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How to Become a Virtual Assistant – Everything You Need to Know in 2020

How to Become a Virtual Assistant – Everything You Need to Know in 2020

Are you good with keyboarding, writing, event planning or scheduling? Do you know your way around a spread sheet? These are just some of the skills that could make you a great virtual assistant.

Working as a virtual assistant is a rewarding job that allows you to work from the comfort of home, while providing administrative support and assistance to a company or a person. You can skip the daily commute, spend more time with your family, and have more time to yourself.

Virtual Assistants are in Demand

Because of those perks, and a desire by many for a better quality of life, more people than ever are applying to work as home-based virtual assistants. At the same time, the demand for virtual assistants is at an all-time high due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  So, there are many opportunities for those seeking to break into the profession.

Employers have discovered that it can be more cost effective to hire a virtual assistant compared to an on-site administrative assistant (no need to provide office space and equipment). In addition, many virtual assistants are willing to work part-time, or as contractors without benefits.

How to Stand Out in the Crowd

So, if you want to work as a virtual assistant, how do you stand out in a crowded job market that's full of people looking for remote jobs?

The first step is understanding more about what it takes to be a virtual assistant. In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover everything you need to know, from job requirements and experience, to equipment and salaries. By the end, you will understand the various directions you can take as a virtual assistant and how to build a sustainable career working online.

If you’re ready to apply for a job as a virtual assistant, you’ll find lots of open positions on MotherWorks. If you want to learn more, read on!

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant, or VA, provides administrative support to small and large businesses, government agencies, schools and colleges and other organizations. A virtual assistant can also be a virtual personal assistant to an individual person.

The types of administrative tasks virtual assistants typically perform include book-keeping, scheduling, data entry and customer service. They may also handle routine business communications by phone or email, so writing skills come in handy.

A virtual assistant can be a full or part-time employee or a self-employed contractor.  The responsibilities of a virtual assistant can vary as widely as the niche or industry they are working in.  If you are working for an individual as a virtual personal assistant, your job might also include more personal tasks, like making dinner reservations.

All of these tasks can be done on a remote basis. Not only does this no commuting, but you may also apply world-wide because you are not limited to your geographical home-base in this profession.

As long as you can create a home office, have a solid internet connection, and a web-cam for virtual team meetings – you have the ingredients necessary to become a professional virtual assistant. But you will also need the right skillset and experience to be successful.

Some of the responsibilities for virtual assistant include:

  • Organizing documents
  • Sharing calendars
  • Answering phones
  • Greeting clients (as a remote agent, could be answering calls for an employer or reaching out to prospective clients/cold-calling).
  • Scheduling meetings and appointments for client/manager
  • Making travel arrangements
  • Managing company cards and inventory
  • Developing budget systems with forecast reporting
  • Developing social media or paid advertising campaigns

Virtual assistants are important because they save their employers time and money. They allow managers to focus on essential mission critical jobs that improve efficiency and maximize profits. That makes a good virtual assistant highly valuable to any organization.

The Different Types of Virtual Assistant Jobs

A virtual assistant is not a one-size-fits-all profession. The VA title can signify a variety of aptitudes depending on the niche or industry.

The most popular variations of virtual assistant include but are not limited to:

Administrative Virtual Assistant

The general virtual assistant will have responsibilities similar to those mentioned above. The tasks that may fall within this classification can include contract submission, schedule management, travel coordination, data-entry, and book-keeping. As a more organizational-based role, this form of virtual assistance won’t involve as much social engagement and will be more logistically-centered.

Customer Support Virtual Assistant

Whether answering incoming calls, making calls, replying to customer inquiries, processing orders or responding to complaints – virtual customer support assistants are essential to any large-scale company, brand, or product.

Inevitably, a customer or client will require follow-up guidance or support. If you are organized and love to help people, this would be an ideal use of your talents. But be aware that this role requires a lot of patience, and a higher level of emotional intelligence.

