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Ultimate Guide to Being a Virtual Assistant

The Ultimate Guide to Being a Virtual Assistant

Last updated: June 19, 2019
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As the world gets more and more connected, professionals and businesses alike have a growing need for virtual assistance. While this job is fluid, and can have a number of differing responsibilities, a work-at-home virtual assistant (sometimes called a VA) is a great job for people who are detail-oriented and prefer to work remotely.

In this article we will explain what a virtual assistant is, what VA work entails, and the best ways to become a virtual assistant. We’ll also dive in to how to start your own business as a virtual assistant, and answer some frequently asked questions about being a VA.

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant is someone who virtually helps people and businesses operate more smoothly. The job is one that takes many forms — VAs can work both as personal assistants or as an administrative assistant for a small business, remotely helping business owners run their companies well.

For people who prefer (or need) to work from home, it’s an attractive position in that it allows you to be a part of a team and work with other people, and to do so from the comfort of your home office.

For Businesses

Many businesses, especially digital businesses with a remote workforce, are embracing the idea of a virtual office assistant. Digital offices need administrative support, and a VA can help with all the small — and large — tasks that make a business run. (More on those tasks below.)

For Individuals

More and more successful people are growing comfortable with the idea of a virtual executive assistant or personal assistant. For busy people who need help managing the details of their lives, a VA can provide them scheduling support, travel booking, appointment reminders, and more. Your job is to save them stress, hassle, and time.

Starting a VA Business

These jobs are usually paid on an hourly rate, and many employers aren’t looking for full-time VAs. A growing way to make a significant salary is to build a client list of several part-time clients instead. Working with several companies and people can function as its own small business, and more and more people are finding success building their own VA business.

A lot of this comes down to hustle. Landing that first client can get you started and establish a track record of success. Then the next step is to add more clients, and before you know it you’ll be starting your own online business.

Job Roles and Responsibilities

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One of the main appeals of working as a VA is that you get to work on a variety of tasks depending on the needs of the business or person you’re working for. Virtual assistant services can include travel booking, office management, administrative support, scheduling, project management, and customer support, all depending on the day. Here are some common VA services that you can expect to provide, depending on the client:

Booking Travel 

If you’re a planner, one of the most fun parts of working as a VA is making travel arrangements for your clients. You can help organize business trips, compare hotels, book flights, and make sure travel runs efficiently.

Handling Phone Calls

Whether working as a personal online assistant or a VA to a small business, you may have to do some work on the phone. Your employer may ask you to answer basic inquiries from customer calls, forward on messages to appropriate employees, or have you follow up and schedule their calls with potential clients.

Light Data Entry 

A component of VA work might be some light data entry. Some companies will ask that applicants have a working knowledge of Excel to aid in that work. To learn more about online data entry work, read our guide on the subject.

Administrative Tasks

This is a catch-all for all sorts of small tasks that make a business run. You might do online research to prepare for a presentation, provide administrative support around a major project, or help polish up a PowerPoint.

Social Media Management

If you are working as a virtual assistant for a small company, they may ask you to set up and maintain social media accounts. This work includes elements both of marketing and customer care, as social media is a way for businesses to not only communicate special offers to customers, but interact with them as well. Responsibilities may include keeping Facebook groups updated and current, replying to reviews on Yelp, or answering customer questions on Twitter.

Customer Support

If you are working as a VA for a small business, they may ask that you answer customer calls to provide basic information, or forward on the call to the appropriate employee. You can also act as a virtual customer service representative on social media accounts.

(VA jobs are different than working as a customer service agent. If you want to work in online customer support, or manage teams of virtual call center representatives, you should read our more comprehensive guide to remote customer service jobs.)

Project Management

Occasionally you may need to function as a project manager for office projects, especially if they are of the administrative variety. If you have project management experience, make sure to note that when applying to VA jobs.

Again, not all of these responsibilities will be asked of every virtual assistant. Part of the appeal of the job is how fluid it is, and how each and every day can bring about new challenges.

Where to Look for Virtual Assistant Jobs

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While many VA jobs are found through word-of-mouth, there are plenty of job postings online that can help you get started building your list of clients.

One easy way to get started with VA work is through Fancy Hands, a company that connects professionals and businesses with online assistants. They are always looking for qualified assistants based in the United States, and pay between $3 and $7 per task. Learn more and apply at their website.

FlexJobs is a website that specializes in remote jobs and is excellent at helping people find work from reputable companies looking to hire virtual assistants. The site makes your job search easy, letting you search by job title and filter so that it only shows you jobs hiring for a home-based assistant. You can also set job alerts, review job descriptions, see if a job requires experience or is entry level, and more.

Other websites have extensive virtual assistant listings, including Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve covered what a virtual assistant is, what might be asked of a VA, and where to look for a VA job. Let’s answer some more questions about the job and its responsibilities.

1. What skills are needed to thrive as a virtual assistant?

While job duties may vary depending on the client, the skill set needed to thrive as a VA is pretty universal. Successful VAs tend to be extremely detail oriented, and love planning and organizing. Communication skills are key, and finding joy in doing online research will ensure that you enjoy your work.

2. What qualifications are required?

Qualifications needed for VA work totally depends on the job. Some may require a high school diploma. Others won’t care about education, but rather care more about assistant experience. Other jobs, such as digital executive administrative assistants for major tech firms, may require years of experience.

Having high speed internet access and knowing your way around a computer is a must, as some components of the job may include email management, social media management, website updating, and more. Working knowledge of software like the Microsoft Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), WordPress, and the major social media platforms will make you stand out as a candidate.

Knowing basic e-commerce can make you very attractive to small business owners looking to manage their online businesses.

Note any special skills when applying to jobs, such as knowledge of Spanish. It can’t hurt!

3. What type of professionals and businesses need virtual assistants?

It runs the gamut. Bankers, real estate brokers, lawyers, and artists may all have need for a VA. Small businesses may want a VA if they are looking for someone to help run their digital office, but brick-and-mortar stores may want to just hire a VA to help them run their business remotely. A variety of clients is part of what makes this job so appealing.

4. How do I file taxes as a virtual assistant?

It depends on how you are classified. Some online companies will hire full-time VAs with benefits and a salary. Most VAs will be independent contractors, which means you will need to self-employment taxes (1099s).

Earn Extra Cash as a Virtual Assistant

If you are looking for work-from-home jobs, becoming a virtual personal assistant or an office assistant to a small business can be a great way to make money. The job allows you to be self-employed, and if you find enough success, you can start your own virtual assistant business. Now you can get started on building your own client list and thriving as a virtual assistant.

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