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Virtual assistance is currently one of the most in-demand freelance jobs. Virtual assistants come in handy for big businesses and even startups.
Many small businesses require the services of virtual assistants, so that they can focus on other core tasks: tasks such as developing and implementing strategies that will help grow their businesses.
Who Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant, also known as a VA, is a freelancer (self-employed worker) who assists businesses to run, all the while working from a point of their choice.
They can work from their home office or at a café; basically anywhere thus the name “virtual.”
They’re administrative workers and not mere secretaries as most people perceive them.
A VA will execute different tasks, such as run a social media page, design a blog, reply to and send emails, receive phone calls, transcribe and so on.
They’re not limited to the tasks associated with traditional office assistants.
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What Skills Does a Virtual Assistant Need?
As the description above suggests, virtual assistants are multi-taskers who can execute almost any form of office or business-related tasks.
However, there are basic skills which they must possess such as computer literacy and an average typing speed (at least 30 WPM.)
Great language skills in major languages such as English are vital, as are excellent communication abilities, a sharp eye for details, and respect for deadlines.
It’s also important to be a quick learner.
Is there a market for VAs? Who uses VAs?
Just think of all the business entities coming online that need help with office work such as filing tax returns, keeping records, accounting and even hiring staff.
Bloggers needing articles written for them, as well as help with WordPress issues are but a few of the opportunities available for VAs.
What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?
In Social Media
A VA can be paid to execute tasks such as to create social media pages, manage them and keep them active so as to engage the public.
A virtual assistant’s role on social media might include:
- Creating social media accounts such as Facebook or Twitter.
- Managing a social media account (such as tweeting and posting Facebook updates.)
- Following and/or un-following people on pages like Twitter and Facebook.
- Filling out biographical information on client accounts.
- Adding backgrounds and/or images to existing social media accounts, and so on.
Blogging involves a lot of work. A blog is created to spread information, create networks, do marketing, or keep customers of major online brands engaged.
As such, a virtual assistant comes in handy to execute these roles.
The work of a VA on a blog may include:
- Writing, editing, formatting and publishing posts, including adding images.
- Adding, deleting or updating blog plugins as necessary.
- Installing themes.
- Transcribing podcasts or videos.
- Filtering and replying to comments posted by the public.
- Inserting or removing links in posts.
- Searching online for content to add to the blogs.
In Web Development
This is one of the juiciest markets for VA jobs.
Most website owners (both individuals and business entities) do not know how to set up their websites/blogs, and even if they know, they simply don’t have the time to do so.
This is another area where virtual assistants are able to add much value to their client’s lives.
Here are some of the tasks that VAs do under web development:
- Managing website databases.
- Developing custom applications.
- Optimizing websites.
- Integrating third-party add-ins into websites.
- Creating and managing payment gateways/
In Search Engine Optimization
In addition to web development, site owners are always hunting for SEO experts.
SEO determines the efficiency of a website with regards to appearing on top of search engines like Google, as well as attracting traffic. Generally, more traffic is equal to more sales.
Generally, more traffic is equal to more sales.
In the light of this, an SEO virtual assistant will:
- Search for keywords and integrating them into blog content to improve rankings.
- Manage a blog network to attract as well as retain traffic (audience).
- Search for expired domain names and listing them for sale or buying them.
- Sign up site owners in forums.
- Comment on different blogs to drive traffic to the site.
Read: Tips from a client on what he wants to hear from a VA when he’s interviewing one.
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Efficient and clear communication is very important, especially for businesses.
As such, individual merchants, as well as major business entities, require assistance with communicating with potential clients. This is where VAs come in handy.
A virtual assistant may:
- Make calls to the venues specified by the client.
- Receive calls on behalf of the client.
- Send emails from a client’s account, or send them from their own accounts.
- Reading and responding to (messages) on social media accounts.
- Set up email auto-responders using tools like Aweber and Mailchimp.
- Engaging the public on blogs and/or forums on behalf of the client.
Other things that a VA will do include:
- Reserve a hotel or schedule a flight for their clients.
- Manage a client’s online calendar, and
- Find directions to destinations all over the world and present them to their clients.
What Does It Take To Be a Successful Virtual Assistant?
Rather than becoming a virtual assistant who handles everything, pick a niche.
If you are a fan of social media, then being a social media VA is what will bring you the most satisfaction.
Be willing to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while.
You may be asked to do tasks that you are not familiar with, and rather than quickly decline, take it as an opportunity to learn something new.
There are so many handy resources available that can make that feasible, such as Udemy courses and YouTube as well.
Good Forums for Virtual Assistants
Owing to the growing demand for VA jobs, there are many forums related to this profession that are sprouting daily.
On these sites, VAs meet, socialize, network and share tips.
