SVA UK Virtual Assistant Blog Hop – Can I make a living from being a virtual assistant?

The number 1 question I get asked at Society of Virtual Assistants is: Can I make a real living out of being a Virtual Assistant?

Invariably, the enquirer wants to know if they can replace a full time London PA salary with their VA income, and when you tell them that 45% of VAs earn less than £10,000 per annum, they rapidly lose interest.

However, the numbers don’t tell the full story – nearly 60% of those VAs are only working part-time, which drags the average income down somewhat.  And this year for the first time in our UK VA Survey we had VAs earning over £70k – so it is possible!

For me personally, I earn about the same as when I worked as a PA.  But I don’t have the costs associated with commuting, buying lunch every day or having to wear the dreaded suit, so my take-home pay doesn’t really need to be at the same level.  Here’s where being a VA wins all round: I truly love the lifestyle it brings.  If you are considering becoming a VA, look carefully at the cost of your commuter lifestyle – do you need a travelcard? Could you give up gym membership because you can escape from your desk to walk the dog every day?  How much is your work wardrobe costing you each year? In other words: At what price happiness?  This is what most VAs really value about the industry.

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Note that I didn’t say that you can cancel nursery or fire the cleaning lady…  You’ll still need childcare and you’ll still need your domestic angel if you are going to make a go of creating a proper business.  Being a virtual assistant is often touted as being a way for mums at home to make money on the side – it’s really unfair to portray it that way, as it’s simply untrue for the majority of VAs.  Just 38% of UK VAs have children under 12 and of those parents only 8.3% didn’t have childcare in place for when they were working. Making the actual percentage of mums working from home without childcare somewhere in the region of 3-4% of virtual assistants.

From speaking to hundreds of VAs, the number 1 thing you can do to become one of those VAs replacing a salary is to treat it like you would a real job – you need to work the same (if not more!) hours as a 9-5 job.  You need to be professional (no dodgy gmail addresses please).  And you need to stand your ground about domestic chores – just because you are working from home, it does not turn you into Cinderella!

Further reading:

Is being a virtual assistant a real job? https://www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/2010/09/13/is-being-a-virtual-assistant-a-real-job/

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The figures in this article were taken from the 2011 UK Virtual Assistant Survey which you can purchase here:  https://www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/va-products/

  1. […] https://www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/?p=1870 What can you realistically earn as a UK VA? Caroline busts some myths backed up with facts & figures! […]

  2. Jo Livings on 14 May, 2012 at 9:31 am

    It can take a long time to make it work too…but once you do, its really worth it!

    • Caroline on 14 May, 2012 at 10:54 am

      I think it took me about 2 years to really get to grips with it all and take a proper salary!

  3. Sarah Bradley on 14 May, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Totally agree and I can’t stress highly enough that it takes a special type of person to stick at it and not get distracted by family, friends and neighbours who think that just because you work from home you can drop everything when they pop by unannounced. They wouldn’t dream of doing it if you worked in an office. It is all about educating people (and if that fails, ignoring the front door/home phone is the next best thing!). I’m fortunate to have well behaved friends, neighbours & family… but it didn’t happen over night 😉

    • Caroline on 14 May, 2012 at 10:55 am

      I think my mum in particular got told NOT to drop in for a cup of tea!!!

  4. Kerry Field on 14 May, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I concur but I will admit when I started off it began as an extra income so that I could stay at home as opposed to returning to work.

    It soon became apparent that my time was too stretched, my family were not happy and I wasn’t giving my full attention to my clients. I therefore decided to send my children to nursery purely for school hours and work again in the evening. This way I had at least a solid 8 hours a day in 2 separate chunks in which to manage my business and have a portion of the day for family time.

    It is also really frustrating that society assumes that just because you are self-employed or work from home it is an easier life. You will all be aware just like me that being a VA means longer hours and you never really switch off. If you can’t cope with pressure then it is definitely not the career choice for you because EVERYTHING rests on your shoulders, the buck stops with you, if you are not good enough it’s your fault.

    To do this job you have to love it, you have to work hard at constantly absorbing new ideas, new techniques and sharing with other VAs because it makes it all the more manageable when you have a fantastic support network like the Society of Virtual Assistants to point you in the right direction.

    Thank you SVA!

    • Caroline on 14 May, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Well said Kerry – couldn’t agree more! I also think it’s really unfair when training courses etc. “sell” the lifestyle to mums like this… As you found, it just doesn’t work like that!

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    […] Can I make a living by being a VA? […]

  6. Daiva Pakalne on 3 October, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    So glad found this.

    I had a big thought last year – should I go back to work full time so that I can contribute to my family more.
    I found a job with 25k, was really pleased until I had my calculations done. Take home is £1600. I would pay around £1000 for nanny to look after my children, another £150 is travel. The work clothes and lunches.. leaves me with around £300-£350.
    Guess what – I can earn £450-£600 at home, only whilst my kids are sleeping in the afternoons or working late night. No long travel hours, mornings with kids in the park or playgroups, meeting friends, or even going away for 5 weeks and still work!..

    Only when I did the calculations made me realise how actually I love my lifestyle.
    Of course, it was hard at first, especially educate people that I actually work at home, and not just sit in front of PC!..

