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How to Become a Virtual Assistant

How to Become a Virtual Assistant
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This guide will show you exactly how to become a virtual assistant with no experience. 

You’ll learn:

  • How to choose a service to offer.
  • Where to find free or low-cost training that makes it easier to get hired.
  • Where to find the best jobs.
  • How to set your rates.
  • And much more…

If you’re looking to go from a complete beginner to a highly-paid pro, this guide is for you!

What Is a Virtual Assistant? 

A virtual assistant or VA provides a range of remote services to clients of all sizes. In many cases, this means handling basic tasks like email management, scheduling and posting on social media. Some virtual assistants also specialize in one or two higher-level tasks, such as graphic design, proofreading or bookkeeping.

In most cases, virtual assistants are self-employed and work as independent contractors, and it’s common for VAs to work for multiple clients at once.

The combination of no start-up expenses, flexible hours and great potential make the role of virtual assistant a top online job

Step #1: Decide on Services to Offer

If you’re considering becoming a virtual assistant, the first step is to decide what services you’d like to offer clients.

People who hire virtual assistants are not looking for someone at the top of their field in a specific skill set. Instead, they’re looking for basic support in handling everyday tasks.

Most VAs handle more than one type of work. For example, a VA role may require you to both answer customer support emails and manage the business’s social media profiles.

Because of that fact, it’s best to start by taking inventory of your existing skills and, equally important, to consider the type of work you do and do not enjoy. From there, you can choose the specific areas you’d like to specialize in to start with.

This is important because deciding on a few niches upfront makes it much easier to tailor your resume and job proposals.

See Also: How to Choose a Freelancing Niche.

Here are six beginner-friendly niches to consider.

1. Customer Support

All you need in order to provide customer support services is good people and communication skills. Business owners will pay you to handle email, chat and phone support for their customers.

2. Email Management

If you focus on email management for businesses, you can turn it into a profitable side hustle or even a full-time gig. You’ll become an email communication expert and help a client:

  • Gain control over their inboxes.
  • Follow up with leads or customers.
  • Schedule clients on the calendar.

3. Social Media Management

Many entrepreneurs either don’t understand social media or don’t enjoy using it. You can turn your social media prowess into income by analyzing which posts result in the best engagement, communicating with customers and scheduling content. 

4. Proofreading and Editing

You can make a tremendous difference for a business by proofreading and editing their content. Some business owners have trouble distilling their ideas into content that their readers can easily comprehend. You can use your editing skills to make sure their content is ready for public consumption — whether that’s website content, social media posts, email or even print advertising copy.

5. Project Management 

Projects require planning and proper implementation. As a virtual assistant specializing in project management, you’ll oversee all project tasks, ensure effective productivity and work to bring each project to a smooth completion. Desired skills include organization and knowledge of scheduling systems, invoicing platforms and client management systems (like Salesforce).

6. Research 

Are you good at poring through data and resources and then distilling what you find into workable information? Research VAs help discover new ideas, dig into competitor data and spot recent market trends. You might look into influencers, travel deals, databases or lead generation. 

Step #2: Level Up Your Skills With Free or Low-Cost Training 

Imagine you’re a client looking for a virtual assistant primarily to manage your company’s social media profiles, among some other basic marketing administration tasks.

You post a job on a freelance marketplace like Upwork, and within a day, you have a dozen applications. When evaluating each candidate, what sort of things are you going to be looking for?

Past work experience will always be one of the top reasons employers choose to hire someone. So any experience in the field, even if it’s minimal, can definitely make your application stand out.

If you have no experience whatsoever, a great way to prove proficiency in a given skill is with free or low-cost certifications. A lot of major corporations and universities have something along the lines of a free certification program.

A few worth looking into are:

When you add a certification from a reputable company (which can usually be completed in around half a workday), you separate yourself from other beginner applicants. It’s something we can’t recommend highly enough.

See our guide on virtual assistant training for more ideas.

Step #3: Define Your Ideal Client

Choosing a virtual assistant niche requires looking at your own skills and abilities to determine what you’d like to offer your clients.

But defining your ideal client takes the opposite approach: it means identifying the type of client that can most benefit from your skills.

The value you offer to one client, and therefore how much you get paid, can differ drastically depending on the type of client you’re working with.

As an example, say your primary niche is social media management. Browsing through available jobs, you see two different opportunities:

  1. Working for a local dentist’s office, managing their social media across Facebook and Instagram, in addition to managing their Google My Business page.
  2. Managing social media for a profitable blog, a role that generates $1,000 to $2,000 a month.

