Thanks to the amazing leaps in technology in the past couple of years, more and more people are finding it more economical – and more lucrative – to work from home. And one of the most highly sought-after jobs for these folks – and maybe you – is that of virtual assistant.
What’s a Virtual Assistant?
That’s a good question. Often, a virtual assistant does very similar work to an assistant in a conventional office environment, like scheduling meetings, screening calls for an executive, preparing reports, etc. Except, of course, they work remotely from home. They “telecommute” by email, online workspaces, phone, VOIP, instant message, even fax. This technology makes the virtual assistant’s job possible.
But because virtual assistants are usually employed by smaller companies, your role often expands, and you might be called up to do more than just answer phones and enter data into a spreadsheet. (There’s an increase in paycheck in it for you, too. More responsibility equals more money.)
You might be writing advertising copy one day, putting together press releases, updating the company website the next, or compiling lists of the best restaurants in town. It really depends on who you decide to work for.
And the decision is really yours. According to more than a few studies, virtual assistants are one of the fastest growing job markets today. And since most – if not all – your work will be completed on the computer and phone, you can work for just about anybody in the world… from anywhere in the world with a good Internet connection.
The Skills You Need
Aside from the basic, administrative skills a virtual assistant needs to have – think organization, communication, and exceptional writing skills – you’ll find your opportunities and consequently your wage increase exponentially if you have additional expertise.
Can you speak more than one language? Proofread text? Be sure to advertise that. Are you proficient in complex software such as Adobe Photoshop? Highlight that in your resume. If you’re good at graphic design, make sure you let it be known. Are you a whiz at spreadsheets? The more skills you have, the more selective you can be.
How to Find Work as a Virtual Assistant
You’ll have the most success finding work as a virtual assistant online. And you’ll find opportunities in just about any industry you can think of: real estate, publishing, music, architecture, IT, web development… the list goes on and on.
Here are a few great websites to check:
Yes, these are the main job sites you have looked at before. But did you ever notice all the virtual assistant positions? There are a ton. Many don’t say “virtual assistant.” Look for language like “telecommute” and “work from home.”
Some virtual assistant positions that you’ll come across will be advertised as being temporary – usually three to six months. Don’t be discouraged by this. Once you show what a great worker you are, chances are your employer will want to hold on to you. Think of the three to six months as more of a probationary period.
Building Your Virtual Assistant Business
If you’re fully committed to making this a full-time job, here are a few pointers that are absolutely essential for you to consider:
1) Determine your business niche – try to narrow it down to two or three (direct marketing, administrative support, transcribing, website development, etc.).
2) Make sure you have the experience and qualifications to fulfill the obligations of your chosen business niche.
3) Go local – research the needs in your community first. It’ll be easier for you to land a virtual assistant job from an employer if you can score a face-to-face interview.
4) Determine the needs of each niche you’re qualified in and go after the one most in demand.
5) Make a survey of your home office. Is your current computer capable? Do you have a dedicated work space? Good Internet connection?
6) Be realistic about your project expenditures – and your expected earnings. Will it be enough to keep your virtual assistant business in the black?
7) Market yourself. Then market yourself some more. As a virtual assistant, even after you land a few clients, you don’t want to be stuck if one of your clients drops out. Having a full LinkedIn profile can help tremendously.
8) Don’t be discouraged if your business starts slow. They all do. But keep yourself dedicated to a daily schedule, keep a positive attitude, and conduct yourself professionally. You’ll be amazed how these simple steps put you ahead of so much of your competition.
The Benefits of Being a Virtual Assistant
Aside from going to work in your bunny slippers and comfiest pair of pajamas, being a virtual assistant offers a host of other benefits. The big one is you can usually set your own schedule. Unless your employer is in the same time zone as you, you can expect to have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to your actual work hours. This makes it an ideal job for stay at home moms or those looking for part-time work.
I once worked as a virtual assistant for a firm based in the UK. It wasn’t rare for there to be a lag of a day or so in between communications. If you’re a night owl, feel free to get your work done during the night. If you’re the person who prefers the 9 to 5 schedule, that’s totally your call to make.
But there is a caveat: occasionally you might be asked to work odd hours. Say, if your employer has employees working for him or her across the globe, they might want to hold a Skype meeting with everyone and that might mean an early wake up call for you, or a late night. But that’s to be expected in pretty much any business these days, and it’s a small sacrifice to make in order to enjoy all the great benefits of being a virtual assistant.
And every industry out there – be it entertainment, media, legal, medical, etc. – is turning to virtual assistants as a necessary part of their business. Aside from the great potential earnings you can make as a virtual assistant, the other exciting aspect of this job is the sheer amount of opportunities that will become available to you. If you love to learn, this might be your dream job – because I guarantee you’ll learn something new every day!
I wish you the best of luck!
P.S. I’ve just given you the insider’s look into finding lucrative work as a virtual assistant. But here are a few more resources to help you find and hold onto that dream job.
Virtual Assistant Tips