How to start working as a VA

Last updated: April 24, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Virtual assistants (VAs) provide clerical support to business owners from the comfort of their own homes.

So if you're looking for a remote role, you can use your administrative experience to start your own virtual assistant business. Common virtual assistant services include data entry, customer service, and email management.

You can work as a virtual assistant full-time or just to make some extra cash.

Not sure where to start? We're here to help. In this guide, we'll tell you what a virtual assistant does and how you can become one. Plus, we'll talk about the salary range and the skills you'll need to be successful in this position.

What is a virtual assistant?

Virtual assistants work remotely, providing administrative support to businesses of all sizes.

VAs can have a wide range of abilities. For example, they may have clerical experience, marketing skills, computer expertise, or a background in bookkeeping.

Most virtual assistants are freelancers. As independent contractors, they can choose their own hours and are responsible for their own taxation obligations. Keep in mind that if you're a freelance worker, you usually won't get benefits such as health insurance and paid time off.

While VAs usually work part-time, full-time and temporary roles also exist.

Most businesses expect their virtual assistants to be available during traditional work hours, but there may also be options for overtime and evening shifts.

Sometimes, companies hire virtual assistants, administrative assistants, or executive assistants to work for them as remote employees. These workers can get similar perks to in-person team members.

Because this is a remote career, virtual assistants can have clients from anywhere in the world.

What do virtual assistants do?

Virtual assistants help their clients with a range of administrative tasks.

Here's a look at some of the top services they provide:

Answering phones

Virtual assistants can support business owners with customer service. One of their most common tasks is answering phone calls.

The types of calls a virtual assistant takes will depend on the company. For example, a virtual assistant working for a healthcare provider may be responsible for scheduling appointments and updating calendars.

Or in a retail company, a virtual assistant can manage complaints, answer questions, and process sales. Sometimes, a virtual assistant may also need to provide technical support or transfer phone calls to specialists.

Virtual assistants need to use their organizational skills to manage busy phone lines, and they also need to keep accurate records of all customer communications. They take messages and follow up with clients as required.

Managing emails

Another common virtual assistant service is email management. Existing employees can feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with a full inbox, so a VA may be called in to reduce the workload.

Virtual assistants can respond to emails on behalf of the company, replying to potential clients, existing customers, or other team members.

VAs may also be asked to compose emails. If they're working for a doctor, for instance, a virtual assistant may type up a referral email. Or if they're working for a sales company, they may email prospective clients.

Email marketing may also be part of the mix. For example, a virtual assistant may create company newsletters or update mailing lists.

Updating social media accounts

These days, many companies rely on social media accounts to connect with their target audience. But keeping these pages updated can be time-consuming.

VAs may be asked to help with social media management. But what does this involve?

First, virtual assistants may need to manage content. They can create videos, text, and images to feature on company profiles.

Content may need to be adapted for different social media pages. As an example, a Facebook post should be in a different format than a YouTube video.

Then there's customer service. VAs may answer queries via Facebook Messenger and respond to public comments, for instance.

If the virtual assistant has graphic design skills, that'll be beneficial for social media work.

Inputting data

Companies may look for a virtual assistant with data entry experience. Data entry covers different types of computer-based tasks.

For example, there's bookkeeping. Virtual assistants may create invoices, manage payments, track business expenses, and prepare reports.

If companies buy and sell goods, they may use inventory management software. A virtual assistant can help to keep stock levels updated. Plus, they can input customer details.

Experience using Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and accounting software is an advantage.

Preparing documents

VAs can use their typing skills to prepare documents. They may be asked to write letters, create budgets, and compile reports.

They may also offer transcription services and turn recorded files into typed documents.

A virtual assistant may be asked to attend company meetings remotely. They can take minutes via video chat or phone and share them with the appropriate people.

How to become a virtual assistant

Interested in a virtual assistant career? To help you get started in this industry, we've put together the following how-to guide:

1. Know your strengths

Virtual assistants can provide different services, but you don't have to do everything. Before you start work, think about what you're good at.

For example, are you confident answering phone calls, entering data, and transcribing documents? Do you have experience writing blog posts, planning events, managing spreadsheets, or booking appointments?

Once you know the types of administrative services you can offer, you'll be able to create a business plan.

2. Fill the gaps

Now that you know what you're good at, you can fill a few gaps. It might be worth enrolling in online courses to gain in-demand skills.

You can upskill in just about any area. For example, you can enroll in a course in financial services to learn bookkeeping skills. Or you can learn how to use specific software, such as Microsoft Word, Google Drive, or Photoshop.

You can also take courses to improve your blog writing or project management skills.

Do your research because you may even find free tutorials that'll improve your existing skills.

3. Set up your workspace

Every remote worker needs somewhere quiet to do their job. Having a home office, for instance, will be beneficial — though not essential.

