Virtual Assistants aren’t just paper pushers with an email address. If you want to be your own boss, work remotely, and balance life and career, Virtual Assistant jobs could be right for you.
Virtual Assistant Jobs Explained, Plus Interview with Worldwide101 CEO
Go ahead and bury all your secretary stereotypes. Modern-day Virtual Assistants are turbocharged with analysis, research, marketing, and technology skills. Plus, many Virtual Assistants work at home as their own bosses—taking on clients how and when they choose. As Worldwide101 puts it, “They are a crucial right-hand to many business owners and executives, filling vital business roles and demolishing the traditional mold of virtual assistance.”
The Virtual Assistant occupation has evolved as more professionals acquire new skills, especially technology skills, and more employers seek all-in-one candidates who can perform multiple functions.
If you dream of working for yourself and genuinely enjoy supporting other people’s lives and businesses, you may want to consider the Virtual Assistant career path.
What Do Virtual Assistants Do?
Virtual Assistants combine multiple telecommute jobs into one. Actual duties depend on each client’s needs, but here’s a list of duties and tasks that Virtual Assistants regularly perform:
Virtual Assistants schedule meetings, send out reminder emails with agendas, and set up virtual meeting hyperlinks or phone numbers through third-party services. They also take minutes, answer logistical questions, track attendance, follow up with attendees, and publish meeting recordings. These same task expectations apply to other events such as trainings, conferences, and onboarding.
Bookkeeping responsibilities includes logging payments, tracking invoices, reconciling accounts, and categorizing expenses for tax purposes.
3. Travel Arrangements
Virtual Assistants often book flights, hotels, rentals cars, and modify travel arrangements for their clients. Also, they may help organize travel expense reports and receipts.
4. Project Coordination
Instead of hiring a project coordinator, employers may delegate administrative tasks to Virtual Assistants. Project coordination tasks include facilitating correspondence among team members, attending project update meetings, compiling and emailing weekly project reports, and serving as a liaison between managers, team members, and stakeholders.
5. Email Management
Checking and responding to email is a huge time drain for management. Virtual Assistants monitor inboxes, filter through messages, send responses to questions and queries, and modify or check on orders and payments.
6. Ordering and Shipping
Snail mail is still alive and a viable way to connect with customers and clients. Assistants might send postcards, brochures, welcome packets, gift cards, or birthday mail to employees and customers. They may also coordinate and order holiday gift baskets, sympathy flower arrangements, and wedding registry gifts.
7. Customer Service
Virtual Assistants may receive forwarded calls and emails regarding client accounts, orders, and questions. They may help customers renew memberships, confirm shipments, and remind them of upcoming payments.
8. Social Media and Website Management
Employers may forgo hiring a social media marketer or webmaster and have their Virtual Assistants build and maintain an online presence. Social media and website management responsibilities include posting company news, product promotions, and seasonal messages to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social accounts, publishing articles on internal and public blogs, modifying knowledge bases with current how-to information, and updating websites with new team member bios, company accolades, and press releases.
Executives don’t have time to read through every industry newspaper and magazine. Assistants often browse headlines and forward relevant articles to keep clients up to speed on current events. They also help clients understand target audiences by researching news, statistics, and trends, then compiling information into a report.
10. Data Entry
Virtual Assistants enter information, such as customer contacts, prospective client data, and online research, into databases and other documents. Clients may even text or email pictures of business cards, event brochures, or advertisements for their assistants to extract and enter into the right database or calendar.
11. Launch Support
Virtual Assistants provide invaluable administrative support during the launch of a new product or service. Launch support involves planning, marketing, sales, customer care, and ongoing maintenance.
12. Human Resources
Companies with few employees may not have a human resources department. In which case, Virtual Assistants may help process payroll, onboard new team members, track required training, create and collect forms, and help employees troubleshoot issues.
How Often Do Virtual Assistants Work?
Virtual Assistants usually work as independent contractors and have multiple clients with the flexibility to work as many or as few hours as they want. Part-time assistants may work for one client at a time, or they may offer seasonal services during tax filing time or at the end of the fiscal year.
Work hours depend on client needs. One client may request 20 hours of work per week, while another client may only need 20 hours per month. A client in a fast-paced, dynamic industry may delegate daily tasks, but a client in a relatively fixed environment may just need one or two days of help per week. The key in choosing a Virtual Assistant company to work with is finding one that can offer you regularity and consistency.
Tip: Before committing to clients, clarify their needs and firmly communicate your availability. Set clear expectations up front to avoid making work arrangements based on assumptions.
How Much Do Virtual Assistants Make?
