What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who provides support services through remote work. Virtual assistants often perform administrative tasks, but they may provide any support service a business needs. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs need help with tedious but necessary tasks but don’t want to hire permanent employees. A virtual assistant can do most tasks an on-site assistant can do, but they do them remotely, either full or part-time.
The skills you need to be a successful virtual assistant include:
You’ll need strong organizational skills to keep your business and your clients’ jobs on track. Since you’ll probably be doing online jobs with more than one client, it will be essential for you to stay on top of many different tasks at once.
Communication, both with your clients and for your clients, will be a considerable part of your job. You need to be proficient in all types of communication, including written and oral. You should be familiar with popular platforms for business communications such as Slack.
Without a boss, you’ll be responsible for pacing your own work. To get everything done, you need to be a master of time management. This may involve taking your laptop to your child’s soccer practice or getting up early to work before your doctor’s appointment. Your clients will depend on you to get things done, so you need to be able to work on deadlines.
Although your work will be far more involved than simply typing, you do need to be able to type proficiently. You don’t have to hold any speed records, but since a lot of your work will involve some kind of typing, being skilled in touch typing is essential for virtual assistants.
Reliability is a top priority for virtual assistants. If your clients know they can depend on you, they will return to you repeatedly. Most people prefer to work with people they know they can count on. As a virtual assistant, you should make sure that you always get your tasks accomplished on time.
As a virtual assistant, you’ll be doing something new every day. Your clients will want you to do research for them and find them options they may not have considered. You may need to fact-check an article, book entertainment for a birthday party, and find the best Thai restaurant in a city you’ve never visited, all before lunch.
What Virtual Assistant Services Can You Provide?
You can provide almost any service as a virtual assistant, from general to highly specialized. Some popular services offered by virtual assistants include social media management, marketing, design and data entry. Many businesses want to outsource these jobs to focus on their primary business objectives.
Social Media Management
An online presence is a necessary part of running any kind of business these days. As a result, social media is a significant part of most companies’ marketing and brand-building strategies. Additionally, customers now expect brands to respond to them almost immediately if they reach out on social media.
However, because social media often isn’t a core business activity, many small businesses hire a virtual assistant to manage their social media. If you know all of the ins and outs of various social media platforms and enjoy interacting with others on them, this could be a good service for you to provide.
Some social media management services you can provide include:
- Creating social media profiles
- Creating and posting content to social media sites
- Interacting with customers via social media
- Creating and managing social media campaigns and email marketing
- Researching high performing, relevant hashtags
- Optimizing social media posts.
Bookkeeping, Invoicing & Data Entry
You don’t have to be an accountant to offer bookkeeping services as a virtual assistant. Keeping track of invoices, expenses, and financial data is another task that busy business owners often outsource. If you’re proficient in cloud-based bookkeeping software such as Quickbooks and you enjoy working with numbers, you might want to offer bookkeeping services.
Here are some standard bookkeeping services you could offer: :
- Paying bills
- Sending invoices
- Sending payment reminders
- Entering and categorizing expenses
- Preparing profit and loss statements
- Reconciling expenses
- Entering and categorizing income
Data entry is another related service you can offer. You’ll need to be proficient in spreadsheets and customer relationship management (CRM) software. Data entry virtual assistants perform tasks such as:
- Preparing, categorizing, and entering data
- Creating spreadsheets and reports
- Converting data from one format to another
- Checking data for accuracy
- Maintaining information in databases
- Transcribing data into specialized codes
Editing and Proofreading
If typos drive you crazy and all of your friends call you the grammar police, offering editing and proofreading services as a virtual assistant may be an excellent fit for you. Editing and proofreading services range from quick grammar and spelling checks to more complicated editing for voice, tone and style. For example, you may be editing 500-word articles for bloggers or complete books for authors.
Editors and proofreaders need to pay close attention to detail. You’ll also need an in-depth understanding of grammar and knowledge of style. Many organizations use AP style, but some prefer MLA style or their own in-house style guide. As a virtual assistant, some editing and proofreading services you can offer include:
- Checking articles, papers, essays and books for spelling and grammatical errors
- Providing feedback about voice and tone
- Highlighting structural issues in writing
- Giving feedback about word choice, strength and clarity
Many busy leaders are overwhelmed with the number of daily emails they receive. Wading through junk emails to get to the ones that matter can take valuable time away from work that’s more important.
