1. What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant can be any type of remote assistant who provides administrative, creative, or technical support services for online or brick-and-mortar businesses.
Generally, as a Virtual Assistant you start your very own business. There are a few exceptions to this. You could work for a Virtual Assistant company which will subcontract you to do work for their clients, or you can be hired as a remote full time employee of a business. This means you would need to be available during specific hours, but can work from home and not have to visit a physical office building to work for them.
To those who ask advice, I usually always recommend they start their own Virtual Assistant businesses. Why? This means they would be able to charge the rates THEY want to charge, work the hours THEY want to work, and find clients THEY want to work with. I personally love the freedom and flexibility this option allows them.
I do want to note that as a freelance Virtual Assistant, you will be an independent contractor. What does this mean as opposed to being an employee?
As an independent contractor, you are a business owner and you set your own hours. You set your own rate (which means you decide how much you charge for your services) and you decide when, where, and how you will work.
This means a client can’t necessarily say that you have to be online from 9-5 or require you to be somewhere at a specific time. It also means you create your own systems for working, including schedules, payment terms, etc.
Clients could request specific time frames they’d need you to be available, but you get to decide whether these would suit you or not and decided to agree to working with them or not.
Okay, so now that we know what a virtual assistant is, and we know HOW you’ll be working (a.k.a. we know you’re in charge and you’re the boss), the next question usually asked is what types of services a Virtual Assistant can actually offer. What will you be offering to do for your clients?
2. Virtual Assistant Services
Most Virtual Assistants fall into two categories. Either someone is a general Virtual Assistant or a specialized Virtual Assistant / freelancer. Most people start out as a general Virtual Assistant, which is best if you aren’t sure what you enjoy the most or are the best at yet.
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of this, there’s a good chance you already have the transferable skills from a previous job or from volunteer experience which you could use as a virtual assistant.
Here are some of the most requested tasks for people starting out as a virtual assistant:
- scheduling and sending emails
- graphic creation
- social media post scheduling
- writing or blogging
- content creation
- web design
- calendar management
- webinar or live workshop assistance
- customer service emails
- travel research and booking
- appointment setting
You might be thinking, wow, some of these are really easy tasks. Why would somebody hire me to do these?
The thing is, as a person’s business grows, their time becomes more and more valuable. I’ve gone from starting out my online career by getting paid to do the simplest of tasks for others, to now paying others to do these tasks for me when needed, so I’m able to focus more of my time on the bigger things.
So, what this means is there’s a huge opportunity in being able to help others who are looking to save a bit of time. If you can come in and help with some of these more mundane tasks or the things that don’t require a specialized skill, this frees up the business owner to focus more on big picture tasks or the things that make them more money.
This is why a virtual assistant is a very important role. From what I’ve noticed, the most common first hire a new business owner tends to make is for a virtual assistant.
They may need somebody to help take care of invoicing. Or, they may need somebody to help with answering some of their customer service emails. This is where you come in to offer your services as a Virtual Assistant.
Maybe you already have a high-end service that you can offer currently as a specialized freelancer, or maybe you’re going to start out as a general Virtual Assistant, but eventually, you’ll find yourself working towards specializing in a high-end service because this will allow you the chance to raise the rates you charge for your service.
For those asking what skills a specialized freelancer can offer, one of the best things to do is to look at what skills you may already have some experience in as well as what is currently in high demand.
Oftentimes people will transition from being a Virtual Assistant into specializing in one of the following freelancer skills:
- Facebook ads
- course launch strategies
- graphic design
- Pinterest Strategy management
- Instagram Strategy management
- website maintenance & updates
- web design
- search engine optimization
- affiliate management
Even if you aren’t sure what specialized service you would like to offer right now, that’s okay. The thought can stay on your radar for now as something that you eventually want to learn and become an expert in.
Remember, nobody woke up an expert overnight. Everybody started from zero, so even if you don’t already know a certain service, don’t discredit yourself. You can still learn. You can still become an expert in a particular field.
The first step in this journey is to go ahead and start by putting yourself out there. By gaining experience on the more general tasks, you may figure out what you could potentially specialise in and become more open to new opportunities when they come along.
At this point, you may be wondering, OK Rachel, but how do I go about finding the clients?
3. Finding Clients as a Freelance Virtual Assistant
This is actually the #1 question that I get from people looking to work online: Where am I going to find people to hire me?
I want to preface this discussion by saying there is no shortage of freelance jobs. According to a recent study, there are 57.3 million people already doing freelance work in the United States alone.
In fact, by the year 2027, the majority of workers in the U.S. will actually be freelancers. Didn’t expect that, did you? When you look at the number of people who are employees compared to the number of people who are freelancers, freelancers are actually going to outnumber employees by 2027.
Crazy, right? But it does make sense with the way the world is going.
More and more people are comfortable hiring remotely. We all realize that you don’t have to live in the same city as somebody else, especially if they’re the best fit for the job. Time zones, even countries don’t necessarily matter as much when it comes to hiring people to assist you in your business.
The world of online business activities is getting bigger and right now is the perfect time to jump into a freelance career online. Most freelancers will tell you, after finding just one or two new clients – things started to take off for them through word of mouth.
Most start growing by receiving referrals from their very first clients. This means once you make one or two people happy, they will tell others about you and word of mouth will become your biggest asset.
Struggling to figure out where you can land that very first client for yourself? Here’s a secret I’ll fill you in on… most businesses today are open to hearing how they can save a bit of money, while still doing what needs to be done to operate as best as possible.
So, here’s a nugget of gold for you – all those job listing sites / businesses advertising for help wanted etc… Find one which matches your skillset and get in touch with them. Let them know you noticed they’re looking for an employee for “xxx” tasks, and offer to do exactly that for them – but on a freelance basis so they don’t have to pay someone full time.
Instead, they’d have someone on call if need be, and save on the expenses of employing someone full time. This won’t work in all situations, but for many cases – it may be just the solution they’d been needing! Plus, instead of limiting yourself to working for one or two people – you get to be available to help as many people as you’d like and take on many more opportunities than you would in one full time gig!
If you’ve been unsure of things till now, my hope through sharing this is that it helps in some way to create a new found spark of inspiration in you to get that ball rolling – and start your very own online career today.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar
In the next part of this series, I’m going to be sharing advice on tools and services you can use online to help with your work as a virtual assistant or freelancer.
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