Do you want to work from home, on your time and even on your terms? Good Virtual Professionals are finding well-paying, flexible and even exciting work online. Start your VA work – learn how to choose your niche, land the right clients and tips to get re-hired. Get pro secrets on how you can stand out and successfully navigate the VA world.
Are you ready to be a Virtual Professional?
Do you have specialized skills? Feel comfortable with working independently and with technology? Have a commuting constraint or prefer to work remotely? Do you want flexible hours?
Then you’re all set to go virtual.
What is a Virtual Professional?
A Virtual Professional or Virtual Assistant (VA) is a self-employed Professional who provides support services to clients, typically from a remote location. VAs do specialized or repetitive jobs like marketing, administrative support, book-keeping, research, managing email, customer service, social media, content creation etc. Many work in different cities or even different time zones.
Pro Tips for Virtual Work
If you want to start working from home, or are a beginner Virtual Professional, explore the 15 actionable steps to start a VA business.
Do you want to work from home along with caring for your family? Find out why now is the best time for Moms to work as VAs.
For an idea of remote, freelance, contract, part-time or work from home jobs, check out the VA Jobs and Opportunities on Maroon Oak!
What work do VAs do?
A Virtual Professional steps in to take on tasks that clients can’t do, don’t do or shouldn’t do.
Most VAs are able to tackle jobs that can be done online, often working with multiple employers or clients. They range from administrative and creative to technical & support services.
Need ideas? Here’s a list of 50+ skills and services you can offer as a VA.
In short, by doing what you do best, VAs free up their clients’ time to do what they do best.
Think of it like this – you’re on the team but as an independent consultant.
Top tips on what it takes to succeed as a Virtual Professional or VA!
(Plus, experienced pros from the Virtual Assistance business share their insights on what it takes to be a crackerjack VA!)
- Develop the right kind of skills to deliver a project.
- Choose the right VA niche for you and Stick to it
- Know your Ideal Customer
- Lead with a strong customer focus!
- Be visible and credible
- Make good Client Relationships your Goal
- Treat it like a Business
- Have multiple work and revenue sources
- Don’t Give in or Give Up. Or stagnate
- Don’t forget the most important thing- three final words
Develop the right kind of skills to deliver a project.
Strong skills by themselves are not enough!
You need to zero into what your best skill(s) is and what are the support skills that you need to complete a task end to end. Say, if you want to specialize at Instagram marketing, you’ll need to learn the top Instagram for business hacks, tips and tools. Your work will include not just posting pictures, but a lot more. You’ll need to create visuals and stories, as well as write captions, master hashtags and research competition.
Here are 2 things to focus on, when it comes to skills.
a.Identify your Top Skill(s)
Pick work you’re good at. And you like doing
What kind of work are you great at or have a passion for? Is it email marketing, creating social media content, digital organization, executive support.
Choose the work where you have best proficiency as your core or pillar skill. This enables you to market your work, and it also helps clients understand where you can offer the best help. Things to keep in mind are work you enjoy doing, that you have (at least basic) experience in, and which you see yourself doing repetitively.
You need to know what (services) you want to offer to clients, recommends Heather Heinrichs from My VA Heather. “While this is incredibly personalized for each individual, your path to figuring it out is always the same. Pick services based off of your existing skill set or your interests.”
Addie Harrison of My Amazing Assistant suggests utilizing the skills you already have from previous experiences. “Were you an Administrative Assistant or a Graphic Designer, she asks. Specialized in Social Media? Worked in customer service? Incorporate that into your niche.”
Susan Stalte of B2BRD, who supports the Food and Event Planning Industry adds, “get clear on your offer(s) and invest in your business.”
How well do you know the essential online tools required for VA success?
Test your knowledge and skill up!
Check out these 22 essential, free online business tools for VA’s
b.Develop Support Skills
Add skills that support your core skill.
For each top skill, you need to list and hone a roster of associated skills. This way your resume will be more well-rounded and you can deliver the outcomes better.
Here are 2 examples of how you can make your core skill richer.
- Your main skill is copywriting, and you have experience in the travel industry.
