If you’re one of the growing number of office support professionals looking to forge a career as a virtual assistant, this guide is for you. It’s easy to see why the role is so appealing: no day is the same and you get to work with a variety of clients from the comfort of your home.
The growing number of VA vacancies goes hand in hand with the rise of remote working. Almost 50% of employees were working from home in April 2020 as a result of social distancing measures, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Remote work was gaining traction even before the pandemic hit. Portable devices, cloud technology and an appetite for flexibility make it a desirable career path for many. So, let’s take a look at how to be a virtual assistant and what it takes to succeed in the role.
What is a virtual assistant?
Broadly speaking, a virtual assistant is someone who provides support to businesses remotely. VAs are particularly popular with dynamic companies that require assistance – administrative or otherwise – but don’t need staff to work in their office. In fact, some don’t even have an office because everyone on their team operates remotely.
Applying for an entry-level position and getting some in-house business support experience is the best thing to do if you want to learn how to be a virtual assistant. However, anyone who wants to know how to be a virtual assistant without experience should gain an understanding of what the role entails and how to get a foot in the “virtual” door.
There are qualifications you can gain to become a certified virtual assistant, but official qualifications aren’t mandatory.
Here’s what you can expect to do as a VA...
In times gone by, a personal assistant’s job would be to provide clerical assistance to an individual within a business. A virtual assistant’s schedule is more varied. Some provide marketing and sales support and while others specialise in a specific sector or skill.
General tasks might include:
- Day-to-day admin
- Diary/ schedule management
- Inbox/ email management
- Booking work travel & accommodation
- Research for projects and reports
- Finance admin, e.g. raising invoices
- Sales & HR support
- Marketing assistance e.g. social media
What skills do you need to become a virtual assistant?
Wondering how to be an effective virtual assistant? It’s by no means definitive, but here’s a list of key skills any budding online personal assistant should possess. You can expect clients or recruiters to quiz you on any one of these at the interview stage.
- Ability to self-motivate
- Excellent communication skills
- Time management acumen
- Dependability/ reliability
- Organised and resourceful
- Resilient when faced with challenges
- Empathetic and patient
- A problem solver
- Honest and able to ask for help
Industries that are most likely to work with VAs
If you want to know how to become a virtual assistant, it’s useful to know which sectors you could be operating in when you get a job. Some VAs decide to specialise in one sector whereas others use their transferable skills to provide general support across the board.
- Finance & accounting
- Commercial & residential property
- Tech & IT
- Charity & non-profit
- Writing and blogging
Reasons to become a virtual assistant - benefits & perks
Perk 1: Working remotely
Surely one of the best things about being a virtual assistant is the flexibility it affords. You can work from home – or from a co-working space if you prefer – and have more autonomy over your work-life schedule.
Perk 2: Be your own boss
The majority of virtual assistants are self-employed and manage their own time. Of course, this also comes with a high level of responsibility. You have to be able to self-motivate, multitask and keep track of your own income and expenditure.
Perk 3: No day’s the same
Working for multiple clients can be incredibly rewarding and it’s safe to say you’ll never get bored. The ability to prioritise and meet the needs of every client is key if you want to be a successful virtual assistant and gain new clients through word of mouth.
Perk 4: Learning new skills
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous perk. As a virtual administrative assistant, you’ll have to get to grips with different software packages and remote collaboration tools quickly. The good news is you’ll have a bucketload of transferable skills after a couple of months.
Perk 5: Competitive earnings
You could potentially earn more as a virtual assistant than you would as an in-house assistant for a single company. As you gain experience in the role and become more specialised you can increase your daily or hourly rates accordingly.
Perk 6: Increased productivity
Research shows that on average, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month than those who worked in an office. Being more productive leads to higher levels of job satisfaction which has a positive impact on overall wellbeing.
How to become a virtual assistant in 5 steps
How do I become a virtual assistant online? The process is relatively simple, actually.
In terms of niches like how to become a virtual legal assistant, how to become a social media virtual assistant and how to become a virtual assistant for authors, it depends on the skill set each client requires.
Here are some universal tips for how to become a virtual assistant in the UK, USA, Canada or anywhere in the world.
Step 1: Choose a business type
A lot of virtual assistants decide to go down the freelance route, at least in the early days of their career. However if you want to hire other team members and grow your own VA business, a “limited company” or “corporation” structure might be more apt.
- Register as a freelance virtual assistant with your government body (HMRC in the UK)
- Decide what your daily rate will be
- Keep records of all income & expenditure
Step 2: Carve out your niche
Will you be working in a specific sector or is nichification not for you? Either way, create a profile of what your ideal client “looks” like; things like the size and age of the business will have an impact on the duties you’ll be expected to carry out.
- Make a list of your skills and what you’re looking for
- Research potential clients and read employee reviews
- Consider upskilling to make yourself stand out
Step 3: Decide how you want to market yourself
You’ve registered your business and identified a sector you’d like to work in – what next? Well, as any small business owner knows, you’ll need to consider how to market yourself, whether it’s building your presence on LinkedIn or optimising your website.
- Create a simple website containing your contact details and testimonials
- Build a strong presence on LinkedIn – it can be a lucrative lead source
- Get some business cards printed for face-to-face encounters
Step 4: Pitch your services & network
Networking is a great way of getting your name out there. A quick online search will bring up thousands of online and in-person events. When pitching to a potential client, focus on the potential problems you can solve for them.
- Focus on benefits over features in your elevator pitch
- Subscribe to virtual assistant networks and jobs boards
- Check out websites like meetup.com for virtual & in-person events
Step 5: Build on your relationships
Finding clients is one thing but retaining them is a whole different ball game. As well as being able to perform tasks well and to schedule, it’s also important to be responsive, transparent and trustworthy.
- Check in with clients regularly
- Always stick to deadlines
- Be honest, transparent and ask for help
Final thoughts on how to become a successful virtual assistant
As a virtual assistant, your mission is to remove obstacles and add value, with the end goal of enabling your clients’ businesses to grow. It can be a very rewarding career, both financially and in terms of your own personal and professional growth.
But to become a virtual assistant to earn money online, it requires a lot of motivation, dedication and enthusiasm. If you’re prepared to multitask and go above and beyond to become a valued member of the team (or multiple teams, for that matter) it could well be the perfect role for you.
Become a virtual assistant today
If you’re considering taking the steps to become a virtual assistant or if you’re currently searching for a VA role, get in touch with the Oriel Partners team today. We'll offer advice and guidance on what to do to raise your profile and can even match you with your first client.
We specialise in a number of office and c-suite support roles, both virtual and in-house. So if you’re not quite ready for remote work, we can help you find a suitable role in an office that aligns with your needs, individual skill set and long-term goals.