Do you want a career that lets you work on your time, at your place and even on your terms?
Are you looking for new career options? Feel comfortable with technology? Have a commuting constraint or preference for working remote? Do you want flexible hours?
Then why not work Virtually!
A Virtual Professional or Assistant (VA) is a self-employed Professional who typically works specialized or repetitive jobs but away from client locations. VAs today do jobs like book-keeping, research, managing email, customer service, social media, content creation etc. Many work in different cities or completely even different time zones.
VA as a business has really flourished in the last 5 years and is expected to grow further – for good reason too. Smarter technology makes numerous ancillary jobs much easier to execute. Plus, hiring a business assistant no longer needs to be face to face – the ability to screen profiles on digital platforms like Maroon Oak, get referrals and reviews makes remote recruiting feasible.
For so many women, this offers a flexible option to supplement incomes working from home. Many have gone on to create thriving VA careers, working freelance or managing a VA business hiring other professionals virtually. According to Payscale, for the most part, Virtual Assistants enjoy their work and report high levels of job satisfaction.
Why do people hire VAs?
A Virtual Professional steps in to take on tasks that clients can’t do, don’t do or shouldn’t do.
There are three big drivers for why more people are looking for, and hiring VAs.
The need to tackle essential but time consuming chores – maybe newsletter creation or email follow ups are taking a chunk of your day when you want to focus on marketing.
The other is a growing number of skillsets that entrepreneurs need but might not possess – social media and website management consistently feature as amongst the top ‘need help with’ skills.
Finally, if an entrepreneur or business needs help a few times a week or month, but not enough to justify hiring a full time employee, this route works perfectly.
What VAs do?
Most VAs are able to tackle jobs that can be done online, often working with multiple employers. They range from administrative and creative to technical & support services. Here’s a list of 50 skills and services you can offer as a VA.
Most of the time, this work involves limited or no personal interaction. That said, apart from email and messaging, tools like Google Hangouts and Skype make virtual conversations super easy. Sharing documents and templates is easy through Dropbox and Google Drive.
In short, by doing what you do best, you free up your clients time to do what they do best.
What VAs are not
While many perform administrative tasks, a VA as a rule isn’t a secretary. So ideally sign up for jobs where you already have the skills. Plus, you should be able to independently perform them and need little supervision, once you have clear instructions.
If the VA’s output needs constant managing, the client’s own work and ultimately the relationship, will suffer.
Think of it like this – you’re on the team but as an independent consultant.
How do you start a career as a VA?
7 successful pros from the Virtual Professional business share their tips on what it takes to be a crackerjack VA!
Pick work you’re good at. And you like doing.
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 skillset 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. She recommends using CreateYourLaptopLife.com, specifically for business coaching or skills training.
Claim your virtual superpower, urges Regina Lewis, whose company Live and Work by Faith helps VAs start or grow their businesses! 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 VA you need to be competent in your skill set and know your ideal client very well, 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 – very costly mistake on my part hiring her.
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 10 tech services every VA should know.
Identify/ Create your Customer Profile
Heather 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. Make sure 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 Regina Lewis.
Shagufta Rehman found it hard to meet her 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, while Hetal Pathak found that amongst different industries, she enjoyed working with creatives the most.
Create your customer profile or persona to find who you like working with best!
How can a Newbie grow the Business?
Think Client – First and Always!
One of the most common questions that I get as a VA Coach is: How do I land a client, shares Abbey Lynn Ashley of The Virtual Savvy. These ladies want to know what it is that will make them stand out from the crowd, and how to get hired by creating an unforgettable first impression. My answer is always the same:
Create and share value for FREE!
Abbey Lynn shares her 3 expert tips.
First of all, do your homework. Research the client’s website, social media accounts, and any other information you can get your hands on.
Secondly, create a custom proposal that includes not only your standard portfolio and information about YOU, but 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. Whether that is ten Pinterest graphics based on the client’s most recent blog posts, 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.
Don’t be afraid to do the tasks that other people would dismiss or otherwise find “beneath” them, suggests Mei Yee Leong of Wonderfully Mei Designs. 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. Not only so, if you’re lucky and you make a good impression, the client will be more likely to hand you more work in the future. That literally has just happened for me!
Keep Clients Happy
Obviously not to the point of completely negating your value or of what you have to give, adds Mei Yee Leong. Little things like free 24 hour turn-around or offering a service for a little lower is recognised 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, she adds. What will make you stand out?
Success Tips: What it takes.
Stick to your Niche
Focus on providing a specific service, advises Heather Heinrichs. This will not only help you become an authority in that particular area, it will help you with time management throughout your day so you aren’t bouncing back and forth between completely unrelated tasks. That’s a time-suck that you want to avoid.
I’ve seen new VA’s go after every piece of business they see, cautions Regina Lewis. It’s okay to say “no” when it doesn’t fit your skillset or your niche.
Treat it like a Business
A major step to building a successful VA business is to outsource, Heather Heinrichs says. 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.
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.
Addie 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.
See Video: How to start a successful VA business
Demonstrate Key Skills
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 in your website, articulate your services clearly and in detail. Share examples of your work, if possible.
Create Good Client Relationships
Ensure that you’re staying 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.
Mei Yee Leong has pointers – 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 (I see a lot of arrogant and self-righteous business owners who won’t give a little leeway for their new clients) – I think this is silly as you want to get the favour of potential clients. A little smoothing over is always helpful.
Don’t Give in or Give Up
Susan Stalte strongly suggests – take your business seriously and realize that you CAN do this with some hard work. I was laid off in the beginning of 2017, she says. Rather than sending out 100 applications for full-time gigs, I started my own. Not long after, I now fully support businesses in the food and event planning industry behind the scenes, all while hanging out with my pup all day.
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.
From the Other Side
Having hired many VAs, Mary 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 such as editing, customer services, have readymade article templates available that you can match to their topic/expertise. Create social media posts, run social media campaigns; follow up on sales leads for clients. Just be aware of your capacity to fulfil the tasks and be realistic about the time it takes to complete and price accordingly.
Here’s a fantastic and detailed analysis on what employers actually want in a Virtual Assistant.
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, but possibly even 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, Consultant and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years. A co-founder of Maroon Oak, she’s also founded Win Thinks, a small business consulting company, and Trading Paces, which educates amateur and pro stock traders. She blogs and teaches workshops about Brand Strategy, Social Media & Future ready Career Solutions.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, Pooja loves spending time with her family playing board games and watching documentaries.
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