Becoming a virtual assistant is a great way to find a work-life balance, but what does it take to get this job when you’re starting from scratch? Here’s what you should know about this job and how to get it.
- 1 What Is A Virtual Assistant?
- 2 What Do Virtual Assistants Do?
- 3 How To Become A Virtual Assistant
- 4 Finding Virtual Assistant Jobs
- 5 Is Becoming A Virtual Assistant The Right Job For You?
- 6 Final Thoughts
What Is A Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistants are people who support one or more businesses remotely. Most virtual assistants focus on administrative and office tasks that don’t require being on the company’s premises, such as answering emails, making phone calls, updating schedules, and so on.
Many virtual assistants essentially work part-time, but since you’re working entirely from home, you can work for multiple companies at once. Most virtual assistants need high-speed internet connections and occasionally specialized devices, but companies will usually provide anything particularly important.
What Do Virtual Assistants Do?
Virtual assistants offer a wide variety of services to clients. Some specialize in specific jobs, like content creation or graphic design, while others are generalists who perform different tasks as the need arises.
If you’re still deciding how to become a virtual assistant, consider specializing in a specific area. This usually leads to better opportunities and higher pay than someone who’s decent in many areas but not quite an expert.
Many virtual assistants handle the bookkeeping, manage social media accounts, and process emails to be sure the right person reads them.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the areas that virtual assistants can help with.
Blogging is a key component of many inbound marketing strategies, and larger companies often want someone to handle it in-house instead of hiring an outside agency to take care of it for them.
Virtual assistants who focus on blogging may do things like:
- Optimize SEO attributes on each blog
- Write each blog to the company’s specifications
- Proofread written content
- Find or create graphics for each post
- Add or remove URLs, as appropriate
- Manage a list of emails
- Schedule blog posts
How much you’ll blog as a virtual assistant varies by company. Many businesses want to get a blog post up every day, so this can ensure steady work.
Related post: This is How to Write a GREAT Blog Post [2021 Updated]
Virtual assistants who focus on content creation are similar to bloggers and may also write posts, but also focus on a wider number of creative tasks. These can include creating digital graphics, taking photos, creating videos, and researching ideas for new content.
This is a particularly valuable skill set because most businesses want more content but don’t always have someone on staff who can create it. The secret to success here is finding companies that have a high demand for new types of content.
For example, many makeup and beauty companies have a near-constant need for product arrangements, videos showcasing new products, and graphic designs for ad campaigns.
This is a good option if you’re creative, but it can also require some technical know-how. Some types of media you could create are large, so you may need to mail files or create upload/download systems that can handle your workload.
Virtual assistants who focus on e-commerce are especially valuable to smaller businesses that simply don’t have the staff to handle everything they want to do. Working in this area, you may help manage inventories, do marketing, handle returns and exchanges, provide customer service, and otherwise help maintain the site.
Every business is different, and some owners are more hands-on than others, so flexibility is key to success in this role.
Every business needs to manage its finances somehow. This isn’t always complicated enough to be a full-time job, but you can bet that business owners want a professional to take care of it. Virtual assistants who do this often handle payroll, create invoices, do bookkeeping, prepare reports, and so on.
We call this a virtual assistant job, but truthfully, it’s much closer to being a full accountant than a mere assistant. It also pays better than many of the other roles, so this is an excellent route to consider if you’re handy with numbers.
This is essentially the opposite of finance in that it pays less than the other roles and doesn’t require as many specialized skills. However, it’s also a common job because many small and mid-sized businesses enjoy having office help. That ultimately makes it easier to find new jobs as needed.
Virtual administrative assistants may make travel arrangements, set up spreadsheets, perform data entry, manage files, handle emails, and do almost anything else that on-site assistants usually do.
This is an excellent place to begin if you already have office experience and want to transition to a familiar role while studying for a specialty.
Finally, virtual assistants are starting to specialize in social media. This usually includes places like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but some companies are also exploring smaller and newer sites in case they get bigger.
Social media is an increasingly large part of marketing and can create huge amounts of buzz.
In 2018, for example, fast-food chain Wendy’s made consistent headlines for its incredibly sassy presence and willingness to roast just about anyone and anything. That’s not the right attitude for every company, but it shows how effective social media management can be.
Virtual assistants who focus on this usually monitor social media sites for mentions, engage with customers, select pictures, create headlines, and otherwise try to maximize a company’s presence online.
How To Become A Virtual Assistant
Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to become a virtual assistant in modern times.
