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What is a Virtual Assistant? (And What do They do?)

March 19, 2019

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When I first started calling myself a virtual assistant and began telling people my new “job title”, I often got the follow-up question of “What is a virtual assistant?”

At first, it was hard for me to explain exactly what it was that I did on a regular basis because it was kind of all over the place. 

But once I started getting more comfortable in my role, and once I categorized my tasks, I was able to answer that question more easily.

So, what is a virtual assistant? I’m glad you asked. 

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant, or VA for short, is usually someone is self-employed or an independent contractor. You may also hear the term “freelancer” being thrown around too. In all honesty, these three terms all mean pretty much the same thing: that you don’t earn W2 wages and instead you usually get 1099’s when you get ready to file your taxes at the end of the year.

(That’s a whole other story.)

But besides being self-employed, a VA can offer a variety of services to help a business or entrepreneur maintain or grow their business. The services that a VA provides are typically offered virtually (hence the virtual part), and they can work with clients across the globe. 

The term virtual assistant has been around for at least 20 years, but it has just started becoming more popular in the last five years or so. 

A virtual assistant is not an employee and is more than just a virtual secretary. While they can handle some of the same tasks that someone in the front of a physical office would, they usually offer other services too. Also, because virtual assistants are usually self-employed, they don’t work for anyone one client in particular. Instead, they usually work with multiple clients at a time.

Working as a VA with an Agency

You may notice that I said most VAs are self-employed, but that means that not all are. That’s because some people who work as VA decide to work through an agency.

The VA agency is hired and paid by the client/business owner/entrepreneur and if you work for the agency, you would get paid by the agency instead of by the client directly.

There are pros and cons to this that I’m not going to get into here. But there will be another article about this soon. 😉 

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do? 

In all honesty, a virtual assistant can do just about anything. There isn’t a one size fits all option for VAs, and many VAs offer multiple services for different clients. While some VAs may be fairly general, such as admin VAs, some have specialized skills in only one area. 

For example, there are virtual assistants that only focus on social media or marketing. Other VAs offer web design services. Some VAs are researched and data-based.

Whatever industry or need you can think of, a virtual assistant can help with it. There are even wedding planning VAs

How Much Can a Virtual Assistant Make? 

That depends. If working for a VA agency, many new VAs will earn around $10-$15 an hour on average. However, if you start your own VA business, you can charge anywhere from $15-$50 an hour. I’ve even seen highly-specialized virtual assistants charge upwards of $100 an hour.

One of the benefits of being a self-employed VA is that you can charge whatever you want, as long as clients are willing to pay it.

While there are clients who are only willing to pay $15 an hour, there are also clients who consider a VA invaluable and will pay much higher rates. You just have to know who those clients are and where to find them! 

VAs can also charge a monthly retainer, an hourly retainer, or on a project by project basis.

For example, a VA who designs websites may have a flat fee to create a website, and then a smaller monthly maintenance fee to keep the site up to date.

It’s important to find your niche, know your skillset, and know your market before deciding on how much to charge. 

Do You Need Certain Skills to Become a Virtual Assistant? 

You don’t need any specific skills to become a virtual assistant and you don’t need a college degree. The only skills I truly recommend you have before you get started are knowing the basics of how to work online, being organized, being a fast learner, and being a self-starter.

If you have those skills, you can learn the rest!

You don’t need to have extensive knowledge of social media, websites, blogs, or research, although those skills could come in handy and you may be able to charge more if you already have them. However, not knowing them doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out to be a VA.

These skills can be taught and learned through various courses, ebooks, and products. 

If you have the willingness to learn, don’t mind investing time (and sometimes money) to learn a new skill (while knowing it will allow you to attract new, higher paying clients in the future), and are easily able to work alone and get tasks completed on time, you can be a virtual assistant. 

How Do People and Companies Hire Virtual Assistants? 

Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and companies want to increase their revenue and growth. And they often want to do that without spending a lot more time doing it themselves since they are usually already spread thin.

That’s where a virtual assistant comes in. Virtual assistants can take ideas and tasks and complete them to help their clients. 

To hire a virtual assistant, some companies use job boards or sites like Zirtual to find a VA that can help them. Or, they may go out of their way and reach out to a VA directly through the VA’s website or social media accounts.

Or, if they’re smart, clients looking for a VA can contact me and be connected directly with graduates from my VA training course! 😉

If you’re a virtual assistant, having a website with a contact form and information about your services can go far to help you land potential clients.

PS – I go into much more detail about how to find clients in my course, $10K VA. Plus, if you’re a Pro member, you get access to client leads directly from my own personal network! Click here to learn more.

What Are The Pros to Being a Virtual Assistant?

There are quite a few pros when it comes to being a virtual assistant. Here are just a few: 

  • The ability to work from anywhere. 
  • The option to create your own schedule. 
  • You can work with multiple clients of your choosing.
  • You can charge as much as you want and clients are willing to pay.
  • Low cost to start a VA business and low overhead. 
  • The ability to grow and scale your business based on how much you want to work and earn.

While there are many more pros for those that go into business themselves, this list is a general idea of the quality of life a VA can have. 

What Are The Cons to Being a Virtual Assistant?

To me, the pros of being a virtual assistant far outweigh the cons. However, there are a few to mention: 

  • You don’t get any paid or sick leave
  • You’ll have to pay your own taxes, and you have to pay them quarterly to avoid penalties. 
  • You don’t get days off unless you purposely schedule them off. 
  • To make a consistent and stable income, you’ll most likely need multiple clients, which means staying productive and being able to juggle multiple projects at one time. 

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Virtual Assistant?

Becoming a virtual assistant is one of the best side hustles or businesses you can start, mainly because the start-up costs are low

For the most part, as long as you have a computer, a phone, an email account, and maybe a website, you can be in business for less than $100.

Oftentimes, you can start a virtual assistant business for $0. All you have to do is use what you have on hand. You can even start with a free website while you build up your business. 

How Anyone Can Get Started As A Virtual Assistant 

Thinking about becoming a VA? You’ve come to the right place. 

Not only did I create a course specifically to help people become a VA, I created it so anyone could see that it was possible to be a VA and earn a decent income online. 

$10K VA is the ultimate course to teach you how to make a consistent $10,000 per month as a virtual assistant. I walk through my entire process on how I started and scaled my virtual assistant business to what it is today. 

I also have a ton of free resources and blog posts that walk through becoming a virtual assistant. You can read them here: 

Can You Be Successful as a VA? 

If you put in the work to make your VA business a success, it will be a success. Being a virtual assistant is just like any other start-up. It takes hard work and dedication to see a return on investment and time. 

While anyone can be a VA, some people may get discouraged. This can happen if you don’t book a client right away or if you aren’t seeing growth as quickly as you think you should. Just like with any other business, it takes trial and error and time before you “hit it big”. 

If you decide to become a virtual assistant, the opportunities are endless. And, I know many incredible people who have become successful as a VA and I’ve even had the privilege to share some of their stories.

As you can see, VAs are a diverse group that offers many benefits to businesses and entrepreneurs. There really isn’t anything that a virtual assistant can’t do. If you’ve been thinking about earning money online, this is a great business to get into!

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