Often, a virtual assistant may be asked “what does your job entail” and “how can I be a virtual assistant”. This is because the job is very intriguing to people who are interested in spending more time at home, making a higher income, and being able to essentially set their own schedule. However, being a virtual assistant is not always glamorous, and more work is involved than one might think in order to become a successful one. Here are 10 tips to becoming a great virtual assistant.
1. Assess Your Skills
Before looking for a virtual assistant position or clients of your own, you will need to be sure you have the basic skills necessary to be a successful assistant. If you have worked in an office as a secretary or administrative assistant, then you have a very good starting point. If not, then you will need to be sure you at least meet the following criteria:
- Type 45+ WPM
- Work within a Windows or Mac environment comfortably
- Use the Internet and search engines effectively
- Use web mail and remote email services daily
- Understand basic social media marketing practices
- Understand the basics of email marketing and newsletter creation
- Have excellent organization and scheduling skills
2. Assess Your Equipment
Beyond the skills you possess, you will need to be sure that you have the necessary equipment to complete the work functions of a virtual assistant. Like your skills, these can be improved with time, but it is essential to at least have these basics before you begin your new career:
- Computer (Mac or PC) with at least 100 GB of storage and 1 MB of RAM
- 2 different up to date browsers
- An email client such as Outlook or Thunderbird
- A phone (cell or landline)
- A printer and scanner
- A high speed Internet connection
3. Work With a Company First
Since 2007, virtual assistance has become a very in-demand field, and is seeing steady growth each year. With the numbers in mind, and the growing rate of business done online, it is no surprise that several virtual assistance companies have been born. These companies hire men and women from all across the world to work remotely and offer their clients the online support they need.
This is very good news for the brand new virtual assistant, because it means there are options for you to get a steady stream of work, steady paychecks, and professional support and training in the field. You can become a strong assistant very quickly, and then decide if you’d like to move up in the company or branch out on your own. Just be sure never to sign a non-compete agreement if you plan to eventually go it alone.
4. Create a Set Schedule
Whether you choose to work with a company or not, it is vital that you create a set schedule for yourself and stick with it. That said, it does not need to be a 9-5 schedule. Many assistants work evening or night shifts to work around their family schedules, and some may even work split shifts and choose to take Monday off. The important issue here is that you set a schedule, set up a routine, and train yourself to be working during the same time each work day.
5. Train Those Around You
Not only will you need to get yourself into a work routine, but you will need to train those around you that because you are home, it does not mean you are available. Once you’ve established your working days and times, you must let your family and friends know not to bother you unless absolutely necessary during those times. It is nice to be home and able to quickly respond if your children needs bandages, but it does not mean that you can be getting up every ten minutes to get them a drink of water.
6. Get an Office
Speaking of children and training the family, your task will be much easier if you are able to work in a separate room from them. A room that has a locking door is preferred, but even clearing out the unused den or basement will help the feeling of having an office and being “unavailable” to everyone when you are in there. It will also provide a noise buffer – which is necessary when on client calls.
7. Have a Plan
In this article, several options and ideas have been presented for how to successfully build a virtual assistant career. Some of the most successful assistants will do all of these things, but some will either choose not to or will not be able to when they get started. For example, what if you don’t have an extra room to turn into an office? This is why you should develop a tentative plan at the very beginning of you career. Create a 1 – 2 year plan, and decide things like:
- When will you work? How many hours per week?
- Where will you work? How will you set up and add to your office or desk as you go?
- Will you begin working with a company or simply freelance?
- How will you secure health and business insurance when you need to?
- Who will do your taxes?
As you begin to write (or type) this plan, you will most likely come up with other questions that should be answered before you even take on your first client. Cover all your bases to ensure everyone has the best experience possible.
8. Go the Extra Mile
Think of the last time you had a great customer. So good, in fact, that you complimented the person providing the service and/or told friends or family members about it. This kind of reaction is rare because the kind of service that illicit it is rare, but when it happens, it is very memorable. Usually, it means that a person or company went out of their way to make you happy, give you the best deal, and make you feel important to them. They far exceeded your expectations and possibly even put up with your anger or bad attitude throughout the process like angels. This is the type of service you always want to keep in mind when dealing with your own clients. While you never have to take blatant abuse from someone, you should always work to put yourself in their shoes, understand what they want and why, or why they may be upset, and what you can do to provide top-notch service to make them love you.
9. Develop a Specialty
The term “virtual assistant” can actually mean many things these days, but often boils down to “Jack (or Jill) of all trades.” However, it is not exactly possible for any assistant, especially one just starting out, to be an expert in all areas of online business. Therefore, it is actually beneficial to you and your clients to become an expert in a set skill, market, or set of programs. Some ideas are:
- Social Media Guru
- Email Marketing Expert
- Sales copy, SEO, and SEM
- Affiliate and Ecommerce site creation/optimization
- Travel and Schedule Organizer
Think of yourself as a business partner for you clients, and focus on becoming the best in one area of support to give them the kind of service they’ll pay top dollar for.
10. Be Prompt and Courteous
One thing that every virtual assistant will learn is that clients can sometimes be impatient. An emailed task sent at 9 AM might be followed by one at 10 AM asking why the task hasn’t been completed. At the start of every client relationship, you should be very clear, even in writing, of the kind of communication and task completion turnaround the client can expect. The average goes something like this “All emails and calls are responded to within 1 business day, and tasks are usually completed within 2 business days, unless they are very large or complex.” Then, it is very important that you stick to this statement.
Respond to calls and emails in a timely fashion, but refrain from responding outside your usual business days and hours. Complete tasks on time, and always provide courteous responses where necessary. This will help to train the customer on what to expect during the process of task completion. Believe it or not, responding on weekends and all hours of the night sets unrealistic expectations for the client and will create a customer service disaster later on in the relationship.
Following these tips will help you setup and get started toward a successful virtual assistant career. It is difficult to prepare for and prevent issues from coming up when you are unsure what they may be, but following the advice of those who have gone before you can definitely help put you on the right path.