Definition of a Virtual Assistant

Virtual Assistant ideas for a freelancerA virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely from a home office. Because virtual assistants are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits, except in the context that those indirect expenses are included in the VA’s fees. Clients also avoid the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies. Clients pay for 100% productive work, and can work with Virtual Assistants, individually, or in Multi-VA firms to meet their exact needs. Virtual Assistants usually work for other small businesses, but can also support busy executives. It is estimated that there are as few as 5,000-10,000 or as many as 25,000 virtual assistants worldwide. The profession is growing in centralized economies with “fly-in, fly-out” staffing practices.

Source: www.en.wikipedia.org

1. Data Entry

Data entry includes tasks such as typing and entering of information into forms, editing current information, proofreading of documents and updating databases.

2. Desktop Publishing

Desktop publishing is needed for creating books, brochures, business cards, calendars, envelops, letterheads, logos, magazines, menus, name tags, newsletters, postcards, price lists and even websites. While these things can be done with MS Word, MS Publisher is oftentimes preferred since it provides ready-made templates.

3. Good Communication

It is imperative for a virtual assistant to have good communication skills. Without them a virtual assistant will become a liability instead of an asset.  This is because as a virtual assistant you will constantly be interacting with people to fix meetings, create schedules, make appointments and relay messages for your “boss.” Since you will be working in a virtual environment, this means that your writing skills will need to be excellent. After all, you will be communicating mainly through email and instant messaging.

4. Typing

You must have good typing skills since most of the work you do will be dependent upon them. Not only should you be able to type accurately but you should also be able to type at least 60 words per minute. Sometimes you may be asked to do transcription work in addition to your other work as a virtual assistant. This simply means that you will need to take your client’s audio content and type it into a written document. Good typing skills are imperative here.

5. Writing

As a virtual assistant you should also have good writing skills. Clients will need a wide variety of projects written for them (everything from articles to business letters and email messages). Such projects not only showcase your own professionalism but your client’s as well since you are doing their writing tasks for them.

6. Computer

Since all of your work is going to be done on your computer, you will need to have excellent computer skills. Not only will you need to know how to run the various programs that you will need to use as a virtual assistant but you will also need to know how to do basic computer maintenance as well.  This is important because if your computer goes down, both you and your client’s work will come to a halt.

7. Organization

Good organizational skills are also important because you may be working on several different projects for several different clients all at the same time. You will need to be organized in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

These are just some of the many skills that virtual assistants should have because these skills are in such great demand. If you have worked as an administrative assistant or a secretary in an office in the past, then you should already have the skills to be a successful virtual assistant.

Source: http://www.wahm.com

1.  Virtual Assistant Certification

  • From ExpertRating gives you an excellent opportunity to join the elite league of certified VA’s through a global leader in certification.
  • This Virtual Assistant Course leading to Virtual Assistant Certification is offered by ExpertRating, the company that certifies the skills of over 2 million people globally. The ExpertRating Virtual Assistant Course leading to Virtual Assistant Certification offers you a unique opportunity to get a Virtual Assistant Certification from one of the leaders in online skill testing and certification. Learn what a Virtual Assistant is, the kinds of services they provide, the necessary skills that are required to become a Virtual Assistant, and the many benefits that come from choosing a Virtual Assistance career.

2.  The Virtual Mentoring Program

  • The Virtual Mentoring Program combines our Virtual Basics program with one-on-one mentoring to give the program more structure. It’s also the only path available toward becoming an AssistU VA.

3.  The ultimate guide to becoming a Virtual Assistant

  • We’ve discovered a way to do all of that and much more!! If you are looking for a legitimate work from home opportunity that will give you more time with your kids, a chance to use your administrative and technical skills, and have complete control over your career and income potential, then this could be the most important information you will ever read to learn how to make that a reality.

