The term “virtual assistant” has been bandied around a lot lately, especially within the Work From Home crowd. I’ve been hearing entrepreneurs and writers talking about their “VA’s” doing this and that and making their lives so much easier. There’s a large group of VAs over at Pinterest, too. And strangely, I ran into an old acquaintance just a couple weeks ago who’s running her own VA business. Very successfully, I might add.
So what’s all this virtual assisting business about? Here’s 20 questions and answers about this hot new online career choice and why it just might be the right opportunity you’ve been looking for.
#1 – What is a Virtual Assistant?
I’ve heard the term “miracle worker” thrown around. The truth is, there’s isn’t one definition that truly fits. Generally, a VA is a someone who handles administrative tasks. The “virtual” come in because the job is no longer done at a fixed location, but is handled remotely, usually from the assistant’s home. And usually not for just one business or client.
Administrative responsibilities are just one area of expertise virtual assistants offer. Some provide creative services, such as light graphic design or writing and proofreading skills. Other even provide technical assistance on various software programs or as help desk support.
#2 – Why is it a good work at home choice?
Taht the job can be done remotely, as in “your own home” is a biggie. But it’s a good choice for lots of other reason, too. The International Virtual Assistants Associations (IVAA), gives five reasons why this career choice is gaining popularity:
- It allows people, mainly women, to stay at home with their children and still earn an income.
- It appeals to many administrative professionals who are getting tired of office politics, long drives and working out of the home expenses.
- For people who’ve always wanted a business of their own, it’s easy and inexpensive to start.
- Many people turn to it as an opportunity when they lose their day job.
- It’s perfect for women who need a portable career, such as military spouses.
#3 – What are the typical tasks?
The bigger question is, what isn’t a typical task. Virtual assistants handle a variety of clerical and administrative responsibilities but there’s a whole host of others things they do, as well. And the more you can do for a busy business owner or entrepreneur, the more money you can make. Here are some typical responsibilities of VA handles:
- Administrative tasks, such as answering calls, returning emails, typing documents and set meetings or book travel accommodations.
- Marketing support that might include managing blogs and social media accounts, scheduling social media marketing or creating presentations and sales materials.
- Writing and proofreading skills are often in demand.
- Professional support might include handling some financial tasks, such as payroll or accounting, dealing with vendors and making business purchases.
- IT and technical support could include handling website maintenance and updates and providing technical support to customers.
- Sales support assignments include creating promotional campaigns, engaging with potential customers and driving traffic to websites.
- Operational tasks might include working with other members of the team, delegating and scheduling tasks for the owner/entrepreneur.
#4 – Are there educational requirements?
There are no special education requirements necessary to become a virtual assistant. But an understanding of business practices and a high dose of common sense will go a long way.
#5 – What skills are necessary?
The best skill you can have to work as a virtual assistant is the ability to work on your own and organize your time. You’ll also need to be pretty tech savvy and understand the most-used business programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. Knowing how to search the Internet is another important skill to have.
#6 – Are there specialized courses that would be helpful?
The more training you have is always a good thing. Do as much reading as you can about this career. There are some books you can buy on Amazon, such as these top-rated choices: Virtual Assistant – The Series 4th Edition and The Bootstrap VA: The Go-Getter’s Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant, Getting and Keeping Clients, and More!.
If you’re looking for more information, make sure to check out Gina Hockey’s free 150 VA Services You Can Offer. Yes, I did say FREE. C
#7 – Is this a work from home employee position with benefits?
Generally not. Although, it never hurts to ask if you already work as an administrative or executive assistant. In my last EA job, I often got to work from home, but it was an earned perk that I got to take advantage of a couple times per month. Most VAs work as independent contractors and are responsible for their own benefits and taxes.
#8 – Is this a gig-based position?
Ah, this is more of what you’ll find working as a virtual assistant. Lots of gigs. You won’t be working for one individual or one company, but for many. And it might even be piece work. The three most popular ways to work are:
- On retainer for a number of hours per week/month, for one client doing a variety of tasks (and of course, you might have two, three or more clients filling out your calendar).
