What Does a VA Do?: A Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant

become a virtual assistant

When I lost my part-time job at the end of June 2016, I decided I wasn’t going back to retail and minimum wage while I funded starting my massage therapy practice. I had read about virtual assistants on Pinterest and a few work-at-home job blogs, and I thrust myself – without much planning – into becoming one.

The last week of June/first week of July were absolute whirlwinds. I applied for 3 large companies that hire virtual assistants to match with their clients. I was hired by Time Etc. and started working the same day as my interview.

I began applying to Upwork jobs like crazy and landed a few blogging gigs. Then I told someone I know through my massage business about what I was doing. She hired me and referred me to three other people who then also hired me.

After one month, I totally replaced the income from my part-time job, and I am hustling my butt off to double that by the end of September. (Update 4/2017: My freelancing has grown into a full-blown second business and now I am building my own team of subcontractors! I love this work. Learn more here.)

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I earn a small commission when you purchase products through these links. When you purchase through Amber Uninhibited, it helps support this blog and my ability to work on my own terms. I only promote products that I have used and love!)

So what does a virtual assistant actually do?

Almost anything you can do remotely from a computer. Seriously. Some virtual assistants do more traditional administrative tasks like answering phones, scheduling appointments, and spreadsheets. Others manage social media, design websites, write web copy or blog posts, plan people’s vacation itineraries, research potential customers – there is a huge variety of work that falls under “virtual assistant.” Generally, they handle the little, day-to-day stuff so that their clients can focus on more important things in their business.

I do some administrative tasks (people love to send me monster spreadsheets), but my own focus is really on social media management, content, and blog services.

Being a virtual assistant is awesome because you can work from anywhere. My “office” of choice lately has been my dining room table. Sometimes I also work from my massage office (quieter), my favorite coffee shop, or hotels I stay in when I travel. If you love to travel, being a virtual assistant is a great job because you can take it with you anywhere.

You all know how much I love working on my own terms. This is a perfect fit for me. If it sounds like a good fit for you too, here are some tips to get started:

Apply for a Company or Freelance?

I did both. I could charge more as a freelancer, so I preferred that, but working for Time Etc. gave me a steady supply of clients when I started out (this trickles off after you’ve been with the company awhile and have established clients), and I kept two clients on there well into having my own company.

There is also the option to subcontract for more experienced virtual assistants while you’re learning your way around. Some people love being behind-the-scenes and make a career out of subcontracting for other VAs!

Define Your Niche and Services

Because I’ve been a massage therapist so long and have worked in and around a number of different holistic businesses, working with holistic health businesses was a natural choice for me. It’s what I know and what I’m good at, so that’s where I started.

As I gained more experience, I transitioned into attracting a client vibe (heart-led, passionate, inspired, excited) rather than a specific industry. Do what works for you.

How do you define your niche? Choose what you know and/or what you love. If your background is in real estate or accounting, work in those fields. If your life-long hobby is horseback riding and you’ve worked around horses and equestrian competitions your whole life, figure out how to market services to equestrian businesses. A virtual assistant can work for ANY kind of business. Every business has little tasks they don’t want to do, that they find boring, or that distract them from other things they want to accomplish.

Create a Website

I use WordPress and A Small Orange or Host Gator to host all of my websites. It took me about 3-4 hours total to set up. Things that should be included in your website: an “About Me” page, contact info, services & rates. There is a lot of debate about whether or not to list your prices on your website. I prefer to list a range or starting price, like “Packages start at $125 per month” or “From $125-350 per month.”

Create a Business Plan

I jumped into VA work with no plan because I had no choice. It was, “do it now or go back to struggling at $7.25 an hour.” I applied to jobs like mad, threw myself at everything, and grabbed anything that bounced back to me. That is not the way to start a business.

It is better to have a solid plan for your business and marketing before you start out.

Learn From Other VAs

I read everything I could and joined Facebook groups. My two favorite Facebook groups are Virtual Assistant Empowerment Group and Virtual Assistant Tips & Tricks.

