Want total freedom of location? Then you may just enjoy a career as a virtual assistant! In this guide we details step-by-step how to become a virtual assistant so that all you need is a laptop for your work. If you want live anywhere in the world and can be a jack or jill of all trades, then this profession might just be right for you. “How do I become a virtual assistant?” you ask, let’s find out!
What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?
A virtual assistant is an employee who works exclusively from remote locations, functioning as a business assistant, a personal assistant, or both. Virtual assistants essentially share responsibility for the day-to-day operations of online-based businesses, to make sure the business operates smoothly and efficiently. They communicate with their employer, their co-workers, and their employer’s clients and customers primarily through the Internet (by email, text message, exchanging messages on cloud platforms, Zoom or Skype calls, etc.). Virtual assistants work as independent contractors, meaning they are paid for services rendered and are not on the payroll.
Virtual assistants may be required to assume an assortment of duties, most of which will involve online work of some type. Depending on the employer and their requirements, a virtual assistant may be asked to perform administrative and clerical tasks, create and/or manage online content, interact with customers, manage and monitor social media and email accounts, handle various logistical arrangements, or assume responsibility for the management of their employer’s financial affairs.
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How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Make?
Payscale reports that the median hourly wage for virtual assistants is currently $15.88 per hour. Working full-time at this salary, a virtual assistant can expect to make approximately $33,000 per year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies virtual assistants under the umbrella category of Secretaries and Administrative Assistants. The median yearly salary for workers in this category in 2019 was $39,850, or $19.16 per hour. Virtual assistants are currently making less than their counterparts who work in traditional office settings, but this will likely change over the next few years, since the demand for virtual assistants is rising while job opportunities for in-office staff are shrinking.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Virtual Assistant?
How long it takes to become a virtual assistant varies greatly by your own experience and education and, while this guide can be used to learn how to become a virtual assistant for free, some programs may require fees or tuition. Regardless, becoming a virtual assistant can take anywhere from a few days to more than two years if you decide to pursue an associate’s degree.
How to Become a Virtual Assistant: A Step-by-Step Guide
While it is possible to learn how to become a virtual assistant with no experience, there are some steps you can take to significantly increase your chances of finding work, building a reputation that will continue to bring work and allow you to demand a higher salary or wage. You may have already satisfied some of the steps below, and this guide should help you determine what to do next to become a virtual assistant.
Step 1: Choose Areas of Concentration
Regardless of the employer, virtual assistants will be called on to perform a variety of tasks and assume many diverse responsibilities. In many instances, they will be required to take on new duties for which they have no previous training or experience.
Despite the eclectic and somewhat unpredictable nature of the profession, if you plan on becoming a virtual assistant you’ll still need to acquire some specialized skills that you can market to potential employers. The types of educational opportunities you pursue will inevitably prepare you better for some virtual assistant jobs than for others, so you should select specialties or concentrations that interest you or that you believe will increase your odds of finding suitable employment.
A good way to identify trends is to monitor job postings for virtual assistants on freelancing platforms like Upwork or on online job sites like Indeed, Monster, Flexjobs, or Simply Hired. You may see listings seeking virtual assistants who have training or experience in online marketing, public relations, content creation, office administration, bookkeeping, business administration and management, website design, the use of cloud storage and computing systems, specific software programs, graphic design, or other specialties that might be required by online employers.
Once you know what potential employers are looking for, this will help guide your decision about where you’ll go to school and what you’ll study when you get there.
Step 2: Study for an Associate’s Degree or Certificate in a Relevant Specialty
Those who are interested in becoming virtual assistants can benefit from higher education, as long as it is relevant to their future career plans.
Six-to-nine-month certificate programs and two-year associate degree programs can provide virtual assistants with the knowledge and skills they require to secure their first position. The list of majors or areas of concentration frequently chosen by aspiring virtual assistants includes business administration, marketing, accounting, computer science, website design and development, creative or technical writing, graphic design, and office administration.
You won’t need a bachelor’s degree to become a virtual assistant. It would be a good idea to pursue a four-year degree if your long-term career plans are not set in stone, or if you envision yourself transitioning into another line of work in the future.
Most certificate and associate degree programs suitable for aspiring virtual assistants are available in an online format. Given the nature of the work you’d be training for, the quality of your education will not be compromised in any way if you choose to complete your degree program virtually.
Step 3: Take Virtual Assistant Certification Courses Offered by Private Companies
You can learn skills that apply more directly to your chosen profession by signing up for virtual assistant certification courses. These self-directed, online certification courses generally run for three-to-six months, although you’re free to complete them at your own pace. Since they will train you specifically to function as a virtual assistant, they are an excellent way to demonstrate your preparation to take on all the normal duties associated with a virtual assistant position.
Most of these programs can be done from the comfort of your laptop so here we explain how to become a virtual assistant from home.
These instructional programs are offered not by community colleges or universities, but by private organizations, businesses, academies, or individuals with experience in the field. They can be taken as a supplement to a university-level education, or as a replacement for it if you aren’t willing to wait for a year or two to seek employment
Some of the most well-known and popular online virtual assistant courses include:
In addition to teaching you important skills, some of these course providers will also instruct you on how to find clients, build your personal website, and set up your own virtual assistant enterprise either on your own or in collaboration with other trained virtual assistants (or in the case of Pinterest VA Ninja, how to become a Pinterest virtual assistant).
Step 4: Market Your Skills and Accomplishments to Potential Employers
Virtual assistants train to work exclusively online, and they will find employment through the online environment as well. Now let’s look at how to get a virtual assistant job.
When you’ve acquired the skills required of virtual assistants, it will be up to you to market yourself properly. In searching for clients, you should leave no stone unturned: there are many different online platforms where you can contact potential employers or where they can contact you, and you should try to establish a presence on as many of them as you can.