In both cases, you’re doing similar work. However, with the dentist’s office role, the value your services are providing is much greater.

Bringing in one new client over the course of a year to that dentist’s office can be worth thousands of dollars. Managing social media for the blogger, unless there’s massive growth involved, may add just a few hundred dollars in revenue.

Few freelancers think about this, but as you can see, it’s a big mistake!

You want to have a very clear understanding of the type of client you can bring the most value to. Long-term, this is how you go from entry-level to a highly-paid virtual assistant.

If you don’t have a specific type of client in mind, read our guide “How to Write a Freelance Proposal to Win More Jobs and Get Better Clients,” which gives you a simple plan for determining your target buyer.

Step #4: Build Your Resume

A resume can mean a lot of things in today’s world, especially when you’re working remotely.

For starters, it’s good practice to put together a professional resume. This is true even if you plan to go straight to freelance marketplaces like Upwork.

In our guide on how to write a resume with no experience, we outline what you should and should not put on a resume.

Beyond your resume, it also helps to put together a portfolio website to showcase what you can offer to clients. A website is a quick and very affordable way to further separate yourself from other beginners in the field.

Step #5: Set Your Rates

As a freelancer, you should charge more than someone working full-time on an annual salary with similar skills and experience as yourself.

Freelancers are responsible for paying their own taxes, insurance and other business expenses. So working for $15 an hour really means earning closer to $10 an hour after taxes and expenses.

Pro Tip: Insert your hours worked, hourly rate, expenses, and the state you live into this calculator to get an estimate of your real take-home pay.

My own rule of thumb is to charge 25% more than my market value as a full-time employee in a similar role. Since I’m responsible for the taxes, related expenses, and my own benefits, this comes out to around even for the client (compared to if I was hired as a traditional employee).

For your situation, what you’d want to do is look up the salary info for entry-level positions you’re considering and increase that by 25%. As an example, here are the hourly rates of entry-level positions common among virtual assistants (according to data from ZipRecruiter).

Hourly Rate of Full-Time EmployeeSuggested Freelance Rate
Social Media Coordinator$18$22.50
Bookkeeper$16$20
Customer Service Representative$18$22
Administrative Assistant$15$19
Proofreading$18$22.50

Keep in mind, these are hourly rates for entry-level positions. As your skills increase, you can and should be charging more. This need not take long, either. For example, if you take on multiple clients in the future, you might aim to secure the second client at a $25 per hour rate.

Step #6: Find the Perfect First Job 

There are three primary options for finding a job as a virtual assistant:

  1. Freelance Marketplaces. Sites like Upwork and Toptal, have hundreds of existing openings for all types of virtual assistant positions. In many cases, you’re competing with offshore talent, so the rates tend to be lower. Nonetheless, there are some very good clients to be had on both sites.
  2. Job Search Sites. Sites like FlexJobs (see our FlexJobs review) and Indeed list many openings for virtual assistants. You’ll find that larger companies tend to use established job sites like these to source talent. Because of this, they’re often looking for people with some experience who can work specific hours.
  3. Virtual Assistant Agencies. These agencies hire virtual assistants and then have them work for their own clients. It’s a good choice for those with some experience looking to work closer to a full-time workweek.

Fiverr, the second-largest freelance marketplace, is another option to consider. However, we view it as a category of its own because instead of combing though jobs posted by clients, you create freelance gigs that clients can order on demand.

So, for example, a virtual assistant who specializes in social media could create gigs for designing banners, writing tweets, researching hashtags and so on.

Learn more about how Fiverr works in this article: our beginner’s guide to making money on Fiverr.

In that sense, it’s a good chance to test out demand for a number of different gigs and see what gets the most traction. When something does hit, it’s a sign that there could be opportunity available to specialize in that niche.

For more information, including the pros and cons of each option, check out: Eight Websites for Finding Virtual Assistant Jobs From Home.

Final Thoughts on Becoming a Virtual Assistant

The common mistake made by many VAs (and by all freelancers) is skipping steps #1 through #5 and jumping on sites like Upwork to start applying for jobs. 

This type of freelancer typically quits in frustration relatively soon after starting, complaining about how competitive the marketplace is or how little money can be made.

Few VAs (and few freelancers in general) take the time to consider what type of services clients value most, or to put together a thoughtful resume and service offering. 

If you’ve followed each of the steps above, you’ll have positioned yourself to get hired as a virtual assistant — even on the most competitive sites. More importantly, you’ll be able to start making money from home without having to work for less than you’re actually worth.

See also: How to Start Freelancing.

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.

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