Updated 31 August, 2019
Do you have any kind of clerical or administrative experience? Have you worked as a teacher, nurse or paralegal? Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? Have you ever wondered how you could use this experience and harness that passion and work from home without the daily commute and reporting to a boss?
Maybe you should work as a Virtual Assistant.
In this article, we will explore what it is, what it takes, and how you too can create a successful and lucrative work from home business in Virtual Assisting.
Mom Did This!
Back in the late 60s and early 70s, my mother was an Administrative Assistant for Presidents and Vice-Presidents of different companies. When she got home from work, she would talk about the variety of things she did that day and they included things like managing expense accounts, transcribing documents, organizing business meetings, liaising with executives in other departments and making travel arrangements for the ‘big wheels’ of the company. I remember even back then as a child thinking that this sounded like a very important job that required organization and reliability as well as attention to detail.
Fast forward to the 21st century and this type of work is even more in demand only now it has evolved and can be done from home, via the internet. It has a new name and it encompasses many of the things my mother did and much, much more.
What is a Virtual Assistant and What do They do?
A Virtual Assistant, or VA, is an executive-level, independent contractor, who offers professional services to clients from a remote office (usually home). These services can be in many categories such as office administration including medical and dental fields, financial management, copywriting, blogging, customer support, business and project management and virtual event planning to name a few.
What they do. Well, any busy office or entrepreneur understands that time is money and they don’t want to spend hours doing the hundreds of tasks that can come up on a daily basis such as making phone calls, checking appointments, researching, gathering data, booking seminars or managing their budgets.
This is where the VA shines forth and takes charge of all those details so that a business runs more efficiently.
A good VA can take a huge amount of the workload from the shoulders of the business owner, in almost any kind of profession. Some things VA’s do are:
- Research-gather market data, research competition and compile that information to share in meetings
- Create Content-write content and edit for the business website or blog.
- Manage Finances-make purchases for a business, keep track of expenses and maintain budgets
- Manage Emails-answer job inquiries, answer contact emails, filter and organize emails
- Help manage personal life-schedule doctor appointments, send gifts, book doggie daycare for Fido
- Organizational help-create a daily itinerary, schedule and book flights, hotel rooms and car reservations
- Social media management-keep up with daily contact, monitor interaction and help grow a social media presence
Who Uses Virtual Assistants and Why?
Who: VA’s can be found working with people in just about any field you can think of. Here are a few:
- Doctors and Dentists
- Film Producers
- Travel Agencies
- Insurance Companies
- Life Coaches
- Business Coaches
- Police Departments
- Clubs and Organizations
Whew! Seriously, anyone who has a company that they need to be kept running more efficiently without all the costs involved with hiring an employee can benefit from a VA.
The world is your oyster!
Why: Here are just 5 reasons why a company or individual would choose to work with a VA:
1. Overhead costs are reduced: No need for a business to pay for office space, equipment, training or medical insurance. The business owner only needs to pay for the work that is done by the VA.
2. Time efficiency: Gives a business greater flexibility to delegate tasks according to abilities and skills which creates an increase of work quality and reduces the amount of time on each task. Also, gives the business owner the ability to work on developing the business and not wasting time on organizational tasks. This means there is more time to develop new ideas, strategies, and goals for the business.
3. Stay up-to-date on Technology: The VA will keep updated with current technology within a given industry, drawing from a vast network of resources to give a business that competitive edge.
4. Enhanced Productivity: The ability to access a large range of skilled people that will increase the process of getting services or products to clients which means a business can deliver better results in a shorter time period.
5. Globalization: With a VA, a business owner can work from anywhere in the world and still remain available to clients. This will enhance the accessibility and efficiency of the business in the client’s eyes.
What Skills and Qualities do you need?
Many are required and you need to be honest with yourself about your suitability for this type of work. Here are some of the most important:
- Communication – You will need to communicate with many types of people as a VA. You need to be able to express yourself clearly, so excellent grammar is essential.
- Intrapersonal – How do you work within yourself? Are you moody? Can you ‘shake it off’ if something negative happens and get back to work immediately? You will need to be your own counselor as a VA.
- Interpersonal – You will need to interact with your clients and others who may be in your resources network. Can you convey a professional yet approachable and friendly attitude that will draw clients and other professionals to you?
- Computer knowledge – Since you will be working from home on your own computer, you must have some basic troubleshooting knowledge and know who to contact quickly to resolve any technical issues you may be having. Your computer is your livelihood and your whole business hinges on its ability to function efficiently.
- Phone and Internet Manners – It is very important that you cultivate an excellent phone manner, equally so when you are writing on the internet. You will also likely be using Skype to communicate with clients so you want to project a professional demeanor “on camera”. In other words, don’t allow a client to see you in your pajamas or Mickey Mouse sweatshirt! You may be working from home but you are still a professional!
- Be Internet Savvy – Learning how to navigate and utilize the internet efficiently takes time and practice. If you have worked in an office in the past, chances are you will know how to do all the basics such as a search for things online, watch YouTube videos, send and receive emails and use basic social media. There are lots of training resources for learning more about software and so on but, over time, you will become more efficient. You just have to have the interest and the passion to seek out the information.
- Reliable – This holds true for any business. If you are going to work as a professional in your own business, you must be reliable. A client needs to know they can count on you and that you will deliver what is expected of you in the agreed upon time frame.
- Trustworthy – You may have access to sensitive information when working as a VA so it is imperative that you are discreet and do not discuss the inner workings of a business with anyone else. Maintain client confidentiality and you are sure to garner favor.
- Resilient – There will always be clients that rub you the wrong way. This is a normal human situation. Do you have the ability to work with those difficult clients without taking it personally and still produce excellent work?
