Virtual assistants seemingly came out of nowhere but skyrocketed in just months. People all over the world began hiring virtual assistants, therefore, a lot of people started aspiring to become one. And then the unexpected and sudden shifts of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak brought the golden age of the profession.
As people and entire companies are forced to operate from home, or at least remotely, virtual assistants are more sought after than ever before. Additionally, people all over the world are looking for legitimate, real remote job opportunities.
What is a Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant by definition is a self-employed professional specializing in administrative work offered to clients from a remote location. Typical tasks include appointment scheduling, schedule handling, phone calls, travel arrangements, etc.
All of these tasks can be done remotely, and make the life of the client much easier. But while this is a completely remote position, most people look for virtual assistants who reside in the same city as them. This ensures that there won’t be any time zone difficulties.
Also, with both parties staying in the same city, there’s the added advantage of knowing the locations. This allows assistants to deal with tasks such as running quick errands, picking up an item, meeting with someone, and so on.
Remote administration of Virtual Assitant
Remote administrative assistance began in the 1980s via delivery services. Then, in 1994, the Internet became one of the most popular mediums for business, and people were free to exchange anything from long distances. This later became what is now known as virtual assistance (or VA).
Today, a lot of business owners, and more commonly, entrepreneurs and “digital nomads” hire virtual assistants. This eliminates the financial and physical need of hiring a full-time employee to complete simple and small tasks. Instead, you can hire a part-time virtual assistant to do these for you.
These self-employed people usually work on an hourly basis, or even on project-based pay. This means you have to pay them for work that’s actually done, rather than pay them annually while some days end up being insignificant.
According to Business Wire, virtual assistants’ market size will reach $26.6 billion by 2025. They believe that COVID not only kick-started the golden years of the profession, but this rise was so significant, that the VA industry will keep growing even after the pandemic is over.
Skills You Need to Become a Virtual Assistant
There’s no need for a degree if you want to become a virtual assistant, but specialized areas do require some legal papers that prove your knowledge. For example, a business degree can come in handy, or a degree in finance, if you want to focus on a particular area.
For those who want to work with a marketing agency, a degree in communications and or marketing will go a long way. Also, experience in an office environment is always appreciated. Especially in administrative or assistant positions.
There are some skills that are recommended for virtual assistants everywhere.
The skill of creating, editing, saving, and printing documents rapidly, quickly, and of high quality. This is one of the many tasks virtual assistants do on a daily basis, no matter the industry they choose to work with.
Oral communication and writing skills
The talent for communication both orally and via text is also very important. You’ll need to be very flexible, as sometimes (if not most of the time), you’ll need to communicate with people representing your client, or their firm. You need to have a strong vocabulary, and you need to know the language use of the industry of your client in order to be reliable.
Basic computer skills
Most likely, you’ll be receiving tasks that involve many aspects of computer use. From text editing through PhotoShop to presentation making, you’ll need to have deep knowledge of everything that might come your way.
Because you are self-employed and are working flexible hours from the comfort of your home, you get to enjoy all the advantages of remote working. But you also must stay focused at all times, and take your job seriously. This requires a great deal of self-discipline and motivation.
Sometimes you’ll be left on your own, and you’ll either need to improvise in a moment’s time, or you’ll have to creatively complete a task. Both of these require a clear state of mind and effective decision-making skills. People want assistants who can stand on their own two feet, and who are not looking for guidance when any tiny inconvenience comes their way.
These are just some of a lot of skills that come in handy when trying to prove your worth in a rapidly growing industry. As a self-employed workforce, references are your number one proof. People notice a diamond in the rough, and when they do, they tend to praise them anywhere they go. Aim to be that diamond, and you’ll go a long way.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Make?
Most virtual assistants are given per hour. They tend to start at $13, with a high-end income of $35 per hour. For any self-employed person, it’s recommended to start offers somewhere between the low-end and average income ($13-$25 per hour).
People usually work their way up as they go from one client to the next. References and recommendations can boost your worth, so use those to corroborate your financial requirements. But to reach a true high-end income, you need a lot of experience. This means documents like recommendations project portfolios, or even a degree. With these, and with time, you’ll be able to ask for such a high income of $73,000 annual salary ($35 per hour).
For most self-employed people in any industry, experts recommend saving any and all documents that might make your case in future opportunities. These are recommendations, project reports, or recommendations.
