One of the most exciting things about 21st entrepreneurship is the ability to start and operate online. This has given rise to a lot of business initiatives that could have never been otherwise possible. Leveraging on the internet to be an entrepreneur has two main advantages namely, wide consumer reach and relatively low startup and operating costs. Other conveniences are borne out of the ability to operate from anywhere and according to your own terms. That’s why in this article I’m discussing how you can start your own internet-based business. The business I’m focusing on herein is about virtual assistance so let’s get right into it.
Think of things like roadside assistance or customer care to put things into basic perspective. Truth is in any field there are always people looking for assistance in various forms. Virtual assistance simply encapsulates the provision of assistance to people online or through online facilitation. So in essence you are offering services online in a particular field (often your area of expertise) for those needing them. Either you’ll fulfil the request for assistance wholly online or the online platform is used to facilitate contact that leads to the provision of the needed assistance. Commonly, virtual assistants offer services akin to being one’s personal assistant. This implies that the services often offered are data entry, online researches, proof-reading, writing, phone calls, project management, scheduling and so on. I’ve noticed that it’s usually easier for a writer to become a virtual assistant. I myself am a writer and I tend to come across requests for assistance in other directly or remotely related areas. So an online writer can easily diversify into being a virtual assistant. However, don’t limit being a virtual assistant to what I’ve just mentioned alone. Let me give you an example, you could establish a service where you provide a platform for those looking for home-related simple tasks such as tree felling, cleaning and so on. It doesn’t necessarily have to be tech stuff only. If you have expertise in any field you can make money by selling services online.
This is an online business so you must have a robust online presence. Have active social media accounts and even go a notch up to having a website. The type of IT resources necessary will depend on your area of focus or niche. Some of the common areas of virtual assistance are social media management, project management, technical assistance or blogging. Just looking at those examples you’ll notice that each area of focus will determine what type of operating material you’ll need. You also have to thoroughly do your branding as that will speak volumes about you – things like business name, logo, tagline and the like. You’ll also need to have exceptional customer engagement so as to lure and retain as many clients as possible. Take advantage of instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp Business for professional customer engagement. Also do your homework pertaining to your charges or rates. There is need to strike a balance i.e. be reasonable but don’t undersell yourself. Typically in other developed countries charging models can be per task, project or hourly. Hourly is most commonly used with average rates ranging from USD10 to USD20 per hour being the cheapest (depending, of course, on the field in question).
This is a business best run solo to maximize on returns. As and when the business grows to levels where you’re overwhelmed is when you can also bring more people onboard. However, this is a business best operated solo; it even falls under the umbrella of solo-preneurship. So you must basically find a way to do it alone and wherever possible outsource if needs be.
Very limited costs required to get the ball rolling for this type of business. The initial costs of setting up your online accounts and branding aspects are most probably the most significant. Plus the material or financial resources that’ll be needed to conduct marketing campaigns.
The market is limitless and is waiting for you to claim a share of it. You must bear in mind that this business requires rigorous marketing. Most virtual assistants attest to how hectic it can be to land your first customer. It’s most recommended that you tap into your various networks. From personal experience I’ve noticed that it’s easier to get customers when you are in touch with online communities e.g. digital nomads. Digital nomads are oft time the best pool of prospective clients depending on what your area of focus is.
Get your business registered as this is central to how you’ll be perceived online. People can be so sceptical of your genuineness online so being a registered business will boost your image. Also have well laid-out terms and conditions plus legal frameworks that’ll protect your business interests.
Virtual assistance businesses came onto the scene in the early 90s so they have been around for a while. They just now make sense locally because there is now a marked online presence by most Zimbabweans. So I encourage you to make up your mind to start this easy and yet promising business venture.