Mary Cabrera is the Manager of The VIVA Club. She loves to write articles, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. She's also the Virtual Executive Assistant of Turner Invest. You can find Mary on Facebook and LinkedIn
Most of the time, a Virtual Assistant may be asked “what does your job entail” and “how can I be a virtual assistant”. This is because the job is very intriguing to people who are interested in spending more time at home, making a higher income, and being able to essentially set their own schedule. However, being a virtual assistant is not always glamorous, and more work is involved than one might think in order to become a successful one. Here are some tips to becoming a great virtual assistant.
1. KNOW YOUR SKILLS
Before looking for a virtual assistant position or clients of your own, you will need to be sure you have the basic skills necessary to be a successful assistant. If you have worked in an office as a secretary or administrative assistant, then you have a very good starting point. If not, then you will need to be sure you at least meet the following criteria:
* Can at least type 45+ WPM
* Knowledgeable in Windows or Mac environment
* Can use the Internet and search engines effectively
* Know how to use web mail and remote email services daily
* Understand basic social media marketing practices
* Understand the basics of email marketing and newsletter creation
* Have excellent organization and scheduling skills
2. BE READY WITH YOUR TOOLS
Beyond the skills you possess, you will need to be sure that you have the necessary equipment to complete the work functions of a virtual assistant. Like your skills, these can be improved with time, but it is essential to at least have these basics before you begin your new career:
* Fast and reliable computer or laptop
* Installed browsers on your computer
* An email client such as Outlook or Gmail
* A high speed Internet connection
Whether you choose to work with a company or not, it is vital that you create a set schedule for yourself and stick with it. That said, it does not need to be a 9-5 schedule. Many assistants work evening or night shifts to work around their family schedules, and some may even work split shifts and choose to take Monday off. The important issue here is that you set a schedule, set up a routine, and train yourself to be working during the same time each work day.
Not only will you need to get yourself into a work routine, but you will need to train those around you that because you are at home, it does not mean you are available. Once you’ve established your working days and times, you must let your family and friends know not to bother you unless absolutely necessary during those times. It is nice to be home and able to quickly respond if your children needs bandages, but it does not mean that you can be getting up every ten minutes to get them a drink of water.
5. SET UP YOUR WORK STATION
Speaking of children and training the family, your task will be much easier if you are able to work in a separate room from them. A room that has a locking door is preferred, but even clearing out the unused den or basement will help the feeling of having an office and being “unavailable” to everyone when you are in there. It will also provide a noise buffer – which is necessary when on client calls.
6. SET A PLAN
Ask yourself these questions:
* When will you work? How many hours per week?
* Where will you work? How will you set up and add to your office or desk as you go?
* Will you begin working with a company or simply freelance?
* How will you secure health and business insurance when you need to?
* Who will pay your taxes?
As you begin to write this plan, you will most likely come up with other questions that should be answered before you even take on your first client. Cover all your bases to ensure everyone has the best experience possible.
7. DEVELOP A SPECIALTY
The term “virtual assistant” can actually mean many things these days, but often boils down to “Jack (or Jill) of all trades.” However, it is not exactly possible for any assistant, especially one just starting out, to be an expert in all areas of online business. Therefore, it is actually beneficial to you and your clients to become an expert in a set skill, market, or set of programs. Some ideas are:
* Social Media Guru
* Email Marketing Expert
* Sales copy, SEO, and SEM
* Affiliate and Ecommerce site creation/optimization
* Travel and Schedule Organizer
Think of yourself as a business partner for you clients, and focus on becoming the best in one area of support to give them the kind of service they’ll pay top dollar for.
One thing that every virtual assistant will learn is that clients can sometimes be impatient. An emailed task sent at 9 AM might be followed by one at 10 AM asking why the task hasn’t been completed. At the start of every client relationship, you should be very clear, even in writing, of the kind of communication and task completion turnaround the client can expect. The average goes something like this “All emails and calls are responded to within 1 business day, and tasks are usually completed within 2 business days, unless they are very large or complex.” Then, it is very important that you stick to this statement.
Respond to calls and emails in a timely fashion, but refrain from responding outside your usual business days and hours. Complete tasks on time, and always provide courteous responses where necessary. This will help to train the customer on what to expect during the process of task completion. Believe it or not, responding on weekends and all hours of the night sets unrealistic expectations for the client and will create a customer service disaster later on in the relationship.
I hope that you find these tips helpful as you setup and get started toward a successful virtual assistant career.