How to Become a Virtual Assistant in the US
How to Become a Virtual Assistant in the US

How to Become a Virtual Assistant in the US

If you are looking for a job that you can do from home without extensive qualifications, you could consider a career as a virtual assistant.

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant (VA) is someone who works freelance to help a business or individual with their day-to-day professional responsibilities. VAs will often work remotely, providing administrative services alongside technical support.

The assistance provided by a VA saves business owners time and resources. Because of the remote, flexible and freelance nature of a VA's role, it also means that there is no need to hire full-time employees.

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?

Depending on the needs of the client or the type of company they work with and any specializations that they may have, a virtual assistant can be responsible for a number of tasks.

Some common responsibilities of a virtual assistant include:

  • Managing schedules
  • Organizing travel arrangements
  • Taking and directing calls
  • Managing invoices
  • Monitoring emails
  • Managing social media profiles
  • Organizing meetings with potential clients and customers
  • Website management
  • Email marketing
  • Blog and article writing

How Much Can a Virtual Assistant Earn?

There is no set amount that a virtual assistant can earn. Because these individuals usually work freelance, they are able to set their own hours and rates. A VA who works full-time hours will obviously earn more than one who only works a few hours a week.

Most VAs charge their clients hourly for their time, invoicing each month for the amount of time that they have spent working.

Hourly rates can vary, but VAs commonly charge between $10 and $30 per hour for their services. According to Indeed, the average hourly rate is $19.36.

Looking at information gathered from across the US, it is possible to estimate that VAs can earn $36,000 per year on average, although there is the potential to earn considerably more.

Steps to Becoming a Virtual Assistant

There aren’t really set criteria to fulfill when becoming a virtual assistant, but there are a few things you can do to smooth the process of setting up your business.

Identify and Develop Your Skills

Before deciding to start a business as a virtual assistant, think about what skills you already have and whether you need to add to these to work successfully as a VA.

If you need to build on your skills, consider taking some online courses. There are many free courses that you can take online which will help you to learn quickly without needing to spend a lot of money.

Decide Which Services You Would Like to Offer and For How Much

Once you have identified your skills, it’s time to decide the services you would like to offer potential clients. These services should make the most of the skills you have.

After deciding your services, think about your pricing structure. Most virtual assistants will charge by the hour, but it is also possible to think about a day rate or retainer fee.

Gather the Necessary Equipment

The amount of equipment that you will need largely depends on the services that you plan on offering.

Essential equipment for a virtual assistant includes:

Depending on the type of work you decide to do and the number of clients you take on, you may need more than one cell phone or multiple computer monitors.

You should also consider software, for example to manage payments and track your time. This will help streamline your business.

Consider Your Level of Education

There are no official educational requirements for becoming a virtual assistant.

This doesn’t mean, however, that qualifications are not useful.

Most of the work that a VA does will involve computer skills. It is possible that you will be handling forms of data entry on spreadsheets and databases. For this reason, it can be a good idea to hold qualifications in these areas to give people confidence in your skills.

There are also a few dedicated virtual assistant qualifications that can lead to a certification.

To get an idea of the kind of training and certification that will come in handy, consider the qualifications that a non-freelance administrative assistant requires.

Set Up Your Virtual Assistant Business

Once you have strengthened your skills and obtained the necessary equipment, you are ready to begin working as a virtual assistant.

Setting up your business will include steps such as registering as self-employed for the purposes of tax returns.

Making a business plan will help ensure you hit all the necessary steps.

It isn’t essential, but many VAs find it useful to build a website for their business to show potential clients what they can offer. This will include information such as your services and rates. It can also be used to showcase your portfolio.

Build a Portfolio

A portfolio is how you show potential clients what you can offer. It includes prior projects alongside client reviews and recommendations.

Building a portfolio takes time at first, but it will eventually help you to gain higher-paying clients and dream job roles. Each time you have a positive experience with a client, send them a thank you message with a request for a testimonial.

Testimonials can be perceived as a more legitimate description of your work than when you write about yourself. Nevertheless, self-promotion is also an important part of your portfolio.

Promote Your Business

Self-promotion can feel awkward at first, but it is vital in gaining clients. If potential clients don’t know about you and the services that you offer, they can’t hire you.

Promoting your business doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You could run adverts and send out marketing emails, but you can also build a presence on social media and other platforms.

All of these things will help the right people to see your business and increase the potential for inquiries from paying clients.

Find Clients

Once you have set up your business and begun promotion, the next step is to find clients.

Before you start sending pitches, you need to decide what type of client you want to work with. It could be that you are looking to work in a specific area of the business world or want clients whose ethical standards match your own.

Some good places to look for virtual assistant roles include:

  • Job websites – Many of these have embraced the growth in remote working and now contain listings for virtual assistant roles. Some websites focus specifically on freelancers.
  • Social media – Platforms such as Facebook will often have groups dedicated to freelancers, with job openings regularly shared among the members
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a social media platform dedicated to business. There are often vacancies for virtual assistants posted on the platform, which can be applied for through the website. In general, LinkedIn can be very beneficial when searching for roles.
How to Become a Virtual Assistant in the US
How to Become a Virtual Assistant in the US

Pitch to Clients

Once you have identified your dream client, it is time to pitch yourself to them.

