How to become a virtual assistant

A virtual assistant (VA) is an essential part of many organisations, especially as more companies make the move to remote working. The term ‘virtual assistant’ has unknown origins, however, it is thought that industry in 1995 before founding the International Virtual Assistants Association in 1999. 

In the 90s, working as a VA was a relatively new type of profession providing a handful of services. But today, virtual assistants can offer a huge number of tasks, from regular administration tasks to setting up a new website. Gartner predicts that 25% of digital workers will use a VA daily by 2021, so it’s never been a better time to learn more about the industry.

If you’re considering working as a VA, you might be wondering how to get started. In this blog post, we’ll uncover exactly what a virtual assistant is and how you can become one.

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is a person who remotely provides services to a business in exchange for payment. They will usually work away from the client’s office, but still have access to shared documents and online tools. Other terms for virtual assistants include virtual PA, online assistant, or virtual secretary. 

VAs are usually self-employed and typically help businesses with customer service or administrative, technical and creative tasks, amongst other things. Some virtual assistants are former digital marketers or freelance writers who have decided to use their marketing and communication skills to help other businesses. 

Historically, many people thought of VAs as personal assistants who just worked from home or remote shared office space. Nowadays, there are many more advanced tasks that VAs can offer businesses, either temporarily or on a long-term basis.  

What does a virtual assistant do?

Virtual assistants carry out pretty much any task that can be done over the internet. With remote working capabilities increasing, their skill set is pretty extensive. If you’re keen to find out exactly what services a VA offers, here are some of the typical tasks:2-Second Commute author Chris Durst was the founder of the virtual assistant

  1. Scheduling appointments
  2. Calendar management
  3. Making phone calls
  4. Website design and maintenance
  5. Data entry
  6. Graphic design
  7. Content creation
  8. Copywriting
  9. Editing and proofreading
  10. Bookkeeping
  11. Making travel arrangements
  12. Lead generation
  13. Social media management
  14. Project management
  15. Email management
  16. Customer support

This list of services you can offer as a virtual assistant is not exhaustive, and VAs might offer all, some, or none of these tasks. VAs will often choose to offer the services they are most experienced in providing and therefore work in a niche. Some VAs, however, might decide to offer as many services as possible to appeal to a broader client base. Here’s a list of 98 tasks that can be outsourced to virtual assistants. 

What skills do you need to be a virtual assistant?

While the tasks that a virtual assistant can complete are exhaustive and can span a number of different disciplines, there are several skills that all VAs should have. Many of these skills are essential for any type of job but are especially important for virtual assistants.

Whether you work as a freelance virtual assistant for a small business, or as part of a large team in a corporate company, you should invest your time into developing these skills:

  1. Communication
  2. Organisation
  3. Customer service
  4. Writing
  5. Computer-based skills
  6. Word processing
  7. Multi-tasking
  8. Strategic planning
  9. Problem solving
  10. Proactivity
  11. Ability to work alone
  12. Initiative

Why should you become a virtual assistant?

Becoming an online assistant comes with many benefits, but why work as a virtual assistant? One of the key reasons why a person might become a virtual assistant is the ability to work for themselves. They’ll also be able to work flexibly, with hours that suit their circumstances.

Flexibility is a much sought-after benefit when it comes to job searching. Becoming a virtual assistant allows you to be as flexible as you like and set your hourly rate. Whether you want to become a virtual assistant and work from home as a freelancer, or you’d prefer to get hired as a virtual assistant, the choice is yours. 

Another reason people become VAs goes hand in hand with being their own boss, and that’s working from any location. Some people like to be working from home virtual assistants so they can fit their work-life around their personal circumstances. Others may work from a coworking office where they can still experience the buzz of an office environment.

Starting a virtual assistant job is also a great career choice for someone who likes to travel. Many tasks undertaken by VAs can be carried out from any remote location with an internet connection! With virtual office addresses readily available, you can benefit from a professional business address without being restricted to a single location.

How to become a virtual assistant

When considering how to become an online virtual assistant, you’ll need to think about several factors. To become an assistant and start your virtual career, it’s important to determine the type of business owner you’ll be and how you want to run your business.

Like any job, you can’t just become a virtual assistant from home overnight. There are specific steps you should consider following.

1. Decide on the structure of your business

This first step for virtual assistants is important and will help determine the direction of your business. When setting up as a virtual assistant you’ll need to think about things like whether this will be your full-time vocation, whether you will work remotely or if you’ll need to look into real estate, the type of clients you’ll be working with, whether you have a niche, what your personal situation is in terms of finance and family, what the personal risk to you is and importantly, who your competitors are. 

2. Choose the services you’ll offer to clients

When it comes to deciding on the services you’ll offer, it’s worth looking at what your competition is doing to see how you can stand out. You should also consider your skillset and what you really enjoy doing before you commit to anything. Perhaps consider asking yourself, ‘what skills do you need to become a virtual assistant’ so you can tailor any studying towards your end goal.

3. Decide how you’ll price your work

Like any job, you’ll need to think about your outgoings and how many years of experience you have to price your virtual assistant services accurately. Some questions to consider are how much your outgoing are, whether you’ll charge hourly or on a project basis, and how you’d like to invoice your clients. 

4. Launch your website and build an online presence

Working virtually will, of course, require you to have a website and an online presence, especially since you’ll be predominantly working online! Before getting started on your website and social media pages, you’ll need to decide on your branding to ensure that it’s consistent across all of your platforms.

5. Start networking and build relationships

Once you’ve set up your business and are happy with how all the formal things are looking, it’s time to start landing your first few clients. Research local networking events near you, speak to people you know and pitch to potential clients every day to start building up your client base. 

If you have opted to start a virtual assistant business from home, you should definitely consider networking events, Facebook groups and local business meetings to get you started. If, however, you’re working from a shared office space, there might already be social events that you can tag along to at work. 

How to train and use a virtual assistant

If your business is looking to hire a VA, you’ll first need to find someone who has the skills you need to support your business. This is important for training because you will then only need to train your VA in the processes, tools and protocols specific to your business.

Once you’ve found the right person, you should establish their learning style so you can tailor the training to their personality and ensure it’s as effective as possible. With virtual assistants often working remotely, you should ensure you have plenty of visual training materials to share with them. These could include screenshots, training videos from third parties, or even step-by-step videos of how to complete specific tasks.

You should also make sure you have a wide range of written instructions for your virtual assistant. This enables them to have something to refer back to when you’re not around to answer their questions. 

Remotely training a VA should not be difficult because they’ll already have the basic skills needed to complete your tasks. However, you should use video calling and screen sharing to ensure they fully understand your business processes before getting started.

RELATED: How to train your virtual assistant

Start your career as a virtual assistant

If you want to be a virtual assistant full-time or you’re keen to start side hustling as a VA, we can help you with virtual business addresses or workspace. Many of our packages also include free or discounted access to meeting rooms, providing you with a place to make the right first impression and become a successful VA.

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Rovva puts everything you need for your business in one place. From an accountancy helpline to a drop-in business lounge - we've got everything covered.

Your complete business toolkit

Rovva puts everything you need for your business in one place. From an accountancy helpline to a drop-in business lounge - we've got everything covered.