You may have to deal with some difficult people and tense situations. So, you will need to be able to manage not only the customers emotions, but also your own.  A customer service virtual assistant needs to be more engaging, self-aware, self-regulating, and empathetic.

E-Commerce Virtual Assistants

E-Commerce is a massive and fast growing industry that is always hiring virtual assistants.  When you consider that  25% of Americans shop online at least once per month, E-commerce is transforming retail faster than many can keep up with.

As an E-Commerce Virtual Assistant, your primary responsibilities would be to manage specific online store fronts and operations, for websites like Shopify, Etsy, or Amazon. As you might expect, Amazon is one of the biggest employers of virtual assistants. If you’re interested virtual jobs with Amazon, check out our complete guide to Amazon work from home jobs.

As an e-commerce virtual assistant, you may support retail managers, respond to customer inquiries, running.

Online shops frequently have hundreds or even thousands of items that are constantly changing, so inventory and product listings are regularly requiring updates. You may also help your manager to promote sales while essentially running the day-to-day operations of the online store from home.

Real Estate Virtual Assistant

With many roles in agent sales, loan administration, and mortgage processing, real estate is a booming industry that will continually demand the administrative support that virtual assistants can provide.

Real estate agents and property managers are juggling many tasks, often needing to outsource tasks like listing homes, scheduling appointments, marketing open houses, submitting contracts, or cold-calling prospective home buyers and sellers. A virtual assistant take handle these tasks.

Social Media Manager/Digital Advertising Assistant

Some virtual assistants are called upon to produce content for blogs and social media as part of their jobs to promote the companies they work for. By creating worth-while content that brings in new customers, you can quickly become a pillar within the company’s client relations and digital marketing.

If you can develop their voice while handling paid advertising logistics, a company can swiftly become dependent on you, (especially if you have an eye for what successfully translates to closed sales within that target audience).

If you’re not as talented with data-entry or book-keeping, this is the perfect creative role that can be done remotely. Some of the responsibilities may include cultivating valuable content, creating flyers and posts, and understanding what creates buzz for a brand.

The platforms you would need to be proficient in may include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Ads, as well as content scheduling software, such as Hootsuite, Buffer, or Tailwind.

If you are good at instilling brand loyalty and client retention for repeat business and referrals, this could be the Remote Assistant category for you.

What Skills and Experience are Required for Virtual Assistant Jobs?

As there are so many diverse opportunities and categories within the broad landscape of virtual assistance work, this same versatility is reflected within the skills and experience required to obtain these positions.

Some of the necessary attributes and soft skills that create an ideal VA candidate include:

  • Organized
  • Patient
  • Honest
  • Discreet
  • Efficient
  • Professional
  • Personable
  • Resolution-oriented

One of the positive attributes to becoming a VA is that you don’t necessarily need a great deal of prior experience, only the desire and determination to do the job effectively.

Although a person can be taught specific abilities, such as how a company has developed its filing systems, certain skills cannot be taught and must come naturally; therefore, this work won’t come as naturally to a person that is not intrinsically organized, list-oriented, and forward thinking. It helps to be good planner and communicator.

So, if you like chaos, and prefer unstructured assignments – working as a virtual assistant may not be the right job for you.

Some of the more fundamental capabilities required include:

Tech-Savviness  

The working world is transitioning to a digital paradigm, and as a virtual assistant, you must be adept at using the software programs required for the job. In other words, you will need to have competence with virtual technology to be a good virtual assistant.  

Some of the more common software programs that virtual assistants are required to learn are:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • QuickBooks
  • TurboTax
  • Google Calendar

You may also be required to use more sophisticated data management systems or use a customer relations management platform (CRM) like Salesforce or HubSpot. In this case, training may be provided.

Communication Skills

Often acting as the liaison between managers and clients, managers and the team, or managers and external vendors (such as travel coordinators) – You will always be in communication with others.

A virtual assistant must be able to wear a variety of hats, juggle many tasks, and explain themselves fluidly to every contact along the way.