    • Caroline on 4 October, 2012 at 9:04 am

      Very true Daiva – so whilst it looks like you earn less, you actually earn more. I am going to steal a phrase from Sarah Bradley of Help Ahoy “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity”.

  7. kelly on 14 February, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    A really interesting read. I have been looking at ways to make money online. I am on my own with two children after marriage break up, no financial support at all. It is amazing that there are so many women who work from home. Hats off to all of you!! I am going to jump and learn to swim! 🙂

  8. earn money taking online surveys on 14 March, 2013 at 8:07 am

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    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog post or vice-versa?
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  9. Lisa on 17 May, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Hi all,
    I recently decided to take the leap into self-employment and am currently completing the Business Enterprise Scheme which has been really useful. They’re not able to give me any advice concerning software used by a Virtual PA to record time spent on individual jobs. I would guess it would work in a similar way to that in which a solicitor records their time in order to bill clients correctly. Can you recommend any inexpensive software or do you simply record your time on a spreadsheet. If the latter, are clients happy with this method or do they expect to see something more scientific? Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    • Caroline on 20 May, 2013 at 8:57 am

      A lot of people will use a simple spreadsheet to record their time – others will use more complicated systems that track start/stop times like MinuteDock, MyHours or Timestamp. If you google “time tracking software” you should get a few ideas.

  10. virtualofficemailforwarding on 22 July, 2013 at 6:50 am

    Many companies are hiring virtual assistants to reduce project cost. But you must promote your skills to stay connected with the businesses looking for reliable virtual assistants.

  11. Diane Browning on 13 August, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Very interesting reading!

    I am just looking into starting up a VA business. I am currently on maternity leave (due to return in January) but have been told by my employers that I am risk of redundancy. With a stable home and support from my husband, I just thought there is no better time to go for it!!

    It would be great to get some advice on how to take things further. I am currently researching systems to put in place to access clients emails and diaries and ways of forwarding calls so any advice would be very very appreciated. Also, looking into start up costs and registering my business and wondered whether anyone had any advice or may be able to help with things I have most probably forgotten?

    Thanks!!

    • Caroline on 13 August, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Diane

      Loads of stuff for Newbie VAs on the website – have a browse through and see what you can find!

      Caroline

  12. Phyllis MacKenzie on 15 September, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Hi there, I am thinking of possibly setting up a VA Business, but would prefer to work on a part time basis, ie for dropping children off at school and picking them up again. Both children are of Primary School age and my husband works long hours – he is a Freelance Post Production Editor, so has his own business, so I have the support and skills there to ask questions. What I am interested in finding out is, can you work the part time hours without having to do extra hours in the evenings and also can you sustain your clients if you decide to work on a term time basis?

    Also, is it just best to set up on your own if you have all the necessaries at home, ie pc etc, or would it be best to get support from somewhere like Business Gateway etc?

    Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Phyllis

    • Caroline on 15 September, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      Hi Phyllis

      A lot of VAs work only part-time hours – so yes it is possible! Term-time only hours are trickier as obviously your clients would be limited to people who only need help during term time which would be few and far between… What you may find by limiting yourself to those hours is that your salary isn’t a replacement salary but just a bit of extra income. It depends on how you are setting it up though. If for example you are doing something very technical, you can charge more for it and people may be willing to wait for a gap in your schedule.

      Business Link and Business Gateway and the new Start Up Britain are all good resources for people starting in business, as is your local job centre. The more advice and help you can get, the better – ultimately it’s about doing what works for you though.
      Hope that helps!
      Caroline

  13. Lindsay on 26 November, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Hello, I have been looking into this for some
    Time. I am currently a Board level PA and have been for some years.

    My partner has just received an amazing job offer which means us moving away and it seems to me a perfect opportunity to look into becoming a virtual PA.

    I was wondering if anyone can give me advise on setting up or which companies are best to register with to receive leads on clients that may need/use a virtual PA.

    Many thanks for your time,

    Lindsay

    • Caroline on 27 November, 2013 at 10:32 am

      Hi Lindsay

      Mostly you would be your own rainmaker having to market yourself alongside doing the VA work – there are very few companies who offer to find VAs work, there are a couple in the US, but the rates are very low compared to what you would earn doing your own marketing.

      There are lots of articles on marketing yourself on the website and we also run a directory of VAs which clients can use to find a UK based VA.

      Hope that helps,
      Caroline

  14. crystal geronimo on 9 April, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    hi, i would like to know if this salary range of VAs in UK is still the same at this time? If not, what would be the new salary range? thanks for any feedback you may give..

  15. Tracy Turner on 17 July, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Hi – we are looking at employing a VA within our business – 4 days a week with 1 day expected to come to the office for meetings. What sort of salary should we be looking at please?
    thanks

    • Caroline on 28 July, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Tracy

      If you want someone to come to the office, that’s a temp or an employee, not a virtual assistant. In general VA rates range from £15-£35 an hour in the UK, and they may well be able to advise on how to make your work virtual by using remote logins or couriers to transfer physical documents.
      The savings of using a VA only really kick in when you aren’t paying for “down time” which they would have in an office situation – and you may realise that by not paying for that time your 4 day availability may only be 5 hours of actual work from an experienced VA.

      Hope that helps!
      Caroline

  16. Kimberly Mae Espiritu on 19 April, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Another great read thanks to you Caroline! I am always amazed at how you are able to write and make your readers feel that they are just talking to a friend.

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