What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is a remote assistant who provides support services to business owners.
Traditionally, virtual assistants only focus on administrative or technical tasks, but recently more and more virtual assistants have added creative and marketing abilities to their skillset to adapt to the changing business climate.
Virtual assistants work remotely with online entrepreneurs or brick and mortar businesses. Their job is to take work off of business owners’ plate so they can focus on growing their business.
There are hundreds of services that virtual assistant could be providing, but here is a non-exhaustive list of the most common tasks they perform:
- Email management: organize personal inbox, prioritize emails, reply to emails.
- Calendar management: book appointments, manage back and forth to schedule a meeting, place meetings in calendars.
- Data entry: manually enter data in a software, or copy data from a location to another.
- Social media management: administer a page, post content, respond to private messages and comments.
- Design: create graphic content for social media and marketing purposes.
- Bookings and travel arrangements: book flights, hotels and help plan business trips.
- Research and invoice clients
As you can see, there are a lot of tasks virtual assistants can perform to free up time for business owners. It eventually comes down to what the business needs and what the virtual assistant can offer.
How to Become a Remote Virtual Assistant?
Working as a virtual assistant is one of the fastest growing remote career fields right now. Here you’ll find all you need to know about jumping on this rapidly moving bandwagon at just the right time. In a nutshell, this job consists of completing administrative tasks for a client to make their personal or professional life easier. However, these online errands can really run the gambit, so no two positions are ever exactly the same.
The first step to becoming a virtual assistant is to consider what skills you already possess that will make you a qualified candidate. Have you Ever made appointments for yourself? Had to answer emails at another job? Ever promoted something on social media? Or made travel arrangements for friends or family? Then you are already well on your way! These abilities that you may have overlooked are actually super transferable into a virtual assistant role, and your resume and cover letter should reflect this.
If you really prefer to obtain some proper certification, there are plenty of online classes and workshops that will provide more official documents. While this is not necessary, it certainly won’t hurt your chances of booking a more lucrative gig in the field. There are a few different avenues to try when it comes to securing a VA position. There are many companies that regularly hire for this role, often using titles like administrative coordinator, executive assistant, or virtual administrative assistant. It’s also possible to be hired by an agency that would provide these services to a wide variety of companies.
Another option is to set up a profile on a freelance site and offer services on an individual contract basis. This usually means more freedom in deciding your daily work but can be less of a guarantee of consistent clients. In this scenario it’s important to perfect your resume, get positive reviews from past clients, and maybe even put together a portfolio of previous work depending on the services you’re offering. You can also take it one step further and begin your own business. Create a website and market yourself as a communication expert. Here decide if you want to set it up as a sole proprietor or create an affordable LLC.
How common is being a virtual assistant amongst digital nomads?
Virtual assistants are, by definition, working entirely remotely. For that reason, it is quite common for virtual assistants to also be location independent digital nomads.
Remote assistants are most likely able to set up their own working schedule, however some tasks such as replying phone calls, emails or taking meeting notes may require them to work specific hours. It’s entirely up to you to define the expectations with your clients. Sometimes, clients will prioritize assistants working in the same time zone to make communication and handling urgent tasks easier.
Most virtual assistants work as freelancer or independent contractors, which offers more flexibility to define your own employment terms and conditions. However, there are some virtual assistant companies that specialize in employing virtual assistants and finding them work with their client base. Some companies will also hire virtual assistants to work as full time remote employees.
Like most digital nomad careers, you don’t need to be an IT specialist to become a virtual assistant. However, proficiency in using a computer along with a stable internet connection is a must have to become successful in this field.
What Are Some of the Skills a Remote Virtual Assistant Needs?
There are so many services to offer under the guise of VA. Don’t feel like you need to be able to do it all, especially when starting out, just focus on the areas that you really feel most capable of and that you enjoy. This can include social media. Sometimes clients don’t have the time to create and share content online, though this is such an essential element of so many roles now. Managing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Pinterest accounts is a common request. Offer this service if you understand branding and marketing, copywriting, trends, and engagement.