Your options for finding employment as a virtual assistant include:
- Your online network. You may have contacts on Facebook or Twitter who either know someone who could use a virtual assistant, or who need the services of one themselves.
- Virtual staffing agencies. There are dozens of virtual assistant staffing agencies now in operation, which reveals how rapidly requests for virtual assistants are rising.
- Freelance sites. Websites that connect freelance virtual assistants with clients like Upwork, Guru, and Fiverr will allow you to register and search for clients for free.
- Virtual assistant networks. Outlets like the Assist U Registry, VA Networking, and the Virtual Assistant Forum will let you share information with other freelancers, sign up for their directories, and respond to requests for proposals from prospective clients.
To present yourself effectively to potential employers, you’ll need a well-crafted, professional resume that includes detailed information about your educational background, your skills, your areas of expertise, and your previous experience. Naturally, you’ll need to constantly update this resume to include the new projects you complete, and if you can add written recommendations from satisfied clients that can help you immensely as well.
In addition to your resume, you’ll also want to create a polished and persuasive general letter of introduction, which will function as a template that can be customized for each potential client you contact. You should also have a well-designed and informative personal website that you can link to, so prospective clients can get to know even more about you if your resume and cover letter catch their eye.
In an ideal world, you’d find one steady employer who would pay you a living wage for full-time work. In most instances, however, virtual assistants will ply their trade in the employ of multiple clients, who will contract them to perform various services on a part-time basis.
One unique aspect of this career choice is that it isn’t restricted by borders. There is a thriving international market for English-speaking virtual assistants, who are hired by clients who need help managing the English-language versions of their websites, or who need assistance communicating with English-speaking clients. Virtual assistants who are non-native speakers of English can also find opportunities for employment, if their English writing and speaking skills are strong enough and if they’ve had the proper education and training.
Step 5: Continue to Broaden Your Skillset through Continuing Education Courses
If you choose to become a virtual assistant, there will be a lot of on-the-job learning. In most instances, you should be able to handle this aspect of your career choice quite well, since most of what you’ll be asked to learn will not be overly complicated or beyond your capacity to understand.
Nevertheless, you should take continuing education courses or other classes on a semi-regular basis, to expand your knowledge base and sharpen your already-existing skills. You may want to take short courses that teach you how to perform more complicated administrative tasks, or how to manage new online platforms or software programs, or how to handle various challenges related to marketing, public relations, or content creation. If you have international clients, you might even want to consider studying a foreign language, as a way to improve your capacity to communicate.
Online educational services like Udemy and Coursera offer a wide assortment of individual classes or short courses that teach skills relevant to the work of virtual assistants. You could also search for extension courses available through university continuing education departments, or check out the educational offerings at local community centers or public libraries.
Pros and Cons of a Career as a Virtual Assistant
Pros of Becoming a Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant works from home, which means they can choose their own hours (for the most part) and customize their working environment in any way they’d like. While the work doesn’t pay extraordinarily well, virtual assistants save money on transportation, childcare, food, and other costs associated with working outside the home. Even though the competition for work can be intense, skilled virtual assistants can find clients all over the world, and there are now many online platforms where clients and virtual assistants can find each other regardless of their locations. Because they handle so many important details, virtual assistants are indispensable to the businesses that employ them, and clients tend to be highly appreciative of the work they do.
Cons of Becoming a Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant is an independent contractor, which means they are not on the payroll and will receive no benefits outside of their normal compensation. While independent contractors with a good reputation can usually find steady work, even the most skilled virtual assistants will have dry spells at times, as client come and go at a pace that is not always equally balanced. It can be difficult at times for new virtual assistants to find work, since there is stiff competition for every job and those who have previous experience tend to get the benefit of the doubt from potential employers. Virtual assistants who possess four-year bachelor’s degrees may have other options if it doesn’t work out and they decide to switch careers, but those who only have specific training in virtual assistant work may have to start over and go back to school.
Important Characteristics of a Successful Virtual Assistant
A good virtual assistant will be a Jill- or Jack-of-all-trades. They’ll inevitably be assigned a diverse and constantly changing menu of responsibilities, all of which they will be expected to perform flawlessly. Consequently, virtual assistants must be flexible and they must be able to learn quickly. They shouldn’t become anxious or stressed when asked to try something new or different, but instead view those requests as challenges they will enjoy meeting.
Because of the exacting nature of their jobs and the amount of data they are often required to manage, virtual assistants must be highly organized and detail-oriented. They must be meticulous in their approach to their duties, which may be tedious at times but will still be essential to the successful operation of on online-based business. The best virtual assistants will catch problems or mistakes quickly and address them right away, to prevent the situation from snowballing into something significant. Outstanding virtual assistants are so organized and attuned to their employers’ needs that they will sometimes anticipate requests beforehand and take action to fulfill them even before they’re asked.
In addition to being organized, virtual assistants must also be highly disciplined. Since they work at home, independently and without supervision, they must manage their hours effectively to make sure their duties are completed in a timely manner. A virtual assistant who lacked self-direction and discipline could easily fall behind, making it hard to stay on schedule and possibly putting their job at risk. A superior virtual assistant will be motivated by a strong sense of professionalism, which will ensure their performance remains consistent and reliable.
We have covered here how to become a virtual assistant with no experience, starting from scratch and have detailed the steps you can take to launch your career as a VA. We hope this guide has answered all of the questions you had and has either inspired you to pursue the profession or decide that it is not right for you. In either case, we hope it has moved you one step closer to a decision and forward progress. And if you know anyone else who may ask how do you become a virtual assistant, please direct them here so that they too can decide if it suits them. We wish you much success!