4.  Virtual Assistant career guide

  • The guide is filled with good solid information about starting your own virtual assistant business from home and most importantly it’s FREE. We take you by the hand and walk you through the necessary steps that will help you start your new career from home. We have one mission and that is to make sure you are armed with the information and research you need but at the same time that you don’t get scammed.

1.  Executive Administrative Services

This is the type of work that most people associate with virtual assistance, as it seems like a natural virtual extension of the on-site secretaries and administrative professionals that most businesses rely on for support. The term “administrative” covers a wide variety of tasks ranging from clerical to creative to legal to personal, so you need to pinpoint which ones you will perform:

  • Accounting, Appointment setting, Bill payment, Client relationship management, Correspondence, Customer service, Data entry, Database and website maintenance, Desktop publishing, Editing and proofreading, Event and meeting planning, Executive assistance,  Financial services such as billing or bookkeeping, Forms creation, Graphic design, Human resources services,  Information organization,  Legal assistant services,  Medical transcription, Newsletters, Organize executive for business meetings and conferences,  Presentation preparation, Project management, Public relations,  Real estate virtual assistance, Research, Scheduling, Statistical reports, Telephone answering, Transcription, Translation, Travel arrangements,  Website design, Word processing, Writing

Because all businesses require administration to some extent, there is a wide marketing target. If you have specialized skills, you can focus your marketing efforts on companies that depend on those skills. For instance, if you are fluent in a foreign language, target language instruction companies, international companies that deal with the particular country whose language you know, translation services, educational institutions, and so on.

Recommended skills needed: Strong Internet research skills, proficient in MS Office applications, highly organized and efficient, basic bookkeeping skills and strong verbal and written communication skills.

2.  Medical/Legal Transcription and Assistance Services

This is a good niche area because it requires specialized training and experience with medical or legal terminology. Marketing targets include medical practices, medical institutions, hospitals, medical and pharmaceutical industries (such as medical/pharmaceutical manufacturers/suppliers, publishers, research facilities, advertising firms, and educational organizations), law firms, court systems, and governmental agencies.

Recommended skills needed:  Completed medical or legal terminology course, strong computer and Internet skills, skilled in all MS office applications, highly organized and efficient, and interpersonal communication skills.

3.  Website Assistance

A website assistant would maintain the entire site on behalf of their clients such as updating content, graphics, and video and ensuring all links are active. This might also involve posting new content (i.e. Newsletters). Many clients use a Content Management System which makes it easy to update, add or change content. In addition, clients may want their Virtual Assistant to track website stats (number of visitors) to evaluate the levels of traffic (users) visiting their website. A website assistant will also respond to customer inquiries via the website as well as liaise with the programmers and webmaster to troubleshoot technical issues that will arise on the site.

Recommended skills needed:  Strong technical aptitude, some basic HTML knowledge (just beginner), excellent attention to detail, data-entry experience, comfortable learning new types of software and web-based applications

4.  Virtual Accounting / Bookkeeping Assistance

A bookkeeping virtual assistant manages all aspects of maintaining important financial records for their client‘s business, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, payroll taxes, other tax as required by state and/or provincial regulations. These VA’s also prepare financial statements, balance sheets, and ongoing financial reporting as required. In addition, this VA may invoice and process payments for their client‘s contractors and such.

Recommended skills needed: Comfortable working knowledge of either QuickBooks (most popular) or Simply Accounting, Excel spreadsheet guru, basic accounting / bookkeeping skills, excellent computer and Internet skills.

5.  Publicity Assistance

A publicity assistant can help with all aspects of developing and implementing a public relations campaign for a client‘s product or services. Publicity VA’s write and distribute press releases, create electronic press kits, send out traditional press kits, schedule press meetings, gather post press coverage information such as news stories, articles, and video clips to feature on the client‘s website and blog. Also, they assist with the development of seasonal publicity campaigns. A Publicity VA ultimately assists with everything required to maintain ongoing media relations.

Recommended skills needed: Strong writing and editing skills, people person, excellent Internet Research skills, experienced in setting up and coordinating public relations events.

