What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who provides administrative services to clients while operating outside of the client’s office. A virtual assistant typically operates from a home office but can access the necessary planning documents, such as shared calendars, remotely.
People employed as virtual assistants often have several years of experience as administrative assistants or office managers. New opportunities are opening up for virtual assistants who are skilled in social media, content management, blog post writing, graphic design, and internet marketing. As working from home has become more accepted for both workers and employers, the demand for skilled virtual assistants is expected to grow.
If you wanted to learn more, read the full article with Pritish Kumar Halder.
How a Virtual Assistant Works
Virtual assistants have become more prominent as small businesses and startups rely on virtual offices to keep costs down and businesses of all sizes increase their use of the internet for daily operations. Because a virtual assistant is an independent contractor, a business does not have to provide the same benefits or pay the same taxes that it would for a full-time employee.
Also, since the virtual assistant works offsite, there is no need for a desk or other workspace at the company’s office. A virtual assistant is expected to pay for and provide their own computer equipment, commonly used software programs, and high-speed Internet service.
In a study of over 50 career categories, FlexJobs found virtual administration was one of the top 10 fastest-growing remote career categories.
Virtual Assistant Duties
The specific duties of a virtual assistant vary according to the needs of the client and the terms of the contract. Some virtual assistants handle clerical and bookkeeping tasks, while others may post regular updates to social media or write articles for a blog. A well-rounded virtual assistant may also handle travel arrangements, appointment scheduling, data entry, and online file storage.
What Skills Do Virtual Assistants Need?
When wondering how to become a virtual assistant, you may assume that VAs only handle dry admin tasks. That’s part of it (clients don’t want to do those tedious tasks), but you can also offer more advanced services that you really enjoy.
No matter which services you offer, always communicate the value behind the task. Appeal to what the client needs the most. What keeps them up at night? How can you solve that problem for them? Instead of simply stating your services, also talk about why this will help them. Describe what life will look like for them once you’ve handled their email, social media, etc.
To offer blog management as a service, you need WordPress experience. Blogging comes with daily administrative tasks that clients won’t have time for, such as:
- Formatting and optimizing posts to include headers, links and SEO
- Adding images, meta data and captions
- Proofreading drafts and scheduling posts to go live
- Approving, deleting and replying to comments
- Filling out plugin information, like keywords and alternatives in Yoast SEO
- Organizing and updating posts with categories and tags
- Customer Service
When clients want you to take over customer service tasks, you’ll have to get up-to-speed on their customer-facing business practices and products. You’ll probably offer customer support via email to do things like answer product questions, process refunds and troubleshoot account issues.
Busy professionals can’t simply ignore their inboxes, but since email management can take up so much time, it’s a top priority that clients need handled. Email management includes:
- Deleting, sorting and replying to email
- Moving emails into clearly labeled folders so the client can quickly tell what takes priority, what needs a response and which emails are just informational
Processing emails, such as approving blog post comments, canceling or renewing subscriptions, and confirming appointments
- Essentially, you want their inbox as neat and clean as possible for when they check it each morning.
You don’t need advanced design skills to offer graphic design as a service, so long as you’re honest about your abilities and limitations. With a good eye, basic design skills and an easy-to-use tool like Canva, you can create graphics like:
- Featured images for blog posts
- Instagram Stories
- Pinterest Pins
- Promotional material
- Social media profile covers
- Social Media
Social media is one of the first things that fall by the wayside, but that doesn’t make it any less important to the health of a business. Since clients know they should be handling social media but can’t seem to find the time or learn the skills needed, it’s an excellent skill for a VA to develop. Plus, social media management is a higher-tier task that you can charge a bit more for. Like email management, social media management requires consistency, so if you’re going to offer this service to clients, make sure you have the time to dedicate to it weekly or even daily.
When a client has a podcast, video or webinar, your transcription services will come in handy. After transcribing the content, you can turn it into other forms, like blog posts, newsletters or social media posts. You don’t need any advanced skills for transcription other than the ability to type fast, though you can invest in transcription software if you’ll be doing this for a lot of clients.
Benefits of a Virtual Assistant
For the client, one advantage of hiring a virtual assistant is the flexibility to contract for just the services they need. Depending on the terms of the agreement, some virtual assistants may be paid by the task rather than by the hour. In contrast, employees in a traditional office setting usually must be paid for a fixed number of hours per day.
For small business owners, hiring a virtual assistant can help them free up valuable hours to focus on growing the business and generating revenue. It can be easier and more cost-effective to outsource tasks that are tedious and time-consuming, to someone who is skilled at them.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
With the increasing number of freelance contractors who work from home, the employment market has seen a proliferation of Web-based companies that serve as intermediaries between prospective employers and contractors. Some freelancer sites have enormous work pools made up of individuals across the globe with a wide range of experience and expertise.
On these sites, clients can post details about the type of tasks they need the virtual assistant to perform and the maximum rate they are willing to pay. Freelance workers may then bid on the job and give the client samples of their work for review. In some cases, the client can set up a video conference to interview the applicants and to more thoroughly assess their qualifications.
Before hiring a virtual assistant, the client can ensure a smoother working relationship by creating detailed instructions about tasks they need to have performed. A written manual reduces the risk of misunderstandings that can occur in a remote working relationship.