Are you dreaming of a work-from-home career? Want one that lets you use your talents and traits to help others and earn a solid income? One that lets you work when you want, doing things you're good at? One where you can continue to learn and grow? There are many ways to make a living from home, but not many are as versatile as virtual assisting.
As a virtual assistant, you work from anywhere and anytime. And, in many cases, you‘ll actually get paid to learn! More, you can specialize in nearly any area you can imagine. Like basic staples like email and project management? There's a high demand for those. Thinking you'd love helping with podcast launches, Pinterest and social media, or even writing? If you have the skills, perseverance, and interest, you can build a virtual assisting business doing these, too!
But while virtual assisting can be exciting and varied work, it’s not for everyone. Virtual assisting requires some specific characteristics and traits. So if you’re curious about this type of business, here are 9 make-or-break things you'll need to be an excellent virtual assistant.
1. Virtual Assisting Requires Strong Communications Skills
Timely and clear communication are crucial in a virtual assisting business. While you won't be punching a clock between 9 and 5 every day, you can't disappear on your clients, either. Even if you are in different time zones, you need to keep in touch. Setting up and maintaining clearly outlined expectations on how and when you will communicate with your clients is a must.
You may need to use multiple forms of communication as a virtual assistant. Getting comfortable with your clients' preferences will help you thrive in your business. Of course, if there is a communications method that doesn't work for you, you'll need to let potential clients know that in advance. Common methods include phone, Zoom or other video messaging, email, Voxxer, Slack, Asana, and various text messaging applications. Every virtual assistant and eachclient has their own preference. Finding solutions that work for you both is part of the virtual assistant's role.
Not sure about which communications channels might work best for your virtual assisting business? This article from Talkative breaks it all down for you!
2. want to be an Excellent Virtual Assistant? Organization is Key!
Virtual assisting is all about making your clients' lives easier. Your role is to be “behind the scenes” like a stage manager. Whatever your assigned role or tasks, you'll need to perform them without prompting from your clients. Keeping track of all the various details takes focus and organization. Without it, you'll forever be scrambling, trying to juggle your duties when you don't know how to juggle.
Once you've perfected organization in your virtual assisting business, you can comfortably juggle several projects at once. You'll know how to prioritize, schedule, and batch tasks to get everything done on time – or even early. So take the time to strengthen your organizational muscles before starting your biz, and alongside your work. Find organizational apps like Trello or Asana that fit your personal style, and make them your own.
As your business grows, you might want to consider a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) app to automate regular functions and organize your business better.
Also, remember that organizing your time is as important as organizing the tasks themselves. Want to get a handle on this? Check out our getting things done tips for work-from-home moms!
3. Critical Thinking Skills Help with Virtual Assisting Success
Your clients will probably “show you the ropes” of their business when you first start working together. But there will always be things that come up that aren’t in the SOP (standard operating procedure). In fact, you may have clients who don't have an SOPs. In those cases, part of your virtual assisting work might be creating them.
Remember that your clients can live anywhere in the world. So you might have questions that can't be answered in real time while you're working. The ability to adapt and “read” what your client intends you to do can make you far more efficient. Developing this skill will benefit your clients and your virtual assisting busines.
If you're a natural problem-solver, you’ll have a head start navigating these moments with confidence. But if you're not, this is a trait you can build over time. Learn everything you can about your client and how they like to approach things. Study their business, their industry, and best practices for VAs doing the kind of work you're doing. Over time, you will grow more skilled at seeing the most efficient ways forward.
Want to boost your critical thinking skills? This article from BetterUp is a great place to start!
4. The Best Virtual Assistants are Receptive to Feedback
What if your client tells you you've gotten something wrong? Part of what calls most virtual assistants to this work is a desire to help others and solve their problems. Still, every business owner has their own preferences, and no one is perfect.
If you can take less than terrific feedback and learn from it, you will have a stronger virtual assisting career. Much of this work involves getting to know your clients and how they like things done. Even when there are clear SOPs in place, the devil can be in the details.
Strive to develop a positive attitude and a sense of curiosity about criticism. Ask yourself questions. If you can do so without seeming defensive or accusatory, follow up with your client. That will help you understand where you went wrong, so you can improve and do better for them going forward. In turn, that can make you a better VA for all your clients.
There may also be times when you need to offer constructive criticism – very professionally – to a client. Here's an article to help you give and take less-than-perfect feedback.
5. Virtual Assisting Requires Fantastic Time Management Skills
Virtual assisting isn’t so much about multitasking as it is time-management. As a matter of fact, multi-tasking is proven to add time to tasks and reduce efficiency. Especially if you have multiple clients, you'll need to manage your time to ensure you meet deadlines. An imbalance might mean not everyone gets the same level of service. And that will, of course, reflect poorly on you as a professional.