You will also need a basic understanding of social media content so you can write really short copy for Twitter and a keyword-rich one for Pinterest. All this aided with an understanding of what kind of language works for writing content for the travel niche.
- On the other hand, for a Graphic Designer, being able to write concise but ‘selling copy’ and lay it out on text is important.
You should be able to independently perform your duties and need little supervision, once you have clear instructions.
Pro Tips to Skill-up
Looking to add new skills or polish existing ones? Explore these 35 free courses to learn from the top universities!
Want to learn from an expert instead?
Add new skills in content, social media, email marketing, business strategy, SEO and more!
Get these 100+ business freebies created by pros
Choose the right VA niche for you and Stick to it
When you offer something for everyone, it may work for no one!
It also takes time to hone your skill and develop a reputation – both of which are achievable when you choose your niche wisely and nurture it.
Your niche depends on your chosen skills and aptitude, the client’s needs, and your comfort with the tools required to deliver that work.
A specific VA niche is always better!
Regina Lewis, whose company Live and Work by Faith helps VAs start or grow their businesses suggests narrowing down your niche! “Even if it seems like a million other people are doing what you do, what specific offering sets you apart from the pack?”
“To be a successful Virtual Professional, you need to be competent in your skill set,” says Mary Joyce of Resources Queen and a VA Client. “I’ve had experiences of hiring a VA who claimed to be able to complete a task then took forever and did a poor job. She claimed she was an expert – a very costly mistake on my part, hiring her.”
Ensure that you know or learn the right tech and tools for your chosen niche.
No matter what industry or type of work you choose, some of the key skill sets you need are consistent across the board. Check out these 22 essential, free online business tools for VA’s that you can familiarize yourself with.
Focus on providing a specific service, advises Heather Heinrichs. “This will not only help you become an authority in that particular area, but in other ways too. Your time management throughout your day will improve, so you aren’t bouncing back and forth between completely unrelated tasks. That’s a time-suck that you want to avoid.”
“When you start your business as a VA, I’ve seen new VAs go after every piece of business they see,” cautions Lewis. “It’s okay to say ‘no’ when it doesn’t fit your skillset or your niche.”
Checklist to start your VA business the right way!
Know your Ideal Customer
Do you like working with large teams or in small groups, even individuals? What kind of industries or segments are more appealing to you? Do you like working tight deadlines, new projects or working in-depth on 1 or 2?
This will help you choose between large companies, startups or working with entrepreneurs. Why should you know who your ideal client is?
Heinrichs feels that figuring out who you want to offer your services to helps streamline your marketing efforts. It also helps you build a business that works for you, she says. A discovery call can ensure it’s someone that you work well with and want to be around.
“You’ll save yourself lots of time and energy in your marketing when you eventually nail down who you want to work with,” adds Lewis.
Create your customer profile or persona to find who you like working with best!
Shagufta Rehman found it hard to meet her corporate client’s need for super quick turnarounds on copywriting jobs. So instead, she signed on for ghost blogging with a motivational speaker who offered more structured deadlines. Risa Lowell realized that she preferred to work with no more than 2 or 3 clients at a time. On the other hand, Hetal Pathak found that amongst different industries, she enjoyed working with creatives the most.
Someone is looking for your expertise right now!
Meet your next Client, Customer, Collaborator or Coach on the Best Free Directory of Women Entrepreneurs
Lead with a strong customer focus (make it about them)
How do you land a client? What will make you stand out from the crowd?
Get hired by creating an unforgettable first impression! A great way to do this is by customizing your outreach!
Abbey Lynn of The Virtual Savvy shares 3 expert tips.
“First of all, do your homework – research the client in detail. Their website, social media accounts, and any other information you can get your hands on.
Secondly, create a custom proposal that includes your standard portfolio and information about YOU. Plus a tailored evaluation of any problem-areas or gaps you might find in your client’s online presence and how you can help. Don’t give away every single solution in the proposal in detail, but outline how your skills can expertly fill that gap you found. Make the proposal about the CLIENT, and not about you.
