If you are considering working from home, but don’t have a specific business idea in mind, being a virtual assistant is a great option. A virtual assistant handles many of the same duties that an in-person administrative assistant or receptionist does. Average pay for virtual assistants can range from $10-$40 per hour with the rate increasing depending on demand and experience. Virtual assistants may also choose to charge clients by hourly packages or work on a retainer.
I started off my remote working career as a virtual assistant. I didn’t have administrative assistant experience, but my previous position as an Information Specialist required me to be meticulous and organized. These traits came in handy when I applied for a virtual assistant position with Zirtual. After a short interview process, I was offered the job. It paid $12 per hour with optional healthcare and 401K. Other benefits were added a few months after I started.
I went through a two-week training process which detailed all of Zirtual’s policies and procedures. The training process was very organized and helped clarify what would be expected of me as a virtual assistant. The company had created an organizational system through Google Apps that included documents and templates for most requests and a list of things that a ‘Zirtual Assistant’ could and couldn’t do. Anything “specialized” such as writing, photography, accounting, etc. was considered out of scope. Everyone who worked for Zirtual was college educated and many had advanced degrees.
Although I enjoyed working for Zirtual, I felt constrained by the set work hours and inability to do creative tasks. I’d been slowly picking up marketing clients throughout and I had enough business to strike out on my own. I left in February 2015 to pursue my marketing business. In August 2015, Zirtual imploded and 450 employees were instantly out of jobs with no warning. Many of these employees went on to create their own successful virtual assistant companies.
I currently maintain one virtual assistant client. My work with this client is a mix of administrative assistant, project manager, writer/editor, and social media management job duties.
What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?
Some of the regular duties I perform as a virtual assistant include making and returning phone calls, digitally filing emails and documents, invoicing and creating expense reports, and inbox maintenance. Other responsibilities include booking flights, hotels, and restaurants, making appointments and scheduling meetings.
Many other virtual assistants offer some level of social media management, data entry, transcription or other tasks suited to their skill set.
If you work for yourself as a virtual assistant, you can set your own hours and decide which job duties you’d like to do and which ones you don’t.
Where to Find Virtual Assistant Jobs
Start your own business
Most virtual assistant companies will have you work as a 1099 independent contractor. This means you’re a freelancer. You will not be provided healthcare or benefits. Some companies may offer to have you work as a remote employee which would give you whatever benefits that company offers to traditional employees.
If you’re going to work as an independent contractor, you may want to consider starting your own business to cut out the middleman and maximize your full earning potential. You can look into filing as an LLC, C Corp, or S Corp – each choice offers different tax benefits. My business, The Sturm Agency, is an S Corp.
How to get started
- Build a website
You can hire someone to do this for you or you can use a premade template option like Squarespace. My professional website was created on Squarespace and I highly recommend the platform; my site was easy to make and looks beautiful. Squarespace offers easy to install e-commerce plugins that allow you to sell through your website. If you’d prefer to invoice and manage your business through another program, I’d suggest Paypal. I use Paypal because it’s secure, widely used, and offers free invoicing. I track time with Toggl which allows me to print PDF reports.
- Create social media pages
At the very least, create a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page for your business. Consider each social channel a different customer acquisition point. The same people on Facebook may not be on Twitter and vice versa. Your social media profiles should be updated with some frequency, but you can decide how often that should be. One to three times per week for a business page is good. You don’t want people to think you’re out of business, but you don’t need to fill people’s profiles with constant self-promotion either.
- Join some Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups
Search for freelancers or virtual assistants groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, join the groups and introduce yourself. One of the most active Facebook groups I belong to is the Freelance to Freedom Project Community. People regularly post business opportunities in groups that may not be listed anywhere else. You can also network with your fellow virtual assistants to share tips and tricks. If you have questions or encounter a situation you don’t know how to handle, you can ask for advice from other professionals who have been there.
- Work with an established company
There are a number of established virtual assistant companies that you can work with (FancyHands, Zirtual). Most, if not all, will employ you as an independent contractor. If you’re concerned about how quickly you can get work, it may be a good idea to start with an established company because they will supply your clients. Keep in mind some companies will have you sign an agreement that you won’t create a competing business or poach clients.
Being a virtual assistant can be a very rewarding job. You will interact with people in many different roles in a variety of businesses. You will become knowledgeable in a multitude of fields, making you a Jack or Jill of all trades. You will be able to keep a flexible schedule and work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. You will be able to develop meaningful relationships with people that you may never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Whether you start your own business or work with an established company, being a virtual assistant is a fulfilling remote career option.