Step One: Figure Out Your Offer
What are you offering to companies? As you can see from the list above, virtual assistants can have a huge variety of skill sets. It’s not rare for companies to hire several assistants for different roles.
Focus on the things you’re best at and figure out how to market yourself to a potential employer. You can also research companies and see where they have weak spots, then present yourself as the solution to their problem.
For example, you might see that a company’s blog is sparsely populated and isn’t attracting many readers. If you’re great at writing, you can offer to help with that and turn their blog into a revenue-driving machine.
Experience is always helpful, and don’t be afraid to get creative when naming the sources of your experience. Don’t lie, but do be willing to consider experiences outside of work if they’re relevant to your offer. It’s easy to transition from a hobbyist photographer to a specialist.
Step Two: Set Up Your Business
Virtual assistants usually work as independent contractors, not direct employees for a company. This means that you’re functionally running a business, and there are two good options for doing it.
The first option, and one that many people choose for its simplicity, is running a sole proprietorship. This is an unincorporated business where you pay personal income tax on anything you earn.
Sole proprietorships have practically no regulation or paperwork to worry about, so you can start and stop them anytime. However, sole proprietorships also place all of the risk and the burden directly on you. If you make a mistake on social media and badly damage their brand, you could be liable for that.
This sort of thing is why some virtual assistants form LLCs. Limited liability companies are a little more complicated to set up and run, but they offer extensive personal and legal protections if someone tries to come after your assets.
LLCs also cost something to maintain, with fees ranging from minimal paperwork costs to a few hundred dollars per year, depending on where you live.
Step Three: Create A Website/Social Media Presence
Owning a personal website is a great way to help advertise yourself and your skills. This is a mix of resume and CV, with the opportunity to use graphics, videos, and other content to spice things up.
Most companies are more willing to trust people who have websites on top of content that helps prove your identity and experience, so this will help you stand apart from the crowd.
Getting a presence on social media is also useful. At this point, it’s time to consider splitting any accounts you have. One should focus on personal things, while the other should be all business.
Some younger business owners understand that people often do a lot of things on social media, but since you’re essentially managing your brand, you want to look professional at all times.
Setting up and managing a social media account can take time, so try to start this as early as you can.
Step Four: Find Some Friends
This may sound like a strange step for becoming a virtual assistant, but it’s more helpful than you might think.
Virtual assistants are often lonely. Working from home is nice if you don’t want to interact with people too much, but it can be hard if you don’t have anyone to talk to. Making friends with other virtual assistants is a good way to meet your social needs, have someone to rant about things with, and generally manage your mental health.
Friends can also give you advice for particularly complicated situations, help you find new employers, or mentor you. Best of all, employers have essentially no control whatsoever over these relationships. You don’t even need to mention that you’re chatting with friends as long as you don’t break any confidentiality agreements.
Step Five: Get Feedback From Employers
This is a little trickier than some of the other steps. Most business owners don’t want to take time every day to give you detailed feedback, but they’re usually more willing to do it if you schedule a meeting ahead of time. If you’re the one who plans their schedule, it’s easy to make a little time for yourself.
Try to couch this in positive terms. For example, you can emphasize that businesses have different processes and you want to be sure that your techniques fully mesh with the rest of the business.
Good employers will be honest and tell you where they think you can improve. Once they see changes, they’ll usually be quite happy and more likely to keep you around long-term.
Clients that are particularly happy with your work will usually agree to act as references or referrals, which can help you get other jobs in the future. Either way, feedback from employers is invaluable for your personal and professional growth.
Finding Virtual Assistant Jobs
Now that you know more about how to become a virtual assistant let’s take a look at the best places to find these jobs.
Online job boards are a great resource for finding virtual assistant jobs. Most of them let you search for this job title by name and show results from all over the country. That’s good because virtual assistants can work anywhere in the world. You’re not limited to nearby businesses.
Try to stay away from one-shot jobs, though. These are tasks that are similar to being a virtual assistant, but most larger boards have a ton of people competing for the same job. That often results in getting paid far less than you need and deserve.
Related post: How to Make Money on Upwork [2021 Updated Guide]
Alternatively, you can try to find clients yourself and apply directly to them. This takes more work than applying through job boards, but it’s surprisingly effective for this job. Here’s why.
Most companies prefer to hire their regular employees through job boards, but virtual assistants aren’t regular employees. You’re an independent contractor, which means you can convince companies to give you a job if you do a good job explaining a problem you’ve seen and how you can help.