6.  Author Assistance

A Virtual Author‘s Assistant provides regular administrative support as well as tasks related to marketing, sales, and tracking of a new book release. This can include pre-publishing assistance with proofreading and editing, coordination of graphic design, printing, website preparation, press release submission, marketing plan coordination and assistance.

Also, once the book is released, other tasks might include event scheduling, setting up press interviews, book distribution and sales coordination, as well as calendar management.

Recommended skills needed: Excellent writing and proofreading

7Real Estate Assistance

A virtual assistant who supports real estate agents, land developers and brokers can provide a wide array of specialized services to these very active and dynamic professionals. Some specific tasks performed by a Real Estate Virtual Assistant include all aspects of listing a property for sale both online and offline, sales transaction coordination, market research and competitive analysis reporting.

In addition, Real Estate agents often will delegate their online marketing activities to a Virtual Assistant from web and blog design to newsletter set-up and management as well as client support.

Recommended skills needed: Knowledge of real estate terminology, strong computer and internet skills, excellent market research abilities, people person, some online marketing experience.

8.  Travel Coordination Assistance

A Travel Coordinator virtual assistant will arrange all the fine details of personal and business travel planning. This includes coordinating air travel, accommodations, vehicle rental and/or other inter-city transportation. The Travel Coordinator will work with brokers to secure the best deals for their clients.

Recommended skills needed: Basic Travel Agent training, experienced traveler, people person, strong attention to detail, and of course solid computer and Internet skills.

9.  Internet Marketing Virtual Assistance

The Internet Marketing industry offers some of the best and most in-demand work opportunities for Virtual Assistants today. An Internet Marketing VA is typically involved in many facets of marketing the client‘s business online. This can involve the maintenance and set-up of many different systems and processes, including online project management, blogs, newsletters, shopping carts, affiliate marketing programs, video, article, and press release distribution, podcasting assistance, webinar and other online communication coordination and keyword research for Search Engine marketing.

Recommended skills needed: Good aptitude in using new Internet technology and basic marketing experience will be beneficial as well.

10.  Social Media Virtual Assistance

The explosion and ever-increasing popularity of Social Media is creating one of the hottest and in-demand skills! Online business owners as well as brick and mortar businesses are finding it necessary to not only engage in social media, but get support to manage it. Every day, the social media landscape changes; whether it’s a new tool to manage your Twitter accounts, a new social network, or policy changes, it is essential to stay informed.

A Social Media Virtual Assistant can provide assistance in many areas such as researching new social networks, providing a monthly recap report on all social media activities, setting up and updating profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., creating and maintaining Facebook Fan Pages, updating the social networks when new content is added, researching and analyzing trends of competitors’ social media endeavors, and so much more.

Recommended skills needed: The fastest way to get on board and up to date with the latest social media trends is to take a Social Media Marketing Specialist Course. Even if you decide that you do not want to be a Social Media VA, it is a great way to learn how to market your services and find your ideal clients by embracing the trend and participating.

11.  Blogging Assistance

While this area would likely fall under the umbrella of the Internet Marketing Virtual Assistant, it does deserve its own category given the growth of opportunities for Virtual Assistants in the wonderful world of blogging.

A virtual assistant who specializes in blogging services would be able to assist the client with all aspects of blog management, including blog set-up, maintenance, writing, and publicity. This VA would assist the client to develop a blog writing plan, edit, write, and post articles as well as submit new content to popular social media and social news sites. They might also enhance blog articles with graphics, audio, and video as required. In addition, this VA could create a targeted blog publicity plan that includes commenting on other relevant blogs as well as moderating blog comments.

Recommended skills needed: Strong writing, editing and Internet research abilities.