You can fix this pain point by offering to manage email for your clients. You’ll need to be organized, friendly and tech-savvy to provide this service. Additionally, you should have strong writing skills since you’ll be composing emails on behalf of your clients.
Each client will probably have specific guidelines they want you to follow when handling their emails, but here are some jobs you’ll probably be expected to do:
- Declutter inboxes by sorting, categorizing, and deleting emails
- Delete spam emails
- Keep email list subscriptions up-to-date
- Respond to emails as directed
- Mark any important emails that need to be read
- Manage calendar invitations
If you have a talent for finding the best prices on airline tickets and hotels, you might want to offer travel arrangements as part of your virtual assistant services. Managing travel arrangements is a common request for virtual assistants.
Making travel arrangements can involve almost any aspect of business or leisure travel, including:
- Booking hotels
- Reserving flights
- Finding local entertainment options
- Making restaurant reservations
Graphic design is a high-value service for many businesses. If you enjoy graphic design but don’t want to focus on it exclusively, you can include it as one of your VA services. Many small business owners need occasional help designing social media ad campaigns, email flyers, and other marketing materials. With tools like Canva, you don’t need to be trained as a graphic designer to produce professional-quality results.
Graphic design is a perfect service to pair with another service, such as social media management. For example, designing social media graphics and ad campaigns and handling social media management lets you create added value for your clients and added income for yourself.
When you’re putting together a package of graphic design services, here are some you can include:
- Logo design
- Website graphics and page layout
- Business cards
- Image editing
- Ebook layouts and covers
- Social media visuals
- Brand design
- T-shirt design
Where Can You Find Virtual Assistant Jobs?
When you’re first getting started, finding work can be difficult. Once you’ve been working for a while, you’ll probably have more jobs than you can handle. Here are some of the best places to start looking for VA jobs:
Upwork is one of the largest and most well-known freelance sites for finding all types of work, including VA jobs. Upwork includes a section for virtual assistants, so you can start looking for jobs to bid on as soon as you join. You’ll need to create a profile before you can start bidding. Upwork includes skill tests you can take to get verified, which might increase a client’s confidence in you for specific jobs.
Fiverr is an ideal platform for those just getting started or for testing the waters before you start offering a new service. Fiverr is slightly different from other platforms because you’re selling a “gig,” not an ongoing service. It’s most often used for one-off projects, such as designing a book cover, but it’s a good way to make contacts that may turn into longer-term relationships.
FlexJobs is an online platform for finding vetted remote, flexible and hybrid jobs. There are usually hundreds of virtual assistant jobs available. Additionally, FlexJobs provides skill tests, courses and professional advice to help you find the best jobs and to advance your career.
99 Dollar Social
If social media management is one of your services, you may want to consider 99 Dollar Social. They’re looking for virtual assistants to curate and write content for businesses that use their site. You would be freelancing for them instead of working for companies directly. They pay a flat rate per account, so as you get more accounts, you get paid more. You will have to do seven to eight hours of unpaid training before you can start working for them, though.
ZipRecruiter is an online job marketplace that uses artificial intelligence to match you with appropriate jobs. Just type in virtual assistant jobs and see what turns up.
Zirtual may be an option if you’re just getting started and don’t want to focus on finding your own clients. You’ll be working for them instead of working for individual clients. You won’t have as much freedom in deciding what services to offer since their clients pay for packages that include set services. They will pay you as a 1099 freelancer, and the average starting pay is between $3000 and $3500 per month for full-time. They have pretty stringent requirements, so this may be an excellent opportunity if you’ve worked as an in-office personal assistant before.
LinkedIn is known as a great place to network. While its job board is still mostly focused on traditional jobs, it’s worth a look. Additionally, LinkedIn is a good place to network and raise your profile. It gives you the opportunity to provide valuable content and become known as a leader in your industry. You can publish articles to increase your visibility.
Time Etc is a platform that matches you with three to five clients. You’ll have an ongoing relationship with those clients doing normal administrative duties. They only hire people with at least five years of experience, but experience working in a traditional office counts toward that time. When you’re working, they ask that your availability includes at least a few hours during traditional business hours, but most of your work can be done whenever it’s convenient for you. Pay rate starts at $13 per hour.
Belay is another company that matches you with clients. You can work as little as 10 hours per week or more than 40 hours per week. You are expected to be on-call and available to your clients during normal business hours. They are a great option if you’re looking to transition from a traditional role to a remote one.