- By project for a client with a set of deliverables. For example, you might help an author with the launch of a book or an online marketer with a new campaign doing a variety of smaller tasks.
- Working by task is another type of VAs work. That is, you charge by certain tasks, say scheduling Pinterest pins for bloggers or responding to email for a marketer.
#9 – Can this be a business?
Very definitely a yes. As a matter of fact, you should be treating your VA work in the most professional manner. As you get more successful, you can expand with more types of services and hire additional VA to work for you.
#10 – Are there any local laws or regulations that need to be addressed?
Every location will have different requirements and regulations. A good place to start is with this Small Business Association page about state licenses and permits. Choice your home state and drill down to your local area.
#11 – What type of businesses/people hire virtual assistants?
There’s no one answer. Clients range from online entrepreneurs to local business… and any and everything between.
#12 – Are there outsourcing companies I can work through?
Yes, and it might be a good way to get your foot in the door. And decide if you like it. UpWork is a freelance source where you can bid on VA jobs. A couple of other sources I found recently include VA sourcers Belay Solutions and Fancy Hands. Ashlee at Work at Home Happiness posted a review of her six months working for the latter and it’s filled with all the highs, lows and inbetweens.
#13 – Where do you find clients?
There are a variety of ways to find VA jobs. The best course is to start with people you already know. Get the word out that you’re opening shop. That includes family and friends, and also your Internet friends. Join VA Facebook and Pinterest groups such as
VA association such as IVAA have directories to add your services once you join the organization. Forums that cater to some industries, such as authors and online marketers are other good places to offer services.
Of course, a good ol’ job search never hurts. This morning I was searching Indeed.com and found a lot of VA jobs offered and many looked very interesting.
#14 – What are the start up cost?
A computer and phone are necessities. (Of course, I heard of the occasional VA who just uses her iPhone, but that’s probably more rare than usual). You’ll also want a comfortable place to work from home and that might be a dedicated office of the kitchen table.
You’ll probably also want to start a blog because it will be one of the primary spots you promote yourself and your services.
Just like any other type of business, you may have expenses. If you’re invoicing, you probably need a separate business bank account that may cost a few dollars a month. And of course, state and local licensing fees as written about above.
Generally, when it comes to starting up costs, there’s not a lot necessary to get going.
#15 – What ongoing or overhead costs are there?
It’s one of those, “it depends on” answers. Ongoing costs are minimal, like the start-up costs above, but… Yup, a but, here. It depends on how you grow. Will you need an accounting program at some point? More office equipment? How about promotions? And if you end up hiring another VA to work for you, there will be a bunch of costs and taxes you need to take care of.
#16 – What tools and equipment are needed?
As said above, a computer and phone is all you need to start. Depending on the services you offer, you may need to invest in some programs and applications.
#17 – Are the hours flexible?
Yes, but… Another “but.” It will depend on the needs of your clients. However, working as a virtual assistant is probably one of the most flexible jobs you can have because, in end, you make our own availability and scheduling.
#18 – What is the earning potential?
According to IVAA.org, the average earning range for VA’s is $20 to $100 per hour, with 20 to 30 billable hours being very doable. I’ve also heard the range quoted higher at $25 to $150 per hour. Of course, I’ve heard it quoted lower, too. The range will vary deepening on the services offered, your experience and great testimonials and referrals.
#19 – Are earnings immediate?
Often, yes. But it may take some time to work up the earnings latter to the bigger payouts. (Just like any job, right?)
#20 – Are there any organizations I can join?
I’ve already mentioned the IVAA. It’s been around since 1995 as a non-profit educational and development organization for a virtual assistant. It offers lots of benefits depending on the level of membership, from educational, Facebook and mentoring programs to the inclusions into their Directory to vendor discounts. Click here to join the IVAA today.
Working at home as a virtual assistant can be a rewarding and profitable career, especially if you enjoy helping others. It’s also a great way to learn from more successful entrepreneurs. Share your thoughts and experiences.
See ya soon,