Being a virtual assistant is one of the most popular remote jobs and digital nomad jobs out there. In fact, it was also one of my first fully remote jobs as a digital nomad and allowed me to finance my travel lifestyle. In this quick guide, I want o show you the basics of becoming a virtual assistant.
You will learn what type of skills, experience, and training you need, how much money you can make as a virtual assistant, where and how to find jobs, and many additional tips for your new career.
Table of Contents
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant, short VA, provides support to businesses, business owners, or private persons on a remote basis. The aim is to free up time for clients by doing tasks these clients don’t want to do or cannot do.
What are Virtual Assistant skills?
If you are planning on becoming a virtual assistant, you should have some office and clerical skills:
- You don’t necessarily need to be a genius when it comes to technical questions. But since your laptop will be your main working tool, you should definitely be computer literate.
- You also need to have a willingness to learn and adapt. Every client and every task can be totally different. You might need to use new tools and programs, there are different time zones and teams.
- Often enough your tasks will be challenging. Things, you have never done before and you have no idea how to do it. You need to be a problem-solver and have a can-do attitude to be able to get these kinds of tasks done without bothering your client all the time.
- As with all digital nomad jobs, a high level of self-motivation is needed. You are likely to be allowed to set your own schedule and working environment. It’s easy to get distracted when you sit in a lovely beach café somewhere in Thailand. But your client expects you to get your work done, so make sure you can stay productive. (Check out these digital nomad productivity tips for help)
- Reliability and a strong work ethic are also essential. Often clients trust you with very urgent and important tasks. Don’t let them down. Do your best to get the job done.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills are important, as you might have to communicate with your client’s customers.
- Especially, when you have several clients you need to be able to structure and prioritize your workload, so you can deliver a high standard of quality to everyone.
- Working with clients is not always easy. Sometimes you need to have lots of patience.
- Having some knowledge of the business world or the industry your client operates in would also help, although you learn a lot as you go.
What Virtual Assistant training and experience are needed?
Virtual assistant tasks are very diversified but usually not rocket science. That means that there is no formal training needed. I’ve never had a potential client asking for a specific education for VAs.
However, if you still feel a bit unsure and prefer doing a more intense virtual assistant training, you can find plenty of quick courses on learning platforms like Udemy or head over to Digital Nomad Kit where Hannah offers a free virtual assistant training week and tons of information on becoming a virtual assistant.
Apart from that, any kind of office or administrative experience will be helpful. Or maybe you did many research tasks in your former job or had to organize events or manage a small team? Any experience similar to that can be useful.
But what’s even more important than training and experience is personality. You will usually work very closely with your clients so you should get along on a personal level, too. Many clients choose their VAs based on personal preference, so make sure to be friendly, polite, proactive, and also easy-to-work-with.
What Virtual Assistant equipment do you need?
One of the reasons why becoming a virtual assistant is such a great choice for digital nomads is: The equipment you need is fairly manageable. All you need is:
- A reliable and fast laptop
- If not built into your laptop, you might need a webcam.
- A headset/microphone with a good sound quality
- A reliable smartphone
- A strong internet connection (for a backup plan in case your local internet connection breaks, I highly recommend Skyroam Solis)
- Software: Strongly depends on your tasks and clients, but here are some suggestions:
- Accessories if needed, e.g. mouse, portable power bank, dongle, or external hard disk drive
Check out this article on essential home office gadgets. Not all of these may be important for digital nomads, too, but it won’t hurt scrolling through and checking out if you could need something.
What are the most common Virtual Assistant tasks?
Now it’s getting interesting. Before you are becoming a virtual assistant you probably want to know exactly, what your tasks will be. I’m sorry to say but I can only give you a rough idea. The tasks are very diversified and strongly depend on your expertise and your agreement with your clients.
However, we can group the general position of a virtual assistant in:
- Private or Personal Virtual Assistant and
- Business or Executive Virtual Assistant
As you can tell from the terms, your tasks are either connected to the private life of a person or business owner or have more to do with his or her business life. Often you do a combination of both. Whatever needs to be done, you get to do it.
In general, VAs will be doing lots of administration work, such as:
- diary management,
- typing or transcribing,
- data entry,
- accounting tasks like invoicing and bookkeeping,
- booking of travel or events,
- taking minutes,
- handling emails or phone calls,
- dealing with customer requests,
- or producing reports.
You can also agree on doing more specific work, that could be things like:
- writing blog posts,
- crafting marketing campaigns,
- doing SEO copywriting,
- managing social media,
- doing web design,
- preparing presentations,
- or running Facebook ads.
As you can see, there are plenty of tasks for all-rounders, as well as for specialists. You can find virtual assistants who only do Pinterest work, like creating and scheduling pins. Others focus on all types of designs and graphics for a client’s online appearance. Whatever your field of expertise is, it could be a great niche and make you stand out.
And don’t be surprised by what kinds of jobs clients come up with. I’ve heard anything from finding the perfect lunch spot to enchanting an important secretary, to managing the clients’ Tinder profiles and scoring dates (that one actually came from one of my former clients…). Be flexible, creative, and have some sense of humor.
How do you find Virtual Assistant jobs?