As the principal correspondent of your employer’s emails and external communication, you should probably invest in a software program that enhances readability and spell- grammar-checks your work, such as Grammarly.

Self-Motivation

Without an employer over your shoulder, you will be responsible for the discipline of telecommuting. If you are able to think quickly and make effective decisions without an employer constantly micromanaging, you will already be a natural for virtual work (whether administrative or not).

Requirements for Virtual Assistants

There is no specific degree or certification required to begin working as a Virtual Assistant; however, that is not to say that a particular company may require a degree or multiple years of experience (largely depending on the complexity of the role or scale of the industry).

Therefore, although there is not a universal requirement, it is not uncommon for employers to require candidates to have some form of educational accreditation.

Examples of requirements you may see are:

  • Proven experience as a virtual assistant, personal assistant, or similar role
  • Strong ability to organize people, calendars, and scheduling
  • Familiarity with Skype, Zoom, desktop sharing, and cloud services for team communication
  • Experience with word-processing software and spreadsheets
  • Strong time management skills
  • Minimum of a high school diploma

Although a four-year degree is not a wide-spread requirement, it will undoubtedly put you at an advantage over applicants that do not have direct experience or a related skillset.

Virtual Assistant Jobs for Beginners

So, you think you have what it takes to be a virtual assistant, but not the hands-on experience?

Don’t count yourself out yet!

Many virtual assistants were brand new to the role at first, never having obtained direct experience before diving into this career path.

This is a great option for entry-level candidates that want to gain insight into a set of skills that will translate throughout your life into every other job you have. The organizational and behind-the-scenes magic of virtual support is translatable to nearly any role in business that requires jurisdictional determination.

The ways to get yourself noticed as a beginner in Virtual Assistance is to do the following:

  • Include the soft skills that make you a great candidate.
  • Discuss situations in your past roles where you’ve organized, led projects, spearheaded new reporting styles or filling systems, etc.

For example, if you have a knack for numbers and are switching from Accounting work to VA work, you can find the connection between these skills by showing hands-on ways you worked with spreadsheets and databases (just as you would as a Virtual Assistant).

  • Utilize specific metrics that show a tangible offering to your prospective employer.

For example, if you were responsible for developing a new forecasting algorithm for company savings, you could sell this on your resume as:

“Responsible for personally restructuring my former employer’s databases, removing all error, mitigating risk by a quantifiable 15%, resulting in $5,000 savings per quarter.”

  • Take an online course and/or certification to learn the. Fundamentals of being a virtual assistant. There are a growing number of curriculums being developed each day and this is an excellent way to show employers that you have actively been self-training within the role’s essentials, despite the lack of explicit experience.

This independent motivation shows a go-getter attitude and proves that you offer more than the bare minimum. This breed of tenacity will get you noticed above the masses of beginners that never took the time to enroll in a course or self-motivate.

Note – Be certain these are accredited companies with legitimacy and avoid casual learning platforms, such as Udemy.

  • Lastly, start small! You can begin by taking on part-time work or gig-like roles to build up your resume. If you want to be a Data Entry VA, you could take on temporary projects that will hire those with minimal experience.

As you build up your related skillset, you can seek out Virtual Assistant Opportunities that command higher rates.

You don’t have to rush all-in on a full-time role if you are only seeking to dip your toes in the profession. There is no long-term commitment required, and it is recommended to experiment a bit and confirm first that you enjoy the work before solidifying yourself in a full-blown career.

How Do You Find and Apply for Virtual Assistant Jobs?

Job websites are filled with virtual assistant jobs, so there are lots of opportunities for those who want to break into this occupation.

You can find a wide range of virtual assistant jobs on MotherWorks.

To find roles in specific companies, industries or niches – you will need to take your search a step further.

You can search for virtual assistant jobs in these categories, where many VA jobs can be found:

Nearly every industry could require virtual support at some time or another; therefore, there is no limit to the company, industry, or individual business owners you can seek out for opportunity.