The median salary for Virtual Assistants in the U.S. is $36,272 per year ($15.71 per hour) with a range from $16,075 to $65,848 per year ($10.14 to $29.88 per hour), according to PayScale. Compensation for Virtual Assistants is comparable to all secretaries and administrative assistants, whose median salary is $37,230 per year ($17.90 per hour), based on data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Though the BLS predicts a downward trend for office secretaries and administrative assistants through 2026, remote business support industry leader Worldwide101 sees a prosperous future for Virtual Assistants.
“Technology and the virtual workplace continue to become more streamlined every single day, more professionals are seeking flexibility and work-life balance, and more and more entrepreneurs are seeking ways to scale quickly and effectively – all of those things combined are a perfect recipe growth in the Virtual Assistant industry.”
The bottom line is: As an independent contractor, you’re your own boss and can set your own rates. If you’re amazing at what you do and become a cornerstone for your clients, you can charge more and negotiate wages. Plus, as you venture up to the executive level, your role becomes more critical, which means more potential earnings.
What Education and Experience Do Virtual Assistants Need?
Employers usually want to see a high school diploma or associate’s degree and some business experience. However, as you inch toward executive assistant jobs or specialize in a particular industry, you need more expertise. For example, some employers look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in business administration or human resources along and at least five years of experience as an executive assistant. So, if you’re a newbie, you’ll likely have to pay your dues before landing the top-notch gigs.
Instead of a four-year degree, however, some employers require one or more certifications as evidence of your competency. Others may just need a few professional references to prove you’re reliable.
“As the virtual workplace has matured, companies across the globe have gained access to university-educated, experienced freelance talent. It’s more than virtual assistance; these independent contractors can fill key positions and satisfy specialist needs in their business.”
Competition is increasingly fierce, so you want to be at the top of your game to stand out from the crowd. Consider enrolling in free or low-cost online courses to brush up on skills and stay up to date on industry knowledge. You may also want to join a professional organization for mentoring and career development. Membership can add credibility to your resumé and provide you with industry resources and a professional network.
What Skills and Character Traits Do Virtual Assistants Need?
Virtual Assistants need a core set of skills and a particular personality to be successful. Those that focus on industries like information technology (IT), healthcare, or legal need additional traits to keep up with trends and manage the workload. Here’s a list of general skills that you need to have:
- Data entry
- Computer software (e.g., Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)
- Cloud applications (e.g., SharePoint, Dropbox, and Slack)
- Basic publishing (e.g., creating letterhead and announcements)
If you’re interested in social media, websites, and other internet-related tasks, you’ll need additional tech skills, such as WordPress and Google Analytics.
In addition to skills, there are certain personal qualities you need to enjoy the job. Here’s a list of general character traits that you should exude:
Ultimately, you’re running your own business by helping others run theirs. Though you should be resourceful, efficient, and suggest improvements, you should also be willing to adapt to the team and receive delegated tasks. It’s a balancing act between being a leader and helper.
What Equipment Do Virtual Assistants Need?
Here’s a list of equipment that most Virtual Assistants need to start out:
- High-speed internet
- Headset with microphone
- External hard drive or cloud subscription for backups
- Professional email address
- Anti-virus software
- Standard office computer software (e.g., Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)
- Virtual meeting software or subscription (e.g., Skype or GoToMeeting)
Depending on your clients and industry, you may also need software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, as well as accounts for WordPress, Dropbox, Slack, Basecamp, Google Drive, or SharePoint.
Tip: Ask your clients about software and application requirements before purchasing new programs. Your clients may give you licenses to their software and space in their corporate accounts.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistance is a fantastic work-from-home career, but it’s not always a shoo-in. If you’ve never done assistant work before or if your availability changes frequently, you may have an uphill mountain to climb initially. Once you get a feel for it and develop a solid relationship with your clients, you’ll likely find the work enjoyable and the work-life balance unmatchable. Here are some typical pros and cons of working as a Virtual Assistant:
- You work alone and are usually tied to your computer during work hours.
- You need a quiet space to answer phones and provide customer care. (Loud roommates and cartoon shows in the background don’t make for a professional environment.)
- You’re responsible for the security of your clients’ data, such as emails, documents, and databases.
- You may run into discrepancies between expectations and outcomes. (Sometimes clients don’t communicate their expectations clearly.)
- You may need to spend money on equipment and put in extra time in the beginning until you find your flow.
- You might experience “scope creep” if you don’t explicitly define your job description and set boundaries.
- As an independent contractor, you’ll need to budget for your own retirement and healthcare benefits.
- You ditch the daily commute.
- You work for yourself and on your own terms.
- You earn tax advantages for running your own business.
- You have flexibility in work attire, hours, and location.
