As you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a Virtual Assistant, there’s often confusion and misunderstanding in the VA Handbookers Facebook group around what being one entails. Because I sometimes see it described as an “easy side hustle”, I want to explain what it actually means to be a Virtual Assistant.
What it means to be a (good) VA
1) Just because there aren’t any formal qualifications, doesn’t mean you don’t need to have any admin skills.
2) It’s not something that you can just ‘have a go at’ or something that brings in easy money. You need to be good at what you do and ensure your clients receive an impeccable service. It is definitely not a ‘side hustle’. If you don’t commit to making your business a success, then it won’t be.
3) Running a business is hard work and shoddy work or mistakes should not be made if you are pitching yourself as a professional organiser. You wouldn’t want your electrician or accountant to practice on you – you pay them good money to know what they’re doing.
4) People go into this industry because they have good admin and organisation skills. If your top skill is making websites and you love doing it then you’ll make far more money as a website developer/designer.
5) Offering everything to everybody is not a good business model. People are crying out for good administrators so please don’t offer social media management if you don’t know anything about it. Posting a few updates on your Facebook page is completely different from formulating a business strategy and analysing metrics and ROI.
6) Clients expect good service, they want someone with skills, they expect you to know what you’re doing and they expect you to communicate well. They don’t know how it all works so they will look to you to lead them.
7) If a client has to chase you for updates on the status of their tasks then I’m afraid you’re not very good at your job.
8) A great VA adds value to their client’s business and comes up with ways to make it run better. This is how they both build their reputation and prove they are worth the money. They understand their client’s challenges and objectives, and then they provide solutions to both.
9) Every other freelance industry requires skills and virtual assistance is no different – I can’t draw so I’m not a tattoo artist. I have been asked by many disillusioned clients to fix their last VA’s mistakes, their bad experience made them doubtful of my skills (I had more to prove) and of outsourcing in general.
10) At the very least you need to know how to spell – especially if you offer copywriting, proofreading or editing. Virtual Assistants are administrators – that’s what they do.
11) You are entrusted with someone else’s business which means it’s a special relationship that needs to be managed professionally. The client is placing a lot of trust in you and you need to be meticulous with their data, confidentiality and contacts – because they can fire or sue you if you are not.
(I know people whose VAs have actually damaged their reputation, broken confidentiality agreements, taken their contacts and passed off their work as their own.)
12) When people treat virtual assistance as an easy sideline or charge peanuts, it brings the entire industry into disrepute and makes it harder for everyone to find work and be charged what their skills are worth. Calling it a ‘side hustle’ implies it’s something you half-heartedly do in a half-assed way.
13) The more you charge the better you need to be. If you charge top dollar then you need to deliver a top dollar service.
14) Not everyone is suited to freelance life. It is not easy and does not suit everyone. There’s no job security, no regular income, it can be lonely, you need to manage your own time, you need discipline and you need to communicate well with people who may sometimes be difficult. You need to steer your own ship. Many things can go wrong and it is not easy to move from an employee mentality to thinking like a business owner.
15) Faffing around with logos, colours and company names is fun, but clients only care about how you communicate and deliver. You need to actually do the work in order to get paid.
That’s what makes it a business and not a hobby.
Apologies for my bluntness (I can be very forthright I’m afraid – it gets me into a lot of trouble sometimes!) but I want to get across that virtual assistance is a serious profession and not an “easy gig” a “side hustle” or something you can half-focus on while your kids run screaming around the room.
Whilst freelancing does bring a level of freedom, it’s also incredibly hard work. You need admin skills, you need to be able to manage client expectations as well as your own time, you need to be reliable, to be able to focus intently on each client’s tasks and you need to be able to deliver the work.
Your business will not succeed otherwise.