As businesses increasingly search for ways to improve productivity and save time, the services of personal assistants are continuously high in demand. If you’re organised, resourceful, and enjoy helping others, then starting your own business as a personal assistant could be an ideal fit for you.
In this step-by-step guide, we’ll explore how to get your business successfully established as a personal assistant. Let’s get started.
What is a personal assistant?
A personal assistant, often referred to as a PA, typically carries out administrative work on behalf of an individual such as an executive or a manager.
Unlike an administrator, who completes tasks on behalf of a team or organisation, a PA helps manage daily activities for just one individual, with the aim of reducing their administrative burden and freeing up more time.
Traditionally, personal assistants were based in-house, providing support within the confines of the office. But since the pandemic, the shift to remote work has opened up an entirely new dimension to this profession, with the rise of the “virtual assistant”.
Now, PAs can offer their services to as many clients as they can manage, working from anywhere in the world.
What services does a personal assistant offer?
A personal assistant’s offerings can vary broadly and are highly customisable depending on your administrative skills, what services you want to provide, and how you’d like to operate.
Some of the most typical services a PA might offer include:
- Acting as a first point of contact for callers and emails; passing on messages or triaging them for their client’s attention
- Managing diaries; scheduling meetings and appointments
- Planning and booking travel arrangements, including flights, accommodation and transportation
- Organising events and conferences including venue hire, catering arrangements, and logistical coordination
- Liaising with suppliers and clients
- Managing and maintaining databases
- Typing up reports, notes, meeting minutes, and correspondence
- Informing and reminding clients of incoming deadlines and appointments
- Collating and filing expenses
- Running personal errands
Do you need qualifications to be a PA?
One of the best aspects of starting a personal assistant business is that no specific qualifications or specialised training are required, and you can get set up with as little as a laptop and a reliable Wi-Fi connection.
That said, you will want a proven track record of strong organisation, project management and communication, to stand out in what can be a highly competitive field.
How to start your own personal assistant business
Now that we’ve covered what a personal assistant is, let’s delve into getting set up as a business:
1. Define your services
As mentioned already, there are a wide range of services you can offer to clients as a PA. So, one of the first steps you’ll need to take when starting your business is to decide what type of services you want to provide.
You should try to refine your niche based on your strengths, what you enjoy, and, of course, your previous experience. For example, you may choose to initially focus on basic office and business management such as scheduling, diary organisation, and client support. Then later you can always expand your services in line with demand, as you grow.
Some industry-experienced PAs may also decide to represent a specific sector in line with their expertise, such as legal or construction, as a means of setting their services apart from others, to gain a competitive advantage.
2. Create a business plan
A business plan is your roadmap for success. Essentially it explains where you want to go, how you plan on getting there, and how much time and money you will need to invest.
In your plan, you should define the purpose of your PA business, your main objectives, and describe how you will operate and achieve your goals.
This formal document will help guide your decisions and keep you on the right track during your journey.
Of course, your plan can be flexible and should be adapted as your journey develops. As well as being a helpful guide, it also serves as a crucial tool when it comes to securing funding for your business.
3. Choose your business structure
Once you have determined a focus for your personal assistant business and outlined your plan, you’re ready to officially register your business.
You’ll need to choose a legal structure best suited to your goals. While there are several business structures to choose from, the two most viable options for you as a personal assistant will be either a sole proprietorship or a limited company. Let’s take a look below at these two options:
As a sole trader, you will have complete control over your business. This means that you’ll be self-employed, and will need to register for Self Assessment with HMRC to complete your annual tax return.
Whilst this is the simplest form of business structure, with the least administrative responsibilities, it does mean that you will have unlimited liability for any business debts or legal claims, should they arise at any point during your business journey.
On the other hand, you might choose to set up as a limited company. This provides you with limited liability for any debts or legal claims, as well as giving you a range of tax saving opportunities.
Many businesses choose to register as a limited company to gain greater credibility and professional status in their field. While you will be subject to stricter regulation and more filing requirements, using a reputable company formation agent like 1st Formations can help ease the process and reduce the associated paperwork.
4. Invest in the right tools
Although starting your own personal assistant business generally requires minimal overheads and equipment, there are some handy tools and applications that can help speed up efficiency and set your services apart from the crowd.
For example, time management tools like Toggl or Clockify can help you keep track of your working hours, allowing you to accurately bill clients. This is especially useful when working with multiple clients or across numerous projects.
Invoicing and accounting software like Xero can make tracking your income and expenses easier, as well as billing your clients. Project management platforms such as Trello or Monday offer an effective way to keep on top of tasks and collaborate with team members or clientele.
5. Set your pricing
Knowing what to charge your clients can be difficult to gauge when you’re first starting out.
It’s a good idea to research the market and find out what other personal assistants are charging for their services and set your price accordingly, taking into account factors such as your level of experience, expertise and any unique differentiators you can offer that other PAs can’t.
There are also several pricing formats to consider:
- Hourly rate: An hourly fee allows for billing based on the actual time spent working for a client. This is particularly useful when clients require ongoing support, but will require careful tracking of time.
- Day rate: A fixed flat fee, that allows for easier budgeting and project planning. Day rates are usually better suited for clients with well-defined projects or continuous workloads.
- Monthly retainer: A popular pricing option amongst personal assistants. A monthly retainer is an upfront pre-agreed payment between the PA and the client, giving you a predictable income each month.
The format you choose will likely depend on your client, their personal requirements, and the types of services you provide.
6. Find your clients
Securing your first reliable client can often feel like the biggest hurdle for a new business. But with the right strategies behind you, your target clientele should soon recognise the value you can add to the table. Here are a few key approaches to help you get started:
Reach out to your existing network and contacts. Platforms like LinkedIn can be a great place to reconnect with former colleagues and potential clients. Send tailored messages to contacts within your target market, promoting your services and the value you can add in relation to their business and its goals.
Create a professional website that showcases your services and skills, inviting prospective clients to get in touch or perhaps trial your services. Use social media platforms to support your promotion and direct traffic to your site.
Freelance platforms such as People Per Hour, Upwork, or Fiverr can also prove useful when building up your client base. Your success on these sites will largely be based on a compelling profile and competitive pricing.
In some cases, you can actively bid on projects, whilst in others the client will approach you directly. Be prepared to communicate professionally and promptly at all times, and ensure you’re consistently delivering high-quality work to build a positive reputation.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful and that it’s provided you with enough information to take a leap of faith and get started on your personal assistant business journey.
Setting up a company for the first time can be a daunting experience. But remember, we’re here to help you each step of the way. Contact our team of experts today for help getting started.