Building a VA Agency

Written by Tammy Durden

I’ve begun sharing my story more in-depth. I hope you will gain some takeaways for yourself and your business. Today I wanted to tell you how I began building a VA Agency over 12 years ago.

A virtual assistant agency connects businesses to outsourced workers. VA agencies handle hiring, training, and matching remote talent to job openings, which boosts productivity and reduces management responsibilities.

“Just like a talent agency or staffing firm, a virtual assistant agency has a pool of verified talent ready to take on new projects. These vetted virtual assistants (VAs) specialize in a variety of tasks, ranging from marketing support to bookkeeping tasks and beyond. Businesses looking to outsource work can reach out to a virtual assistant agency and get matched with the right person for the job.”

-We Are Working

Why Build An Agency

You are probably asking why I wanted to build a virtual assistant agency. In my last article, you found out that I didn’t set out to start a business. It happened quite by accident. Once I knew I was creating something I also knew I had a mission not just a business.

What was that mission? My mission was to help empower other disabled professionals to work from home. I could not do this right away as I did not have enough work to share in the beginning.

When Could I Build An Agency

I could not build the agency as fast as I really wanted. If it were entirely up to me I would have started out contracting disabled persons immediately and building the agency. I didn’t know much about building up a business or creating what we called a “Multi-VA Agency” back then. I did know, however, that I needed clients in order to help others work from home.

It took a few years to begin to establish myself and my business. It was probably at least 3 years into building my business before I could bring on my first subcontractor. This was the beginning of building my agency.

Subcontractor – someone who is contracted with another to work on their client’s tasks. They have been hired by the initial service provider and not by the client directly therefore they are considered subcontractors.

Subcontracting My Team

After I hired my first subcontractor I still had so much to learn. I had to learn…

  • How to hire
  • Where to find them
  • What forms they must complete
  • How much to pay
  • What type of contract to use
  • Could I give them direct access to my clients
  • My own management style

I had to learn these and so much more! One of the things I had to learn was what the IRS considers a subcontractor and what it is not. I caution you here as you need to familiarize yourself with this in the U.S.

“A subcontractor is a worker who is not your employee. You give a Form 1099 to a subcontractor showing the amounts you paid him. The subcontractor is responsible for keeping his or her own records and paying his or her own income and self-employment taxes.”


If you live outside of the U.S. it is important to make yourself familiar with your region’s, state’s, and/or country’s laws regarding contracting and subcontracting.

How to Hire Team Members

As I was learning to build my agency (see article for more in-depth tips) I began to create processes and systems (you know how much I love these). This was crucial to the success I would later experience. Processes and systems truly are the foundation of any good business. I needed them first before I could learn how to hire team members.

After a couple of years of adding subcontractors one by one, I finally realized I had done it – I built a VA Agency! I learned how to find the best team members.

Hint: I finally realized my company functioned best by bringing on those who only wanted to subcontract for others. This kept the turnover low and loyalty high.

It was a struggle at first and I made more than enough mistakes. There was too much turnover (read my series of articles about how to build an agency). It took me time to learn the best hiring practices and the best management style. By the way, hands-off, took me many years to be able to practice but when I finally did it was freeing!

Where I Found My VAs

As I learned the best practices in hiring my virtual assistants one of the key items was where could I find my VAs? The number one best resource I found is FreelanceU Directory.


The reason is that those in this directory are taking the time to continue to add to their skills, keep them up to date, and continue their education. This also means, guess what? They are teachable!!! This is hugely important when bringing on a team member.

If FreelanceU Directory does not work out you can always visit Facebook and LinkedIn groups. One of the groups I run (and am actually trying to engage more) is the “Ask a Freelancer or VA” group. You can post asking for a VA or Team Member for a specific need within the group. Take a look around at other groups as well.

What Forms Do I Need

VA in the U.S.

As discussed above, please look at the IRS website to determine if your team will be employees or contractors (and subcontractors). One of the basic forms you should have on file for the U.S. is the w-9 form. This will supply you, the business owner, with all of the information you need to complete their 1099 forms at the end of the year to provide to each team member.

VA Outside the U.S.

If you hire a virtual assistant to be on your team who is from outside of the U.S. you will need to have them complete a W-8BEN. You do not need to provide them with a 1099 form at the end of the year (but read up and have your Accountant advise you please).

How Much Do I Pay My VAs

This was probably one of the most difficult decisions. I was having them work on the client’s tasks. In the beginning, I did many of the tasks as well. They were not the only ones working on client work. I also was completely the face of the company and all work passed through me first before going to the clients.

Should I pay them an hourly rate or a flat fee? Early in my VA Agency I really was not priced well. I charged by the hour so I could only pay a lower hourly rate to the team. Later on, however, I learned the value of doing package pricing and that is when everything changed.

Now, I could pay them a straight percentage of the package price that the client was paying for those services.

What Type of Contract Should I Use

Initially, I adjusted my own client contract and added a few things. Later, I learned the value of a few key phrases to add. Some of these included:

  • Confidentiality Clause
  • Non-Compete
  • Intellectual Property

And others to make my contracts safe for myself and my VAs.

Direct Client Access or Not

Back in 2010, I did not want my VAs to have direct client access. I wanted all tasks passed through me. This led to a lot of management. Management of documents, tasks, team members, and clients. It took me years, but I finally got to the place where I could virtually introduce the team member to the client. They had emails through my business and they knew to ‘cc’ me on correspondence. I was still the face of the company as I still met at least monthly with clients. If there were any problems that arose, all knew they could easily come to me for help. This was so freeing. It freed my time to be able to market, have potential client meetings, and more.

My Own Management Style

As I alluded to early, it took years for me to learn my management style. I certainly was a “Helicopter Manager” initially. I can proudly say, by the time the VA Agency transitioned to a small Digital Marketing Agency I had become a “Hands-Off Manager”.

Worth It or Not

Building a VA Agency is not easy, nor is it overnight, but it is worth it. I learned so many valuable lessons building my agencies. I not only learned the answers to these questions but found out so much about myself and built my confidence in leaps and bounds.

If you are overworked, have no room for new clients, or are frustrated because you do not know how to scale your business, please reach out to me. I help online service providers just like you.

with love from Tammy Durden of Fearless Business Boss

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