You can even show off notes taken by you throughout the job regarding tasks you’re doing, or how you work on a daily basis. These documents might make or break your reputation, especially at the beginning of your career. So constantly build your portfolio and shed the best light on it possible.
Industries that Most Often Hire Virtual Assistants
There are some industries that, by the nature of their job, hire virtual assistants more often than others. For example, real estate brokers and property managers often use a VA to take the load off and pass on the paperwork to someone else.
They have a lot of administrative work from construction, through open houses, all the way to actually selling or renting a property. And because they usually have more than one property, they need someone to overlook most of their work. Most agencies that are more established have a lot of continuous work, so it’s a safe investment to start collaborating with real estate brokers.
The other most common place to find virtual assistants is law firms. This is mostly because of the same reasons as mentioned above. They have a lot of paperwork to go through before, during, and after a case, and during studies.
These papers need to be carefully administered and cataloged. Sometimes virtual assistants even help in researching or lending a hand in open cases. The depth in which a VA works alongside a law firm is based on their experience, and whether or not they have an active law license. It’s harder to work with law firms without a degree because of legal issues.
But even people without college degrees can find simple administrative tasks they can help within most firms. This is a great stepping stone for people interested in studying law, and a great source of amazing recommendations as well.
IT firms also hire virtual assistants very often because most of the work and administration can be done remotely. Today, IT people almost completely operate remotely. There is plenty of software that allows them to access computers from anywhere.
But even firms that have a frequented office often hire virtual assistants to handle their administrative tasks. Most of these positions do require at least a deep knowledge of IT and experience in this area. Still, there are some tasks that only require the capability to type up and analyze data properly.
Finance and Accounting
Another area that takes advantage of the luxury of virtual assistance is financial and accounting firms. Their administrative tasks can also be done remotely, as they have a lot of material to process quickly. Additionally, most appointments and meetings can be set through the phone or via email, allowing most assistants to work from home. As this is a mainly client-based area that relies on the loyalty of clients and the quality of their firm, frequent and transparent communication is a crucial part of the position.
Lastly, one of the most sought-after industries for virtual assistants is marketing firms. This area has changed and shifted throughout the years, and marketing has become a profession that a lot of people aspire to be a part of. Also, in the past few years, and especially in this last year, most marketing campaigns and trends have migrated to online platforms. Websites and social media can be managed and overseen from practically anywhere.
Today, even if marketing firms operate in an office space, most of the assistant and administrative work can be done remotely. And because of this shift in marketing, most campaigns can be managed and executed from anywhere.
This makes it an industry where you can climb the ladder while staying in the home office almost the entire time. So if you aspire to learn about marketing, or if you’re in the middle of getting your degree in the area, it’s recommended to start working at a firm as quickly as possible, as there’s always space to grow.
How to Start a Home-Based Virtual Assistant Business
Doing anything from home and as a self-employed one-person firm is mostly based on connection. Therefore, you need to focus on getting the word out into the open about your up-and-coming business. But to actually reach the right people, and to filter out some offers you’d rather not accept, there are some things you can focus on to better advertise your business.
Firstly, you have to focus on your offer. Think about what you have, what you can offer your clients, and why you’re the right choice. You should take into consideration your degrees, your experiences, and all of your recommendations. By now, you probably see that you can offer various types of services and a lot of industries are looking to hire.
Narrow down your strengths, as well as your interests, and set a goal regarding where you want to be in a few years, and what kind of firm you want to be a part of. Taking all of this into consideration, you can word your offers better, to reach the best and highest quality clients.
Setting up your business
Set up your business. Even if you’re alone in your firm, people need to see that your business is reliable, and you’re “well put-together”. When hiring a self-employed workforce, employers aren’t looking for someone who needs constant guidance and help. They need someone who can handle the work, and handle their own affairs. Setting up your business from the foundation all the way to the top is a must before looking for contacts and clients because, with the wrong message, you might scare away your best potential allies.
Have a public presence. Whether it’s a website or social media, you need an active and public voice. Firstly, potential clients need a way to look you up and to check your reputation and even style. Secondly, it’s a great way to reach clients and get the word out. You can post some public recommendations, opinions, and some past experiences, as well as actively posting about your workings, style, and services. This way you’ll be more transparent to potential clients, and you’ll have one or two platforms through which you can be “checked up on”.
