- Alanna Smith became a virtual assistant after quitting her job as a communications officer.
- She’s earned about $4,000 a month in revenue through her virtual-assistant business Ask Alanna.
- She outlined four tips for starting your own virtual assistant business, such as finding your niche.
When the pandemic began, Alanna Smith realized she no longer enjoyed her job as a communications officer at the University of Portsmouth in England. She, like millions of people, quit her job as part of the Great Resignation.
“People should take the leap and work for themselves,” Smith said. “It comes with its challenges, but it also gives you so much freedom and opportunity to be yourself.”
For her next move, the 40-year-old wanted an occupation outside of the corporate world that also combined her marketing and blogging experience. That’s how she found virtual assistance, where she organizes calendars and makes reservations for clients, including marketing and public-relation firms.
In September, Smith launched Ask Alanna, her virtual-assistant business, and has been earning about $4,000 a month in revenue, documents seen by Insider showed. She plans on hiring an assistant soon, which will allow her to go from eight to 16 clients, and increase her revenue, she said. She aims to book $100,000 in revenue by the end of this year.
Smith is part of a growing number of people who’ve gravitated toward virtual-assistant work recently, thanks to the role’s flexible hours, steady income, and remote working possibilities. There were 25,000 active virtual assistants worldwide in 2008, said MyOutDesk, a virtual-assistant firm. Today, 1 million people work as virtual assistants, but that number is expected to at least double within the next few years.
“Entrepreneurship is the way forward, and people shouldn’t be scared about it,” Smith said. “If they do their research, get prepared, and have a small bit of income, it’s surprising how quickly things can gain traction.”
Smith shared four tips for starting your own virtual-assistant business, including what tools were necessary and how she found a niche using Instagram.
Research to find your niche
Smith spent a year researching the virtual-assistant industry, including reading books such as “How to be a Virtual Assistant” by Catherine Gladwyn.
She also studied what tasks other virtual assistants were performing for clients and looked at their prices. Then, she combed their Instagram profiles to see which virtual assistants they were following to better understand the competition and find her niche in the industry.
Smith suggested identifying your best skills and making those talents the backbone of your virtual-assistant work. For example, she tells clients that she excels in working with marketing and public-relations companies, given her prior experience in those fields.
The proper tools keep you organized
Smith uses the work-management platforms Trello, Asana, and Airtable to keep track of tasks. These services also let her clients assign her tasks, she said.
She uses the business-management platform Dubsado to onboard new clients and the time-tracking software Toggl Track to monitor how long she spends on a task.
Lastly, in Gmail, she creates folders, priority lists, and labels so she doesn’t lose anything.
Overcommunicate to avoid mishaps
Smith ensures that deadlines are clear with clients so she can balance her workload and their expectations. She also overcommunicates with customers by checking in on the progress of her work.
As a virtual employee, she aimed to maintain frequent contact with clients so they weren’t left wondering about her progress on tasks, she said.
Network to find clients
Smith signed up for webinars, including ones hosted by the marketing company Wern, the motivational company F*ck Being Humble, and the designer Sinead Taylor. These events often had breakout rooms that Smith used to network with potential clients. In fact, that strategy helped her secure her first client.
Smith also joined networking groups — such as The Stack World, a member organization that connects female entrepreneurs around the globe — and a mentoring program where she works one-on-one with the virtual-assistant coach Amanda Johnson.
“There’s no being shy in this industry,” Smith said. “Find your tribe.”