A corner office or a kitchen table desk, pants or pajamas – working from home definitely offers some convenient choices. However, in the absence of regular face to face interactions, soft skills are the essential qualities that you need to get hired and re-hired.
Why do soft skills matter for VAs?
Soft skills are different from your quantifiable hard skills like proficiency in copywriting. Soft skills are the personal attributes that enable us to interact effectively with others. While most freelancers and virtual service providers focus intensely on highlighting their technical skills, it is your soft skills that will actually get you more referrals and business.
When it comes to winning that VA job, sustaining a client relationship or even getting rehired, soft skills can sometimes be even more important than your technical abilities – they can enhance or break your working relationships.
Do you have the right soft skills to work with clients online?
Assess yourself against this comprehensive list of skills below, with inputs, experiences, and insights from the customers themselves. See how business owners talk about these intangible skills way before they even touch competency.
Top clients and employers share the 15 vital soft skills for VAs that matter to them!
Loren Howard, President of Prime Plus Mortgages says, “One VA that I hired, really stuck out to me. From the start, they would send a daily recap of all the activities they completed in a day. It was a great way to show they were accountable and responsible for the tasks assigned to them.”
Investing time in developing a system to track your time, stay on tasks and providing a summary of work accomplished, demonstrates accountability.
Attention to detail
Timothy Wenger, Director of Business Development at Maven Labor Solutions shares, “The main qualities I look for in a VA for a new project are attention to detail. I will write out a description of what exactly needs to be done. I have found that the best VA’s will ask questions to make sure they fully understand and comprehend what needs to be done.”
Adrienne Glussman of Delegate Divas Online stresses on reviewing. “Check. Your. Work!! My success is in part because of the VA so having a strong team member to support me and delivering quality of work is key. If you are making careless mistakes, you are creating more work for the business owner. That’s the reason we are hiring you – to delegate tasks off of our plate and not have to work extra to clean up mistakes!”
Reading every project description thoroughly and keeping your questions ready before a meeting, displays your meticulousness. So does reviewing your finished work with a fine-tooth comb before handing off to the client.
Companies are looking. Are you there?
Clarity on tasks
It’s okay to ask. “Often the VA’s that perform the best point out or ask questions around a task or project where I was unclear in my brief,” says Wenger.
Glusman adds – “Ask questions, don’t assume; it’s so important to over-communicate at the beginning of a new project or relationship with a client. This ensures you aren’t over-billing (because a task is taking way more time than it should or because you aren’t clear on direction).
Commit what you can (actually) deliver
“Know your limits,” says Sam Wilson, Co-Founder, Virtalent. “You should understand what tasks you excel at doing and what is outside of your remit. A bad VA will take on every task thrown at them (everything from web design to video editing!), without first checking if they are the best person for the project. This is a lose-lose for the VA and client.”
Ben Taylor, founder of Home Working Club believes the most crucial key, for him, when hiring a VA, is impeccable communication skills. “A VA will be representing you and your business. Every email YOU receive from them needs to be of the standard you would want when they are acting on your behalf. If any aspect of communication seems inadequate, that’s an instant rejection from me, because I can’t risk anybody communicating on my business’ behalf if their communication is less than perfect.”
Your communication should adapt to the personality of the brand. When in doubt, keep the tone of your interactions appropriate and business-like.
Listen and absorb
As per CJ Xia, CEO at Boster Biological Technology, “In the past, I hired a person who was talented but lacked listening skills. It made it quite difficult for me to convey my expectations and to understand him properly. The person who cannot listen and efficiently deliver the content is not capable of becoming a virtual assistant.”
How to wow clients with your expertise!
Do you wait for clients to get back to you or do you follow up consistently? Do you troubleshoot and apply creative thinking towards new ideas?
“Be naturally proactive and go out of your way to help a potential client, not just passively wait for instructions. Clients are busy, so they need a nudge to help them delegate!” says Wilson.
Glusman points out. “I don’t want to come to you to find out the status of projects – send me the beginning and end of day reports so I can quickly scan and know what you’re working on. Also keep me in the loop, via a weekly report, on where projects stand is great! Additionally, don’t be afraid to speak up and offer suggestions as to how I can improve my business or systems and processes based on your experience! I love someone who wants to bring good ideas to the table.”
Bhawana Singh, Food blogger at Code2Cook adds, “Communicate well. Be proactive in case you need any information regarding the project. Don’t wait for the client to recognize the problem and come back to you. Invest some time to understand the style of work and project you are going to work.”
Alternately, if your client is hesitant or unresponsive, there are several hooks you can propose. Offer to do a “trial” or send in new topics of the week related to their work. If you do a good job, the business owners will be hooked to your help.