Work to develop a realistic idea of how long your regular tasks take. And then schedule more time than you need. That way, if things come up (and they will!), you have a cushion. This will help you know what “fully booked” looks like for you. Taking on more work than you can realistically handle can lead to stress and eventual burnout. It's also a good way to lose valuable clients – and your good reputation.
When figuring out how much time you need, it's important to consider the rest of life. If you're a work-from-home mom (or dad!), these tips might really help!
6. VAs are Willing (and Excited) to Learn On-the-Go
When you start out as a VA, you are likely already bringing some great skills to the table. But in the world of online business, there is always more to learn. And the more you learn, the more skills you get to add to the toolbox, and the better you can service your clients.
As a virtual assistant, you often get paid to learn new tools and skills so you can use them to better your client’s business. And that is one of the most appealing things about VA work for you!
7. An Ironclad Work Ethic is Integral to Virtual Assisting
When it comes to virtual assisting, your work ethic can make or break your business. What does this mean? If you are an ethical virtual assistant, you honor yourr agreements (not just the contract, but verbal agreements, too). If you make a mistake, you admit it and do your best to correct it. You deliver the services your clients pay for in a timely manner, and maintain client confidentiality meticulously.
Practicing scrupulous work ethics is a huge asset to your virtual assisting business. It won't always be easy, but you will build strong relationships with clients who know they can trust you. That can lead to long-term work, expanded responsibilities, and even referrals, so you won't have to go looking for a new client when you have an opening.
Always remember that you are your company. Your behavior creates your business' reputation. No one will police you while you're working at home. That means you are responsible for all aspects of your business. It takes self-discipline to do your work on time and with integrity. Strive for the highest standards, and your biz will benefit as much as your clients.
Wondering exactly what a strong work ethic looks like for virtual assisting businesses? Here's a great list, created by VAs.
8. Successful VAs Aren't Afraid to Market Themselves
In order to land clients, you can’t be afraid to sell yourself. This trait isn't natural for everyone, you can develop it like a muscle. If you learn to market yourself even when you’re nervous, you can land clients you might not have otherwise.
To grow your virtual assisting business, you need to try things out side your comfort zone. That's where the growth is. Does the idea of cold pitching a potential prospect terrify you? Then start with “warm” leads, join a networking group, or chat with your friends about your biz. Keep stretching just a little further, and you'll eventually look back and see how far you've come.
Imposter syndrome can make you feel like you have no business claiming your expertise. It helps to know that we all feel it at some point. Another good tactic is to remind yourself that you have skills other people need to succeed in their businesses. Is it fair to hide those skills, when you could help others with them?
Are you're thinking you'd rather have a thousand paper cuts that try to put yourself out there? Read our post on networking for introverts to get some low-stress ideas!
9. Successful VAs Light Up When Helping Others
Successful virtual assistants love helping people. Virtual assisting is a service industry, and like every other service industry, you won't be successful if you don't enjoy serving. If you’re not the kind of person who sees someone who needs help and wants to assist, this career may not be for you. On the other hand, if the idea of waving your figurative magical VA wand and solving clients' problems delights you, you have one of the most important traits a VA needs.
As a VA you get to help small businesses grow and achieve new things. It’s a much different dynamic than being an employee. You will be part of a team, a partner helping these small businesses reach new heights. Your service can give your clients the freedom to focus on other things. lthem achieve better work-life balance. You’re making a real difference to your client. Personally, I find that is one of the most rewarding things about being a VA!
Want to know more about how a good virtual assistant can help small biz owners achieve a better work-life balance? This article lays it out for you!
I'm intrigued, but how do I start a virtual assisting business?
Virtual assistants often begin as generalists, but end up specializing in specific areas. You might find you really love email and calendar management, or handling clients' social media marketing.
Check this VA skills assessment's 275+ in-demand skills to see:
- How many skills you already have are worth good pay.
- Which skills you'd love to get paid to do.
- What the best clients are actively looking for skill-wise.
Conclusion: Interested? Virtual Assisting May be the Career for You!
Do you think you have what it takes? Remember, the foundation of a good virtual assistant is in the character traits and soft skills we discussed above. If you have these traits, everything else is learnable! That's why it's important to assess your abilities clearly before jumping into virtual assisting (or any other career).
If you don't have all of these skills, you can build your skills in these areas. Both VA Foundations and Freelance University can help you gain the core traits you'll need. But it's worth assessing if you really want to focus on that level of self development. Honesty is important for VAs, and that can begin by being honest with yourself. If you're dedicated to this process, you will be far more likely to succeed.
Intrigued by virtual assisting? Which skills have you already got that clients are searching for? Let us know in the comments!