When I was still new in my freelance writing career, I did several low-key VA gigs. At the time, I didn’t know I was acting like a VA, since the term wasn’t as popular as it is now. Ultimately, it was not the career path for me, but I can’t recommend it enough for others. Here’s why – everyone one needs help, and most of the tasks people need completing are simple and don’t require extensive research.
When I first started as a VA, I simply looked at popular, independent-run websites and looked for opportunities to serve them. For example, I offered a popular coupon blogger to help her post deals, I helped a baby boutique list product, and I did deal round-ups for a pet blog.
If you want to be a VA, then there is a steady stream of work for you. You just need to know where to look and how to market yourself. Remember, every website, person (esp. authors), and business is a possible client because like I said, everyone needs help with the background tasks.
What Exactly Is a Virtual Assistant?
As a virtual assistant, you provide online support to a company, site, or person by working remotely. Figure this, a company has a task at hand but does not have money to hire a full-time employee. Most companies will often outsource the task to virtual assistants, who work remotely and do not even go to their client’s offices.
This gives you an opportunity to make money in the comfort of your home. You can also become a virtual assistant part-time for a company as you work full-time for a different company. There is no limit to what you can do because there is a large variety of work available.
What Type of Work Can Virtual Assistants Do?
There is no limit at the type of tasks you can do for a client. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Social media posting
- Answering email
- Creating graphics for posts and social media
- Creating content
- Moderating forums or groups
- Listing product
- Fixing and optimizing old content
- Commenting on other blogs
As a virtual assistant, your job description can rub shoulders with that as a writer or PR rep.
What Qualities Do You Need to Be a Successful VA?
To become a successful virtual assistant, these are some of the qualities you must possess;
Your client relies on you to deliver the work assigned and any failure to deliver on time must be accompanied by a genuine explanation. It is advisable to practice due diligence and always keep deadlines, but in case this does not happen, always tell the truth as to why it did not happen.
Your client will also trust you with private information, which needs to be respected. It is important to establish yourself as honest and trustworthy from the get-go. Look at your online presence right now. Do your pictures and social media posts give off an honest vibe? If you have pictures of you partying and long political rants on your personal media pages, this could send the wrong message to potential clients who Google you.
Good Communication Skills
If you are not good in communicating, you will not make a connection with your client. Remember, you are working virtually so the connection is key. It is important to give clients a daily and/or weekly progress report of what you accomplished and how your work benefits them. It doesn’t need to be long, but you need to show that you are worth the money.
For example, your weekly summary could go like this:
- 2 posts are saved as drafts and ready for you to review
- I pinned 150 pins, and you have 30 new likes and 20 new followers
- I updated your Twitter account per usual, and you have 10 new RT and 20 new followers
Your passion for the job will keep you in tune with your working hours and will keep you motivated. Also, be passionate about delivering the tasks on time. Sometimes you will work on fun projects, but many times you can be working on monotonous tasks. I think it is very important to be passionate about your client and your client’s work, or else it will be apparent in your work. For example, if I had to do the social media posts for a plumber, you can imagine that these posts might be a little dry because I don’t know anything about plumbing, nor do I care to learn.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
Communicate with your client clearly about your working hours so that they can know your schedule. This will prevent them from overburdening you with extra work outside your working hours.
You need to draw clear lines for your client because a client that wants you to do A and B each week for $100 can slowly turn into a client that wants you to do A, B,C and D each week for $100. If you aren’t careful you can increase your hours without increasing your rate, and therefore make less.
In most cases, your clients will be from a different time zone, dialect, or culture, so it is important to be flexible to their needs. Most clients will respect your schedule, but they must also feel comfortable to depend on you for help in rare, emergency situations.
To avoid these emergency situations from popping up too often, let your client know from the beginning that you will try to make yourself available above and beyond your regular hours for emergency needs (i.e. the site is down and customers are getting angry), but you will charge 1.5 times your hourly rate for hours worked during an emergency situation.
Basic Skills Every Virtual Assistant Needs to Be Successful
So, do you think you have the basic skills to become a successful virtual assistant? Some of the basic skills required include;
- Ability to type more than 45 words per minute, the faster the better
- Comfortable using Mac or windows
- Knowledge of how to use the internet and emailing
- Have good time management skills
- Know the basics of social media marketing
- Have a clear understanding of creation of newsletters
- Ability to adapt a brand or person’s voice
Also, get the right tool set. Have a good computer or laptop, at least two browsers that are up to date, Skype or another chat software, a good email account, and high-speed internet connection.
It is also important to be current with social media posting tools, like Tailwind and Buffer, as well as management tools, like Asana and Trello. Staying current on social media trends and successful practices will also make you a valuable tool for any client.
