What is a virtual assistant and is it a good work-at-home job?

Virtual assistant jobs are incredibly popular and are among the highly coveted types of at-home work. Whether you’re looking for a role with better flexibility so you can spend more time with your family or simply looking for a side-hustle outside your regular working hours so you can make extra money, being a virtual assistant can be the perfect career opportunity for you.

Yet, we understand that venturing into something can be a daunting idea, especially if you have little background or zero knowledge about the job. To help out, we’ve collated all the essential things you know, from what the job entails, its suitability as an at-home profession, and a whole lot more, helping you assess if it’s the right position for you.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant (VA) is a highly skilled individual that provides support to businesses from a remote location. As the profession’s name implies, all tasks, whether it’s administrative, sales, marketing, and others, can be accomplished online. Powered by high-speed internet, inexpensive conference calling and chat systems, and document sharing, virtual assistants can now work from anywhere, giving them flexibility and many more benefits.

Today, virtual assistants are highly in-demand by entrepreneurs and companies that require help but don’t want to bring their staff to their location. Instead, VAs assist them from home in various tasks, from simple ones like keeping a business leader’s schedule or ordering snacks for the physical office to more complicated ones, such as running campaigns, searching for business leads and performing bookkeeping.


What does a Virtual Assistant do? 

Virtual assistants handle different assignments depending on their specialty and their employer. Some VAs work as administrative assistants, personal assistants, executive assistants, finance assistants, and other relations positions. Listed below are some of the most common jobs virtual assistants usually perform in combinations:

1. General Admin 

One of the most common niches is general admin work. It’s not a highly specialized field, and if you have prior experience doing an office job, it can be the best stepping stone to being a virtual assistant. Though it’s also not high-paying compared to other VA positions, general admin work is among the most crucial parts of many business operations. With that, it’s easier to find a company that may need help. All in all, it’s basically like an administrative assistant, but the only difference is you’re facing your computer and not a desk on-site.

There are many tasks that general admin virtual assistants do, including:

  •         Organizing a calendar
  •         Scheduling meetings and appointments
  •         Basic Data Entry
  •         File Management
  •         Making travel arrangements
  •         Answering phone calls
  •         Sorting emails
  •         All other duties a typical on-site administrative assistant does

2. Personal Tasks

Virtual assistants’ tasks can often extend to a client’s personal life as well. That means providing support to matters outside work and standard duties. Here are a few examples:

  •         Organizing personal calendar and to-do list
  •         Booking travel arrangements for vacations, weekend trips, or family getaways
  •         Helping with personal purchases – food, books, hardware, or clothes
  •         Buying gifts for friends and family

3. Social Media Management 

While businesses acknowledge the importance of having a strong online presence, not all companies have ample time and skills to manage their social media account and connect with their audiences. 

As such, they outsource it to virtual assistants who handle various social media tasks and help ensure that the brand always looks good online and that it is receiving customer attention and engagement.

Social media virtual assistants are in charge of tasks like: 

  •         Managing social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
  •         Creating content and headlines to share on social media accounts
  •         Scheduling posts
  •         Engaging with the brand’s audience and followers
  •         Answering questions
  •         Keeping track of what’s trending
  •         Monitoring interactions
  •         Analyzing statistics and reports
  •         Initiating social media campaigns
  •         Ensuring that social media pages stay relevant

Social media is a fast-paced, ever-evolving platform where something new happens every now and then. With that, social media management is among the most challenging niches, requiring time, patience, and constant learning. 

4. Bookkeeping

A key to running a profitable business is the proper tracking of finances. As such, small companies often outsource their bookkeeping needs to skilled virtual assistants who perform the following duties and responsibilities:

  •         Recording transactions (income and expenses)
  •         Preparing invoices and general ledgers
  •         Reconciling bank statements
  •         Processing payments
  •         Mailing reminders and following up by phone
  •         Creating budget statements
  •         Producing financial reports
  •         Verifying payroll

5. Research 

Research is vital to businesses as it helps them know their operations better. With sound insight, a company can see its areas of improvement, establish its growth strategies, and perform other activities that can help it succeed. 

The catch is many businesses, especially smaller ones and startups, don’t have the luxury of spending hours on this time-consuming endeavor. It is where virtual assistants come in, assisting the company in compiling and analyzing valuable information, whether on the customers, market, or performance. 

Individuals who specialize in data analysis and have a passion for data crunching usually excel in this niche. Some of the tasks of virtual research assistants do, include: 

  •         Tracking and analyzing generated by the company’s research tools
  •         Checking consumer trends
  •         Keeping track of competitors’ goods and services
  •         Researching online data as per requirement
  •         Collating and presenting data in suitable databases/format
  •         Updating team on a regular basis

6. Customer Service

Customer service tasks have been one of the first responsibilities companies outsourced to virtual assistants. It’s little wonder, as customers don’t engage with representatives in person, it’s more practical for businesses not to have an in-house support team either.

