If there's one word that defines the role of a virtual administrative assistant, it's diversity. As you work from your command center – aka your dining room table -- you could be servicing clients from all over the world, performing tasks as varied as appointment setting, writing newsletters, acting as your client's social media ghost or cleaning her inbox. As a virtual assistant or VA, you are the ultimate girl Friday. The only thing you can't do is fetch the coffee.
You may come from an administrative background in an office or you may just having a burning desire to work at home. The first gives you better qualifications to work as a VA, but the second is incentive. In either case, the world of virtually assisting clients is a whole new ball game, and you'll want to know as much about it as you can. Join virtual assistant forums and see what other VAs have gone through, what mistakes they've made and what they wished they had known when they started. Take copious notes and ask 1000 questions; even down to which invoicing, phone and conferencing systems or software they use. Anything you can learn before you advertise your services will help smooth your transition into the world of virtual assisting.
To Niche or Not to Niche
Being able to offer many services as a VA is one way to go. You could brand yourself as someone who can offer services from general secretarial duties to helping your client set up a new website. Just make sure you can do all the tasks that you advertise as your specialties. You don't want to list yourself as a social media maven and then get caught out by a new client asking for help with his Twitter feed and you don't know the difference between a Tweet and a twit. Or you can specialize in one realm, such as marketing. Be prepared to change course many times, until you have a stable of regular clients for whom you have done an exemplary job.
Get the Word Out
Unless you already have a bevy of friends who are self-employed and just happen to need a virtual assistant at the very moment you begin your new career as a VA, clients are not going to be coming to you. Setting up a website and becoming a regular on VA forums are two necessities; but you will want to consider advertising your services or bidding for jobs on freelancer's sites. Once you have done some work for a couple of clients, ask them very nicely for a testimonial you can post on your website. Marketing your services will be an ongoing part of your work week. Get out into your neighborhood and chat up the local business owners. Tell them what you do and check in with them every four to six months in case they lost your card and now need a VA.
Hop to It
If you worked as an admin in the bricks and mortar world you know what it takes. You have to stay on your toes and be prepared to complete any and all tasks your boss requires, sometimes with a very short deadline. A VA is no different. If you take on a client, and you want to keep that client, you have to be as professional and dedicated as if he were in the next room instead of Kuala Lumpur. You have to meet a client’s deadlines with no excuses. That means you have to have the best and fastest Internet service and a quiet place to work with no distractions. Be prepared to work long and unusual hours; especially at the beginning.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.