Belay offers a variety of roles, including social media manager, bookkeeper and virtual executive assistant. According to Glassdoor, Belay pays executive virtual assistants around $20 per hour. Once you apply, you’ll have to take a test of your skills to qualify, and then you’ll be matched with clients for the number of hours you want to work.
Indeed is a job board where you can look for any type of work. It’s not specific to freelance workers or virtual assistants, but you can find almost any type of job listed on Indeed. Just type in “virtual assistant” in the search box and see what turns up.
Guru is a platform for freelancers to find work. With Guru, you set up an account to get access to jobs. If you’re interested in doing a job, you bid on it and wait to see if your bid is accepted. You can increase your chances of winning bids by crafting a relevant cover letter and completely filling out your profile.
The Mom Project
The Mom Project is a job board that was founded by women who are committed to helping women stay active in the workforce throughout their lives. They work with companies to provide opportunities that allow women to balance work with their family obligations.
How to Become a Virtual Assistant and Work From Home
Setting up a business can seem overwhelming for a lot of people but if you’re a whiz at organizing paperwork and staying on top of deadlines (and most virtual assistants have to be), it will probably be easier for you. Requirements for different states and municipalities will vary, so check with your local officials for guidance about getting a business license and paying taxes.
In addition to fulfilling the tax requirements, almost all virtual assistants will need to do the following
Identify Your Skill Set and Choose Virtual Assistant Services to Provide
If you have experience as an administrative assistant and already know what services you want to provide, this step may be easy. If you’re brand-new to this idea and exploring your options, take some time to think about your strengths and existing skill set.
Write down your work and volunteer experience – not just your job title but the types of tasks you did in each role. You can also take a free Skills Health Check to evaluate your skills and interests.
This is also a perfect time to think about things you don’t enjoy doing, even if you are good at them. This is your business, and you’re probably going to spend a lot of time working on it, so make sure it’s something you enjoy. If you’re a whiz at doing taxes, but you hate it, don’t offer that as a service.
The area where your skills and your interests overlap is your sweet spot. Think about the skills you can offer in this area. If you find a skill deficit in an area that you enjoy and are interested in, consider taking a class to learn some new skills. For example, if you’re interested in graphic design but you don’t have any experience, you can take a free or inexpensive course from Canva or Udemy. To stay competitive, you’ll constantly need to be upgrading your skills anyway.
Based on your list, develop a set of services you’ll offer. You might want to group these into sets, such as bookkeeping, social media management and graphic design. You can market each as a package for a set price. Don’t forget to include an option for custom packages for clients who want to design their own packages.
Set Up Your Virtual Assistant Business
Once you know what services you’ll be offering and have a plan, go ahead and take care of the legalities like applying for a business license if you need one and registering your business name with your Secretary of State. You can usually search your Secretary of State’s website to make sure your name isn’t taken.
When you register your business, decide what type of entity you want to form. You can be a sole proprietor, which is most common for one-person businesses, a limited liability corporation (LLC), or a corporation. You should consult with a professional about which option is best for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them.
Now is also a good time to get all of your tools together to set yourself up for success. Presumably, you already have a laptop and a good internet connection or somewhere to work that you can access one). While you can get by on that, there are some other tools that may be useful as well.
You’ll need some type of invoicing and bookkeeping system so you can get paid and file taxes. Project management software can also come in handy for keeping clients and the services you’re providing organized and on time. If you’re charging by the hour, you may also need a tool for tracking your time so you can bill accurately.
Create Your Website and Social Media Presence
Wait until you’ve officially registered your business before investing in a domain name or website, just in case you have to pick a different name. However, it’s not a bad idea to check to see if your business name is available as a domain before you register it. Brainstorm some different related names if you don’t have your heart set on a particular one.
Unless you have some clients to start with, you will probably have some time on your hands when you first start out. Use this time to set up your website and other social media channels so you can start marketing. Landing your first client will be the toughest part. Once you do work for a client, ask them for a testimonial. You can make this a standard part of your workflow. Including testimonials on your website is a form of social proof that will help you attract more clients.
Choose Your Business and Pricing Structure
It’s a good idea to include your pricing structure on your website, although if you only want to offer this information to potential clients once they’ve contacted you, you can set it up on a hidden page.
