Becoming a virtual assistant is a great way to kick off your work-from-home career. It’s perfect for those who think they have no “marketable” or “technical” skills that would allow them to earn money online.
I should know since I offered virtual assistance services too during the first year of my freelance business. I thought I didn’t have any useful skills to offer my clients so I branded myself as a general virtual assistant.
That’s why I’m definitely positive that anyone can become a virtual assistant — even those without any work experience.
Table of contents:
- What is a virtual assistant?
- Why become a virtual assistant?
- Reasons Why You May Not Want to Become a Virtual Assistant
- What exactly does a virtual assistant do?
- What skills do you need to become a virtual assistant?
- How to Become a Virtual Assistant
- Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Virtual Assistant
- Start Your Career as a Virtual Assistant Now
What is a virtual assistant?
Virtual assistants or VAs are individuals who provide administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients remotely. The range of work that a virtual assistant could do is virtually limitless.
The good news is, anyone could be a virtual assistant. Yes, even if you think you have no talent or skill that could be of value to clients.
My first job as a virtual assistant was to research different churches in Aurora, Colorado.
To put it simply, as long as there’s a task that has to be done, someone somewhere is doing that task for someone.
Because CEOs, small business owners, solopreneurs, professionals, and even bloggers would rather choose to focus on their business’s growth rather than working on repetitive and routine tasks.
In short, many clients are looking for virtual assistants — and you can see that by looking at the number of virtual assistant jobs on Upwork.
In the eyes of clients, hiring a virtual assistant is more efficient rather than doing the tasks themselves.
That is why the world will never run out of virtual assistants.
Why become a virtual assistant?
There are many benefits to becoming a virtual assistant, especially if you’re still starting out on your freelance career.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider becoming a virtual assistant:
The freedom to work anywhere (and anytime).
As a virtual assistant, you aren’t confined to an office. You can even work halfway around the globe with your client.
Clients don’t really care where you are working from as long as you have an internet connection strong enough for you to be able to complete the tasks.
Depending on the tasks, you could also choose the time when to work. In some cases, as you would later read below, there are certain tasks that would require you to work in a fixed schedule.
The pay is good.
Virtual assistants typically earn anywhere from $10 per hour to $50 per hour.
Typically, the harder the tasks you have to do, the higher the pay too. This is given since your client will be able to solve a lot of time by doing complicated tasks himself.
As you learn more skills and gain more experience, you could increase your rate and earn more.
Low barrier to entry.
Lastly, you don’t need specialized education to become a virtual assistant.
There are no exams or certifications you need to get so clients would want to work with you. Most of the time, all they require is your willingness and commitment to help.
However, there’s a negative side to this as you will soon learn below…
Reasons Why You May Not Want to Become a Virtual Assistant
Let us be real here and consider the reasons why becoming a virtual assistant may not be for you.
Because of the low barrier to entry, you could expect plenty of competition.
In fact, according to The Week, there are more than 110,000 virtual assistants registered on the top freelance platforms in 2017 alone.
The number above doesn’t yet include all the virtual assistants who didn’t sign up on Upwork, Guru, Freelancer, and PeoplePerHour.
Before, when it was still easier to get an Upwork profile approved, the number of freelancers competing for a single virtual assistant job post could reach 20 to 50 within the three hours the job was posted.
Further reading: There are a lot of people who keep on saying that “Upwork isn’t worth it anymore”. Personally, I found that to be totally false and misleading. Check out my Upwork review article to know more about what I think about Upwork and whether or not it’s still worth it.
Looking at some of the VA job posts on Upwork now, there are still others that ramp up lots of proposals — though not as much as before.
Yikes! That is a lot!
But don’t treat this as discouragement. Just because the competition is high, it doesn’t mean you can’t land a single client.
All it means is that you will have to work harder to stand out from the rest.
For example, if you’re finding clients on Upwork, then you need to refine your cover letter and make it more effective at winning clients.
Becoming a virtual assistant sure has a lot of benefits. The downside to this is that the competition is high, which is why you must stand out from the rest.
Further reading: One of the keys to standing out right from the start is learning how to create an awesome freelance proposal that gets you the job. I wrote an article that talks further about it. Make sure to check it out!
What exactly does a virtual assistant do?
At the end of the day, a virtual assistant is simply someone who helps with tasks from a remote location.
Tasks could be as simple as organizing documents to complicated ones like editing images.
That is the reason why anyone could be a virtual assistant. There are no rules that define what a virtual assistant couldn’t help a client with.
But to give you an idea, here are some common examples of services a virtual assistant usually does:
1. Admin tasks
Tasks that belong to this category are those that involve in managing and distributing information for the client and/or the team.