Finally, spend at least an hour creating value that you can share and give to the client for free. That could be ten Pinterest graphics based on the client’s most recent blog posts. Or a basic outline of social media ideas, a Twitter strategy, or free edits. Give the client something valuable – a sample of your time and what a working relationship with you will look like in the future.”
Pro Tools for great Client Relations
Want the step-by-step process to onboard new clients and showcase your brand? Get this Online Business Manager Starter Kit with a Plan, Procedures and Email Templates.
Ensure a smooth start to your working relationship with this warm & efficient client onboarding kit that’s ready to implement!
Want to be the one to get picked for the Virtual Professional job?
These work skills of a good Virtual Professional will get you a yes from the get-go!
Be visible and credible
Clients can’t connect with you if they can’t find you!
Both your credentials and your work should be easily available to potential clients without them having to ask.
Create a strong digital presence
Make sure your website, social media content, as well as your testimonials, clearly articulate what you do and how well. Samantha McNair saw a jump in her leads when she updated her Facebook Page and linked it to her personal profile. Have an updated About Me section on your website, articulate your services clearly and in detail.
Pro Tips for Visibility
Use the right keywords on web and social profiles that make you more searchable. Wondering what keywords to use or how to strengthen your web presence? Get the best SEO Tools and Freebies for your business and personal visibility.
Design a robust portfolio
No matter what the service you offer, having visual proof that’s easily accessible and shareable is key for prospective clients and employers.
Many virtual assistants believe that creating a portfolio is possible only if your work is visual e.g. graphic design. In reality, it is possible to create a persuasive and impressive portfolio in 10+ formats.
Think of your Portfolio as a comprehensive all-in-one selling tool. Make sure you include relevant info even if you are sharing references or work details elsewhere.
Pro Tips for a rockstar Portfolio
Want ideas, tips, and examples to build your service portfolio? Here’s how you can create an impressive portfolio in different formats to win the right clients.
What should you include in your portfolio and what hurts your chances? Try these best practices for a rockstar online Portfolio.
Make Good Client Relationships your Goal
You might not be an employee, but you are on their team!
Keep in mind the reasons more and more business owners and entrepreneurs are hiring VAs. And what it means for you.
- Plan your own work calendar around client needs. Is your ask essential and deadline-based e.g. weekly newsletter creation? Or is it project-based like 6 graphics over the next 3 weeks?
- Do you offer skill sets that entrepreneurs need but might not possess? E.g. social media and website management consistently feature as amongst the top ‘need help with’ skills. Then make the time and effort to answer their questions.
You have the skills! We have the jobs!
3.Most entrepreneurs or businesses need help a few times a week or a month. Stay in touch and update them on your to-do’s proactively. If the VA’s output needs constant managing, the client’s own work and ultimately the relationship will suffer.
“Make a good impression, work hard, don’t be afraid to appease your client, and please them, especially in the beginning of your working relationship with them,” says Mei Yee Leong of Wonderfully Mei Designs. ”I see a lot of arrogant and self-righteous business owners who won’t give a little leeway for their new clients. A little smoothing over with conflicts and misunderstandings is always helpful.
Little things like free 24-hour turn-around or offering a service for a little lower is recognized by the client and obviously will help you get a foot in the door. Remember, you’re trying to beat many other Virtual Assistants to the spot. What will make you stand out?”
Having hired many VAs, Joyce has the customer’s insight on the business. “You should be able to show a return on your client’s investment in your services,” she says. “When you know who your client is, you can offer an array of services to match them.”
Just be aware of your capacity to fulfill the tasks and be realistic about the time it takes to complete and price accordingly.
Pro Tips to wow Clients
Get hired and re-hired! Here’s a fantastic and detailed look on what employers actually want in a Virtual Assistant.
Stay connected with former clients as well as prospects with consistent but judicious contact and smart e-Networking. Even if they’re not hiring right now, this keeps you on top of their recall list.
Treat it like a Business
Keep your eye on the bottom line!
Which of your skills are most lucrative in terms of price and returns? Are you investing wisely in tools that can help you add skills and raise your value? Are you turning away work because you are very busy?