12.  Online Event Coordination Service

An online events coordinator can manage all pertinent details of online events such as teleseminars, webinars, workshops, coaching sessions, virtual book tours, and more. Some specific tasks might include arranging speakers, keeping participants notified of important information, publicizing the events through press releases, social media and email marketing strategies, preparing speakers technically and assisting speakers with any requests. During the event, this Virtual Assistant would be there to troubleshoot any issues and designate technical staff to address any problems that arise. Online Events are increasing at such a rapid rate that there is a fast-growing demand for Virtual Assistants that can coordinate these kinds of virtual events. Also, a virtual event coordinator will certainly coordinate offline events as well (wedding, conferences, speaking engagements, etc…)

Recommended skills needed: Some event coordination experience would be useful (or a natural born event planner), great attention to detail, excellent multi-tasker, super computer and Internet research skills, and a people person. Additionally, our Virtual Event Specialist Certification course was specifically designed to tap into this increasingly popular niche.

13.  Copy writing/ Editing Assistance

The copy writing and editing virtual assistant prepares a wide variety of documents for both print and online publication. Copy writing and editing projects can include sales copy, website copy, promotional copy, eBooks, special reports, manuscripts, articles, press releases, blog articles, newsletters and more. There is a never-ending demand for Virtual Assistants with a flair for writing, editing and proofreading documents.

Recommended skills needed: Strong writing and editing abilities would be the most dominant skill here in addition to strong computer and research abilities.

14.  Business Coaches / Speakers Assistance

Business coaches that provide offline and online training courses frequently hire Virtual Assistants to manage a diverse range of tasks including preparing press kits and speaker presentations, editing and managing newsletters and eBooks as well as teleconference and webinar assistance, press release submission, shopping cart support and transcription services.

Recommended skills needed: People person, strong writing, editing and computer skills, natural event coordinator.

15.  Project Management

While this specialty falls under the Internet Marketing assistance, the growing popularity of virtual assistance has created a new category. Many successful VA’s have expanded their businesses by subcontracting other VA’s and creating a multi-VA team. By subcontracting other VA’s themselves, the lead virtual assistant can now take on more clients and earn more money. In turn, the task management function extends to managing workloads within the team. Assigning tasks, ensuring deadlines are met, and maintaining contact with the client is a specialty all on its own.

Recommended skills needed:  Previous project management skills, knowledge of online project management tools, people person, strong organizational skills and general Internet marketing activities.

http://www.vaclassroom.com/

Rates are based on who you are and what kind of value you create for your clients, not on where you’re located. If you live in a town where the economy doesn’t support fees at the level I’m describing, you simply work with people elsewhere. Being virtual makes it all possible.

It’s important to remember that conventional business wisdom says that it takes three to five years for a new business owner to get his/her business where he/she wants it. You have to be prepared for your own business to take that long to build. Know, however, that we’re seeing the average trained VA do it in a little more than one year.

Another consideration is how much one wants to work. Some VA’s want to work “part-time”, something less than 40 hours/week. Others want to work “full-time,” which, for a VA, is going to be about 40 hours/week, with only 30 of them being billable hours. Remember, when you own your own business, you have non-billable time that’s devoted to running your own business. If you bill 40 hours/week and then do your own business work, you’ll then have something looking more like a full and part-time job — who wants that? The more you work, the more you make. It’s really as simple as that.

Source: http://www.iaap-hq.org

As a Virtual Assistant, the interview never really ends until you have enough steady clients to meet your personal and financial goals. Until then, every person you come across is a potential client as well as the friend, relative, or associate of other potential clients. You need to be the champion of your own cause and a professional who is not afraid to tell people what you can do for them.

Marketing Strategies:

  • If one phrase could capture the essential principle of your business promotion, it would be ―Leave no stone unturned. Marketing yourself is a full-time job, even if you intend to work only part-time. You just never know who or what will lead to your next working relationship, so take advantage of every opportunity (both online and offline) to advertise your services and establish contacts.

