How to decide on your VA niche

How to choose your Virtual Assistant niche

Although I believe every Virtual Assistant should have a niche, I know it’s not always quite that easy. Having a specialised area of expertise certainly makes you known as the ‘go-to’ person and leads to more work, but when you first start out how on earth do you decide what your VA niche should even be? 

My story

When I first started as a VA I read 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 took what I was offered.

After a while I noticed that I found certain tasks more enjoyable than others and that some worked for me more than others. They fitted around other jobs and were either extremely interesting or quite easy so I could mix and match them all and give my brain a rest.

I also liked tasks that didn’t need me to be in front of my laptop all day as I wanted to be 100% virtual.

I knew I didn’t much like doing expenses as they were a bit of a faff, but that I loved social media and research tasks as they played on my personal interests. I also noticed that I was also helping people with more ‘techie tasks’ like Gmail, syncing things and using online tools and apps.

People said they knew by my Tweets and blog posts that I ‘knew my stuff’ so would come to me for advice.

I still didn’t think I had a niche though…

One day I noticed all my clients were consultants and freelancers so I then defined myself as someone who offered support to those types of people.

Later, after taking on even more different types of tasks, my niche narrowed as I discovered I preferred ‘projects’ instead of regular work that tied me to a set routine and that I particularly loved doing research and analysis for Social Media Consultants and Digital Marketers.

So that became my new niche.

Making that connection provided me with a target market who I could then actively seek out. I could now target them directly rather than accept any enquiry that came my way.

Discovering my niche changed my career. 

So although I found my niche in the end, I set up my business and happily earned money for quite a while just doing admin stuff without having a particular speciality or niche. Then I got one. Then I changed it and then I changed it yet again.

And, although everything worked out fine in the end, if I’d found my niche sooner, I could have made much more money and had happier, more fulfilling work.

How to find your nicheThere are many different types of Virtual Assistants

I know an extremely busy ‘traditional’ VA who isn’t particularly virtual at all as she goes to company offices to take minutes – she is the only woman in the area who knows how to do this and she has more work offering this one service than she can handle.

I know another VA who specialises in e-publishing and Kindle work and loves working for chaotic creative women, I know another one who solely works for the creative industries and I know another one who sets up techie course delivery stuff for online coaches.

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 because I know I’ll be unhappy after a while.

So one size does NOT fit all and you don’t have to decide on your niche now but finding it will make your entire business better.

You actually already have a niche

Unless you’ve never worked a day in your life then you already have a speciality niche but you just can’t see it.

Your niche could be the services you offer, the types of clients you work for, or the industry you work in – or a combination of all of them!

How to work out your niche

  1. Look at your existing skill set and what industries you’ve worked in.
  2. Think about what you know how to do, what you do best, what you like doing (this is REALLY important – nobody leaves their job to do work they hate), and what you want to keep doing.
  3. Then think about who would want those skills.

Look at your career history and skills and target people in that area. If your background is HR, medicine or education (for example) then look at other people such as third party consultants or contractors who also serve your industry.

Most people get work through people they already know so that’s definitely the best place to start.

Example: I have a friend called Kate who by definition is a VA, yet she doesn’t even have a website nor does she market herself online.  She has plenty of work because her sister is a doctor who one day asked Kate to type up her notes for her.

The other doctors found out about this and Kate now does a couple of hours work each night when her children are asleep. She doesn’t need a website, a business card or to market herself because she has loads of work coming in.

So Kate got work through people she already knew.

Also, remember that your speciality/niche isn’t usually the only service you offer, but is in addition to general admin and business support services.

Suck it and see then adapt

It’s vital that you remain open to changes so you can adapt as your career progresses. I could never do what I do now when I first left my job as I didn’t have the skill set. I had a personal interest in social media and over time I learned more and tweaked my business, services and target client as I went along.

You might find that a client shows you how to do a new task  such as newsletters, SEO or blogging for example, you might then discover you’re amazing at it and you love doing it and BOOM! you’ve suddenly got a whole new skill set and possibly a new niche.

Conclusion

Don’t worry if you don’t have a niche straight away and don’t wait until you’ve decided on one before you get going or you’ll never start. But having a speciality means you’ll be seen by potential clients and other VAs as the go-to person in that field and that definitely leads to better and more enjoyable work.

My DIY VA course trainees and other people in the VA Handbookers Facebook group are always telling me that as soon as they found a niche for themselves, it opened up their career in ways they hadn’t expected.

Resources and action

* My popular, fail-proof 3-part series shows you exactly how to use your CV to work out your skills, niche, services and who could hire you. This series also makes up the first part of the DIY VA course which is how I know it works!

* Read some of my interviews with established VAs to see how they got started and how they decided on their niche.

* Read my post on the 3 best ways to find your first client.

* Stop dreaming about becoming a Virtual Assistant and actually make it happen!

17 Comments

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
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 ?

Reply
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

Reply
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.

Reply
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?

Reply
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

Reply
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.

Reply
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

Reply
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.

Reply
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

Reply
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.

Reply
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.

Reply
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”?

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *