In the 1800s secretarial services were for men only. Women became secretaries – or assistants – when the typewriter was created. Thirty to 40 years ago, a secretary working from home was a strange concept and slightly frowned upon. These assistants were, however, the pioneers who made the way for the thriving virtual assistant profession today. Yes, being a VA (virtual assistant) is a worthwhile occupation.
In 1942 the National Secretaries Association was founded. About 54 years later, in 1996, technology caused the birth of virtual assistants. Life coach Thomas Leonard coined the phrase ”virtual assistant” during a telephonic conversation with his assistant, Anastacia Brice. A year later, in February 1997, she founded AssistU, the first virtual assistant company.
If you want to know how to become a virtual assistant today, read on.
What do Virtual Assistants do?
Although virtual assistants (VAs) were born out of secretarial services, their functions are no longer strictly secretarial. A virtual assistant today is a freelance contractor who offers administrative, creative, and technical services to remote clients.
What services can a virtual assistant offer a business?
These 11 tasks will give you an idea of the kind of tasks and assignments CEOs, business owners, and companies need virtual assistants for:
- Calendar management
- Email management
- Graphic designing – for websites, social media, ads, etc.
- Editing images, audio, and videos
- Writing – website content, eCommerce listing content, ebook ghostwriting, etc.
- Social media management
- Transcribing audio and video content
- Marketing and Promotion
- Data entry
- Tutoring – helping you learn a new skill, how to manage your new website, etc.
There are at least 100 tasks a virtual assistant can do. Here is a more comprehensive list to give you an idea of the kind of services you can offer.
Are you wondering how to become a virtual assistant with your specific expertise?
Finding Your Expertise As a Virtual Assistant
Like any other solopreneur business, starting out as a virtual assistant requires various business skills to run the business. Although these tasks can be outsourced, it’s easier to outsource if you’re familiar with what each task entails. Some of the business skills needed are strategy planning, accounting, customer services (oral and written), sales and marketing, and doing the actual work.
Despite all these necessary business skills, the expertise offered to clients may be packaged in only one specialized skill. In the beginning, you need to choose: “Do you want to offer general services, or do you want to specialize?”
How do you determine your expertise as a virtual assistant? Start by creating a list of what you can offer the client. These questions should help you find your virtual assistant expertise.
- What are you good at?
- What are your skills?
- What are your interests?
- What kind of work experience do you have?
- What kind of tasks and assignments do you enjoy and which ones make you cringe?
- What services do you offer that could help you reach your income goal?
Do You Need A Niche?
A niche is specializing in a specific industry or market. For example, offering accounting services is a general service. Offering accounting services for direct response copywriters, however, narrows it down. If you were a copywriter looking for accounting services, who would you choose? An experienced VA who offers accounting services or the newbie VA who specializes in accounting services for copywriters?
If you don’t know what your niche as a virtual assistant is, and the above questions didn’t help either, don’t let it stop you from becoming a virtual assistant. After completing the first few assignments, you’ll start seeing a pattern in:
- The type of clients your virtual assistant business attracts.
- The tasks and assignments you enjoy most.
- The tasks you feel comfortable accepting.
- The assignments or projects that interest you most.
Having a niche helps you target a specific client, build your brand, and define your online presence.
Creating Your Online Presence
The 3 most important elements for an online presence is a website, social media, and awareness.
Create Your VA Business Website
If you’re serious about being successful as a virtual assistant, you need a website. WordPress.org is a self-hosted platform that is easy to use. There are many free and premium templates to choose from.
It’s easiest to use your name for the website, business, and domain, especially if you’re not sure about your niche. Using keywords correctly within the pages and content will help draw potential clients in your niche to your website.
Initially, the website needs a few basic pages:
- Homepage where you tell clients who you are and what you do.
- About page where clients can learn more about you. Use this page to tell your story.
- Contact page with all the ways clients can contact you. It’s good practice to have your contact details in the heading of your Homepage too, where potential clients can see it immediately.
- Services page to describe your services in detail.
- Portfolio page where you display samples of your work.
- Testimonials can be scattered throughout the website or published on a separate page.