Some virtual assistants work from their dining room table or a desk in their living room. However, if you do this, you should try to minimize distractions.

VAs spend long hours sitting at a computer, so an ergonomic chair can help reduce the risk of potential back problems.

There are a few other tools you'll need to complete your admin tasks. A computer with a reliable internet connection is essential, and you should change your passwords regularly.

Some business owners will want to communicate via video chat, so you should set up a camera and microphone. You'll also need headphones, a telephone, and a notebook to write down important information.

You'll be working independently, and an organized workspace can help you ‌stay motivated.

4. Build your business

Once you've decided what services to offer and set up your workspace, it's time to build your business.

You can look for job opportunities on freelancing websites and job boards. Make sure you set up a website and create your own social media profiles. You can use these ‌platforms to share your services and provide useful resources for potential clients.

When you promote your business, make sure everything is high-quality. Ensure that your marketing materials are free from grammar errors, and respond to queries as quickly as possible.

You'll also need to set a price list. You can charge per hour or per service — the choice is yours. Some virtual assistants offer package deals and discounts for new clients.

If you're new to the industry, it can be worth charging slightly less than your competitors. As you provide quality work and your client list grows, you can gradually increase your rates.

5. Start networking

Many virtual assistants rely on word of mouth to advertise their work. If someone is happy with your service, they'll be more likely to recommend you to others.

Invest time into professional networking. You can attend networking events both online and in person. Don't forget to take your business cards with you.

You can also use websites like Jobcase to connect with others.

With Jobcase, you can sign up for a free account and set up a profile. Then, you can jump into our community discussions and chat with other like-minded people.

Check out these tips to help you grow your professional network.

6. Do a good job

Virtual assistants are in demand, but getting new clients can still be a competitive process. Doing a good job will increase your chances of getting repeat clients and referrals.

Taking on too much work at once can impact your work-life balance. Try not to overbook your calendar, as each customer will want to feel like a priority.

You should also only offer services you know you can provide. For example, if someone asks you to design a logo and you've never done that before, you should decline.

It's important to take your time and always do your work to a high standard. Because remember, good customer service will help your virtual assistant business stand out from the rest.

7. Ask for testimonials

If you know a client is happy, don't be afraid to ask for a testimonial. With permission, you can publish any positive feedback on your website or social media pages.

Without making them feel pressured, encourage your clients to share your service with others.

What skills do you need to be a virtual assistant?

Virtual assistants need a few key soft skills. But what are they?

Because you'll be working from home, you'll need to be self-motivated. Skills like organization, time management, and adaptability are essential.

Virtual assistants also need excellent communication skills. They should be confident in communicating both verbally and in writing.

You'll need computer skills to work as a virtual assistant. You should be a fast learner and able to adapt to any dedicated company software. Experience using Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, email, and social media will help you do your job. Furthermore, fast, accurate typing skills are important.

Many of these skills are transferable, and you may have gained them from another industry. For example, if you've worked in retail or sales, you may already have excellent communication skills. Or, if you've had a job in food services, you'll likely know how to manage your time well.

If you've ever been employed in an office environment, many of your virtual assistant duties will be the same.

How much can you make as a virtual assistant?

The virtual assistant salary can vary. Freelance VAs can set their own prices depending on a range of factors. Your location, experience, and skills can all impact your hourly rate.

In the US, the average virtual assistant salary is $17.29 per hour or $44,713 per year. If you have less than one year of experience, the average rate is around $15.30 per hour. Once you have over five years of experience, this rate jumps to $19.13 per hour.

Those with over 20 years of experience can make up to $22.52 per hour.

Remember, VAs don't usually get common perks, such as health insurance, retirement plans, or health savings accounts, so you'll likely want to consider those things when thinking about your salary.

What other kinds of work can you do from home?

Not sure if a virtual assistant job is for you? There are other jobs you can do from home.

For example, you can work as a remote call center operator, a virtual executive assistant, a tutor, a content writer, or a data entry clerk.

If you don't have experience working from home, take a look at these remote entry-level job options. Or you can check out these high-paying work-from-home roles.

Becoming a virtual assistant

Working from home helps you avoid long commutes and often means you can choose your own hours. You can start working as a virtual assistant if you have any administrative experience.

VAs provide a range of services, including answering phones, managing emails, and updating social media accounts. Plus, they may input data and prepare documents.

If you want to work as a VA, you should think about your strengths. If there are any gaps in your skillset, consider taking a short course. You'll also need a quiet workspace with all the tools necessary for the job.

When you're ready, you can start building your business and networking. Make sure you always do a good job and ask happy clients for testimonials.

Want to see who's hiring near you? Head to our job board. Or visit our resource center for more articles like this one.

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