“A major step to building a successful VA business is to outsource,” says Heinrichs. Outsourcing is an essential component to a highly profitable VA business model – it allows you to grow with uncapped income potential. It also gives you the opportunity to provide superior level service to your clients in areas that you don’t specialize in yourself.
From Business Plan to Onboarding new clients – find lots of expert tools and freebies for your VA business strategy
Ramona Hayes managed billing and bookkeeping for clients in the construction business and eventually, she had more work than she could handle. But rather than turn it away, she subcontracted the work to an accounting graduate who was job hunting. She also set up a referral system with a copywriter friend and web designer so each could get more leads.
Similarly, VAs often collaborate on complementary jobs, many have a commission sharing arrangement too. Others sign up with agencies to take on extra freelance work.
Harrison adds – “to succeed, you will need a clear vision of where you want your business to go. Remember to focus on your own business as much as you focus on your clients. Your own business needs care and support as well.”
Start your VA business the right way!
Have multiple work and revenue sources
Balance out your work with different types of clients and offerings.
Work with regulars and on a freelance basis
If you have a steady stream of clients, that’s great. In reality, most Virtual Assistants will have a few clients on a retainer basis (where they get paid a fixed monthly amount for specific work). In addition, you can also pick up freelance work with clients which might be a one-off or for a few months. A third option is working with an agency for steady work and learning the ropes before launching your VA business.
Why is freelance work a good option for VAs?
Working a few freelance gigs gives you an opportunity to explore different kinds of jobs with a number of clients.
It’s also a good way to garner experience if you are a newbie and building your client portfolio.
You also stay fresh with prospecting and pitching as well as staying in touch with industry trends.
You have a strong backup, in case work with your regular clients falls through.
Pro Tips to find VA Work!
“To succeed as a virtual professional, don’t be afraid to do the tasks that other people would dismiss or otherwise find “beneath” them,” suggests Yee Leong. “It’s good to gain experience, especially in the first few months to a year of being a Virtual Assistant. It also makes you more rounded and gets you more experience. And if you do good work, the client will be more likely to hand you more work in the future. That literally has just happened for me!”
Add passive income avenues
Once you are skilled and experienced in your chosen work, you can also offer digital products to those who are in need of your services but may not be in a position to hire someone.
Check out these 11 awesome reasons a digital product helps your business
Create high quality free and paid digital products that show your expertise. The former helps you build your leads and email list. You can offer and list high-value products on online Marketplaces to earn you a consistent sales income.
Looking for inspiration on the many kinds of business freebies you can create for entrepreneurs?
Don’t Give in or Give Up. Or stagnate
“And If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to pivot, and change something up,” shares Addie Harrison. It’s never too late to switch focus, change your niche, or add or change service offerings.
As a virtual professional, ensure that you ‘upskill’ continuously to succeed. Stay in touch with what new clients are looking for. Keep up with the trends and look out for feedback continuously.
Final three words
Network, Network, Network.
No matter how much work you have now, it’s not a guarantee for the future. So reach out to prospects and stay connected with past clients. Lots more companies and entrepreneurs are hiring Virtual Professionals now, so don’t miss out. List your business online, use social media, especially Facebook Groups, network and engage on clients’ social media channels.
Pro Tips to Network right!
Get high-quality organic visibility with 23 sites to list your business for free
As the market for virtual services grows, and technology enables more and more ways people can collaborate long-distance, being a VP or VA might not just be a viable career option. It will very possibly be the most popular one!
So assess, evaluate or jump onto this fast-moving trend – virtually every smart professional today is considering it!
Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Business Mentor and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years.
She’s a co-founder at Maroon Oak, and is founded Win Thinks, where she writes, speaks, and teaches about Digital Media, Brand Building and Future Ready Businesses. A day trader for over a decade, Pooja launched Trading Paces to educate amateur and pro stock traders. As a classroom mentor, Pooja loves teaching students across the U.S. about job skills and entrepreneurship. Read about her on Huffington Post and Forbes.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, she’s discovering the pleasure of drawing Zentangle patterns for ‘creative mindfulness.’