All virtual assistants under this niche address concern revolving around the products and services offered by the company. They are the first line of contact for customers who want to give feedback or are seeking assistance. In case they’re not able to resolve the issue or the resolution required is out of their capabilities, VAs escalate it to the relevant team within the business. 

Here are the tasks that a customer service VA takes on regularly:

  •         Answering questions via email, chat or call
  •         Looking up customer details
  •         Giving tutorials
  •         Assisting with troubleshooting
  •         Managing chatbots
  •         Dealing with feedback
  •         Resolving complaints
  •         Keeping customers happy


7. Data Entry

Data entry is another responsibility that virtual assistants can handle. It’s basically clerical work where you need to type, organize, and compile information into computer files or database systems. While it’s most general typing or recording of information, some cases may require more intricate duties like analyzing and presenting data. 

Here are the tasks VAs do under this niche: 

  •         Inputting and compiling data
  •         Sorting information
  •         Verifying accuracy
  •         Checking output for deficiencies or incompatibilities
  •         Correcting errors
  •         Updating records and database
  •         Deleting unnecessary records
  •         Generating weekly or monthly reports

8. Writing/Blogging 

Blog posts are beneficial for companies and large corporations as it helps boost search engine optimization and entice traffic to their website. Thus, having more conversions as a result. Yet, businesses also know that content writing isn’t easy. Not to mention that there are also other tasks associated with it like research, finding suitable images, and uploading the blog itself. It’s only fitting that they also outsource the responsibility to VAs.

Among the duties of a writer/blogger VA are:

  •         Putting out new blog posts regularly
  •         Moderating blog comments
  •         Improving SEO
  •         Creating or finding images for blog posts
  •         Removing or adding affiliate links
  •         Handling readers’ emails
  •         Social media curating and scheduling

9. Email Management 

You know how emails can be hard to manage. Chances are you’ve seen dozens to hundreds of emails sitting in your box. What more for businesses who receive tons of email, making it a Herculean task for their onsite staff to handle, given that they also have other duties to fulfill? That’s why a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses hire virtual email assistants to take on the task of making their email channels still functional. 

Listed below are the tasks that virtual email assistants do: 

  •         Sorting and filtering inbox
  •         Deleting old emails
  •         Responding to emails
  •         Sending follow-ups
  •         Organizing contact list
  •         Searching and verifying prospect’s email addresses
  •         Setting auto-responders
  •         Carrying out email marketing campaigns

10. E-Commerce Order Management 

E-commerce order management is a specialized type of customer support where virtual assistants help companies by performing product-related tasks, managing an online store, and keeping a strong presence. Running an online business is already challenging, so solo entrepreneurs and small to midsize companies outsource such duties to focus on other revenue-driving aspects of the business. 

Here are the tasks e-commerce virtual assistants do:

  •         Online store management and website maintenance
  •         Editing product images and listing
  •         Fulfilling orders
  •         Managing inventory and pricing
  •         Preparing marketing materials
  •         Dealing with exchanges and returns
  •         Providing customer support

11. Project Management

Businesses build various projects for them to succeed. Each one entails a lot of preparation, and virtual assistants lend a helping hand in covering the workload and ensuring that they are done in an efficient manner.

Project management VAs’ tasks revolve around the following:

  •         Holding meetings and asking for updates from team members
  •         Creating progress reports
  •         Developing and controlling the budget
  •         Allocating resources
  •         Performing risk assessments and quality assurance checks
  •         Verifying project completion and closure

12. Content Creation

People who love curating, creating, and editing beautiful, inspiring, informative, and entertaining videos and images find opportunities as content creator virtual assistants. They help the company stay relevant online by connecting to their target audience, cultivating the brand, and fostering credibility.

As producing content is a very tedious and time-consuming task, most businesses and entrepreneurs outsource them to virtual assistants who have a knack for it.

Some of the services that content creator VAs do include:

  •         Researching content ideas
  •         Taking product pictures
  •         Creating videos
  •         Graphic design
  •         Writing blog posts
  •         White Paper Marketing
  •         Producing relevant content for digital marketing campaigns

13. Transcription

Virtual assistants also do transcription work for businesses in different fields, such as legal, financial, and medical. Their main task is to convert live or recorded audio files like podcasts, interviews, or meetings into text format. Other employers may require to create reports or notes on what has been discussed. Speed and accuracy are the common requirements for producing a polished written output of the spoken text.

