Having a Virtual Assistant niche comes with numerous benefits not least because you want to be the irreplaceable VA whose clients would pay anything rather than lose, than an average do-it-all VA who can be easily interchanged with a cheaper one. You definitely have an area of expertise in your repertoire, so let me help you work out what it is!
How to work out your Virtual Assistant niche
I’ll start by saying that many (okay, pretty much all) new Virtual Assistants get totally hung up on the whole niche thing. They think they have to focus on just one thing and that if they don’t have a niche then they won’t get any work.
These assumptions are false.
Because niches can be a confusing subject, let’s dive down into what a niche is, whether you need one, and how to find out what yours might be.
What is a niche and do I need one?
Simply put, a niche is just something you already know how to do and are good at – an area of expertise if you will – and the great news is that, after numerous years in employment, you will definitely possess more than one.
Having a niche/set of niches will be beneficial for your Virtual Assistant business in a few ways:
- You will always know how to do the job and won’t worry that you can’t do what is asked of you.
- You will know exactly how long a task will take which means you can provide an accurate quote.
- You can easily explain what you do and how you can add value.
- Clients will see you’re confident in your skillset and ability and won’t worry they’ve hired someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
- Because you already know how to do the task, you’ll never suffer from Impostor Syndrome.
- Your experience means you can offer insider advice and solutions the client may not have thought of or even knew existed.
- Marketing is easy because you will know what you’re looking for and where to find it.
- You will become the go-to VA for that niche.
- Clients will see you as a valuable resource and consider you an irreplaceable asset.
As you can see, offering things that you already know how to do comes with a plethora of perks!
How my own niche came about
When I first started out as a Virtual Assistant I read somewhere that I should have a niche. However, even though I had been working in events for years (blind, much?) I had no idea what it could be so I didn’t do anything except look for work and try to earn some money.
My website said I offered admin and event support and that was that.
I pretty much just took whatever work I was offered.
After a while, I noticed that I preferred certain tasks and clients more than others. I realised that I liked very organised clients (and hated working with scatty ones) and, because I wanted to eventually travel, I preferred 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 aligned with my personal interests.
I also noticed that I liked helping people with ‘techie tasks’ such as syncing and importing emails in Gmail as well as setting up landing pages, newsletters and autoresponders. I had picked up these skills via clients and in my free time and really enjoyed them.
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 extremely 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 the 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 started contacting other social media strategists, consultants and digital marketers to explain that I worked with people just like them and what I could help them with.
Gradually, I swapped out my uninteresting clients out for shiny new ones by identifying, qualifying and then contacting the people I wanted to work for using the carefully-honed method I now teach in this guide and I stopped accepting every enquiry that came my way.
I can honestly say that discovering my niche supercharged my business.
Although everything worked out fine in the end, I could have definitely made more money if I’d identified my niche sooner.
I also wouldn’t have spent so much time struggling to find work or taking on every task I was offered. Doing this was actually detrimental to my business as I felt as if I was at the mercy of others – which I was.
There are many types of Virtual Assistant
I know an extremely busy traditional PA who specialises in taking minutes for meetings. She is the only person in her area who offers this service on a freelance basis and she has more work than she can handle.
I know another Virtual Assistant who specialises in e-publishing and Kindle tasks and prefers to work with chaotic creatives, one who solely works with freelance doctors, and another one who loves setting up online courses for coaches.
If I get enquiries for tasks that I don’t know how to do or don’t enjoy 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 Virtual Assistants as there are businesses.
But identifying your own preferences and any personal areas of expertise will make a big difference to your happiness and success and will make 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.
Yes, I could show them how to use my systems but I have a very techie business so I need a Virtual Assistant who knows their way around online tools – or who at the very least isn’t afraid of technology.
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 always go for someone who knows the various different platforms inside out, understands and knows how to measure metrics and who has an impeccable online presence themselves.
I’ve been quite surprised how many VAs offer social media yet their own channels are not up to scratch. They don’t seem to understand that social media is content marketing and has to be measured to ensure a good ROI.
Just as I wouldn’t ask my hairdresser to wire my house or do my accounts, I want someone who is really good at a particular subject and I am more than happy to pay for their expertise.
Some clients have more than one Virtual Assistant
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 Virtual Assistant to undertake specialist tasks such as email marketing or setting up membership sites or landing pages.
And I know this because I’m the VA they hire to do them!
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 had 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.
How to work out your Virtual Assistant niche
Unless you’ve never worked a day in your life, you already have at least one area of expertise – you probably 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.
- The tasks you know how to do: newsletters, minutes, landing pages, events and project management, transcription, database creation, website support, social media, SEO, bid proposals, funding requests, creating systems, specialist report writing etc.
- The types of people you do (or have done) tasks for: coaches, HNWIs, consultants, trainers, directors, agencies, authors, speakers, marketers, event organisers, artists, musicians, change managers etc.
- The industries you have worked in: the arts, education, healthcare, engineering, HR, manufacturing, events, finance etc.
- A combination of these things.
Remember, a niche is just something you already know how to do and are very good at so, 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 areas of expertise.
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 means that you’ll need to adapt your marketing depending on who you’re targeting.
Where you find and engage with 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 useful to create different categories or pages for different niche services on your website so you can direct prospects to the page that would be the most relevant to them. Any testimonials for that specific service would then be added to the correlating page.
Start with what you know
By starting with what you already know, your confidence will grow, you’ll bring in an income, you’ll gain valuable experience in managing clients and running a business, and you will start to collect testimonials.
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 an interest in social media and as I became more proficient and confident, I tweaked my services, content, marketing and ideal client to reflect this sideways move.
You can always move sideways
Don’t worry if you have zero interest in specialising in the things you already know how to do because you don’t have to take everything from your employed career into your freelance one.
However, I do advise that you go for the low hanging fruit by starting off with who and what you know as you can always do what I did, and move sideways into a different niche later on.
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.
Then you’ll still be working, gaining experience and earning money while you find out if the niche is viable. No point targeting the wellness sector until you know what they need doing and if they have any money!
Some niches are more lucrative than others
Although the services you offer should be things you are good at and enjoy doing, you also need to make a decent income.
When the pandemic hit, techie VAs were hugely in demand and rushed off their feet because small businesses needed to quickly pivot to online working.
These tech-savvy VAs were able to present solutions such as holding online consultations and selling downloadable products and then they could swiftly implement them.
Although it now seems quite obvious, because the pandemic was a unique event that had never happened before, it was only when the lockdown hit that many VAs realised that it was vital to have an understanding of virtual collaboration and online marketing platforms.
I’ve also seen VAs ask about niching down into bookkeeping in the Facebook group but the hourly rate of a bookkeeper is actually lower than the average hourly rate of a Virtual Assistant.
You should still diversify
Your niche/s shouldn’t be the only services you offer but should always be offered in addition to your regular Virtual Assistant support services.
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 freelance web developer!
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 an industry that was impacted by the pandemic, 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.
Don’t worry if you don’t see your Virtual Assistant niche straight away and don’t fixate on it or you’ll never get going. Start with who and what you know and then assess and change course as you go along.
If you can’t see a clear set of niches straight away then just talk to everyone you know and have ever known (it’s called marketing!), see what people need a hand with and go from there.
Ready to set up your VA business?
If you’re done researching and just want to get going, then sign up for my DIY VA course – I even help you work out what your niche is!