A personal assistant (PA) is someone who assists a specific person in an organisation with their daily tasks, acting as their first point of call. A CEO, head of department or any other senior manager might require the support of a PA, and the role isn’t industry-specific. PAs are also sometimes referred to as personal secretaries or executive assistants.

Personal assistants can be employees, or self-employed. Keep reading on for everything you need to know about becoming a self-employed personal assistant, including:

  • Qualifications you need
  • How to find work as a self-employed personal assistant
  • How to register as a sole trader
  • Self Assessment Tax Return
  • Managing your finances

Qualifications you need

You don’t need any specific qualifications to be a personal assistant, although certain further education certifications, such as a Diploma in Business & Administration Management, can help you get that first foot in the door. A degree isn’t necessary either, but again, it may help set you apart from other candidates if you don’t have any experience in the role.

Qualifications aside, you’ll have to prove that you have the right skills for the role and may have to complete a competency assessment at the interview stage.

  • Make a list of the qualifications you do have, from GCSEs to further education or degree level
  • Write down your relevant work experience – when have you demonstrated your ability to be organised and communicate well?
  • Identify any gaps in your knowledge and consider taking a short course – for instance, PAs need to be able to use software like Microsoft Office competently.

Although this area of work is open to all graduates and those with a Higher National Diploma (HND), a degree in business or management may increase your chances. Some subjects are more relevant for certain industries, e.g. English literature for publishing and law for legal work.

For HND holders, the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • Administration
  • Business
  • Management
  • Secretarial studies

How to find work as a self-employed personal assistant

Defining your long term aspirations now will help you identify and apply for the right roles for you. 

  • Research different sectors and decide which ones align with your interests best.
  • Set out your salary expectations – a junior personal assistant can expect a starting salary of ~£25k, whereas someone with more experience can earn double that.
  • Follow influencer personal assistants on social media to get an insight into what a typical day looks like for them.

PAs work in a range of large, medium-sized and small organisations across all sectors. Positions can be found in:

  • accountancy
  • agriculture, horticulture and related industries
  • the arts, entertainment and leisure
  • charities and the voluntary sector
  • corporate business and business consultancies
  • education
  • finance
  • health, social, medical and related services
  • hospitality and catering
  • law and related work
  • local and central government departments, including working for members of parliament (MPs)
  • manufacturing and industrial organisations
  • marketing and advertising
  • media and communications
  • property
  • retail
  • science-related organisations
  • security and protective services.

Look for job vacancies at:

Larger and more general agencies also handle PA vacancies and are a good way of finding temping opportunities.

Look out for special events aimed at personal assistants, such as The PA Show – an annual exhibition and conference aimed at PAs, executive assistants and office managers.

How to register as a sole trader

A sole trader is someone who is self-employed and runs a business. 

Registering as a sole trader has many benefits as it allows you to exercise certain legal and financial arrangements that are different from other business structures (like limited companies or business partnerships). Learn more about the difference between setting up as a sole trader and limited business here.

If you’ve started working for yourself, you’re automatically considered as a sole trader by HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) –– even if you haven’t registered as one yet. HMRC may also refer to you as a ‘sole proprietor’ or your business as a ‘sole proprietorship’, but they each refer to the same arrangement whereby you work for yourself. 

As your business expands, you must register if, as a sole trader, any one of the following applies:

  • You earn more than £1,000 from your self-employment between tax years.
  • You need to prove you’re self-employed (for example, to qualify for certain benefit support).
  • You want to make voluntary Class 2 National Insurance payments to help you qualify for other benefits.

Self Assessment Tax Return

As a sole trader, it’s your responsibility to register for Self Assessment, keep accurate income and expenses records for your yearly Self Assessment tax returns.

People who earn money from sources other than wages, savings on pensions must fill in a Self Assessment tax return to show how much they made during a tax year. Most business owners need to complete one, send it to HMRC and pay their tax bill by 31 January after that tax year ends.

You must file a Self Assessment if you were one of the following in the past tax year (6 April to 5 April):

  • A sole trader earning more than £1,000 before taking off anything you can claim tax relief on
  • A partner in a business partnership

You may also need to send in a tax return if you earn money from:

  • Renting out a property
  • Tips and commission
  • Savings, investments and dividends
  • Another country

Check if you need to file a tax return here.

How to manage your finances

  1. Separate business and personal finances

The best thing to do to keep your finances organised is to open a business bank account or a separate personal bank account that you only use for business purposes. This way, you can funnel all your business expenses and income through one account, making it easier to organise the data when tax time comes.

Make sure to use your business account only for business-related expenses. Find out more about why you need to separate business from your personal expenses here.

  1. Track your income and expenses

Tracking your income and expenses is essential when it comes to organising your finances. Categorising your expenses can save you money because controlling your expenses is easier when you clearly understand where your money is spent.

You can probably deduct some of your business costs from your taxable income, and keeping an accurate record of income and expenses makes your tax return easier to complete.

Tracking your income helps you provide correct information on your tax return and pay the right amount of tax. Submitting truthful and accurate tax information can help you avoid a tax audit. But if you get audited, HMRC might ask to see your income and expense records, which is another good reason to keep everything organised.

Save time and organise your bookkeeping with Countingup

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.