Social Media Platforms
The 2 main platforms for an online presence as a virtual assistant are Facebook and LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the business social media network where most businesses are. Join groups where your potential clients will be and start networking. To help potential clients find you on LinkedIn, create a complete professional profile.
The second main social media platform is where your clients are. If you’re not sure, start with a Facebook page. Don’t use your personal Facebook page where family and friends network. You don’t want to mix business and family ‘gossip’.
It isn’t necessary to be visible on all social media platforms. Rather, be active on one or two. This is better than having dormant accounts on many social media platforms because you’re too busy to maintain a presence on all of them.
Use your social media business profile to network and build relationships.
Your online presence is how you create awareness by promoting your business. If you’re not going to tell people about your business, then how are they supposed to know?
In other words, tell everybody. It’s the same principle as when you buy a new car or have a great meal or visit an awesome place. You’ll post about it on social media, you’ll mention it in conversations, and you’ll even phone friends to tell them. You are creating awareness.
Promote your business with the same passion and eagerness.
Content marketing is another way to create awareness. Create quality content with blog posts, articles, videos, images, and social media posts. Write about topics that interest your clients. When you blog, for example, share the post on the various social media platforms.
Getting Involved In Marketplaces
One of the greatest tools for virtual assistants and other freelancers are the platforms available.
Spend time researching platforms like FreeeUp and Upwork. They aren’t all the same. FreeeUp, for example, provides a personal touch where they introduce freelancers to clients and provide support all throughout. Upwork has a broader spectrum of project requests, but you’re competing with 10-15 other freelancers for the same tasks just to get an interview. FreeeUp clients aren’t inundated with proposals; only 1-2 freelancers at a time are introduced to a client.
Then there are online boards where clients post their needs.
Don’t underestimate referrals from friends, family, and social media networking. If you’ve created awareness, people will refer you.
Join forums and associations where your clients are. Contribute with valuable comments that portray your expertise.
Become a member of a professional association for virtual assistants and build relationships. Your peers can also refer clients who require your expertise.
Landing Your First Clients
When using marketplace platforms like FreeeUp, landing your first clients isn’t difficult at all. Yes, CLIENTS in the plural.
The hardest part of finding clients is the marketing strategy. It is what marketplace platforms do for a virtual assistant. If you enjoy marketing, then you probably have your strategy in place and are implementing it already.
If you ‘hate’ marketing, then marketing platforms are the solution.
How do you land the clients that the FreeeUp Marketplace introduces to you? Use this FreeeUp formula as well to land clients from other sites.
Introduction Letter or Proposal
Before your first introduction, create an introduction letter. The introduction letter has two parts. The first is creating a general paragraph with the essential information that tells the potential client
- who you are,
- what you do, and
- how to contact you.
The second part is using the general introduction to create the proposal that will help land the client. This paragraph focuses on the client. Address what the client’s needs are and how your virtual assistant services will solve that need.
To write this letter you need to know more about the client. Do the research. Read the task description carefully. What kind of products or services does the client sell? Go to the client’s website or online store.
Include in the letter portfolio samples where applicable. Be specific and focus on attaching samples that are relevant to the client’s needs. Tell the client about your experience in that specific task or similar ones to what the client requires.
Set Up a 15 Minute Interview
Sometimes the client requires a short interview before hiring you. It may be that you need additional information about the task before you proceed. Set up a 15-minute interview with the client. Keep the interview within the time limit. Details and further instructions should be discussed after you’re hired.
Make it easy for the client to find your contact details and schedule a 15-minute interview appointment with you. Calendly is a great tool to schedule appointments. Add the Calendly link within the proposal.
DON’T BE LATE. If the inevitable happens, contact the client and tell them there is a delay. NEVER EVER have clients wait without notice. You not only lose this client but your reputation too. The potential client isn’t isolated. Soon the marketplace will know you aren’t reliable because you don’t even show up for meetings.
Questions and Answers
Answer all the client’s questions truthfully and completely. Simple yes and no answers won’t land you the client. Telling long stories won’t, either. Be concise, accurate and complete. If the client requires samples, provide relevant ones.