- You can take your work with you wherever you go (e.g., waiting rooms, coffee shops, hotels, and airports), so you’re not bound to one desk or office.
- You can spend more time with family and doing things you love.
- You gain a sense of accomplishment and achievement for taking ownership of your career.
Ready to Launch Your Career as a Virtual Assistant?
Check out all available Virtual Assistant jobs in the Virtual Vocations database. If you need help tailoring your resumé to meet industry standards, take advantage of our Professional Resumé Review service and our experts will help guide you.
Do you need more convincing? Are you looking to work with a premium Virtual Assistant agency instead of taking the leap to go out on your own? We interviewed Sandra Lewis, Founder and CEO of Worldwide101 during a Q&A session.
Worldwide101 is a premium business support and Virtual Assistant company who hires experience and talented executive assistants, marketing managers, project managers, bookkeepers, and paralegals to join their reputable and established team. Here’s what Sandra had to tell us about what clients look for in a Virtual Assistant and what the future of the industry holds:
Worldwide101 has been in operation for 5 years now. Since you founded the company, how has the Virtual Assistant landscape evolved?
When virtual assistance was in its infancy, Virtual Assistants were relegated to the realm of basic admin. But as technology has improved and Internet speeds have accelerated, a new business landscape has emerged. This new panorama includes incredible collaborative tools, voice-over-Internet (VOIP) communications, shared calendars and business accounts, and other tools that make it as easy to work with the person next to you as it is to work with the person a world away.
And in this new business age, a whole new VA category has emerged: business-grade Virtual Assistants with the skills, experience and maturity to take on key tasks and functions within your business. I’m talking about skilled professionals whose résumés are filled with work histories, certifications, and education in the skills you require: marketing, project management, web development and every kind of administration task you can possibly imagine. People used to get excited that a VA could help them with their email and contact a plumber. Now, they’re gushing when they find a VA to start managing their entire back-office and are finally able to double our business by putting more focus on growth opportunities, just like an in-house professional would do.
One of Worldwide101’s goals is to help company founders and executives advance their businesses by providing highly skilled Virtual Assistants. What is the top qualification employers seek in a Virtual Assistant?
Today’s busy founders and executives are searching for virtual team members with an obvious talent and professional background to assume important roles in their business, freeing up their own time to focus on strategic priorities that add significant growth to your bottom line. A clear communicator is a top skill requested by our clients. Marketing and Project Management help are big requests we continue to get steadily, as well as Executive Assistance.
How important has telecommuting been to the advancement of careers in personal and executive assistance?
So important. As the virtual workplace has matured, companies across the globe have gained access to university-educated, experienced freelance talent. It’s more than virtual assistance, these independent contractors can fill key positions and satisfy specialist needs in their business.
They are virtual ninjas who fill vital business roles and demolish the traditional mold of virtual assistance. When you hire virtual staff today, you’re accessing a worldwide database of talent – skilled expertise you’d be hard-pressed to find locally.
You’ll find web developers, project managers, designers, senior marketers, community managers, social media experts, e-commerce managers, and sales gurus. And yes, you’ll also find bookkeepers, customer service reps, researchers, and email managers. These talented individuals are sprinkled across the globe, in every country you have operations – and are all available under one online roof, which you can access with a click of the mouse. It’s quite incredible really.
For administrative professionals considering making the switch to virtual assisting, what is one of the biggest misconceptions about the job?
Wondering if this career path is feasible for the long-term. We always tell people “When you look 5 to 10 years down the road, where do you see yourself? If the answer is staying where you are, advancing in your current company and continuing to move up the corporate ladder, odds are you’re on the right track for your own personal journey, and though virtual assistance might seem like a tempting option, it won’t fit into your long-term goals. If you see yourself as your own boss, working independently and on your own terms and believe the rewards outweigh the risks, then don’t delay!”
Have you found that more administrative professionals are seeking roles as Virtual Assistants because of the increased work-life flexibility and opportunities to work from a home office?
Yes, that’s normally the #1 reason people come to us. People are realizing how easy it has become to work remotely, and how much their productivity, work-life balance, and happiness increase with the change. And it’s not a trend or sudden shift, it’s a new way of thinking about how we work and how we can integrate our jobs into our lifestyle.
What are your predictions for the trajectory of Virtual Assistant jobs? Are the skies the limit?
Absolutely skies the limit. Technology and the virtual workplace continue to become more streamlined every single day, more professionals are seeking flexibility and work-life balance, and more and more entrepreneurs are seeking ways to scale quickly and effectively—all of those things combined are a perfect recipe growth in the Virtual Assistant industry.
Photo Credit: 1.iStock.com/Eva-Katalin
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