For example, let’s say you want to apply to a company that has a bad blog. You can introduce yourself, mention that you were looking at their blog, and then propose a strategy to improve it. Throw in a few links and references without making things too long and you’ve got a great template you can customize for each employer.
There are two main points to keep in mind when you’re finding clients directly.
First, you want to look for business pain points. These are areas where companies are struggling and losing potential income.
Second, you want to be the solution to that pain point. Demonstrating how you can solve their problem, and how that will make them more money, is often enough to convince businesses to hire you.
Most people don’t have the luxury of simply approaching businesses and asking to get hired, but the unique skills of virtual assistants mean this old-style approach is still workable here.
Is Becoming A Virtual Assistant The Right Job For You?
Here are some other things to consider before you head off to start your new job as a virtual assistant.
Pro: It’s Easy To Get Started
It’s easy to get started once you know how to become a virtual assistant. In most cases, all you need is a good computer and a reasonably fast internet connection. You can try to become a virtual assistant even if you’ve never worked in an office before, though it helps to have skills that you can translate to this job.
You can also prepare for becoming a virtual assistant before you quit any existing job. That’s a good time to create your website, start managing your social media account, and generally transition into a professional online role.
There’s no substitute for experience, and it’s so easy to build a personal website with modern tools that you don’t need to learn much (if any) coding. Anyone can look into a job as a virtual assistant, and that’s one of the best things about this role.
Pro: You Don’t Need A Degree
College degrees are certainly useful, but most businesses care more about your actual work experiences instead of your general knowledge. Furthermore, you don’t even need a license to work in this job.
Virtual assistants are interesting because they offer good pay for minimum qualifications, and that’s a rarity in modern times.
The one thing to keep in mind is that you may want to incorporate an LLC for the reasons described earlier. That can take a few weeks, so try to set that up early if you want the added protection.
Pro: You Control Your Schedule
As a virtual assistant, you’ll have a lot of control over your exact schedule. Depending on the job, you can take breaks whenever you want and work at whatever pace makes sense. You won’t have quite as much freedom if you need to answer phone calls or respond to emails as soon as possible, but most virtual assistants have almost no limits on how they spend their time.
This is one of the main reasons that being a virtual assistant is good for having a work-life balance. Whether you need to take care of children, want to spend time with a pet, or just like having unstructured days, being a virtual assistant gives you outstanding control over your schedule.
Most bosses aren’t going to ask too many questions as long as you deliver all of your work on time. If you can do that, you can be a virtual assistant.
Con: It Can Be Hard To Find Your First Client
Finding clients gets easier as you build experience, make contacts, and learn how to search for them. Finding your first client is noticeably harder. This is the main barrier that many people face to becoming a virtual assistant.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to alleviate this. The best strategy is to look at job boards. These don’t always have the best virtual assistant jobs, but they offer a good opportunity to build experience while you continue looking for other positions.
Remember that you can work for multiple employers if one of them isn’t sending you enough work. You can even outsource basic tasks like data entry, pocketing the difference, and earning some extra money without having to do quite as much work yourself. Just be honest with your clients if you go this route.
Con: You Need To Stay Current With Technology
Most employers want assistants who are intimately familiar with modern technology and processes. This means knowing what sort of tech they’ll be using, which social media platforms they may be transitioning to, and so on.
You don’t need to get certified in every piece of tech that comes along, but try to test and gain experience with different sorts of relevant software at every opportunity. The more you do this, the better off you’re going to be.
Con: You Have Overseas Competition
This is the real kicker for some jobs. You can be a virtual assistant from anywhere in the world, but so can anyone else.
Many areas in South America, Asia, and Africa have low costs of living, which means virtual assistants can accept low rates because it will still be a lot of money in those areas. In other words, you’re competing with people who can accept far lower rates than you can.
The only way to get around this is by focusing on the quality of your work. Many established businesses are willing to pay good rates for experienced, professional help. This is especially true if you can get additional certifications and offer help that overseas competitors can’t.
Becoming a virtual assistant is a great way to make decent money while improving your work-life balance. You can start this role after getting minimal experience in a real office, and chances are you already have all of the equipment you need to do it.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re selling your skills. When possible, take every opportunity to develop and showcase your professional abilities. Don’t be afraid to learn new things, find mentors, get certified in different software, and otherwise become an expert in your field.
Companies are increasingly turning to online assistants and independent contractors for help, so there are always more opportunities when you’re working as a virtual assistant.