Here are the duties transcription virtual assistants do:

  •         Turn audio files into clear text documents
  •         Eliminate repetition and hesitations to the spoken text
  •         Convert audio files into blog posts
  •         Produce output in other various formats to generate better search engine results


How much do Virtual Assistants Earn?

As virtual assistants work in different niches and vary in their assigned tasks and responsibilities, salaries and hourly rates also differ widely throughout the world. In general, VAs can make between $7 to more than $63 per hour.

For instance, if you start working as a VA with basic jobs and skills, you will most likely begin within the $7 to $12 per hour range. As you get more experience and specialize in a niche, you can increase your hourly rate very quickly.

If you have more advanced skills like email management, providing customer support, or basic blogging/writing, your starting hour salary can be between $15 to $25. If you excel in web development, graphic design, SEO, copywriting, and other technical specialties, you can earn $30 per hour or more.

All in all, VAs can earn $1,250 to $10,875 monthly or $15,000 to $130,000 yearly, depending on the industry, skill level, years of experience, and client.

Though some virtual assistants get their salary via money orders or checks, the majority of these remote workers are paid through PayPal, Payoneer, Wise, and other secured online payment channels. Invoicing also varies, with others getting their payment weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, or up-front.

What skills do you need to be a Virtual Assistant?

While being a virtual assistant is a popular and in-demand job, jumping from office work to this remote role isn’t quite as easy as most people think.

Having proven on-site experience in general admin work, graphic design, or project management is beneficial. Yet, there’s fierce competition for the open VA positions in many job marketplaces and agencies, which is why you must shine among the others to guarantee success better. But, how will you do so?

Well, there are key skills that potential employers look out for when hiring VAs for their businesses. These skills are vital to most VA jobs, and possessing them can do wonders for you. Here’s a breakdown of the essential VA skills:

1. Outstanding Communication Skills

As you’re working remotely and don’t have the privilege of simply walking over to your superior’s desk to ask questions. With that, being a virtual assistant requires more than just average communication skills. Moreover, talking to your clients means doing it over the phone, via chat, or through email, which creates lots of room for ambiguity and misunderstandings.

As such, it’s important that you must have outstanding communication skills to work smoothly with your client. You must be able to express yourself clearly and concisely, both verbally and in writing. Plus, you must also know when and how often to reach out to them, as you want them to always be updated with your work without bombarding them with too many messages.

2. Exceptional Time Management Skills

You’ll have more control of your time as a virtual assistant. However, that means being more in control of it as it can be challenging to balance your professional and personal life when working from home. With all the assignments you need to do for the day, you must be on top at all times and must devise a solid daily schedule that can cover all your agendas.

3. Superior Organization Skills

Unlike most on-site workers, virtual assistants are not restrained to work for a single employer. Most VAs handle multiple clients as it provides better job security and boosts their career growth. If you’re planning to do the same, you must be highly organized as it’s easy to mix files, misplace documents, or forget tasks. Thus, creating chaos not only for you, but for your bosses. You can avoid all the blunders if you’re able to keep track of all of your duties and maintain files and folders efficiently.

4. Attention to Detail

Mistakes are inevitable at work, but paying more attention to small details can make the difference. You must have the habit of looking over your output a second time or making a final check of the work of the other people. Who knows? You might be able to see a spacing error on the document, a tiny spelling mistake on the presentation, or a simple formatting issue. By doing so, you mitigate the risks of creating more mistakes at work.

5. Resourcefulness

Working virtually means that your employer won’t be able to assist you at all times with problems you encounter at work. With that, it’s important to be resourceful and find your own solutions. Virtual assistants are not dependent on help. Rather, they are self-starters who know how to find a way. 

For instance, if you experience any issue with tools your boss provided, you can always check the available information online on how to fix it. If no software was given for the task instead, then it’s up to you to look for applications that can help you accomplish what needs to be done.

6. Active Listening Skills

Another important skill you must have as a VA is active listening. Be ready to interact with clients of different professional attitudes and personalities. While some will give you clear, concise, written notes of your assignments, others may simply call you to provide their instructions. As such, you must always be present and alert during the conversation so you won’t miss any details. Always give your full attention to comprehend things better and be able to pull out output that perfectly matches their requirements. 

7. Responsiveness and Reliability 

Some of the common problems companies encounter with virtual assistants include disappearing without notice, being unresponsive or hard to reach, and taking a long time before answering important messages. Be mindful that time is crucial in a lot of tasks, and missing urgent instructions can hurt the business. As such, virtual assistants who are reliable and who respond immediately are valued by their respective employers. 

8. Mastery of Collaborative Tools and Software 

Virtual assistants utilize various tools when collaborating with their clients and doing their tasks. Some of the basics include Google Drive, Skype, or Slack, while other online tools include file sharing tools, online presentation tools, project management software, password managers, and so on and so forth. If you’re not familiar with the most popular tools in the VA industry, it’s best to study them in advance, as doing so can do a lot in boosting your profile.