These include the easiest services a virtual assistant can do like…
- Email management
- Calendar management
- Internet research
- Reaching out to people involved in the client’s industry (like leads or influencers)
- Documents and files management
Here is a good example of a job that needs a virtual assistant to do general admin tasks:
(This is actually the first job I got on Upwork. Pretty easy, right? All I had to do was do research and copy-paste the information to an Excel spreadsheet.)
2. Social media tasks
I’m certain that you have accounts on different social media platforms yourself. You could be posting twice a day, every day, on all your social media accounts.
You may enjoy it. But some small business owners who have hundreds of items on their to-do list would want to outsource social media tasks to others.
Examples of this include:
- Posting on social media
- Responding to queries from customers on social media
- Using social media marketing tools like Hootsuite and Buffer
- Stalking competitors’ social media accounts (yes, this is allowed)
- Managing ads
Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about:
Tasks involving social media are usually easy. If you think you don’t have any technical skills you could offer to clients, handling social media tasks may be perfect for you.
After all, who in this age doesn’t know how to use Facebook?
3. Graphics tasks
There are many clients who are looking for virtual assistants to help them with their images and graphics.
Graphics tasks include:
- Light editing on images
- Downloading and/or uploading images
- Creating infographics
Here’s an example of a job post looking for a virtual assistant to do graphics tasks:
In my opinion, a lot of clients in this area are actually looking for graphic designers and editors.
But still, if you’re still starting out and you know your way with Photoshop, this is a good opportunity for you.
4. Ecommerce tasks
Running an online store is hard. Those running an ecommerce store will have to deal with hundreds, if not thousands, of products. That’s why many ecommerce store owners hire virtual assistants.
Some of the tasks include:
- Writing titles and descriptions for products
- Uploading images for each product
- Answering customer queries
- Tracking customer orders
Here’s an example of a job post looking for a virtual assistant to help with ecommerce tasks:
With what’s happening in the world right now, more and more people are entering the ecommerce scene.
Some businesses that are traditionally running their stores are now looking for people to assist them in their online transition.
In short, this virtual assistant niche is hot right now.
5. Real estate tasks
Real estate firms and realtors seek the help of virtual assistants for all the tasks involved in buying and selling a property.
If you have a background in real estate, then you must know there are a lot of things happening behind doors during buying or selling a property.
Common tasks that realtors and real estate firms pass on to virtual assistants include:
- Writing listing descriptions
- Managing appointments of realtors with buyers or sellers
- Reaching out to prospective sellers and buyers
- Managing the listings on a website
Here’s an example of a job post looking for a real estate virtual assistant:
Although most of the tasks are actually easy to do, most of the clients in this niche are looking for those with experience in real estate.
However, if you don’t have any, you could try applying for one. As long as your proposal gets the right message across, you would get the contract.
6. Content tasks
Content creators have a lot on their plate.
Bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters… Without help, they would drown themselves in all the things they have to do from creating the content itself to marketing.
Some of the tasks that they outsource include:
- Publishing the content
- Writing and posting social media snippets
- Reaching out to influencers
- Optimizing the content
Here’s a good example of a job post looking for a virtual assistant to help with content tasks:
I had a few clients who are bloggers. Now that I’m blogging myself, I’m able to use everything I have learned from those jobs.
That’s one of the beauties of being a virtual assistant. You never know, you might be able to use the skills you have learned for your own projects in the future.
Whatever type of virtual assistant niche you will choose, always learn what you can. Someday, you might find yourself making use of whatever you have learned from helping your clients.
What skills do you need to become a virtual assistant?
There are different services a virtual assistant can provide. The specific skills you would like to master should depend on those services you’re providing.
However, there are a few skills you should take up, especially when you’re still starting out…
1. General computer skills
No matter what type of virtual assistant you will end up with, you will always be dealing with your clients online.
It will make things easier for you if you know general computer skills and you’re at least proficient in some of the most commonly used software programs.
A few software programs you should be familiar with include:
- Word processors (Microsoft Word, Google Docs…)
- Spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets…)
- Graphic design platforms (Canva, Microsoft Publisher, Photoshop…)
- Note-taking programs (Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Google Keep…)
- Communications technology (Zoom, Skype, Google Meet…)
If you have been using a computer for some years now, you may already be familiar with them so there shouldn’t be any problem here.
But if you don’t know them, I suggest you search this blog for any tutorials or hit up YouTube and start watching related videos. ✍
2. Communication skills
As a virtual assistant, you should learn to communicate more effectively, especially since all of your dealings will be done online.