When pursuing a new client, customize your response to the job for every application instead of a generic introduction.? Have it reflect the homework you have done on the job requirements, the company website, the hiree, etc.
Consider submitting additional materials not requested, like a video or a case-study.
Clients want to trust you to do their job. When you believe you can, they believe you can.
Wenger says, “Make sure you answer every question that is proposed in the project posting, ask thoughtful questions and be happy!” But what happens when you are not on a 100% sure ground? “Requesting a test project is a great way to show that you are a good fit. It indicates you have self-confidence in the fact that you provide a good service and your work speaks for itself.”
Research and prep
How can you show off your critical and independent thinking skills?
Vinny Dolan, Director of Community Affairs for SpinalCord.com says, “A good Virtual Assistant will do two things. They will listen to you when describing your business/goals, and also research your organization to have a better understanding of how the work they do contributes.”
“A good candidate, regardless of specialty area, will promptly reply to your interest in holding a discovery call,” says Lizabeth Wesely-Casella of L-12 Services. “They will have an agenda for the meeting. It will include questions about your prior experience with VA support, your needs, your current processes and what metrics you will use to measure success. For example, if you value time, will the successful candidate take over and manage tasks that provide you additional hours in your week to spend as you need? Or is success defined by being able to work without clutter and overwhelm?”
Meet - even work with - top VAs and Freelancers!
As per Linkedin data, the top soft skill companies are looking for is creativity. The best way to be creative is to consider your job description and what your work entails, from a fresh set of eyes. Treat it as you would your business, and come up with out of the box solutions like an entrepreneur.
A highly motivated, self-starter is every employer’s dream.
Glusman has a great point. “When I hire, I want someone who I can tell has taken the time to get to know my business. It may be references or something they may have read on my website. They could perhaps bring it to a personal level by commenting on something I’ve written about myself in the “about me” section, etc.
Paul Bromen CEO of Helpful Habitat recommends showing off your dependability and learning aptitude.
“As a VA, showing these skills early means following up when you say you will and being quick to learn about your employer’s business. Showing that you have researched the business or entrepreneur that you are applying to really helps. With the internet and Linkedin, it should be relatively easy to find out their key facts. In the application ask questions that show you are curious and have background knowledge.”
Trustworthiness and Integrity
Hiring is all about trust. Letting go of work is an anxious time for a business owner and you can do lots to evoke trustworthiness and calm anxiety.
So how can you create trust right out of the gate? By delivering on promises and by showing up on time – every time!
Wilson recommends, “Be friendly, down-to-earth and human. Clients want to enjoy working with their Virtual Assistant and build a solid relationship with them. They need to feel they can trust them. This all relies on being able to build rapport together and develop mutual respect.”
Every interaction should ooze your desire to be the one to get hired for the job. Don’t tell, show that you want the work.
Jessica Rhoades, Owner, and Designer at Create IT Web Designs makes a fantastic point. “The biggest issue that we face is finding someone who seems interested and enthusiastic about the position. I occasionally put out simple short term projects with the opportunity to have more work in the future. I receive more ‘here I am’ responses rather than ‘how may I help you’ to find out if we might be a good fit together. Most of the time I don’t get past their initial response to the request. It’s a ‘here I am’ cut and paste response and sometimes with a list of prices. I’m not ready to discuss the price of the initial email. I want to hear your pitch and strengths and your willingness to serve. And most importantly build a lasting working relationship with you.”
Melissa Smith, Founder of the Association of Virtual Assistants says, “For a VA to show a potential client they are the right fit, the VA must be able to prove that you (or the company) are their ideal client. He/she should be able to not only explain why you are their ideal client but have the clientele and knowledge of your industry to prove it. The VA should be excited for the opportunity to *perform* work for you as much as they are wanting to get paid.”
Flexibility & adaptability
Show that you are someone who is willing to take on challenges beyond the scope of the work and keen to learn new skills. Because things are always changing, you are not hesitant to adapt to new situations.
If part of the job ask is using a tool that you have not worked on before, don’t let that daunt you. Instead, address that drawback before it’s mentioned. Take that as an opportunity to show that you have already started researching options to learn it.
Pooja Krishna of Win Thinks expands, “You might have creative differences with a client’s viewpoint. Or even on how to do something. But being flexible and working towards a solution is more important than sticking to your guns. Even if you are certain that your viewpoint is the right one.”
In business, your work ethic and people skills are non-measurable metrics but they define your work. People do business with people they like. Your soft skills make you win by developing trust, likeability and demonstrating your continuous commitment.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.