How To Become a Virtual Assistant and Land Your First Job

Virtual assistants are some of the most in-demand jobs right now thanks to rapid growth in online businesses. Owners and managers are realizing they don’t need someone in a certain city or on payroll to get tasks done, so they’re looking for virtual help. That means you (working from home or wherever you want) can be the perfect fit for companies around the world.

Providing assistance as a virtual administrative support person means doing what companies need through the online tools they use. In many cases, they’re tasks you already know how to do and programs you use right now. Being a virtual assistant doesn’t require an advanced degree or much (if any) experience. If that sounds good to you, keep reading.

In this article we’ll discuss:

  • What is a virtual assistant?
  • What work do they offer?
  • How much are virtual assistants paid?
  • How to become a virtual assistant
  • 7 top in-demand skills
  • Your six next steps
  • And the one platform you need to use to get started

Let’s dive right into our discussion on becoming a virtual assistant.

What is a virtual assistant?

The first step in learning how to become a virtual assistant is to determine that it’s the right position for you. Being a virtual assistant, also called a VA, means that you’re generally a self-employed person that does administrative, technical, and sometimes sales or marketing tasks for a business. The “virtual” part means all of your activities can be completed online, allowing you to work from anywhere with a good internet connection.

In most cases, VAs provide support for business leaders. This can mean keeping someone’s calendar and daily schedule, responding to emails, collecting information on sales targets before meetings, and even things like ordering water and snacks for their physical office.

Some virtual assistants end up doing highly technical work. This can mean running multiple programs to find leads and business opportunities, scheduling social media posts and email campaigns, tracking marketing metrics, or performing bookkeeping. What you do and how you specialize is up to you, but you should have an idea of the kinds of tasks you’re comfortable doing before applying for a virtual assistant position.

What services does a virtual assistant provide?

Virtual assistants can be called on to do all kinds of duties for their clients. Sometimes you’ll perform a few specific tasks just for an owner or manager. In other cases, you might play a vital role in primary business functions and feel like part of the team. Being a virtual assistant allows you to be flexible and experience many different kinds of environments, then focus on the ones you like best.

Here are some of the most common specialties that the VA role includes:

1. General admin work: Administrative tasks such as managing a calendar, sorting emails, answering phone calls, making appointments, and other tasks that on-site assistants do.

2. Project management: Some VAs run projects for business owners. This means you will hold meetings, ask for updates from team members, and create reports on the progress of a project. You may also have some responsibility for projects staying on-time or on-budget.

3. Bookkeeping: Financial support is vital to every business. Smaller companies and those using VAs often need to help with processing payments, checking expenses verifying payroll, and creating regular budget statements. If you’re good with numbers and business, this can be a suitable place to start.

4. Billing and invoicing: Companies often need help invoicing their clients. In these roles, a VA will create the invoices using the company’s software platform, verify each invoice, send them out, and help to process payments and record them when a payment is completed.

5. Content research: Here you’ll learn about the company, its products, and its customers. Then, your job is to generate ideas and research assigned topics to provide relevant information.

6. Blogging and writing: Sometimes, you’ll also write the content you research. This is commonly in the form of blog posts, but VAs can also be tapped to write web pages and other content.

7. Customer research: Growing businesses often need to understand who their customers are. In this case, VAs will be given tasks related to tracking and analyzing the data provided by a company’s research tools.

8. Customer support: Answering frequent questions, looking up customer details, taking messages, and generally helping are tasks that most freelance virtual assistants handle regularly.

9. Data entry: Data entry generally is clerical work where you organize and type information. Sometimes it can be general recording or typing of information and in other cases you might have more detailed tasks where you need to analyze the information you’re reading.

10. E-commerce order management: Generally, a specialized form of customer support, many e-commerce companies use virtual assistants to help them understand current orders, find tracking numbers for customers, and even restock products.

11. Email marketing: You may need to send emails to customers or manage email sequences in email marketing programs. Sometimes, a virtual assistant will write the email or respond to it, especially if customer responses include things like setting up a meeting.

12. Social media management: Posting on social, answering questions, and ensuring that a brand looks good online are all part of social media management.

13. Social media marketing: VAs can specialize in the marketing that happens on social media, too. Here you may create campaigns and set spending, define ad targets, or take ad campaign reports and pull the pertinent details together for your boss.

