What Is a Virtual Assistant? Everything You Need to Know

Virtual Assistant

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
Looking for an online job and considering the role of a virtual assistant? But what exactly does a virtual assistant do, who do they work for, and what skills do you need to become a virtual assistant yourself?
Fortunately for you, virtual administration is "one of the fastest-growing remote career fields," as job listings have growing over 20 percent in 2017 according to FlexJobs.
Let's dive into what a virtual assistant job entails.

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?

A virtual assistant is a lot like an executive assistant, except that this person is a remote worker who provides assistance to clients across a number of fields from outside of the office or workspace. Essentially, a virtual assistant is a company or person's go-to remote person who offers specific services in exchange for an agreed upon fee.
"A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who provides administrative services to clients while operating outside of the client's office," according to Investopedia. "A virtual assistant typically operates from a home office, but is able to access the necessary planning documents, such as shared calendars, remotely. People employed as virtual assistants typically have several years of secretarial or office management experience."
While virtual assistants can be grouped under one title, the fact of the matter is that there is no exact laundry list of responsibilities that a virtual assistant takes on. Rather, a virtual assistant's tasks vary depending upon their niche, skills, experience and clientele.
That said, here are some general tasks for which a virtual assistant might be responsible for handling:
  • Editorial content creation
  • Video editing
  • Photography editing
  • Email management
  • Website design
  • Mobile design
  • Project management
  • Billing and accounting activities
  • File and document organization
  • Graphic design and layout
  • Website maintainence
  • Managing product launches
  • Customer support
  • Vetting potential clients, projects and partnerships
  • Transcribing
  • Bookkeeping
  • Manage contact lists and customer spreadsheets
  • Creating sales pages
  • Performing outreach
  • Calendar management
  • Ghostwriting
  • Proofreading and copyediting
  • Content research
  • SEO keyword research
  • Processing online orders and refunds
  • Lead generation
  • Social media management
  • Send out requested information to customers
  • Data entry
  • Community management and moderation
  • Prepare, collate and ship proposals and meeting materials
  • Marketing
  • Public relations
  • HTML and/or CSS
  • Travel planning
Again, any single virtual assistants won't take on all of the aforementioned tasks because they usually work in one niche (barring administrative tasks that many, if not all, virtual assistants add to their plates).
You might even find that, the more you work with clients, the more services you discover you can provide for them.
"The first virtual assistant client that I contracted with was a successful entrepreneur," says Gina Horkey of Horkey Handbook, a virtual assistant blogger. "Through back and forth emails, I sensed he was having a little trouble keeping up with his inbox. We had a friendly banter going and I sensed that I could help him, he’d be fun to work with and that I might benefit in more ways than just earning a paycheck (by learning the inner workings of his business). Basically, I stepped out and boldly told him he should hire me?. Can you say nerve-wracking? He said yes and we ended up working together for a little over two years. My inklings were right on the money – I enjoyed working with him, I learned a ton and the regular paycheck was nice! Although we’re not working together currently, even to this day, we’re still in contact."
Whatever the case, the above responsibilities are common for virtual assistants. 

Who Do Virtual Assistants Work For?

Virtual assistants work for people or companies across any industry, but especially within the administrative, technical and creative fields.

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Virtual Assistant?

"Obviously, if you’re planning to work online, a general understanding of all-things-internet is a good place to start," according to Horkey Handbook. "Having some specific skills and experience will make getting started easier and it’ll definitely help with landing the first few clients. Your experience could include any variety of business activities — both online and offline. At the same time, it’s important to note that a lack of skills should never be a deterrent. A high degree of motivation, good communication skills and a desire to learn are equally, if not more important."
Here are some of the skills you'll need to be a virtual assistant:
  • People skills
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • The determination to see clients succeed
  • Teamworking and collaborative skills
  • Administrative skills
  • A basic understanding of business operation (budgets, contracts, plans, etc.)
  • Organizational skills
  • Respect for clients' intellectual property
  • Willingness to work odd, long or late hours
  • Time-management skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Customer service skills
  • Financial management and budgeting skills

What Is a Virtual Assistant Salary?

If you're wondering, how much should I charge as a virtual assistant, you should start by looking at the services you're offering and your experience. Take a look at what other virtual assistants in your niche are charging — or what companies are willing to pay other full-time employees who do similar work as you.

A virtual assistant's salary varies, and that's because virtual assistants often make their own hours and work across a variety of industries and for a gamut of different types of clients.
"Depending on the industry, payment may be set up differently; one real estate agent, for instance, pays his virtual office assistant a commission based on the number of closings each month rather than a salary," according to How Stuff Works. "His assistant, who lives several states away, handles advertising, design and Web site management for him while he focuses on selling and listing houses."
That said, a virtual assistant, on average, earns about $15.63, according to Payscale. But, by specializing in certain services, you can likely up your fees to upwards of $100 an hour. These kinds of more expensive services may include
  • The translation and preparation of bilingual materials
  • The transcribing of medical or legal texts
  • The development and maintenance of websites

Where to Find Jobs as a Virtual Assistant

You can find jobs as a virtual assistant online across a number of job boards, such as Fairygodboss' very own job page, on LinkedIn or on flexible job websites like Flexjobs.
But you can also create your own career as a virtual assistant by starting up your own virtual assistant business at home. If you're interested in learning more about how to become a self-made virtual assistant, here's more on how to do just that.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.