With so many PAs enjoying the lack of commute – and potentially some restructuring ahead
for big companies – droves of PAs have been investigating becoming a Virtual Assistant
If you can imagine a job where you have flexible hours, no commute, an understanding boss,
unlimited earnings and the ability to pick and choose who you work with, would you do it?
Would you still do the job if it was commission-only? Because that’s what being self-
Industry organisation, SocietyOfVirtualAssistants.co.uk, has seen new memberships roughly
triple over lockdown, and founder Caroline Wylie says this isn’t unusual in the face of a
“During the last financial crisis of 2007/2008 we also saw huge numbers of PAs joining the
virtual assistant industry, often using their redundancy packages to set up. And for VAs, it
was a lucrative period, with companies who would previously not have considered using
freelance admin support seeing the advantages of having a flexible business model.”
So being a VA is reasonably recession proof, spreading risk between different companies
and different industries. Instead of one employer, you’ll have 5-6 different clients who you
work with remotely.
So what do potential VAs need to know?
Skills: There is a common misperception that PAs have the skills needed for being a VA.
Whilst they do share loads of PA skills, VAs need to be business owners too. Caroline
explains: “The number 1 thing which PAs struggle with is their marketing. It’s quite alien to a
lot of PAs who have never done it before, but unless you can get clients, your business won’t
Training: There are lots of free courses from Google Digital Garage and local councils to
help you market your business. Around 50% of VAs have no specific VA training, but if you
do decide to go down the training route, it can shortcut past some of the most common
pitfalls of becoming a virtual assistant. Caroline’s top tip? “Look for a VA trainer who has
been a VA themselves for at least 5 years – double check their LinkedIn profile. During
lockdown we’ve seen a number of VA trainers and mentors who have less than 2 years’
experience offering training… In the past, we’ve often had complaints about these VA’s
business models causing problems down the line for their trainees. My advice: Use a mentor
who has at least 5 years supporting themselves via their VA business.” SVA also runs a
free-to-join listing for VA trainers who can comply with their best practice guidelines for
What do I need in place? Best practice guidelines for UK VAs were created back in 2007,
but essentially you need to have:
a proper email address;
a website which has a contact mailing address and proper GDPR compliant contact details;
data backed up securely offsite;
professional indemnity insurance;
be registered with ICO for data protection & HMRC for tax (if you want to offer
bookkeeping/accountancy you also need to be suitably qualified and be MLR registered with
and ensure you only offer services which you are fully competent to deliver.
Money: Everyone wants to know this! The average hourly rate for UK VAs is £27/hour*.
Clients would expect to pay more for:
Teams of VAs
VAs with a number of years experience of working virtually
VAs with specialist technical skillsets (e.g. Graphics, SEO, social media advertising specialists
Newer, solo VAs with generalist PA skills would be paid less per hour, but you as the
business owner set the rates.
The average turnover for UK VAs for full-time hours is £49,000*. That figure includes the
expenses of running your business (website fees, marketing, accountancy, tax etc).
Work: Life Balance: The majority of VAs work part-time, and that allows for squeezing in
school runs or walking the dog. Cutting out the commute time also brings a lot of time back
into play for PAs used to commuting several hours a day.
The lifestyle of being a VA often appeals, and PAs often remark on how friendly and
supportive the VA industry is, with a number of networking organisations, regional awards
and an annual conference in London each year. Its catchphrase of “Collaboration Not
Competition” epitomises the friendliness of the VAs you will meet.