How to Start a Small Virtual Assistant Business

Virtual assistants provide off-site support for businesses without the resources or need for a full-time or on-site administrative assistant. Some entrepreneurs start virtual assistant businesses after working years as administrative and executive assistants, while others learn the necessary skills by enrolling in virtual assistant certificate courses. Your virtual assistant business can provide general administrative assistant services, such as answering phones, sending faxes and scheduling appointments, or more complex services, such as web design and database maintenance. Advantages of such businesses include low start-up capital and low overhead.

Apply for an employer identification number, or EIN, commonly known as a tax ID, on the IRS website. Having a separate tax ID for your virtual assistant business instead of using your own Social Security number to open bank and credit accounts allows you to keep your personal and business finances separate, which helps you file more accurate tax returns. You may apply for an additional tax ID in your name or in the name of your virtual assistant company.

Purchase new computer equipment or upgrade existing equipment. The success of your virtual assistant business depends on your ability to deliver services to clients quickly and efficiently. Ensure that your computer has the latest operating system, productivity software and enough memory to run necessary programs. Purchase the latest specialty software for advanced services you plan to offer, such as web development and computer-aided design.

Purchase and install telecommunications systems. Purchase a dedicated cellphone to take calls from clients or install a separate telephone line if you live in an area with unreliable wireless service. Your virtual assistant business outgoing voice mail should include your name, the name of your business, your office hours and alternative ways to reach you. Install an extra fax line. Although some clients use online fax services, installing a fax line enables you to receive business from customers who do not. You may always use the fax line as an extra telephone line, or have it disconnected at a later date if it doesn't prove useful.

Create a website for your virtual assistant business. As a virtual assistant, your website is the face of your business. You may purchase a custom domain name, which costs as little as $10 dollars a year as of June 2011, and set up an easy-to-use one-page website or a blogging website. Include information about your experience, specialties, a list of the services you offer and your contact information. Some virtual assistant entrepreneurs include pictures of themselves and their virtual office as a point of interest. You may also include information about pricing and specials.

Open an account with an online merchant processing service. Some allow you to accept credit card payments immediately, with no business or credit history. The companies also provide you with payment links to add to your website.

Print business cards and brochures for your virtual assistant business. You may design and print your own using desktop publishing software or have them professionally designed and printed. Your marketing materials should include information about your virtual assistant specialty area, if any, and your contact information.

Market your business. Sign up for as many virtual assistant directories as possible. Such directories allow potential clients to search for you by specialty area and geographic location. The overwhelming number of virtual assistant directories allows you to choose free or paid directory services, depending on your budget. You may also purchase online pay-per-click advertising or place ads in free online classified websites. Join your local chamber of commerce to market your services to businesses in your area online, with business cards and with brochures.