business cards/adverts, and can separate you from the rest of the Virtual Assistants out there.

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Alexandra Elcombe

I am in the beginning of my ‘start-up’ VA Business. It is very difficult when you have not worked for anyone in the town. I am joining Forums and VA sites,but still nothing at all. THis is harder than I thought. After 24 years in Admin work which I am so passionate about,it’s becoming such a downer to seek work everyday I loose faith,any advice on where I could start ?

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Joanne Munro

Hi Alexandra, Well done for going freelance but you’re thinking a little small – being virtual means you can work for anyone in the world! Don ‘t limit yourself to your town but think bigger. You’re not going to find clients on VA sites and forums – they’re in different places. You need to think WHO is my target client and WHERE can I find them. I tell you exactly how to get new clients in my guide – you have to donate some money but it’s very reasonable and it’s the only method I use to get new clients. If you apply the method you WILL get clients as it works for me every time.

So think bigger Alexandra and move outside your town! x

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Mirna Bajraj

Joanne,
I liked this post very much. I totally agree with you that it is not so easy to decide what is your niche, not even if you have been developing this activity for a while like me. I started my practice in 2009, have a good bunch of retainer clients that belong to different industries. So it is not easy for me to say which is my niche. I could say that all of them are freelancers and work alone. The positive side of not having a specific niche, however, is the fact that as my clients work in different industries, I deal with many different topics which makes my job very interesting and fun. I can assure that I don’t get bored at all!
I know that narrowing my target niche might help me get more clients. Well, this is something I haven’t accomplished yet…. 🙂

Reply

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