Since clients know some of these forums, they also join said forums and hire VAs there.
Joining these forums will not only sharpens your skills but also expose you to any industry trends/changes taking place.
Virtual Assistant’s Most Important Tools
Once you acquire the right mindset to work as a VA, you will need some tools which will simplify your work, or help you become more productive.
The following is a collection of the basic tools that an equipped virtual assistant might require.
File Sharing Software
Some VA work involves the transfer and/or sharing of large quantities or sizes of files.
At times, sending these files over email is impossible. Therefore, you need some software that will enable you to share and send such files easily.
One of these tools is DropBox. They give up to 2GB of free space to every user.
You can use it to store as well as share large files. If you require extra usage, you can choose any of their premium versions.
Box.com is an alternative to DropBox. It works exactly like DropBox but offers about 10GB of free space to every user.
Online Backup Software
Backing up your work is crucial in this IT age.
Failure to do so may expose your data to damage or hacking. Therefore, to be safe, you should have some form of online (cloud) backup for your work.
SugarSync is one of the cloud storage facilities available. They give free backup for data that is equal to or less than 5GB. You can get 30GB of monthly backup for as little as $5.
The reason you need online calendars is that they come in handy when you need to schedule tasks and be automatically reminded.
It is easy for one to ignore the physical calendar but not an automated version with alerts.
Google Calendar is one of the best virtual calendars for freelancers. It allows one to schedule events and even
It allows one to schedule events and even notifies you some time before the set dates.
It also syncs with local data and informs you of upcoming holidays (international and local).
There is a better alternative to the Google Calendar: Calendar Spots. This online calendar works exactly like Google’s, but has a contact management feature.
As such, you can set appointments with clients and it will automatically remind both of you of upcoming events.
Contact managers are critical in that they help with storing documents, managing projects as well as keeping track of contacts, accounts, and reports.
They help with organizing contacts in their respective functions within a business. Some examples are:
ZoHo: This software is free for up to 3 users. It is very simple to use but accommodates all the requirements of a data manager.
Thanks to IT, expensive phone calls are being wiped out by free voice and video forms of communication.
Today, it is possible for a client to conduct an interview with a VA via video or voice instantly. As such, you might need such tools.
As such, a virtual assistant will need:
Skype – the most popular video and voice calling application. It can replace expensive calls while allowing two or more parties to engage for as long as they wish.
Google Hangouts: Hangouts is similar to Skype. It is available for Gmail and G+ users. It can be used for text, video and voice calls.
Other important tools for a VA include:
- Buffer, Planoly and Hootsuite, for scheduling posts to social media accounts.
- Lastpass for saving passwords for multiple accounts.
- Zoom and Jing for taking screenshots.
- Toggle for timetracking.
- Unsplash. fotolia and pixabay for free photos.
- Bitly for shortening URLs, among others.
Challenges That Virtual Assistants Face
Every online job has its challenges, and virtual assistant jobs are no different.
Some of these are:
- You have to adjust your time to meet the clients’ demands. You might be a virtual assistant for multiple clients, some as far as New Zealand, Singapore, etc.
- It might be quite challenging finding clients at first.
- It may take a bit of time to get accustomed to some of the tools that virtual assistants use.
- Finally, since you have the freedom to work as much as you want, it is easy to overwork yourself and get burned out.
Where to Get Virtual Assistant Training
If you believe that you would like to jump on the virtual assistant bandwagon, it is recommended that you get some training.
Visit the following sites and sign up for training:
- 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistance Success course
- VA Networking
- VA Classroom
- VA Blog Training
- Virtual Success Avenue provides links to about 30 other sites which provide VA training as well.
Where To Get Legitimate Virtual Assistant Jobs
You can get legit virtual assistant jobs on freelancing sites like Upwork, Guru and PeoplePerHour. Join Facebook groups that have to do with SEO and startsups to expose yourself to more hiring opportunities.
The following companies hire US-based virtual assistants only.
1. Time – The site seeks to hire Va’s who have a background as personal or executive assistants, secretaries or admin assistants. You need to have a computer and MS office.
2. Fancy Hands – The site states that if you have a fast internet connection, are good on phone and are great at internet research, then you are the ideal candidate they are looking for. They are currently looking to connect good assistants with their clients. Apply here.
3. Zirtual – Zirtual works mostly as an agency, assigning virtual assistants to clients.
4. 99Dollar Social – They hire US-based residents to help clients with their social media tasks, such as content research and creation. A good understanding of how the different social media platforms out there operate is a huge plus. Apply here.
This was a comprehensive overview of what virtual assistant jobs entail. There might be more information out there in case you need more insight into this profession.
However, all the key points you need to set the ball rolling are included here.
So go on. Start your virtual assistance career today.
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