Pinpoint Your Target and Take Aim:

  • Go straight to the folks who need the services you offer. For instance, if you intend to write press releases for musical performances or entertainment productions, market yourself in places where those enterprises congregate. Look for trade publications, performance venues, musical theaters, rehearsal halls, and online entertainment sites such as forums, social networks, chat rooms, websites, e-zines, classifieds, or anything else that caters to people involved in your target area. To determine where to focus your marketing efforts, imagine that you are someone in your desired field and consider all the places you would visit and the resources you would use.
  • If you are going to set up a business for blog maintenance services, then you will want to connect with those who own blogs to see if they would like to outsource some of their ongoing tasks. The more specific and focused you are with your marketing strategies, the better results you will see!

Think Small:

  • Small business owners often hire virtual assistants so they can save money on employment-related expenses and dispense with tasks that keep them from running their own businesses. Access all the Internet sites, publications, and services geared toward small business owners and do anything you can to promote your services, such as posting ads, writing blogs, or joining chats. You are now a small business owner yourself, so those resources will be helpful to you in their own right as well. With the rapid growth of social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, they are quickly becoming ideal avenues for connecting with small business clients.

Think Big:

  • Canvassing a large audience is worth it if you get even one steady client out of it or a promising lead to possible work. Exploit the Internet‘s global applicability by placing ads in the many free online media, networking, and educational sites. Again, networking in such sites as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter will connect you with prospective clients all over the world! In today’s economy, large businesses are realizing the need for specialized skill sets, but may not have the funds to hire someone on staff. As a VA, you can be in the unique position to help them, while still working from home.

Think Local:

  • As a VA you can work for anyone, anywhere, even in your own neighborhood. Join community organizations, volunteer at charity events, participate in discussion boards, create blogs in local forums, or offer advice in the town website. Advertise in local editions of print newspapers, classifieds, magazines, and events calendars.

Impress People:

  • Blogs, Facebook Fan Pages, and other Social Network sites provide the ideal platform for connecting with prospective clients and sharing your insights on relevant topics. If you establish a strong online network of business people who know you and appreciate your insights, this could lead to all sorts of new client opportunities.

Network Like Crazy:

  • There are many free resources devoted to helping virtual assistants with advice, information, directories, support, and a host of other things that can make your life easier. Learn from the disappointments and victories of other VA’s and find answers to your questions.

Image Booster: Design a Killer Digital Marketing Kit

  • As the owner of your own virtual assistance business, what you are trying to sell is yourself. Take a lead from the advertising world and design a marketing kit that makes an impact on potential clients. Use whatever creative energy you have or can beg, borrow, or steal to produce a really impressive kit that showcases your skills, and remember that presentation is everything. You want this material to be visually appealing, even if you are offering services that have nothing to do with design or art. People should consider your kit to be professional and pleasing, just like you.
  • It would be recommended putting together the marketing kit in a PDF form or in a PowerPoint Presentation so that it can be easily presented offline and online. This marketing material should serve as a primer for your Virtual business and services.

Source: http://www.vaclassroom.com

  • Join Virtual Assistant Networks and Communities
  • Develop niche “in-demand” services
  • Find a Business Name
  • Pick your domain name (Think of a name related to your business focus.)
  • Define your target client audience
  • Define your specific services
  • Set up your hourly rates and fees
  • Create a business policy sheet (might have a lawyer review before using with clients)
  • Recruit a website or blog site designer
  • Set up your website or blog and complete content for all pages (About us, Services, Contact Form, Policy Form)
  • Find the right website or blog host
  • Prepare marketing materials (PowerPoint Presentation, PDF, Business Cards, Portfolio)
  • Build your business/marketing plan
  • Set up Virtual Office (including equipment outlined in business ―start-up cost breakdown‖ sheet)
  • Join online business networks, forums, communities to liaise with other VA’s as well as connect with new prospective clients.
  • Define your work schedule

Source: http://www.vaclassroom.com

As a virtual assistant, you are the owner of your own small business, but your enterprise cannot succeed without that crucial external factor, your clients. Having to depend on a steady flow of new clients is risky at best, so the wisest course of action is to do whatever you can to hold on to clients once you attract them. Here are some suggestions to help you please your clients and keep them coming back to you.

