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It seems like everything is online these days. We grocery shop online. We can order things from vitamins to furniture online. We stay connected to family and friends online. We book vacations online. These days, many of us even work and our kids go to school online. Although many of us are working remotely, there are jobs that are completely virtual, like being a virtual assistant. So what exactly is a virtual assistant and how do you become one?
What is a Virtual Assistant?
Simply speaking, a virtual assistant remotely provides support to a business. Virtual assistants often complete routine administrative tasks like scheduling meetings and making phone calls, answering emails, and filling out spreadsheets and the like. They often do much more as well. It is not uncommon for a virtual assistant to also have special skills in marketing, web design, or budgets.
Virtual assistants are nothing new. They have been used for the past few decades, especially by businesses that do not need or want office space. A virtual assistant, and other virtual employees, allows online or small businesses especially to save money on permanent office space. While some businesses may employ a virtual assistant full-time, other companies will contract with virtual assistants who work part-time, sometimes working for multiple businesses simultaneously. It is also possible to be hired by a company as an assistant on a short-term basis to help with a particularly heavy workload or complete tasks related to a specific project.
The list of tasks that a virtual assistant might complete could go on and on. That is because like an executive assistant or an administrative assistant who works in an office, the jobs an assistant does are very dependent on the company where they work. A business that is primarily online might be looking for an assistant to work on their website, create online content, manage email inquiries, process online orders, and/or manage social media. Another business may be looking for a virtual assistant to help with customer support, while another may be looking for someone to perform data entry and/or content research.
Becoming a Virtual Assistant
As working from home has become more of a norm than an exception, there is more of a demand for virtual assistants. To be successful as a virtual assistant, it is best to have administrative experience – time as a receptionist, administrative assistant, or office manager is a must. If you have skills in other areas like social media, content management, writing, graphic design, or internet marketing, those are often seen as a plus because many businesses are looking for expertise in these types of areas.
You may find some places online and or a community college that offers courses and certification for virtual assistant skills, but that is not necessary to become a virtual assistant. If that is something you are interested to improve your credibility as an assistant or to bolster your resume, it is certainly something you can pursue. Another way to strengthen your resume is to take some courses or earn a certificate in project management or Six Sigma. These types of classes would show that you have the ability to manage projects or improve and streamline processes, making you effective at getting things done.
The more diverse your skill set, the more attractive you are to prospective companies. That is because you can cover a variety of administrative tasks rather than only a handful. However, if you are interested in building a particular skill set and being hired for short-term projects, there is a need for that type of service.
It is up to you to define the sort of virtual assistant you want to be. Before you start your search for a virtual assistant job, it is important to decide what services you are looking to offer – do you want a long-term, more permanent position or are you looking to be more of a contracted employee who is hired for short term projects. Once you have done that, it is time to start job hunting.
A Few Things to Consider
A career as a virtual assistant is not for everyone. Obviously, since the job is based online, knowledge of the internet and how to use different types of software and websites is a plus. It is also the type of job that is best for someone who is very self-motivated since you are often working on your own, essentially at your own pace.
If you are planning on starting your own business and work for multiple clients, which is common with virtual assistants, check with your city or county regarding whether you need a business license and the process for obtaining one. If you are looking for a permanent job where you are employed by one company as either a part-time or full-time employee of that company, a business license is not necessary.
Besides a business license (if necessary), the only other things you need are a computer, good internet access, and any software or hardware you may need to manage your business (again, that is mainly if you are planning to operate as your own business).
If you are looking to become a virtual assistant, be prepared to network. Reach out to people who know. Start a LinkedIn page and/or build a website that makes it easy for people to find and hire you. If you are looking for a more permanent job, it is also a good idea to network. Ask around. You might be surprised who knows someone looking to hire a remote employee. At the same time, search online job boards for telecommuting and virtual assistant jobs.
Being a virtual assistant is a great way to have a flexible schedule. Although some tasks will have deadlines or need to be done at certain times, many things can be accomplished when you work best. If you are an early riser, get yourself a cup of coffee and bang out your work before 10:00 am. If you are more of a night owl, build that webpage or populate that spreadsheet while you watch your late night talk shows in your pajamas. Now doesn’t that sounds like a dream job?
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on 10 Time Management Tips for Work-at-Home Moms.
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