Why Virtual Assistants Need to Choose a Niche
There is a common misconception that a virtual assistant is supposed to do all the things. However, you will be a more productive and successful VA if you focus your talents on one niche.
What is it that you enjoy doing? For you to deliver quality work, you need to search for jobs in a field that you are familiar with and enjoy researching and talking about. After all, there is no point of leaving a 9-5 job that you hate and then start doing online work that you also hate.
For example, if you love researching and talking about natural health topics, then pursuing clients who need help building awareness on investing will drain you.
4 Things to Know When You First Get Started As a VA
1. Set a Fixed Schedule for Yourself
You must make a fixed schedule that you work with. In as much as being a virtual assistant allows you the flexibility to work from home, you need to make a habit of working hours every day. Make a schedule to fit into the hours when you are likely to experience least distractions. This will also help you stay productive and let clients know what to expect from you.
2. Deliver More
When you are first trying to get your name out, you want to create high-quality service to existing clients. Deliver more than what your client expects, as this will pay off in the long run. You want to impress your initial clients so that they refer you to others and so that you can get a recommendation quote from them.
Have them recommend and leave a personal quote about your work on LinkedIn, so that everyone can see it. Then copy and paste that quote with their picture on your website as part of your client testimonials.
3. Decide on Your Rates
You can decide to charge by the hour or by the project, or even have retainer rates. Having a website that clearly indicates your areas of specialization is an added advantage.
Your rates should depend on your area of expertise, the industry, and your client base. Do not undersell yourself. As you grow in the business and your level of expertise increases, so should your rates.
4. Market and Network
The best way to let the world know you are available for hire is to have a LinkedIn account that posts your experience, customer testimonials, and welcoming photo. Make connections on LinkedIn, but avoid spamming yourself out.
A personal website is also a great thing to have where potential clients can see your work and contact you for rates. I highly recommend your own domain name and to choose a domain that reflects your name. For example, AshleyEneriz.com or AshleyEnerizVA.com sounds much better than Ashleyeneriz.blogspot.com or a creative name like TheBestVAEver.com. Since you are just using this site to showcase your skills and available packages, you don’t need to go with a fancy host. I highly recommend Squarespace.com for an easy and professional looking site that is also affordable.
A social media presence is also important as it enhances your visibility and SEO, but being on Twitter or Facebook all day will not allow you to have any work done. Pop online when you need to network and build relationships but don’t be an annoying promoter of your business.
Also, create relationships with other virtual assistants. Do not view them as competition, especially because you may be in different areas of specialization. Having someone who understands your challenges is extremely beneficial as you can pass on work, exchange resources, teach each other new skills, and continuously support each other. Join online groups too, such as Facebook groups for bloggers.
Keep Learning: Resources to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant
Stay on top of new developments, not just in your niche, but with new technology and ways to work online. This will keep your skills up to date and varied, and you will be worth much more.
I truly believe in investing in your knowledge and skill. If you say, “I don’t have money for that book or course,” then you will stay stagnant in your skills and earnings. Yes, it is a risk to invest in a course, but it is one that will help you learn and make the necessary connections to earn more.
The Bootstrap VA: The Go-Getter’s Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assitant by Lisa Morosky
The Bootstrap VA is one of the first official guides to help people become a virtual assistant. Morosky first wrote the book when the idea of a VA was becoming a popular side job. She updated the book in 2015, and it is a hefty 230 pages, so you know it covers a lot.
How to Make Real Money as a Virtual Assistant by Sarah Titus
I have read a few of Sarah Titus’ other books and they are packed with helpful info, though she has the tendency to write short books and doesn’t go as in-depth as I would prefer. Her How to Make Real Money as a Virtual Assistant is a good starting point, especially if you can get it free through Amazon Kindle Unlimited (Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial).
The VA Crash Course
My friend, Allie Williams, makes a great income as a VA. In fact, her first month of being a virtual assistant, she made $4,000. Incredible! Her course, The VA Crash Course is one of the most affordable I have seen, and she really knows her stuff.
The VA Starter Pack
If you are not ready to commit to Allie’s paid course, then try out her free course and book, The VA Starter Pack, which gives you the basics of becoming a virtual assistant.
30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success
Gina Horkey of Horkey Handbook is another very knowledgeable VA and writer. She goes above and beyond to help you become successful. Her course is $150, but I have no doubt that you will make more than that within the first month of completing 30 Days of Less to Virtual Assistant Success.
If you are looking where to start in your work at home journey, then landing gigs as a virtual assistant is a good place to start. It could unlock writing opportunities or other opportunities that allow you to shift into the perfect career for you.