Grab the audio version of this post here:
Hi, it’s Alicia here at newVAadvice.com and I’m back with another segment in the Getting Started Series. Today, I want to talk with you about money. I want to address the issue of startup costs as this comes up over and over again. Here’s the question:
How much does it cost to start a virtual assistant business?
I hate to say it depends, but it depends. It’s going to vary depending on the services that you want to provide. However, there are basics that we all need to think about.
Your absolute bare basics are:
- Internet access
- Website hosting
- Domain name
You can use a desktop or a laptop, whichever you have and you’re comfortable with. I know many VAs who prefer their laptop because they can take their work with them and get things done outside, at a coffee shop or wherever they want their office to be that day. Other VAs prefer their desktop, using it in their home office so they can stay in their “I’m at work right now” mindset and focus on their tasks.
As far as internet access, it needs to be reliable. If you’re working with clients virtually, you will need to be able to send and receive files and emails on a regular basis. Your clients need to know that they can rely on you during the hours that you’ve decided to offer your services.
I had someone tell me that they don’t currently have internet at home and wanted to know if this could still be done from a local place with a Wi-Fi hotspot, for example. My answer to that is that you can certainly do this, as long as you’re able to be there during your business hours. But ultimately, you’d want internet access from home that you can control so that you can guarantee more reliability to your clients and work when you want to.
Website Hosting & Domain Name
As far as website hosting and a domain name, there are a lot of cost-effective options out there. I was always taught not to get both services from the same provider. There are differing opinions on this but it’s the whole “Don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket concept.”
For example, I have my website hosting with Bluehost. They have great customer service, unlimited storage and bandwidth and I can add as many domain names as I want.
I use NameCheap for my domain names. The cost of the names is super affordable and you can easily check what names are available by searching their site. I recommend going with a “.com” name if at all possible. They also offer Whois Guard, which helps keep your domain name unavailable to spammers who just want to send you junk.
Most of these companies offer different payment options as paying for your hosting and domain name are recurring fees. You can usually choose to pay every three months, yearly or for a couple of years at a time. Of course, they offer you bigger discounts as you move up that scale. For example, if you choose to pay for a years’ worth of services versus three months, you will receive a better rate for paying for the entire year in advance. You can set up automatic renewal or just have them email you when renewal is up. Either way, I suggest keeping track of that yourself so that your hosting or domain doesn’t expire. You do not want to find yourself in that situation.
As I mentioned, other expenses for your VA business really depend on the services that you’ve decided to offer. You may want a printer/scanner/fax machine and other office equipment. Perhaps you’re going to offer website design so you need to purchase design software. You’ll want to think about those things when you’re considering your expenses.
You can get business cards printed inexpensively at VistaPrint. I believe the first 250 are free. That’s what the deal used to be.
There are a number of free resources from there.
You can use WordPress to set up your website, which is free. I didn’t have any funds starting out, so I did a lot of research and set up my WordPress website by myself. I had no previous experience creating websites or working with WordPress. There are good sites that teach you some of the basics, and Google and YouTube are filled with instructional videos.
You can accept payments and send invoices with PayPal, which is free. I highly recommend setting up a PayPal account for working with your clients. You can link it to your business bank account so it’s easy to “pay yourself” when the money rolls in.
You can use Dropbox to share files and information with your clients for free. It’s free in-the-cloud file-sharing software. You can create a folder for each client and no one else can see what you share with them. I’ve written more about this on the blog here.
Skype is great free option for phone and video calls. You can even use it for tutorials with your clients by utilizing the screen share feature to walk them through a certain process or to brainstorm together.
And of course, you’ll need to keep track of any business expenses for tax purposes. Remember, they’re tax deductible. FreshBooks is great for this. Each time I purchase something, I just add it to my expenses in the software. There is even an option for recurring expenses like monthly membership fees. When tax time rolls around, I can just print out a report for my accountant that’s already itemized for me. There is a free version of FreshBooks and a paid version as well. You can also use it for invoicing clients.
So, there you have it. Those are some basic expenses for setting up your virtual assistant business and also some free tools to save you money in the process. If you missed Part 1, click here. To move on to Part 3, click here.
If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.