Find allies in your chosen industry. These can be people who work in your niche as employees or freelancers who are already “in”. There are a lot of marketing experts, financial professionals, and so on, who are hired by firms for one-time projects, or even annually.
These people can be the best allies, as they’re already known by your wanted clients, and are trusted by them. Another great ally can be full-time employees in your niche or even start-up companies who have a few contacts already. While it’s best to start small, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus your goal.
Simply put, this means that even if you’re looking for the smallest contacts, like a start-up, or a full-time employee, you should still look in that small niche you’re trying to gain access to.
Lastly, always ask for feedback. This is one of the most important things for a lifetime when starting your career. Whether you’re an employee, a freelancer, or the owner of a company, feedback is the best possible marketing for anyone. But for virtual assistants, good recommendations and valuable opinions are louder than anything else. Always make your clients happy, and never forget to ask for any kind of feedback they can give.
How to Find Clients as a Virtual Assistant
Now that you kick-started your ad campaign, and are actively looking for contacts and allies, it’s time to find legitimate clients as well. In this phase, your work is not only about finding contacts, it’s about creating work and finding long-term, or at least recurring and satisfied clients.
The first thing you have to do is “beta test” your services. Run it through someone you trust, talk about it with friends, and look for feedback you can use. People will point out your weaknesses, your strengths, and maybe they’ll even suggest some changes that can make or break your company. This part is not about actually giving free service to someone. It’s more about talking with someone in depth about your services, going into detail about what you can offer and why you will be a better asset than others.
After you are certain about your firm and your image, the next best thing to do is to shout it from the rooftops and advertise yourself wherever you can. This can sometimes come through as obnoxious, but if you do it well, people will actually listen instead of feeling tired of you.
For instance, instead of trying to “sell yourself” to friends and family, just mention your firm and newly founded company, and let that information leak into nooks and crannies. By the time you know it, people will be looking for you from places you wouldn’t even imagine. The same goes for social media ads. It’s not about constantly posting the same information. It’s more about active online presence, so that people you know, and followers won’t forget about you.
Constantly post about your job, your services, or just generally about anything. The important thing is that your name will be engraved into your follower’s brains, and when the time and opportunity comes, you’ll be the first name that pops into their minds.
If you already have a chosen niche, you probably already have a few firms, companies, or people you’d gladly work with. Apart from looking for job postings, you can start sending out emails to these companies you’d like to work with. It doesn’t matter if they have active job openings or not. Even if they decline your offer, they’ll remember you, and at the right time, your name will once again pop up.
Another smart technique is starting small and offering consultation. These are smaller jobs, and one-time opportunities, but could be the gateway to some amazing connections and bigger offers. Apart from consultation, you can also start by offering reviews according to your expertise. These small acts of service can be the best way to introduce yourself to bigger firms, and get some amazing feedback as well that you can add to your portfolio.
Connections are not only about clients and companies. It’s also recommended by most people to start connecting with other virtual assistants, and with other freelancers who have the same ideal client. If you find some people who work actively in your niche, you can share ideas, experiences, and even help each other with contacts or clients. For example, if your chosen area is marketing, but you happen to get an offer from a law firm, you can quickly recommend a friend, and vice versa.
Tips for Starting Your VA Business
After knowing the foundation you need for the first few months of your business, here are some general tips for kickstarting your career. Regarding your image, you need to decide on your business name, all your services and rates, and your business and marketing plan from the very beginning. These are the main pillars of your firm and should only be changed when necessary, and never too often.
The second thing you need to take care of is the legality of your firm. This directly links to your reliability, and of course, legally, this needs to be solidified before you open your doors. It’s smart to hire an accountant to help you deal with most of the legal issues, but if you plan on growing your business, a lawyer can also help a great deal in the long run.
Lastly, you should aim to keep your clients long-term. This is the goal for most virtual assistants when starting out. A long-term client will be your number one source of income, and in these difficult times, having a constant income is a blessing. Also, having only one or two clients under your belt will help you stay sane throughout the busy days. You can focus on your work, and ensure that everything gets done on time and in the best possible quality.
In conclusion, starting a remote business on your own is very hard and daunting, but this year is the best year to start, as everything is moving online, and home-office opportunities are everywhere. If you master these few pointers and create your foundations well, you can easily stay ahead of the curve and quickly get into the groove of virtual assistance. In the long run, these connections and these positions can become your gateway into some much better opportunities, but a lot of people stick to this profession for a long time.