How to Become a Virtual Assistant
If you are looking for a work from home position and you have administrative, accounting, business, or technical experience, a virtual assistant (VA) job may be right for you. A virtual assistant generally works from home, helping a company (or multiple companies) with tasks that a secretary or administrative assistant would typically do.
Interested in becoming a virtual assistant? Read below for more information on what virtual assistants do, the pros and cons of the job, and information on how to become a virtual assistant.
What Virtual Assistants Do
Also known as virtual professionals, virtual assistants are a new form of administrative assistants. VAs typically work from home, performing tasks that an administrative assistant or secretary would normally do. For example, they might schedule appointments, make phone calls, plan travel arrangements, manage email, perform social tasks (such as sending thank you notes to clients), or conduct database entry.
Some virtual assistants have more specific jobs based on their particular skill sets. For example, a virtual assistant might do bookkeeping for a client, conduct online research, or create presentations using raw data. Virtual assistants are often independent contractors – this means that they work for themselves, and the company is their client. Virtual assistants can generally work for multiple companies at once.
Pros and Cons of Being a Virtual Assistant
Being a VA has many advantages.
It is a growing industry, with strong income potential. The startup costs are very low – often the equipment you have for personal use is sufficient to get started, as long as you have a reliable internet connection.
The position also has a lot of the same benefits as many other freelance jobs. For example, you can decide what type of businesses you want to work for, and what kind of work you want to do.
You also usually have a lot of flexibility – you can typically decide what hours you want to spend working, and can do most of that work from your home.
The disadvantages are few, and are mostly those associated with any home-based business. For example, you will need to keep records for tax filing. You also will not have the benefits of most full-time jobs, such as health insurance, retirement savings, and more. You may have increasing equipment costs as your business grows as well.
As with any work at home position, be very careful to make sure that any businesses that hire you as a virtual assistant are legitimate. Avoid scams by doing your research before signing contracts or sharing banking information for direct deposit for income.
Skills Needed to Be a Virtual Assistant
Many of the skills needed to be a virtual assistant are the same as the skills needed to be an administrative assistant or secretary. For example, you will need to have superior organizational skills, a pleasant phone demeanor, and computer skills.
As a VA, you will also need skills specific to freelance jobs. For example, you will need to be able to multitask, especially if you are juggling multiple clients. You need to be able to stay focused on work in your home environment.
You also need the appropriate equipment in your home office.
Some virtual assistant jobs require additional skills, including web design, event planning, bookkeeping, and more. You can look for VA jobs that require your particular skill sets. Along with particular skills, employers are often looking for applicants with education and/or office experience in some administrative capacity.
Virtual Assistant Certification and Career Development
Looking to boost your resume when applying for VA jobs? Consider applying for a VA certification program. There are many companies that offer certification for VAs. Some require that you have already established a clientele. Some require fees, and some are free. Be sure to thoroughly research each company before playing money for certification. Certification isn’t required by most employers at this time, but it may open a few doors as you are starting your business.
In addition to VA certification, it can be helpful to be a certified public accountant (CPA), so that you can offer accounting services to your clients.
Because the field is new and so diverse, it can be helpful to have some guidance, especially as you begin your business. Therefore, explore groups and associations targeted to VAs. Many of these offer a variety of services, including mentoring, networking opportunities, and help with business planning. They can sometimes put you in touch with sub-contracting opportunities to help you get started in your own business, as well as help with building a website and marketing your skills.
Also check out websites for more information on VA jobs. Some websites that have helpful information for VAs include:
- How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business
- International Association of Virtual Assistants
- Virtual Assistant Forum
How to Find Virtual Assistant Job Listings
As mentioned above, check out some professional VA associations. These can help you get in touch with clients. You can also search for virtual assistant jobs online. Most popular job boards and job search engines (such as Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder) list VA positions.
Also search on job sites that focus on telecommuting and flexible employment opportunities. These include sites like FlexJobs and Upwork. Whatever job site you are searching on, type in “virtual assistant” or “virtual professional” into the search bar and see what is available.