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What does it take to become a successful Virtual Assistant?

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A Virtual Assistant (VA),  is an independent professional who provides administrative, creative, and technical support to business owners, entrepreneurs and other busy professionals.   A  VA is basically a person, who by means of a computer works virtually and not present in physical terms.

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A VA is self employed with a home office and does not get paid for breaks, lunches, holidays and other company benefits, but has the luxury of working from the comfort of his/her own home.  Clients make use of Virtual assistants by shifting mundane tasks off their schedule and free up time for doing more productive tasks

The best thing about being a VA is that you can give instant support to clients who benefit from having a highly skilled individual, but only when they need your services. If a company were to hire someone similar, the cost would almost be double. The main advantage for a client to use the services of a VA therefore is a reduction in costs, at the same time not having to compromise on the amount and quality of the work done.  A VA only charges for time spent on clients’ projects and tasks.

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A VA therefore saves clients two precious resources: time and money. Any business owner will be more concerned with their products and services rather than administrative chores. That’s where a VA steps in and takes care of data entry, bookkeeping, customer service, inbox, managing schedules, and much more.

So, why would you want to become a VA?  

Working from home, on your own set schedule, from the comfort of your own office, and making big money is not always as glamorous as it might seem. Becoming a Virtual Assistant and mastering it requires time and patience, along with some smart work. Assuming that you are clear with the basics of the Virtual Assistant profession and know about the resources available,  you can be more effective working as a Virtual Assistant. It is also possible for you to become a virtual assistant even if you do not have many academic qualifications. In this case, a good knowledge of the English Language is vital and you will need to be prepared to undertake further studies, but there are numerous online courses etc that you can do to ensure that you have the basic skills required to be an effective VA.

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What basic skills will you need?

Proficient in using Windows
More than 45 words per minute.
Know how to use Internet and emailing.
Know the basics of social media marketing.
Have good time and resource management skills.
Have a good understanding of newsletter creation.

What hardware/software will you need?

A good computer/laptop that works perfectly with up to date Microsoft Office or similar, Adobe etc
At least 2 up to date browsers.
A good email client.
Skype or other chat software.
A good speed Internet connection.

In order to be a good, effective VA, you will need to work efficiently and be extremely focused.  Whether you work locally or remotely, nothing is going to work for you if you neglect the importance of a fixed schedule. Although being a VA allows you flexibility from your home office, that doesn’t mean you should wake up suddenly in the middle of night and start working.

Consider using an outsourcing platform like Upwork , to help you work online effectively, without interruptions and in a focused way.

If needed, use productivity software to keep you on track. Software How has a good review for these.

Being organized is one of the key skills a virtual assistant must have and more importantly a skill every client is looking for in his virtual worker at the time of hiring. If you can’t organize the mess of your client’s desk, you cannot call yourself a successful VA. There are many tools available to help with organisation, but in our opinion an easy and simple to-do list programme is an absolute must-have tool for any online worker.

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It’s up to you what type of to-do list programme you use. You can either use a complicated and advanced tool, which has a lot of functions, including setting up reminders and do-follow-up emails, or you can use a simple and easy application which you can use just like a normal assistant uses Post-It notes to remember different tasks.

Ideally you need simple and easy programmes which do not overly disturb or distract you by sending a lot of reminders and follow up emails.   We like My Life Organised and Drop Task, but there are many different options available online, so you have plenty of choice.

Make a habit of working during the same hours of the day, everyday. You don’t need a 9-5 schedule, but a schedule is a must to get the most out of your work. Make a schedule as per the times when you are at your best with least distractions and day in day out, work during the same hours.  Take time to plan your home office carefully so that it works for you; make sure your work-desk is in a quiet space away from other distractions; find yourself a good, calm and clean room where you can sit down and work on your tasks undisturbed.

Have a plan on how you are going to work and plan each day, but always have a plan B too to allow for any unforseen eventualities.  Things don’t always go to plan, so if you have a back-up plan it will help in the long run.

Before you embark on your role as a VA decide how many hours you are willing to work and when you want to work and try to stick to it.  Because you are going to be self-employed, don’t forget that you will still have to pay income tax and national insurance.  Click here for more information on this.

Some VAs specialise in a particular area, so if you feel that you are particularly good at something work on it so that you can become a specialist with a specific job title:

Social media guru, E-mail/digital marketing, SEO, Organiser and so on.

How to get your first clients?

Whatever your skills, there are employers who are looking to outsource both short term and long term projects, however some people seem to get all the work. Others get no job offers. This is why:

When you submit your profile – spell check it first! If you allow mistakes to creep in they will make an otherwise qualified candidate look too sloppy to risk employing. Employers never choose someone that can’t even spell words in their own profile.

When you submit your profile, if you copy and paste it from a document like Word, look at it afterwards to make sure it does not publish with rubbish like <?xml:”/> – if it does, remove the fancy formatting or font styles that cause it. Simple plain text is better. Again, employers never pick a candidate that appears too lazy to check that their CV profile looks neat and tidy.

When you submit your profile – do not include a full CV with all work history – employers are too busy – they quickly scan dozens of profiles until they spot one that gets straight to the point and tells them what they really need to know – your skills, and that you are accurate in everything you do – and very, very reliable.

A picture of you can be a big plus – or a minus. Even if you look like a movie star, you need to choose the right photo if you want to send the right message to employers. This is your interview, so here are some dos and don’ts: Don’t make the photo big – smaller is better because large, or close-up, looks intimidating and egotistical. Don’t choose the picture of you lying on the sofa or beer in hand. Be dressed at least smart casual. If your picture fails any of these tests don’t use it! Get a friend to take a suitable picture of you. Get it right and employers will feel comfortable picking you, get it wrong and they’ll stay away.

When pitching for work, be realistic about your fees. If you think you may be more expensive than other candidates then when you apply for jobs you should justify what extra you bring to the table for the employer to consider the rate you charge money well spent.

Set your rates – these will therefore vary depending on your level of expertise, your client base and your industry. It’s much harder to raise your fees than it is to lower them and you shouldn’t undervalue your skills.

Women often undersell themselves, but remember you are a valuable resource and people who understand that will happily pay for your expert help.

Over delivering is always a good policy and will ensure that your clients will be very happy.  Don’t always do something for the money, sometimes you could go the extra mile and do something for the love of it.  This is guaranteed to make people remember you for what you delivered and not someone who is always chasing up payment of an invoice.

Stick to your promises and deliver on time, if not before. If you cannot meet a deadline, be concise and very clear in your communications to explain why. E-mails should be replied to within the business day whenever possible.  Be courteous to your customers at all times and reply to calls and emails in a timely fashion.

Apply for more jobs. There are lots of jobs being listed every day – don’t be too choosy, to start with keep applying so that you can get some work history, and good feedback. There are a number of agencies which specialise in VA work which you can check out: Time EtcIndeed etc. You just need to get off the mark with good feedback, then the work can start to snowball.

Always be cautious about publishing personal information on the internet. Your profile will be a page that can be viewed by anyone and the internet is a great source of useful data for unscrupulous people.

Finally, it is vitally important that you keep learning and stay on top of new developments – not only in your industry but with new technology and ways to work. If you keep your skills up to date then you’ll have a more varied and valuable skill set and will be worth more money.

Feel free to add your comments – this article is written as a basic guide for anyone thinking of becoming a Virtual Assistant and we welcome your thoughts too.

Posted within: Blog

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