A career as a virtual assistant, or VA, can be lucrative, flexible and fun. But with so many VAs out there competing for business, how can you ensure that the services you provide are one step ahead of the crowd? Read on for our basic guide to becoming a highly successful virtual assistant and staying one step ahead of the game in your chosen field.
It sounds obvious, but before you start out as a VA, make sure you have the basic skills you need to do the job. So many budding virtual assistants believe they’ll be able to pick key skills up as they go along, but this couldn’t be further from the truth – possessing a strong and secure understanding of what’s needed to be a valuable asset to a range of companies is crucial.
If you’re used to office work, have been an admin assistant or a secretary, then the chances are you already have a strong skillset to start with. If not, and you’re relatively new to VA work, some of the basic skills needed in today's online world include:
- Scheduling and organisational skills
- Newsletter creation and email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Typing at least 45 words per minute
- Understanding of Mac and/or Windows
It may also be necessary to learn how to use programs such as Microsoft’s Word, PowerPoint, Excel effectively, as you’ll most likely be using these tools on an everyday basis.
In terms of building your client base and offering an in-demand service, the more strings you have to your bow in terms of training and education the better, especially when it comes to IT. When it comes to learning new skills we recommend the following sites:
Start with a Company
If you’re not sure about setting up as a freelancer then work with a company first. There are lots of virtual assistant companies out there who can offer steady work to the right employees and you’ll have lots of other help and support that you couldn’t access as a sole trader. The following companies regularly hire part-time virtual assistants:
Stick To Your Schedule
Success as a virtual assistant is all about meeting deadlines and careful organisation, so create a schedule and stick to it. You can use software that allows you to organize your work on your PC. This type of software can be used to make notes, as a calendar, to store and share documents or send alerts. We recommend:
- Google Calendar
Explore Software Options
There are several different types of VA software available. If you work for a company they are likely to have their own systems in place but if you’re going to be self-employed take time to explore your options and find the software that will be of most benefit to you. My virtual assistant business uses the following:
- MyHours.com – a quick and simple way to track the time spent on client projects
- Quickbooks – proper business accounting is essential, you need to properly track your income and expenses for taxes
- Microsoft Office – Outlook, Word, Excel
- Dropbox – for online storage, you don't want to lose those important client files
- LastPass – You are going to accumulate a lot of usernames and passwords working from home, this cool free tool will remember them all for you.
Go the Extra Mile
If you want to make a success of any business or career then you need to put extra effort in from the outset. To make a name for yourself as the best virtual assistant available, be willing to go the extra mile and offer clients a service that far exceeds their expectations. Yes, this will mean late nights, early mornings and a fair few personal sacrifices along the way, but having such a relentlessly professional attitude towards your work while your business is still young will stand you in good stead further down the line.
Find a Niche
One way to achieve VA success is by carving a niche within your sector. For example, you could choose to become the go-to social media guru, email marketing expert, SEO genius or exemplary travel organizer within your field. Finding your niche will also enable you to develop a clearer business strategy and dominate a particular base of clients, which is much easier than trying to compete for the business of a wider demographic.
The best way to develop a fruitful and loyal client base and build a business is by developing relationships with the client. Take time to get to know the people you are working with and ensure they understand how you work and what to expect from you. You may have chosen to work remotely because this suits your lifestyle, but try to organize regular face to face meetings with your clients to maintain the strength of your business relationships, and never underestimate the accuracy of that age-old mantra ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’.
Maggie Johnson is a freelance virtual assistant and event manager who set up her own successful company, Executive Virtual Support, several years ago. When she's not supporting clients, she loves writing advice articles for those who are looking to start a career as a VA.