How To Become a Successful Virtual Assistant

You’re already aware of what being a virtual assistant is, the different tasks covered, salary, and the essential skills required, you’ve most likely decided whether the role fits you. With that, it’s now time to discover how to become a virtual assistant.

Most people deem that entering the VA industry is a tough job. However, many VAs find the journey to becoming one isn’t as difficult as they first thought.

Here are the things you need to know to become a virtual assistant:

1. Determine the type of work you wish to do.

With so many niches available, it can be an overwhelming task to choose which one you’d really like to do. Not deciding on this matter can put your career in peril as you can end up on a project you are less likely to succeed in. To avoid that, assess what type of work you actually prefer, or what you’re actually good at. That way, you can be confident in the service you offer to your clients and perform well. Later on, you can start experimenting with handling related tasks while also discovering new ones along the way.

2. Attend training courses.

Listening to and learning from the experts is an incredible way to widen your knowledge about the industry. Luckily, you can find many free and paid training courses online. When you see one that you like, take advantage of it as it can help a lot in setting your mindset, improving your skills, and preparing you better for the role.

3. Establish your online presence.

Like how businesses value a strong online presence, the same way you should do for yourself. One of the best ways to sell yourself to potential clients is by being relevant online. You can start by having an online resume or portfolio or a website that will showcase your skills and experience. Meanwhile, you should also have professional accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms where clients can further judge you and assess what you can do for their business. By having those, you make it easier for them to find and get an idea of what you can offer.

4. Start looking for clients.

Once you’ve accomplished the three steps above, you’re now ready to look for clients. Many businesses and entrepreneurs seek VAs on sites like Upwork, Indeed, Monster, oDesk, and ZipRecruiter. You can find plenty of jobs available on these sites with decent pay and flexible schedules.

Alternatively, you can reach out directly to small businesses and entrepreneurs to see if they want to hire a virtual assistant and pitch your services. If it doesn’t work out, continue building a good relationship as they can still serve as your lead who might need your service in the future.

On the other hand, you can also use your network to find a job as a virtual assistant. You can ask your friends, former colleagues, or family, who are working in the industry for referrals. You can also join Facebook groups where you can find people who share the same goals and give you advice on where to get clients.

Regardless of the way you choose, always stay professional, be responsive, and add patience as you go through the hiring process.


Benefits of Being a Virtual Assistant

Once hired, you now enjoy the many perks of being a virtual assistant. While working in an office has its own advantages, working remotely also has its benefits that you can certainly enjoy. These include:

1. Better Flexibility

Among the best perks of being a virtual assistant is the freedom in managing your own schedule. You can work part-time, full-time, or seasonally, depending on your circumstances. It’s perfect if you’re a stay-at-home parent or have an elderly family member you need to attend to. You’re not confined to work in regular work hours and you can tell your clients when you’re available. Thus, giving you much flexibility and the right work/life balance.

2. No More Commute

You’ll never have to deal with traffic again and with the noise and stress that comes along with it. As you’re working at home, you can also save on transportation costs and travel time, allowing you to spend more time with your family and friends or do other important errands instead.

3. More Work Freedom 

Being a virtual assistant means you can work how you want, when you, and where you want. Rather than wearing formal clothes that can be restrictive, you can work comfortably in PJs while sipping a cup of tea at your dining table.

On the other days, you can go outside and work at Starbucks or at a coworking space. If you have to travel, no issues, too! You’re not restricted by PTO as you can always bring your work wherever your destination is.

4. Higher Efficiency

One of the biggest fears of companies about allowing remote work is that their employees are getting less productive. Yet, most workers proved otherwise. Based on reports, many remote workers said they feel more engaged and efficient when working at home. Why not? Being able to work in your own space while wearing your favorite PJs is cozy, helping you relax and have better focus.

5. Set your own rates

You’ll no longer have to list down all your accomplishments to show your boss you deserve a raise and depend on what he will write on your appraisal form. As a virtual assistant, you can set your own rates and value the quality of your work. Just make sure that your rate matches the level of your service and your output. Plus, don’t forget to keep your rates competitive by researching the market.

Takeaway: Is being a virtual assistant a good work-at-home job?

Truth to be told, becoming a virtual assistant can be one of the most rewarding decisions you can make. It’s a good work-at-home job that can provide new opportunities for you and provide you with numerous benefits that you won’t get while working on-site.

While it can be a challenging role, it will make you crave learning, improve your skills, and strive harder, helping you achieve success and your goal quicker. If you think this is for you, get that good start and enjoy your journey being a VA!