Your Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant

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 assistant 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 skillset.

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

Consider starting 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 an 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 middle man 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 easily to install ecommerce 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 17Hats. I use it for time-tracking, invoicing, and project management.

  • Create social media pages

At the very least, create a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page for your business. Consider each social channel a difference 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, EAHelp). 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 you own business or work with an established company, being a virtual assistant is a fulfilling remote career option.

 

The Five Best Places I’ve Found Freelancing Jobs

Finding freelancing jobs can be tough. You have to watch out for spammy Craigslist postings and sites that want you to pay to see available work. You may think you need to spend money before you can make money. You don’t need to do that! There are many reputable sites where you can find freelancing jobs at no cost to you.

Throughout my freelancing career, I’ve had great luck finding jobs from these five resources:

1) Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance)

Upwork touts themselves as “the premier platform for top companies to hire and work with the world’s most talented independent professionals.” They have over 10M registered coders, writers, marketers, designers, developers and other freelancers using their platform. The best thing about Upwork is that it’s extremely easy to use; fill out your profile and you can start pitching for jobs immediately. The downside is that there is a lot of competition. Most jobs have 20+ applicants and some will underbid to get the job. Pitching for a job requires Connects, usually 1-5 per job. With a free account, you will get 60 connects per month, but if that’s not enough, you can upgrade to 70 for $10 per month.

Upwork is where I connected with my first paying freelancing job. It was a blog writing gig that eventually included social media management duties for a Twitter account. I made about $200 from this platform. I occasionally check for jobs, but as I’ve gained experience and raised my rates, I’ve found that the average price per job is too low. However, this is a great place for a new freelancer to start building their portfolio. Keep in mind, you may need to sacrifice pay for experience at first.

Cost: Free to use, but Upwork takes a 10% fee

2) CloudPeeps

CloudPeeps is made up of “world’s top marketing, content, social media and community pros.” CloudPeeps is more exclusive with only ~1000 freelancers working in the platform. This means the jobs are easier to secure, but the competition is stiff. There are many well-known internet marketers, community managers, and PR pros working on the platform. CloudPeeps is more than a job posting site, it’s also a community of creative professionals who assist and support each other.

CloudPeeps was my launchpad into freelancing. I joined the community in October 2014 and soon had three clients under my belt. In 2015, I was named one of the top 10 most successful Peeps of the year. I have made around $20,000 from jobs on the platform in the past 18 months.

Cost: Free to use, but CloudPeeps takes a 15% fee for a CP-hosted job, and a 5% fee to manage your own clients using the platform

3) Indeed

Indeed is the Google for job postings. I’ve set up two searches that are automatically sent to my email each day. One search is for “remote, freelance, writing, blogging, marketing, and social media” and the other is for any job in my local area.

I have a local search in place because it gives me an idea of companies that are growing and looking to hire in my area. These companies may need the marketing services that I offer. If I come across these postings, I occasionally send out a cold email introducing myself as a local marketing professional and detailing my services.

I’ve secured one local client from Indeed searches and applied for several remote part-time positions. I’ve made around $5,000 from jobs found on Indeed.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

4) LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most popular business networking site and the best place to have your online resume. Keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date can be a great way to get jobs. I’ve been approached several times by local businesses asking if I’d like to collaborate. I credit that to the fact that my profile is complete and up-to-date. Make sure you note that you’re a freelancer and what your skills are. As you build your portfolio, be sure to add links to your best work in the experience section.

I’ve made about $400 on jobs that originated from connections on LinkedIn.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

5) Social Media (Twitter and Facebook)

Having a regularly updated social media presence is so important for any business. People will search social media, especially if you are touting yourself as a marketer, to see if you ‘walk the talk’. My personal social sharing formula is 75% other people’s content, 25% my own. You don’t want your social feeds to be too self-promotional; that can be off-putting. Share things that resonate with you – did you love the message of someone’s article, do think other people should read it? Position yourself as a lifelong learner by commenting on current issues and news stories in your area of expertise. Remember to tag writers and publications when you share their content. It can be helpful to use hashtags to draw attention to your post, but more than two per post is excessive.

I haven’t made any money through social media yet, but I have been offered opportunities (guest blog posts and connections to people in my field), that may lead to jobs in the future.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

Special Mention

Problogger

Problogger is a board for blog writing jobs. I’ve pitched, but never been hired through this platform. I frequently check the site and there are always high-paying jobs listed. This is a place that you should check out if you’re looking to build your writing portfolio.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

Other resources for finding freelancing jobs

There are many more resources to find freelancing jobs that I have not tried yet. I’ve compiled some helpful articles with more extensive lists below:

15 Best Freelance Websites to Find Jobs via Entrepreneur
25 Top Sites for Finding the Freelancing Job You Want via Skillcrush
71 Great Website to Find Freelance Jobs via Freshbooks