The most important part of becoming a virtual assistant: Where to find virtual assistant jobs. To give you a rough idea, you have 3 options here:
- Work for a virtual assistant agency
- Be employed in a company
- Work as a virtual assistant freelancer
Option 1: Virtual Assistant Agencies
There are many staffing and recruiting firms out there that only work with virtual assistants. Here you apply directly to the agency and they place you with a client.
- The benefits are usually a few days of paid holiday and the fact that you don’t have to look for clients actively yourself.
- On the downside, you don’t have much freedom in terms of what clients you work for or your working hours.
Check out agencies like Zirtual or Virtual Office Temps for more information.
Option 2: Virtual Assistant Employee
A virtual assistant can also be a normal employee of a company. You would do the same tasks as a freelancer, but have a permanent contract. Along with that come all the usual advantages and disadvantages, like a steady income but also less flexibility.
If you are thinking about becoming a virtual assistant on an employment basis, check with companies directly. Introduce yourself and convince them that they need you to improve their processes. You could also look for open job postings with reputable companies on websites like FlexJobs.
Networking is also a great way to find a new employer. Maybe the company you worked for a few years ago is in need of a remote assistant? Another idea is to start working as a freelancer. As soon as the business owner can’t live without you anymore, you can ask for your chances of employment.
Learn more strategies on how to find remote jobs.
Option 3: Virtual Assistant Freelancer
Most virtual assistants are probably freelancers. You get to choose the clients and workload yourself, but also have no guaranteed income (in case you can’t find clients).
There are freelancer platforms out there, on which you can find plenty of virtual assistant positions, such as Upwork or Fiverr. Please bear in mind, that these websites usually charge you a percentage of what you earn and there is massive competition from freelancers.
Tip: When you search for jobs on websites or freelancer platforms, don’t only use the term “virtual assistant”. Also, go for other terms that sound similar, e.g. personal assistant, executive assistant, remote help, admin support, project help, social media support, or other words that are connected with your specific skills.
Find out more tips and tricks on how you can land your first job on freelance platforms.
A better option could be, again, finding clients yourself. Create a free portfolio website to list your services, be active on social media and market your skills. Again networking does wonder. Have a look at LinkedIn, chat with former business colleagues, or check out Facebook groups. Approach potential clients and offer your help.
Additional tips to find Virtual Assistant jobs
I don’t want to go too much into detail now, as this would be an entire blog post itself. But since I employ freelancers too, I think it might help to give you insights into the clients’ point of view.
Something that happens all the time is that potential freelancers answer job postings with a short 2-sentence note: “Hey, I’m interested and think I can help you. Have a look at my profile and contact me.” I delete these applicants immediately. Instead, show that you have read the job posting:
- How can your experience help this client with his tasks?
- What communication do you prefer?
- How would you approach the issue?
- What are your working hours?
- How do you usually work?
You don’t need to write 3 pages. Make sure to include individual details, as well, and no standard phrases. Remember: Clients want to get along well on a personal level with their virtual assistants because they work together closely. So provide some information about yourself, too.
How much money do Virtual Assistants make?
Very important. And again the annoying answer: It depends. On freelancer platforms like Upwork you often see people from Asian countries charging as little as USD 3-5 an hour. Specialist virtual assistants, let’s say, backend experts or graphic designers, can have an hourly rate of USD 60-120.
So it really depends on skills, experience (and reviews of past clients), and how well you sell your service. I personally started with USD 20 an hour with no experience as a virtual assistant, but quite a bit of admin and project management experience.
Fixed prices are possible too. But given the nature of VA tasks being very flexible, it is hard to measure what exactly you should do for a package of e.g. USD 200. So it’s easier to charge per hour.
What are the Virtual Assistant downsides?
Becoming a virtual assistant has basically the same disadvantages as being a remote worker in general.
- You are often in different time zones than your clients, which can cause confusion and makes communication harder.
- As a virtual assistant, you usually have to make quite a few phone calls, which can be expensive when you are overseas and the quality of the connection is sometimes terrible.
- Many clients would like you to handle their physical mail, print out documents, and send them around. Although there are great ways to manage your mail as a digital nomad, for instance, using online postal services like Earth Class Mail, the paperwork can sometimes be annoying.
Extra tips on how to become a Virtual Assistant
- Upon becoming a virtual assistant, you should make sure that your laptop and smartphone are secured. Try to avoid using public internet connections and use a VPN, like NordVPN. Your clients often trust you with very sensitive data and access to several business accounts. Make sure to protect all the important information.
- Since you work with confidential information and are responsible for important business tasks, it is also worth getting professional liability insurance to cover the risk.
- You should make sure to be up to date. The digital landscape is changing all the time. There are new tools and apps coming out on a daily basis and there are always new things to learn. Join Facebook groups and exchange experiences with other VAs. It makes your life easier and your clients will love you for bringing in new ideas and improvements.
Becoming a Virtual Assistant: Lifechanging Career Choice
As you can see, there are quite a few things you need to know before becoming a virtual assistant. To me personally, it was one of the best career decisions I’ve made so far. I got to choose my own clients and made my own schedule.
Every day was different and every task was new and challenging. I got a great insight into how my clients, mostly entrepreneurs and start-ups, run their businesses, which was super interesting. The insights and opportunities I got with this job brought my digital nomad career to the next level.
I hope this post gave you an overview of this popular remote job and helped you a bit in case you are thinking about becoming a virtual assistant, too.
In case I’ve missed an important topic, please let me know in the comments below and I update the article as soon as possible!