14. Website management: Virtual assistants are often tasked with making basic updates to websites, posting content, proofreading, and more. You might need WordPress or other skills to shine here.

15. Transcription: A final task that is common for VAs is to listen to meetings or recordings and transcribe what’s been said. Some jobs may also ask you to take notes and create reports on what was discussed.

How much do virtual assistants make?

Freelance virtual assistants have a wide range in their salaries and hourly rates. For many basic jobs and skills, such as data entry, you’re likely to start in the $8-$12 per hour range. On Upwork, you’ll be able to find many of these jobs as you become a virtual assistant, but you can also increase your rate very quickly as you specialize.

VAs on Upwork can charge $15 to $25 per hour for more advanced work like customer service, email handling, WordPress management, and more. Higher rates for freelance administrative assistants average around $30 to $35 per hour, though some experts are able to find plenty of work for more.

In the U.S., the average virtual assistant makes $18.89 per hour. However, by working as a freelancer you’ll be able to work for clients anywhere in the world. Often, clients in more expensive cities and countries can afford to pay higher rates.

What are the most in-demand virtual assistant services?

Browsing today’s job listings, we’ve found these seven tasks and requirements to be some of the most in-demand services for freelance virtual assistants and virtual administrative assistants:

Cold calling

Cold calling is when you call up people to try and get them interested in a product or service. What makes it “cold” is that the people you call haven’t previously expressed interest. You’ve likely heard this called telemarketing. In these jobs, you’ll typically make a lot of calls each day, follow a sales script, and have a very specific goal, such as ‘sell product X’ or ‘get them to agree to watch a demo.’

To succeed, a VA will need to be able to handle rejection well. Working from home can make that a little easier, though.

Taking customer calls

Many companies are outsourcing their phones as administrative tasks. This means you’ll get a phone dialer or number and be responsible for answering when someone calls. Depending on the company and call, you might provide customers information or be required to look up details—such as order information—for callers. Often, you’ll route calls to the correct person after understanding the caller’s request. This requires a good understanding of business departments and the ability to think on your feet.

Email communications

Some companies have switched from phone-based sales to email communications because it’s becoming easier to get some customers to answer an email than pick up a phone. Online businesses also may not have traditional phone lines, so email is a way to offer customer service too.

Email communications work for virtual assistants covers many different topics. You may respond to customer requests and questions. Or you could write sales emails to send to people after a meeting or when they sign up for a newsletter or promo coupon on a website. Professionalism and an understanding of the customer can help a lot.

Customer scheduling

Small business owners often hire people who have just become a virtual assistant to help with some of their daily tasks. One of the most important items is scheduling customer meetings, calls, and follow-ups. For these tasks, you’ll generally be focused on the schedule and have to look through a person’s email first. You take all of the meeting requests from their emails and put them on a calendar.

In advanced jobs, you might need to sit in on the meeting itself to help schedule a time for follow-up meetings. Often, you’ll also need to connect with your boss to see who has set a follow-up meeting or needs to set one. Then, you’ll be in charge of reaching out via email or phone and trying to schedule that customer’s time.

File management and maintenance

Many companies need organized people to manage their documents and files so that everyone at the company can find it. Virtual assistants are a tremendous help here because your tasks will be to quickly look at documents and sort them into the correct places. You might also need to rename the files so that they fit a consistent style. Maintenance of files means looking through shared folders or drives, like OneDrive or Google Drive, to ensure all files are in the right place and named the correct way.

Attention to detail and the ability to closely follow directions are an immense help for these tasks.

Social media marketing

Almost every business needs a presence on social media, but not every business leader has time to create that. So, they’ll hire you to create and post content on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram. These posts need to look and feel like the company while being appropriate. Every company will have unique style requirements, so pay close attention.

On top of posting for organic marketing, you’ll also be required to create social media posts and advertisements, then use the ad platforms within those services to post. You’ll work not only with content but also budgets and metrics, so a good sense for business and the ability to think strategically can help you find the perfect mix of content to make the most of the budget your client has.

LinkedIn lead generation

This is perhaps the most specialized on our list, but it’s in high demand for companies whose clients are other businesses. Many service providers use LinkedIn to identify potential target customers based on location, industry, company size, and more. For these jobs, the virtual assistant will use software and searches to find people on LinkedIn, create lists of potential targets, and then send introductory messages to them once your client approves the list. Having a strong business sense and knowing how to talk to business leaders is a plus for this skill.