Starting your Own Virtual Assistant Business

If you have an entrepreneurial spirt, you may want to start your own VA business. That means you will have to seek out freelance opportunities online and through networking. You can find resources to help through the Association of Virtual Assistants. The association has podcasts and other free resources and you can become a member to help promote yourself.

More VA Resources

Another resource is the International Virtual Assistants Association, which is “dedicated to the professional education and development of members of the Virtual Assistance profession.” Member benefits include VA industry news, professional development and mentorship programs, and resources to help you start your VA business.

What is The Hiring Process for Virtual Assistant?

Being that your day-to-day will be remote, the same tends to be true for the interview and hiring process. Companies will typically use some or all of these steps in the hiring process of a VA:

  1. Resume screening and cover-letter evaluation
  2. Phone Interview
  3. Candidate profile creation through their online portal (or sending a specific application through their website instead of the general format for job sites). This step may be required if you are a top-contender or if the employer requires more information for your consideration.

Since they won’t want to examine hundreds of unique formats, this is a way for you to supply your information into their singular format, for easy comparison of candidates without biased embellishments or individualized alterations.

  1. Possibly a second or third interview, often with different managers you would be working with.
  2. Background screening and identity verification (this includes an evaluation on your job history, criminal history, reference check, social security and identity verification, as well as your legal right to work within the U.S.)
  3. Personality assessment (not always a requirement)
  4. Skills assessment (to prove general competencies, also not always a requirement)
  5. Final evaluation
  6. Hiring
  7. Virtual orientation and online training

How Much Can You Make as a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual Assistants can make a very steady wage, and it will vary depending on the skillset and seniority behind the role.

For example, an accounting assistant with the ability to file taxes will likely be paid higher than a social media assistant, which requires less training and preparation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an accounting/bookkeeping assistant’s was $41,110 in 2017. 

Glassdoor estimates an annual salary for a virtual assistant is $26,350 in the United States.

To show the drastic discrepancy, ZipRecruiter claims that the national average for U.S. virtual assistants is $67,115 per year. This salary disparity is likely due to the breadth and multiplicity that encapsulates this role, making it difficult to quantify or narrow down.

As a bonus for you - virtual assistant work can be done from anywhere in the world, even the beaches of Tahiti! This means that you can apply to companies outside of the U.S., many of which may pay better than these national statistics while also not limiting you through the locality. For example, the average hourly wage for this position in the U.K is £27 per hour (approximately $35 per hour USD).

The amount you make as a VA will vary depending on factors such as:

  • The type of VA work
  • The industry
  • The company’s stability and reputation
  • The country of that company/the economy of that industry
  • Your experience level
  • The relativeness of that experience
  • How many hours you work (part-time or full-time)

A more experienced VA could charge upwards of $50 per hour, while a new VA may have to lower rates to compete while gaining a foundation for their resume, charging closer to $10-20 per hour.

What Equipment is Required to Be a Virtual Assistant?

Here are some of the items you should include in your budget for a home office:

  • A computer
  • Internet access (high-speed preferably)
  • An email account
  • Updated versions of Windows and Microsoft Office Suite
  • A desk and chair
  • 100+ G.B. of cloud-based data storage
  • A business phone line or trustworthy mobile line
  • Printer
  • Any software required for your industry/position

Final Tips to Launch Your New Career as a Virtual Assistance

Becoming a Virtual Assistant will certainly require hard work and the ability to self-motivate, but the role itself is not overly difficult to break into. There are thousands of opportunities posted at any given time, with new opening every day.

And don’t forget you will be helping people as a virtual assistant, and that can be a very rewarding way to make living.

Now that you are armed with the information in this comprehensive guide, there is nothing stopping you from landing a great job or creating your own telecommuting business as a virtual assistant.

Explore virtual assistant jobs on MotherWorks, and go for it!  There is no better time than the present!