1.  Mind Your Business Basics

Quality and delivery are the essential features for any client-based business, and without them very little else matters. If you do not deliver a well-done job, in a timely manner, your new clients will never be your old clients.

There is really no wiggle room when it comes to quality and delivery. Most people are reasonable about rare and extraordinary circumstances that affect deadlines but if you are starting out as a VA with no business history to tout, you need to build a reputation for yourself. You must prove that you can provide essential services when needed. Even if you meet deadlines on a steady basis, that will not help you if the quality of your work is poor.

2.  Be Realistic with Promises

What is the best way to ensure that your clients are always happy with your quality and delivery? Do not make promises you cannot keep. If you have not gotten around to learning a new application, do not take on any jobs that rely on that system until you are comfortable working with it. If you suspect that you cannot meet a deadline, do not promise that you can. Clients are not interested in hearing excuses. They are only interested in hearing that you have done what you said you would do—what they paid you to do.

3.  Use a Self-Discipline Booster

Nothing motivates us quite as much as money. If you know that your self-discipline is weak, strengthen it with monetary incentives. Offer a slight discount to clients if you deliver two consecutive projects past the deadline, or offer same-day rush delivery for an extra fee. Set up a situation that will give you a financial inducement to be more productive and finish work on time.

4.  Go to the Source

The best way to find out if your clients are happy with your services is to ask them. If you are uncomfortable approaching this subject directly, create a follow-up survey that asks about a client‘s satisfaction with factors like quality, reliability, and timeliness, or submit open-ended questions that let clients write, in their views, how you can improve your services. Clients will appreciate the fact that you value their opinions and want to accommodate their wishes.

5.  Say Thank You

You can send an emailed or snail-mailed thank-you card or postcard to clients after you have finished a project or at periodic intervals throughout the year. Let them know that you appreciate their business and look forward to working with them again. You might want to send them something at Christmas thanking them for their business.

6.  Make Things Right

If your client is unsatisfied with your work for any reason, take any complaints seriously and do whatever you can to rectify the situation and make your client happy. You have to decide when it pays to duplicate your efforts and when it does not. In most cases, it is well worth your time (even unpaid time) to hold on to a client. Nothing demonstrates your investment in a client‘s business better than your willingness to make things right, and one steady client may lead to more steady clients through word of mouth and referrals.

On the flip side, if you have an unreasonable client that keeps imposing unrealistic deadlines, you might need to evaluate if you want to continue your work with this particular client.

7.  Stay in Touch

It is a good idea to send out periodic newsletters or emails to clients. This is a non-aggressive way to remind them that you are still available for any projects, and it may spur them into sending more work your way. You can include any developments in your business, such as new equipment, new training, or news about the advantages of hiring VA’s. You can also send clients information you have found that relates to their businesses, as this shows them that you are still invested in their success.

8.  Communicate with Care

If you decide to send post-project surveys, thank-you cards, newsletters, or any other communications, do so sparingly. Businesspeople today have to weed through a lot of mail, and contacting them too frequently will only annoy them. That is the last thing you want to do to a client you are hoping to keep.

9.  Think like a Partner, Not an Employee

Avoid a piecemeal approach to work. Instead of simply doing the job at hand, sending it off, and forgetting about it, consider the big picture and come up with ways to impress your clients with your initiative. For example, if you notice that your client‘s website content is out of date, suggest that you update it for them. If several of your client‘s customers have expressed a wish for a particular product not currently offered, let your client know about it. Whenever you are doing work for a client, try to go the extra mile by thinking like a partner. You want to make yourself indispensable to your client‘s business.

10.  Stay Current

Stay on top of the newest virtual technology. If there is a development that can make things easier, better, or more profitable for your clients, learn how to use it and be sure to tell your clients about it. The virtual world operates at a fast pace and you must keep in step to remain a valuable part of it. Doing so will give your clients the benefits of any new technology and it will make you more valuable as a VA.

Source: http://www.vaclassroom.com