How to become a virtual assistant with no experience

Being a virtual assistant can feel like a lot of work, but there are actually just a few steps to get started and find that first client. You’ll need to know about the tasks to perform and how to do them, then set up your own business information, and start applying to jobs. It’ll go quickly and many freelancers find that it isn’t as hard as they initially thought.

1. Take training courses

You’ve got to prepare for working as a VA and running your online business. The best place to start is to find some online training focused on VAs. There are many free and paid courses and skills tools available to you right now. When you find some that you like, look for reviews or ask other VAs what might help. Consider joining LinkedIn or other networking groups to ask people working as virtual administrative assistants about the courses they took.

Learning from experts is a fantastic way to build the right skills and understand what will be expected of you when you land your first job.

2. Determine the work you like and can do

After you’ve taken a class or two, and read plenty of blogs like this one, it’s time to figure out what VA tasks you like to do and are good at doing. These make a wonderful place to start in terms of what services you offer clients.

Create your list of tasks you’ll do and see how they’re related. If there are things you can’t do, write that down too. It’ll help you avoid taking a project where you’ll be less likely to succeed.

When you’re first starting out, you’ll be working on a lot of things at once. This will include your business and online work as well as what you do for clients. Sticking to what you’re good at initially will help you perform well.

3. Figure out the prices to charge

Pricing and fees vary greatly in the world of virtual administrative assistants and VAs. How much you make will change based on the tasks you do and the size of your clients. The best place to start is to look at what others are being paid.

Visit pages that highlight top freelance virtual assistants or that showcase VA jobs where you can find online clients and see what others are charging. Price your services near what you see on the market, so customers are willing to give you a chance and you avoid asking for too low of a fee to keep your business afloat.

Remember that your prices should be high enough to help you cover your business expenses and overhead, plus other things like healthcare if needed. Being a freelancer means no paid vacation or benefits unless you make enough money to cover those costs yourself.

4. Create an online presence

After learning about your preferences and pricing, you need to share them with the world. The best place to start is to create an online portfolio or resume to showcase what you’ve done in the past, relevant work skills, and any certifications you got from your training courses. Having a website and social media presence can make it much easier for people to start finding you.

There are many free options for creating a website and your social work should include LinkedIn and Facebook. There are also platforms like Upwork that give you a standard portfolio and make it easier for clients to judge you and see what you can do.

5. Start applying to jobs

Now you have to start looking for those clients! The first thing to do is look on job boards for companies in need. Some services like Upwork help people hire freelance virtual assistants right away. In other cases, you might see that a company wants to hire an assistant. Instead of applying for their permanent position, you can email the HR department or hiring manager and pitch your services as a virtual assistant. This would allow you to work from home and control more of your freelancing day, but still give that client the services they need.

Remember to always stay professional and be responsive. People want you to communicate quickly and clearly, so they'll expect a fast reply to any phone call or email that they send.

6. Learn about yourself and clients

The last thing to do is to take all of this information and treat it as a learning experience. As you start to work, you’ll find that there are people, companies, industries, business types, and tasks that you enjoy and others you don’t. Use this to help you specialize and pitch your services. You’ll be ready to provide your best work in environments you enjoy and that will lead to positive reviews when you complete their tasks.

This is your business, so focus on what matters to you and you’ll give yourself the best chance for success.

Find your first freelance virtual assistant job today

The most important question you’ve asked yourself is how to become a virtual assistant. Thankfully, the job is well known and popular, so it’s never been easier. Create your profile and resume and then start looking for companies who need help. It really is that simple because the demand for a high-quality VA is remarkably high. And you get all the benefits, like the ability to work from home and find potential clients in areas you want to work.

The best way to get started right now is to sign up with Upwork. You’ll get a profile you can customize and you’ll be able to start responding to jobs in minutes.

Highlight your skills, show off your communications ability, and demonstrate your willingness to work right away. We hope this helps you find that first VA job and take the first step toward becoming a freelance administrative assistant or virtual assistant.

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Author Spotlight

How To Become a Virtual Assistant and Land Your First Job
Geoffrey Whiting
Writer and Business Analyst

Geoffrey has worked as a writer and analyst for more than a decade, focusing on how businesses can improve talent, services, and operations. Thanks to platforms like Upwork, he's worked with some of the largest software, shipping, insurance, and internal audit firms in the world.

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