Communication skills are essential — there’s no turning away from it if you would like to be a good VA. But when I say communication skills, it doesn’t mean you should be perfect in English or in any language your client speaks.
At the very least, you should be able to understand your client really well and convey your thoughts in the same manner.
This also calls for proficiency in basic communication tools like Gmail, Outlook, Zoom, and even Skype.
I don’t mean to scare you, but you should also be able to make and give presentations really well. It’s not really a requirement but your clients would love it if you’re able to do so.
I was almost tempted to write “multitasking” here as the last important skill. However, being a “multitasker” could actually give you more errors and failures than benefits. (Not counting the fact that “multitasking” is a myth.)
On the other hand, the ability to focus on a certain task is gold. Being able to do so would mean you’re able to put more effort into the task you’re doing.
One of the solutions to this is what others call “batching”.
Batching is a concept where instead of switching from different tasks (multitasking), you do the same task (for one client or more) in one sitting.
By doing so, you would be able to improve your productivity and concentration.
How to Become a Virtual Assistant
Now, let’s get down to the main reason why you’re here — how to become a virtual assistant even without experience.
Keep in mind that these steps will require hard work.
You could learn everything about being a virtual assistant overnight, however…
Finding clients and landing a contract isn’t always that easy. But truthfully, all you need to do is to push on and continue improving.
With that, let’s start with the first step:
Step 1: Determine who your clients are
Confused? Here’s what I mean:
Before you start working as a virtual assistant, consider first who you want to work with. Who are they? What businesses do they have? Where do they live?
In short, create a client persona — the more specific the better.
You might think… “Doesn’t this limit the clients I could work with?”
It does and that’s the point!
Narrowing down your preferred clients will help you focus more on them and be able to better provide those services that they need.
In addition, you will be able to find clients faster and easier since you will not be hitting on every duck that flies.
Here’s what you need to do for this step:
Write somewhere (digital or on paper) the type of client you want to work with.
Consider answering the questions:
- What businesses do they have
- Where do they live
- Where will you be able to find them
- What could be their interest
- Are you looking for a solopreneur or someone who works with others
Step 2: What services you will offer
The second step is to figure out the services you will be offering to your clients.
Yes, some may argue that it’s better to talk first to prospective clients and come up with a solution. That’s quite good. However, you should have pre-selected the services you would like to offer.
Believe it or not, some clients would shut the door on your face (if they can) if you show up at their front door with a blank face.
When selecting your services, consider your strengths and experiences if you have any. If not, try out different services on your own and see which one you like and which one you think you’re good at.
Here’s what you need to do for this step:
List out all the potential services you could offer to your clients.
Note that this isn’t your final list since you’re just starting out. When you gain more experience, you can always offer more related services or shift your focus entirely.
On the list that you made, rank them according to how good you are on each task so you can better assess the services that you can offer right away and which ones you need to learn and practice more.
Step 3: Set your price
There’s really no perfect way to know how much you charge for your services. So don’t worry if you will have to do this step plenty of times throughout your career. It’s totally normal.
In fact, I must’ve changed my price more than 30 times already since I started taking on freelance work.
However, you should make sure that your price is fair and competitive — not too low and not too high either.
There are different ways too to charge clients. It could be:
- Fixed-price or project-based
After a few months, you may also want to shift into retainer pricing. That way, the client will continue to pay you monthly for a certain number of tasks or hours.
Here’s what you need to do for this step:
After figuring out who you want to work with and what services you’ll be offering, figure out how much you would charge.
The easiest way for this is to start with hourly pricing. If you can’t pick a number, check out your competitors.
By the way, don’t be afraid to charge yourself higher than your competitors. Just make sure you’re able to deliver the best service your client could possibly find.
Step 4: Find clients
You can’t be a virtual assistant without assisting someone. However, as you may know, finding clients is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are platforms that can help you during your early phase.
Examples of platforms you could try on include:
Further reading: Personally, I like Upwork the best. But I also know that not everyone will be accepted on the platform (at least on the first few tries). That’s why I made a list of other freelance sites similar to Upwork. Make sure to check it out!
You could also try and network on your own using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even in person. There are plenty of business owners out there who are always looking for someone to help them.
Here’s what you need to do for this step:
Start finding clients on freelance platforms as well as on social media. What’s important here is you get used to it so you will get better as time passes.
After a hundred tries and you still can’t get any client, try not to feel too discouraged. Look into your services and offers and adjust them.
Step 5: Build an online presence
While searching for clients, build your online presence on the sideline. The previous step focuses on you getting to clients. Doing this step right will bring the clients to you.
Two ways to do that are by creating a website or a blog and keep on posting helpful tips on social media.