There are several different ways you can set up your pricing:
Flat fee. This is a good option for specific, one-time tasks. You might charge a set fee for setting up a simple website, for instance. Only choose a flat fee if you have done the task before and you know how long it will take. You don’t want to charge a flat rate for a skill you’re just learning, since you may end up working for much less than a fair hourly rate.
Hourly rate. Setting an hourly rate for general administrative tasks lets you get paid by the hour for whatever work you’re doing. The benefit of this is that you don’t end up putting in a lot of unpaid work on jobs that turn out to be more complicated than you originally thought. If you’re just starting out, you may want to choose this option so you can get a better idea of how long different jobs take. Then you can set up package pricing structures more accurately. Keep in mind that you need to charge a higher hourly rate than you’d make if you were working for a company. You will have a lot of unpaid labor involved in running your business, so if you charge the same as you’d make as an employee, your actual rate will be much lower.
Hourly package rate. You can set up a package for a set number of hours. An hourly package might include a 10% discount. So if your hourly rate normally totals $500, you might offer the same number of hours for $450. The benefit to you is that you get the money upfront instead of having to invoice after the fact.
Monthly fee. If you have a longstanding relationship with a client, you might want to offer a flat monthly fee so they can be sure you’re always available to give them the help they need. Just make sure you include a scope of services in the contract so that you don’t end up working for less than you want.
Service package rate. When you bundle your services, you can offer a set service package rate. For example, you can offer social media management for a flat rate of $800 per month. As with other options, it’s a good idea to make sure you know how long it will take before a flat rate instead of an hourly rate.
No matter which pricing option you choose, you should have a contract for each one that outlines what services you’re providing and exactly how payments should be made. You can find examples of these types of contracts online, or you can consult a lawyer and have them drawn up. You and your client should both sign it and have a copy before you start working.
Land Potential Clients by Applying to Jobs Online
When you have your business practices and pricing structure set up, it’s time to start finding clients. You can start by checking out the job boards and platforms listed above. Get started by bidding on or applying for jobs. However, don’t ignore the power of your own website and network. A good social media marketing plan can draw clients to you.
One of the most vital parts of good social media marketing is creating value. Before you ask your customers to spend money with you, create value for them through your posts and articles. You might offer a free “How to Work With a Virtual Assistant” booklet as a lead magnet. Collecting email addresses through social media marketing will give you an email list of potential clients that you can market to directly.
FAQS on How to Become a Virtual Assistant
Starting a business as a virtual assistant can be very rewarding, both financially and personally. Like anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to running your own business. Yes, you’ll be able to set your own hours, but your income (especially at first) is likely to be unstable.
The more you know before you start, the better position you’ll be in to decide if it’s the right choice for you. Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming a virtual assistant:
What is the Average Salary for a Virtual Assistant?
According to Indeed, the average pay for a virtual assistant is $19.43 per hour, so how much you make depends on how much you work. It’s worth noting, however, that this number includes virtual assistants that work for companies as well as those who work for themselves. You can make more than average by finding your own clients and working with them directly.
What Do I Need to Become a Virtual Assistant?
To get started, you have to have a computer and an internet connection. While there are other tools that will come in handy, those two are must-haves. In addition, you should have any software that’s required for the services you’ll be offering. If you’re offering image editing, you’ll need to have access to image editing software such as Photoshop. Sometimes you’ll use the client’s software for services, and you won’t need your own copy, but that’s not always the case so be sure to factor in software expenses into your overall rates.
Do You Need Training to Become a Virtual Assistant?
You don’t need any specific training to get started as a virtual assistant. For many administrative tasks, you probably already have the skills you need. If you’re offering specialized services, you’ll obviously need to know how to perform those skills.
If you’re not comfortable with your skills or you want some help with starting your business, there are many virtual assistant training courses available at Udemy, Belay and more. You can enroll in free introductory courses, or you can pay more for step-by-step guidance through the entire process.
Is It Worth Becoming a Virtual Assistant?
If you already have the skills you need to be a virtual assistant as well as the equipment and tools you’ll need, becoming a virtual assistant is definitely worth it. Being a virtual assistant is a well-paying job that you can do from almost any location. Plus, running your own business gives you control and flexibility over your working conditions.
Being a virtual assistant can be a perfect way to earn extra money and own your own business. With so many entrepreneurs launching startups and the proliferation of e-commerce sites, virtual assistants are in high demand. You can start a new career as a self-employed professional by providing administrative support to other businesses.