Another option is blogging. As we know so well, running a blog can require quite a lot of work these days and many bloggers hire staff to help with the upkeep. This may consist of creating content, scheduling posts, editing and proofreading, moderating comments, creating graphics, improving SEO, or managing emails. Finance is a common virtual assistant assignment as well. Sometimes this comes in the form of ecommerce, in which case you would manage customer service, orders, or inventory for a store. Other times this means bookkeeping, taxes, invoices, or payroll. If you have these skills, it can be quite a lucrative niche to explore.
General administration is probably the most common skill required for this remote job. If you have previous experience in any office, this will probably sound super doable for you. It’s a straightforward way to start getting clients, especially in the beginning. Sell your know-how to manage calendars and schedules, emails, appointments, data entry, transcription, outreach, research, spreadsheets, and travel arrangements. It also helps to be very familiar with cloud-based technologies like file sharing and video calls.
What Training and Experience Are Needed to Be a Virtual Assistant?
The training and experience needed to be a virtual assistant depends on the niche you choose to navigate. The more specialized your skills are the more you stand to make per hour. If you do want formal training, you can find plenty of online courses conducted by people who have been in your positions themselves and can walk you through each and every step, preparing you for future clients. For experience, it can be anything from working in an office to studying social media marketing. Odds are, any job you’ve had before will have encompassed some of the qualities and experience needed to become a virtual assistant.
There are some natural abilities it’s important to have when diving into the VA field. Remote assistants need to possess proficient time management and organizational skills. Open and clear communication, both written and verbal, is always essential in these positions as well. This allows the client to be comfortable relying on you to help them through anything they may be struggling with. When you appear both reachable and responsible to a client you’re more likely to receive responsibilities. Be proactive, ready to problem solve, and resourceful all while remaining calm and collected for your client.
What is Important Virtual Assistant Equipment?
The most essential equipment for any virtual assistant is access to technology! It’s best to have an up-to-date laptop, phone, and of course reliable internet. This is necessary for not only doing the job but for finding the jobs. As it states in the name, everything you do for this position will be conducted virtually. It will serve you to be both connected and available online via many different mediums.
It’s helpful to be able to navigate all the modern modes of communication and organization. Be familiar with social media platforms, websites like WordPress, Google Drive, video conferencing tools like Zoom, calendar apps, and email etiquette. Whatever ways you stay personally organized on your devices, make sure to implement this into your VA work in order to best stay on top of each and every task.
Where Do You Find Clients as a Virtual Assistant?
Finding clients is the first, and maybe hardest, step in starting your virtual assistant journey. Whether you’re looking for full time, part time, or the flexibility of freelance, there are plenty of resources to tap in order to get going. Online job boards like Flexjobs and We Work Remote post a plethora of remote work positions that you can filter for your niche. There are also places to make a profile that clients can search, such as Fiverr and Upwork. These can be great spots to begin as you can set your price and some clients are quite happy to pay a bit less to hire someone inexperienced.
Staffing companies like Zirtual or Time Etc often hire permanent workers. This will take the burden of trying to source your own clients and income off of you, though of course your rate will be limited by them. You’ll need to apply and be based in the US to be accepted onto their team. Another option is to make your own website and market the hell out of yourself. It will help you to appear both professional and qualified. Do it for free and use social media to gain a following or pay for some advertisement. Either way, it’s empowering to have your future in your own two hands.
It’s also important to know who your target market is. What kind of clients are you looking for? Small businesses make up a large sector of the virtual assistant hiring helm. Think about what type of tiny company you would most like to help based on your interests and previous knowledge. Know that clients will likely ask to see your socials or sites, especially if you don’t have enough of a portfolio or previous reviews from clients, so make sure everything is tip top and reflects you well.
How to Score Jobs as a Virtual Assistant?
If you don’t want to use a third-party site, there are other ways to score jobs as a virtual assistant. No one really likes networking, but it’s become a necessary tool in today’s day and age, especially in the world of online freelancers. Use the support system you already have and ask around to see if anyone knows someone who needs a virtual assistant. You may be surprised by the results.
Email small businesses you already know, like, and follow to see if they’re looking for any help. Some brands will be happy to hire someone who already is really familiar with them. This is best via email, and not sliding into anyone’s DMs where it’s likely to be overlooked or taken as annoying.