Having a website makes you look more professional and legit. It’s a safe place where you can communicate who you are, the work you’re doing, and who your potential clients are.
In addition, your website is a good place to host your portfolio. Pair it up with social media where people could see your posts. Write helpful tips that your potential clients will love.
If you’re blogging at the same time, you could post snippets of your articles on social media and link them to your blog.
Here’s what you need to do for this step:
Start putting your name out there by creating a website for your services and posting tips and guides regularly on social media.
Eventually, the time will come when you don’t have to find clients yourself. They will come to you.
Step 6: Keep on learning
After all that and you already have active contracts, is it over? Is everything related to being a virtual assistant stop there?
Hate to break it out to you, but no.
In order for you to be relevant to the changing times and technology, you have to keep on learning and improving your skills and services.
New platforms and software programs may arise which is important for your chosen services. Even if you’re already earning 6 or even 7 figures a month, keep on learning new things and improving the systems you already have.
Here’s what you need to do for this step:
Every day, set aside a few minutes to learn something whether by reading a book, enrolling in an online course, or watching a tutorial.
Never ever be complacent.
Further reading: There are lots of things out there that you can learn to further improve your virtual assistance services. If you would like to learn through online courses, I compiled seven of the best virtual assistant online training courses out there. Check them out!
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Virtual Assistant
Before I end this article, I know that many of you who are reading right now still have a few questions. My hope for this article is to become a go-to guide for people who want to become virtual assistants.
Naturally, I may not be able to include all the questions here. If you have any related questions that are left unanswered, feel free to leave a comment so I can answer them.
With it, let’s start with the first question…
Can I really become a virtual assistant even without experience?
Yes, I’m certain of that for two reasons. In fact, as I have repeated throughout the article, I myself offered virtual assistance services (admin tasks) even without experience.
If you have read Work Pajama “About Me” section, I stated there that right after passing the board exam, I went right away into a 2-year voluntary mission.
I didn’t have any real-world experience with any type of job out there (except probably for the things I learned on my mission including speaking, leading, and teaching all sorts of people).
But I was still able to land contracts within Upwork. From then on, I continued learning more skills until I rebranded myself as a freelance content strategist.
Another reason is that I hired a few people that don’t have any experience. That itself is proof enough that you can certainly become a virtual assistant even without experience.
Who hires a virtual assistant?
Anyone who wants to save more time can hire a virtual assistant. But it’s usually entrepreneurs and business owners who hire virtual assistants.
When clients hire a virtual assistant, they are able to save time. Without virtual assistants, they will have to do the tasks themselves.
Remember that these people have more important things to do such as expanding the business and closing deals. So they will gladly pay anyone who can take the burden away from their shoulders.
How long does it take to become a virtual assistant?
It depends on the skills that you already have and the services you’re planning to offer.
If you already have the skills, then all you need to do is start looking for clients. You can then instantly brand yourself as a virtual assistant.
If you don’t have any experience and you want to start earning as a virtual assistant, I suggest you start offering general admin tasks. Most of those skills don’t need much time to learn.
As you gain more experience and skills, you can then offer different sets of services and even increase your rate as you see fit.
Is virtual assistance a good career?
Definitely! As you learn more skills and offer more services, your rate will also increase. I know a lot of virtual assistants who are living comfortably.
The key here is to continue improving yourself. If you start an admin virtual assistant, don’t stop there. While working for clients, spend time learning new skills.
Once you’re confident with your new skills, you can then try offering them to your clients. You can also search for new opportunities with your skills.
Are virtual assistants in demand?
Virtual assistants are always in demand. Many business owners prefer to hire virtual assistants rather than in-house employees. This allows them to save so much money from costs associated with employees.
On the other hand, many freelance platforms are full of virtual assistants. That’s one of the reasons why many virtual assistants aren’t able to register on Upwork.
But in general, there are a lot of opportunities in offering virtual assistance services.
Start Your Career as a Virtual Assistant Now
Do you think it’s possible to become a virtual assistant overnight?
Definitely! Especially if you’re willing to put in the work needed!
Like I said at the start of this tutorial, it’s possible that you already have the necessary skills to start your career as a virtual assistant.
You could already be doing social media tasks, editing images, or even managing your own blog. These are tasks that you could do for someone else who badly needs your help.
All you have to do then is to know who your clients are, determine your price, and then, find clients. While in the process of finding clients, continue building your online presence until such time the clients come to you.
Now it’s your turn. Here’s what to do now:
- Start applying the things you have learned here now (not tomorrow or next week)
- Get back here once you find any clients and share your experience (others would love to read your story too)
Let me know your thoughts by sharing your comment down below.