Your pitch is your application to work with someone.

Pitching is usually done in email form, although on freelance-focused websites it may be through the internal messaging system.

You should send an email that identifies your strengths and how you are able to help the potential client. It should be kept relatively short and quickly grab the reader's attention, showcasing why you are the best person for the job.

While you likely have a little more space in an emailed pitch, using the foundation of a elevator pitch will ensure you are concise but engaging.

A pitch will often be the first communication that you have with a potential client, so it is important to get it right.

Networking

Networking is an important part of any business person’s life, but it is especially important for virtual assistants.

Networking is how you make contacts, get to know potential clients and learn from others who have been through the same process.

Spending some time each day networking, either in person or through online events and apps, can simultaneously grow your potential client base and increase your skills.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Virtual Assistant?

Because there are no specific educational requirements for being a virtual assistant, it does not need to take any time at all. You can set up and, with luck, start working with clients immediately.

The only potential delays are if you need to obtain new equipment or take courses to strengthen your skills.

What Challenges Might You Face as a Virtual Assistant?

As with any job, problems can happen and obstacles arise.

Being aware of these can help you to understand how to manage issues before they occur.

Competition

Being any kind of freelancer comes with a level of competition. You are self-employed, so 'no clients' means 'no income'.

This goes for freelancing as a virtual assistant the same as for freelancing as a writer or any other self-employed role. Competition for sought-after clients can, therefore, be high.

You can help to put yourself above the competition by specializing in a certain aspect of your job and making sure that your pitching emails and initial communications are unique.

Spend some time thinking about the unique strengths that you can bring to a relationship with a client, and make sure to emphasize these in your pitch.

Conflicting Time Zones

Working freelance gives you the potential to work with people all over the world.

While there are millions of possible clients waiting to work with you, it can also lead to problems with working in different time zones.

If you are working with a client who is in a different time zone from yourself, it is important to set out the hours that they will be able to contact you. This can help to avoid emails and calls during your non-working time. Setting boundaries like this is good for your mental health and helps avoid burnout by keeping work and life separate.

Language Barriers

Another issue with working for clients all over the world is the potential for communication issues due to different languages.

It is possible that you will receive calls and emails from people who don’t speak the same first language as you. This can lead to misunderstandings or miscommunication.

There are translation apps which can help with foreign emails and written communications, but they aren’t always completely reliable.

If you are having an issue with communications in a different language, it might be a good idea to agree with your client to either hire a translator or find someone else for the parts of the job that require a language you do not speak.

Time Management

One of the biggest risks when working as a freelancer is being unable to manage your time effectively. It is very common for individuals to work longer hours than they initially planned to and they aren’t always adequately financially compensated for their time.

It is vital to develop good time-management skills to keep on top of your work and ensure that you are being properly paid for the time that you are giving to your client.

Key Skills for Virtual Assistants to Master

As well as skills relating directly to the services you will offer, there are other things that can help you to perform to the best of your ability as a virtual assistant.

Computer Proficiency

Being more adept at using a computer than the average person is an essential skill for a virtual assistant.

You will likely need to arrange appointments using a shared diary system, organize virtual meetings via platforms such as Zoom or Teams and send emails to clients and customers. It is also possible that you will need to use spreadsheets and invoicing programs.

Spend some time brushing up on these skills to be up to date with the latest technologies and processes.

Time-Management Skills

As mentioned in the section above, time management is a continuous issue for anyone who works freelance. This skill is especially important for individuals who work as virtual assistants.

Being able to manage your time effectively will help to increase your productivity and give a clear differentiation between work and home life.

Organizational Skills

As a virtual assistant, you may be working with a variety of different clients at the same time. For this reason, organizational skills are vital.

If you have poor organizational skills you may get clients’ information mixed up or forget to organize important meetings. You may also be unable to keep track of valuable information, which can potentially cause problems for your clients.

Written Communication

Many tasks that a virtual assistant performs include sending emails and letters to your clients and their customers. It is important to be able to write clearly, concisely and in an engaging format that is appropriate for a variety of purposes. Your writing skills will form a cornerstone of your business.

It isn’t uncommon for virtual assistants to also take on some of the responsibility for providing content for a client's website. This can involve writing emails, blog articles, marketing materials and other written communications. All of these tasks require a specific skill set that can be polished with the use of online courses.

Verbal Communication

As a virtual assistant, you will likely need to take and make phone calls with a variety of individuals.

For this reason, you should be sure that you have good verbal communication skills. The ability to communicate with others in an easily understandable way can help to avoid unnecessary mistakes and confusion.

Final Thoughts

Working as a virtual assistant can be a highly rewarding career path. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular to work from home, which is something that working as a freelance virtual assistant can provide.

The global pandemic situation has also meant that more and more employers are seeing the value of having employees who work from home and who live all over the world, so demand for virtual assistants has risen.

Starting work as a virtual assistant is relatively easy and low cost. You can earn a regular income while maintaining a stable work-life balance. You will be able to use the skills that you already have while continuously learning and experiencing new areas of the business world.


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