I recommend the book Becoming a VA: The Key to Unlocking the Virtual Assistance Industry by Tracey Osborne (affiliate).

You can also check out my VA Pinterest board. I’ve pinned “get started” articles and other resources.

Deliver Awesome Service

This is where the money comes from. People want to pay you for doing things you are already amazing at! Wow them. Go totally above and beyond. You are helping someone else’s business succeed. This is their baby. Treat it with love and care and people are going to love having you as an assistant.

A Few Final Thoughts

  • Charge what you’re worth – If you’re making less than $15 an hour as a freelancer, you aren’t charging what you’re worth. That’s a low rate. Many VAs start out charging $20 an hour for administrative skills. Social media, graphic design, copywriting, and other specialized skills are in high demand and worth a lot
  • Have a niche. I know I said this already, but you’ll go crazy trying to cater to everyone. This might be a service niche (administrative tasks, social media management, ebook writing/formatting) or an industry niche (holistic health, bloggers, real estate) or a particular personality.

Ready to get started? Write that business plan! If you have questions or aren’t sure how to begin and would like to pick my brain, schedule a guidance session with me. I’d love to chat!

This job is so flexible and rewarding, and I can’t recommend it enough to someone who wants to supplement their current income or start a new career. I wish you the best of luck on your virtual assistant journey!

 

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9 Comments

  1. So glad to have found you through Pat and Candy’s Coffee and Conversation blog party.

    I had some idea of what services virtual assistants offer but you’ve really opened my eyes to the varied skills they require and the tasks the can perform. I can definitely see the huge benefit VAs can be to a business and what a great career to develop, offering the freedom to travel, choose your clients and projects, etc.

    I wish you continuing success with ALL of your projects 🙂

  2. Hi Amber,
    Great article — I loved the advice of to treat this like a business. “Charge what you’re worth – If you’re making less than $15 an hour as a freelancer, you aren’t charging what you’re worth. That’s a low rate.” How true! We tend to not fully value our own work.
    Thanks for sharing. I found through “Traffic Jam Weekend Linky Party”.

  3. Holly Bushey

    I absolutely am interested in working from home, but I have to admit all of this sounds incredibly overwhelming.
    I am on facebook constantly but its all for personal use.
    I am a nurse by trade but I love the world of snail mail and crafting… how could either of those turn into virtual asst work? Id love to hear back on your ideas. Thanks for your time.

    • Amber

      Hi Holly, thanks so much for stopping by! It can be really overwhelming at first, so start slow. Choose one thing to focus on – administrative work or social media, maybe – and expand as you go and get more comfortable.

      Nursing could be a great industry to come from because you’ve worked inside the medical industry, and you may be able to transition easily into working with health organizations and wellness professionals. As for crafts and snail mail, it depends on what kinds of things you like to do. You could work with artists and crafters who sell their work. You could also work with DIY, craft, decor, snail mail, or similar bloggers and offer blog services. If you’re interested in that, I might take one or two courses on WordPress and read as much as you can about blogging. Blog assistants are in high demand right now!

      Hope that helps, and feel free to ask me any other questions!

  4. Pingback: 5 Reasons to Become a Virtual Assistant - Amber Uninhibited

  5. What an inspiration you are to those considering virtual assistance as a career choice. I’ve always felt intimidated by the prospect of it, but you have helped break it down and sound not-so-scary. How did you learn your necessary skills?

    • Amber

      Hi Valerie! Most of my skills were self-taught because I HAD to learn them to run my first business as a massage therapist. I learned through Pinterest, blogs, a few free courses, and a lot of trial and error. I believe that my learning is never done and have lots of plans for courses I want to take this spring and summer! I run into a lot of VA’s who are concerned that they have to know EVERYTHING or take 1000 courses before they can open their business – not true! Use the skills you have and never stop learning, and you’ll be just fine.

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