Tired of being jolted awake by your alarm clock, rushing to get ready in the mornings, and then suffering through the daily commute to the office? Have you considered working from home?
If you answered, “Yes,” you are not alone. More Americans are transitioning to the work-from-home lifestyle than ever before. In 2017, 3.9 million employees in the U.S. are working from home—at least half the time.
There are definite perks to working at home. For instance, you can bump your alarm to a more reasonable hour or maybe get rid of it all together. And those fancy slacks and polo shirts? Retire them to the back of your closet. (You might still need them for networking events.)
However, working from home does require…well, work. To succeed as a from-home worker, you need to be driven, responsible, and disciplined. Time management and organizational skills are also necessary.
Want to work from home, but have no idea where to start? How about becoming a virtual assistant? It could be the best job you never knew you wanted.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant, sometimes called a VA, is a person who provides administrative support to companies, small businesses, solopreneurs…or anyone, really, who needs some extra help with routine tasks. Except, instead of doing this work in an office, a virtual assistant can work from virtually anywhere, as long as a computer and a decent internet connection are available.
Some virtual assistants are generalists who provide a range of services for people in multiple industries. The services of a general virtual assistant can include:
- Arranging travel
- Bookkeeping, paying bills, running payroll
- Calendar management
- Data entry
- Email management
- Handling phone calls
- Typing up notes
Other virtual assistants prefer to specialize in a particular industry, providing targeted services to a particular skill set or industry. For example:
- Data management
- Graphic design
- Project management
- Social media
- Website design or maintenance
Now that the “what” is covered, here is the “how.”
How to Become a Virtual Assistant
Many virtual assistants are self-employed, marketing themselves, finding clients, and setting their own rates for their work. Others find employment through virtual assistant companies that handle customer acquisition and determine compensation. Whichever option is right for you, follow these steps to kick off your career as a virtual assistant.
1. Build a Safety Net
Unless you have a fantastic savings account or someone at home willing to support you through a career change, you should not quit your nine-to-five job right away. Stay long enough to build a suitable safety net.
How much is suitable? Experts say three, six, or nine months’ worth of your living expenses, depending on your particular situation—renter, homeowner, parent, married, single.
To reach that goal more quickly, start your virtual assistant gig as a side hustle. Doing so is a win-win situation—you will gain valuable experience and earn extra income at the same time.
2. Figure Out Your Skillset
Already have a solid skillset that fits a virtual assistant niche? Great! Move on to step three.
If not, you should seek out opportunities to try out various virtual assistant tasks. You want to get a feel for your strengths as well as determine which tasks you enjoy the most. After all, the point of changing careers is to do work you enjoy, right?
Testing out your skills on these types of websites is a low-risk way to learn what you are good at along with the level of demand for particular skills. All of that knowledge and experience will serve you well when you decide to set out on your own as a full-time virtual assistant.
3. Put Yourself Out There
You have a safety net; you found your niche. Now all that remains is to get out into the real world, get clients, and start earning money as a virtual assistant. Regardless of how “in-demand” your skill set is, you will not find clients or get work until you market yourself as an experienced virtual assistant.
Start with a professional website that outlines your skill set. Later, you can add work samples and testimonials from satisfied clients. If you are a good writer, consider incorporating a blog to your website; it will help attract more attention from search engines and site visitors.
Maintain one or two social media accounts to promote your virtual assistant business. Social media is an excellent way to grow awareness about your new career among family, friends, and, of course, potential clients.
Finally, literally put yourself out there by going to networking events. In most cities, you will find dozens of events every week that are perfect hunting grounds for prospective clients and professional contacts. Look for events on Meetup.com, Facebook, and the events calendars of local chambers of commerce.
You never know who you might meet at these events. The connections you make could lead to one-off projects or long-term working relationships. What is certain is that you will be building a name for yourself as a virtual assistant.