Try joining some specific job forums online. There are so many groups dedicated to virtual assistant careers. Look into the International Virtual Assistants Association, Virtual Assistant Forums, or just search on Facebook and Reddit. This is also a way to connect with other people in the same field and share tips and tricks of the trade. It can be a super low-cost way to find work.
How Much Can a Virtual Assistant Expect to Make?
Virtual assistant is a low entry barrier job, this also means competition is very high and as a result, the price is dragged down, especially from developing countries. A virtual assistant can expect to make anywhere between $3 USD per hour to $60 USD per hour. The more specialized your skillset is, the higher rate you can charge. For instance graphic design and social media management require more expertise than data entry or calendar management.
It can be hard to measure how much your work is worth, but virtual assistant contracts are quite flexible. You can charge your clients by the task, by the hour or a combination of both depending on what services you offer. For example, you can charge email management by the hour, and the design of social media graphics by the task. Your salary will really depend on the services you can offer, your experience and reviews from existing clients. Having prior experience in project management or administrative tasks in your previous jobs can make a big difference.
Where do I start if I want to become a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is a great place to start for beginner digital nomads. There is no need for a specific education or degree, you just need to prove your efficiency and reliability. Many clients will hire virtual assistants based on their personality rather than purely hard skills. Virtual assistants need to be organized and disciplined, with a strong work ethic so company owners can trust them with managing their business and handling confidential information.
To launch your virtual assistant business, you first need to discover your skill set that business owners can use, starting with general beginner services. Can you write really good emails? Are you a fast typer, or a social media star? List all your competencies to create a menu of services you can offer to business owners.
To find your first clients as an independent contractor, many beginner virtual assistants will advertise their services on LinkedIn, Facebook or on specialized websites such as FancyHands, VaNetworking or oDeskWork. As a newcomer in the business, you may have to take low paid tasks to build your experience and gain positive reviews before you can claim higher pay jobs. Many remote assistants also start by soliciting someone they know: a small business owner in the family or within their friend circle.
It is always a good idea to create onboarding and workflow processes with your clients. How will you keep track of time? How and how often will you meet to discuss tasks progress? Make sure you determine upstream all the aspects of the partnership to ensure smooth collaboration with your clients and don’t leave any room for uncertainty. This will also show that you are a methodical and detail oriented person that can be trusted with your client’s important business tasks.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Working as a Virtual Assistant
Like any career path, there are pros and cons to a foray into the virtual assistant field. Let’s keep it light and start with the benefits! This job allows for so much freedom and flexibility, which in our opinion should always be a top priority. What’s more valuable than your time? You can make your own schedule and pick your own clients, basically being your own boss in structuring your life the way that works best for you.
It can be so fun and informative. You get to learn a lot about the inner workings of so many different fields, maybe ultimately leading you to another avenue you hadn’t considered before or didn’t feel qualified for. Unlike starting in some new areas of remote work, being a virtual assistant is easy and affordable to begin, with little to no upfront costs.
Okay let’s get into the nitty gritty of the job. It does require you to really stay on top of current technologies and trends. If this is something that sounds tedious to you, it may not be the right fit. Like many jobs it can all be dependent on who you work for, and you may get a difficult client from time to time.
There can be a lot of competition, so you need to set yourself apart. Whether it be through your social media presence, website, profile, or resume, it takes work to stand out from the crowd, especially if that crowd is trying to charge less than you are. Getting started and finding that first client is always the hardest part and can feel frustrating or scary to jump into a whole new field. Despite these downsides, we highly recommend looking into virtual assistant work, and we hope we’ve given you the tools to try it out!
Successful virtual assistants are perfectionists and highly detail oriented people, it takes a lot to trust someone you never met with your own business. If you are an organized multitasker with a strong work ethic, the virtual assistant path might be right for you. Virtual assistants are problem solvers, everyday is a different challenge and it can be very interesting to see how business owners handle the day-to-day workings of their companies.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created new opportunities for remote workers as more and more companies now are in the market to hire employees working from home. If you’re looking to become a virtual assistant, this is a great time to get started and land your first clients. Create your own brand that represents you and your business. Soon, you’ll be on the path to becoming a full-time digital nomad!