The explosive rise of online businesses has made virtual assistants a highly sought-after profession.
From executive assistants to all-in-one freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs outsource remote jobs to virtual assistants when full-time hiring isn't feasible for their budget.
If you’re looking for a dynamic career or an at-home side hustle, becoming a virtual assistant might be the perfect fit. So, how do you become a virtual assistant? And what if you have no previous experience?
The good news is you don’t need fancy degrees or qualifications to get started. Let’s dig into the skills you need to launch your career as a virtual assistant.
A look at the role of virtual assistants
Virtual assistants (VAs) help companies manage their administrative work. They may take on client-facing tasks such as scheduling appointments and managing emails or stick to behind-the-scenes jobs like booking travel arrangements and helping prepare for meetings.
Like any job, working as a virtual assistant has ups and downs. Here’s what you can expect from the role.
- You can choose what services to offer: The virtual assistant profession doesn’t have a fixed skill set. Instead, VAs work in multiple roles across several industries. You don’t have to be an expert in everything, but you can advertise the services you’re best at. Somebody out there is looking for exactly what you offer, whether that’s note-taking or making calls.
- You can work from anywhere: Virtual assistants can work from anywhere around the world. As long as you have a working laptop and a stable internet connection, you’re ready to get started. This also means that you can travel while you work.
- Low start-up costs: Most virtual assistant roles don’t require expensive hardware or software. If you specialize in social media or customer relationship management, you may need a subscription to certain apps, but the hiring company will likely reimburse you.
- You can set your own rates: Experienced virtual assistants in the U.S. earn up to $27 an hour, but that isn’t set in stone. You set pricing based on your skills, specialization, and experience.
- Vast earning potential: As independent contractors (ICs), most virtual assistants can take on multiple clients at a time. Combined with the flexibility of your rates, this means you have a lot of influence over your earnings.
- You need to find clients: Landing clients is challenging, especially if you lack references, testimonials, and a portfolio as a beginner virtual assistant. Even seasoned VAs must contact and pitch to multiple potential customers before landing a new gig.
- You might feel isolated: Work as a VA can feel a little lonely if you’re used to the hustle and bustle of a buzzing office. Switching to virtual meetings may also be challenging if you prefer face-to-face conversations.
- Challenging work-life balance: Working away from home helps separate your personal and professional life. When you work from home, it can be difficult to disconnect from your responsibilities, leading to longer hours and poor work-life balance.
- No benefits or perks: Virtual assistants who are freelancers or independent contractors aren't entitled to employment benefits like health insurance and a 401k, meaning you must buy into plans yourself. You also don't get paid holidays or time off. Although you can hit pause on work at any time, you forfeit income.
How to become a virtual assistant
Whether you have limited experience or years of relevant expertise, you can pick up the necessary tools to be a successful virtual assistant. Here are the four steps to setting up your business:
1. Pinpoint and develop your strengths
Are you adept at administrative tasks, or is social media management your forte? Or are you an all-in-one package?
From time management to website maintenance, the work of virtual assistants is diverse. Find your best hard and soft skills and highlight them on your resume. Even if you have little experience, prospective employers appreciate someone with a suitable skillset. And remember: you can always learn new skills, too.
2. Define your services
Landing clients is easier if you know the services they need — and which you can perform. This way, you can target potential employers who could use a VA like you and market yourself accordingly.
So, what services are you going to offer? Limit yourself to a few tasks and be really good at them rather than stretching yourself too thin with multiple offerings.
In addition to your services, you should also clearly define pricing and availability. While some virtual assistants are paid hourly, weekly, or monthly rates, others are compensated per task or project.
3. Source the necessary equipment
The equipment and software you need depends on the services you provide. If you offer administrative tasks like data entry and bookkeeping, you'll require email automation software and a laptop or computer with decent specifications.
But if you perform demanding tasks like graphic design, you'll need a powerful laptop and software such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. And don’t forget WiFi, headphones, and any other devices you might need.
4. Build a portfolio and put yourself out there
Build a virtual assistant resume and an online portfolio to promote your business and show potential clients. After all, people won’t hire you if they don’t know you exist. Marketing your services on platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Flexjobs is essential.
After you’ve created a virtual assistant website, build a social media presence to match. Show off your services on relevant platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to gain exposure and reel in potential clients.
As you gain experience, ask clients and employers for feedback, references, and testimonials. Incorporate positive feedback on your socials and website to show potential clients you're a tried-and-true professional.
What qualifications do you need to become a virtual assistant?
Aspiring virtual assistants don’t need specific qualifications or degrees. However, while you don’t need accredited training, enrolling in an online course can help refine your talents and add to your credentials.
Udemy is an educational technology (EdTech) company with thousands of online courses. It has over 60 virtual assistant courses with more than 293,000 learners.
Must-Have Skills (Training) for Virtual Assistants is the platform’s most popular VA course. Created by Erin Booth, it’s a bestseller with over 3,500 reviews and a 4.7 rating. The course includes three and a half hours of video, 17 articles, and six downloadable resources (including e-books and templates).
Students receive lifetime access and a certificate. The course costs $89.99, but you’ll regularly find heavily discounted prices as low as $15.99.
IAP Career College offers a part-time certificate course that teaches the principles and techniques of providing virtual assistant services. The course lasts six weeks, but you can work around your schedule and complete it in 4–12 weeks.
With a 5-star rating and over 1,100 reviews, the course boasts comprehensive content. It’s designed to meet high academic standards and includes topics on subcontract and freelance work, starting a business, and finding clients.
The regular course fee is $377, but seasonal sales frequently bring that price down to $149. Plus, it includes a “100% Money Back Guarantee.”
Penn Foster’s accredited virtual assistant training program prepares students to work remotely, run their own businesses, and work as personal assistants, freelancers, or contractors. The company also helps course alumni find work through staffing companies.
The curriculum includes writing, communication, management skills, and more. It has six courses, 26 exams, and three project submissions. You can complete the program in 10 months, although the average completion time is 13 month.
The price is steep at $989, but regular discounts slash it by a few hundred dollars. If you don’t want to pay the entire amount upfront, opt for the “Monthly Auto Pay Plan” or the “Monthly Mail Pay Plan.”
Manage your clients with Practice
Whether you just found your job as a beginner virtual assistant or have multiple clients, you probably have a lot on your plate. Let us lend you a helping hand.
We offer virtual assistant contract templates to help you streamline client onboarding. And check out our customer relationship management (CRM) software, designed with freelancers in mind, to book calls, invoice clients, and manage contracts — all in one place. Plus, Practice’s blog is a robust — and free — resource that can teach you all about working as a virtual assistant, like how to learn the relevant skills and get clients.