Create your list of questions to ask the client. Ask questions that will clarify:
- What the client expects from you.
- What their deadline is, and make sure you can complete the project within the required time frame.
- What the expected working hours are and your availability – it is important to mention different time zones as an international remote freelancer.
Come prepared. Anticipate what the client would like to know and prepare answers in advance. It will help to cover nervousness and prevent you from being caught unawares.
Positive and Friendly Attitude
The attitude you portray can land you the client or push the client away. Be professional but friendly.
Remember, the introductory letter was the client’s first impression. The client is already in a positive frame of mind at this point regarding hiring you. The interview is about determining the final points. Have a positive attitude. If you come in with a defeatist mindset, you will not land the client.
Show confidence so that the client knows you’re capable of performing the task or completing the project.
Clients want friendly virtual assistants. As part of their business, they don’t want conflict or difficult personalities to cope with. They aren’t interested in your personal issues. They want to know if they are leaving the tasks in capable hands.
Great Communication Makes Clients Happy
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Communication begins with the initial contact and continues until the task, assignment, or project is completed. In fact, communication even extends to follow-up for new tasks and referrals.
During the interview, ask clients how they want to communicate and how often. Regular feedback avoids misunderstandings and helps to identify potential issues in the pipeline.
With the various communication methods available—email, Skype, telephone, Viber, WhatsApp, to mention a few—it is important to know what the client’s preference is.
Some clients prefer daily feedback, and others are happy with weekly updates or a report when the task or assignment is completed. Establish a communication schedule that works for both you and the client.
Never withhold vital information from the client that will influence the outcome of the project, assignment or task. Let the client know in advance about any issues or potential problems. Then the client can solve the problem in good time. For example, the project is halfway when you realize the work is too much to complete within the deadline. By informing the client, adjustments can be made to address the issue. If you wait to let them know a few hours before the deadline, you leave the client powerless to rectify the situation. It may cost the client time and money, and it will cost you more – the client’s trust.
Getting More Clients and Keeping Them
If you provide quality work according to clients’ instructions within the deadline, you will keep clients – and gain more. Clients want to know they can trust a virtual assistant with tasks and assignments. If you prove this, they will not look further.
A satisfied client will want to give you more work – and will even ask you if you can do things outside your advertised skill set – and will refer you to other clients as well. Clients and projects, however, don’t last forever. Therefore, keep marketing yourself to get more new clients.
8 Activities that will help in getting more clients:
- Be active on the social media networks where potential clients are.
- Start a blog that will interests clients. Publish blog posts regularly.
- Ask for testimonials from clients and publish them on the website for potential clients to see.
- Promptly address issues and answer questions that clients may have on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
- Always give your best in quality service and maintain a great attitude. If clients like the work and you are easy to get along with, they will refer you as a virtual assistant.
- Keep your eye on work requests available through marketplace platforms and boards.
- Keep your website up to date. Add valuable content regularly.
- Follow-up with past clients if they need your services again.
To help you launch a virtual assistant career, here is a checklist with the main points discussed in the guide. Complete the checklist and add any points that you deem necessary.
- Are you going to specialize in a specific niche or offer general services?
- Find your niche by answering the 6 “What” questions in the guide above.
- What is the due date for your VA website to be up and running?
- Choose a WordPress theme and write the necessary website pages (or outsource this to a copywriter and website designer)
- Are you going to blog and how often?
- What social media platforms will you use for your brand?
- Create an account and profile with your social media platform of choice.
- Do you have a marketing strategy that includes producing quality content?
- How are you going to promote yourself?
- Which marketplace platforms are you going to use to get clients?
- Create a list of standard questions to ask the client during an interview.
- Create a list of answers to questions you anticipate the client will ask.
- How will you communicate with the client and how often?
- What is your marketing strategy for getting new clients?
Are you ready to start a virtual assistant business? If you want to know more about how to become a virtual assistant, these frequently asked questions should help you.
Retha Groenewald is a web copywriter and published author. Her versatile background gives her the freedom to write for the B2B and B2C market. Her writing is featured at Christian Web Copywriter and at Writing That Breathes Life.