- Self-motivated – This is a vital quality when working by yourself from home. Self-discipline and motivation are required to not get distracted by kids, spouses, television, friends or neighbors. You need to create a workspace for yourself that simulates an office environment so that you can work in a productive, focused way. Remember, there is no one else to do the work! It’s your business.
- Organized – The only person organizing the office is you and you need to make sure you have everything at your fingertips or close by and know where everything is should you need it at short notice.
- Proactive – Are you the kind of person who doesn’t need to be reminded to do something? Being able to anticipate a client’s needs will go a long way to instilling confidence and trust.
- Detail-oriented – Your job is to make things run smoother for a company and this means paying attention to details that may have been missed by others. You need to have eagle eyes for good grammar, punctuation and accurate spelling.
- Confident – In business, radiating confidence is a very attractive quality. Even if you have made a mistake, just own up to it and correct it. No need for lengthy apologies. Be confident in the work that you do and you will gain respect from clients and all other resources you work with.
Find your ‘Niche’
A niche, for the purposes of our discussion, is “relating or denoting to services that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.”
In other words, you need to identify and cultivate that aspect of the business that you are strongest in or holds the most interest for you. For example, did you work in a law office in the past? Are you a teacher? Were you a nurse in a medical practice? Maybe you were a receptionist or even worked as a Realtor and now want to take that knowledge into a home office setting. VA’s come from a multitude of backgrounds!
This is not to say that you can’t become specialized in more than one niche, but if you are just starting out in your VA career, it is a good idea to stick with what you know, first.
Here is a good time to mention that your age and physical condition have no impact on whether you can do this job or not. I communicated with a professional in this industry who has had a very successful business as a VA for many years and she confirmed to me that many of the work-from-home VA’s in her network is in the 55 + age group. As long as you can produce quality work, the client will not care how old you are or what physical limitations you may have. Once again, great news for us, boomers!
So much will depend upon what services you are offering, if you are part-time or full-time, and many other factors such as if the client is paying you a monthly retainer fee, whether you are on a project based package or if you are being paid an hourly rate.
Based on the research that I did for you, the average annual starting salary is in the range of $33k to $55k. This is if you are working full time. The hourly average is around $16-$20 at the beginning. As you gain more experience and skills you can up that hourly rate to $25, $30, $35 and so on.
Work from Home-Yay!
There are so many good things about working from home such as:
- No boss (you are the boss)!
- No commute to work (a short stroll from the kitchen coffee pot to the office)
- Set your own hours-full or part-time
- Take time off and vacations when you want
- More time for your family and/or hobbies/pastimes that you enjoy
By now, you should have a better idea of what it means to be a VA. Of course, the appeal of working from home is something we all like to consider, especially when we need to generate some income in retirement.
There is no “certification” required to become a VA. If you have had the relevant experience, you can create your home office and get to work. I would, however, highly recommend that you join an online support network so that if you have any questions about getting started from home, you can get answers and resources to help you.
However, you may be saying to yourself that this is all a great idea, but I have no idea where to begin to set up my own home-based VA business.
There are online courses that can teach you how to set up your very own successful Virtual Assistant business and achieve that dream of working independently from home.
Become a Certified Virtual Assistant
Even though there is no formal certification required to become a VA, you may decide you need to take some type of training. Also, it would be impressive to be able to show a certification to prospective clients, especially if you are just starting out.
If you have never had your own home-based business, there are things you should consider learning so as to set yourself up for success. For example, how to:
- Set up your workspace in your home
- Write a business plan to help you reach your financial goals
- Structure pricing to clients
- Market yourself
- Establish yourself as the “go-to” person in your niche to attract quality clients
- Build a loyal base of clients that retain your services month after month
- Balance your work/family life
This means that you will have to make an investment in yourself and your business so that you can achieve your personal financial goals for working from home. This also means you will need to think long and hard about whether this type of profession is a good fit for you.
To see the Virtual Assistant training course I recommend, see my review of Virtual Assistant Career Training.
Another possible option for you to find work as a virtual assistant is to offer your services via a global platform such as Fiverr, which is free to join. Here, you create a profile of yourself and your services and the clients will come to Fiverr to look for a freelancer to hire, including virtual assistants (in the business category). It is another way of getting yourself known out there. You can read my review of Fiverr HERE.
When I think about my mother, all those years ago, talking about her job as an Administrative Assistant, little did either of us realize that this profession would evolve, grow and thrive in the 21st century.
A Virtual Assistant is the lubrication in a business that helps all the moving parts move more smoothly and efficiently.
Thanks to the internet, a global network awaits you should you wish to pursue this very interesting and potentially lucrative on-line opportunity from home. Its hard work, be in no doubt, but it could give you that freedom you are looking for to create some retirement income for yourself in a home-based business.
It occurs to me that you may want to be an in-home, online entrepreneur and that Virtual Assisting appeals to you but you have a concern. What about those typing skills? If it’s something you are concerned about…don’t be! We found a wonderful typing program that Philip is using himself to improve his keyboard speed. He loves it and has written about it for you HERE.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have had writing it and that you now have a good understanding of the world of Virtual Assisting. I love to explore the internet and discover what opportunities are out there for all of us.
If you have other topics you would like me to research for you and write about, please don’t hesitate to leave me a message in the comments section. I would love to know your thoughts and receive your input.
Your friend in cyberspace,
If the concept of working from home in your own business appeals to you but you think that Virtual Assisting may not quite be what you are looking for, see my post Money Making Ideas for Retirees.
If you are interested to see what I personally do to make online income from home, you can read all about it here.
For a look at real-life success stories of people using our number 1 recommended program, see Philip’s article, It is Possible to Make Money with Wealthy Affiliate.