As the business world becomes increasingly online-focused, it makes sense that traditionally office-based roles start making the transition to virtual locations, but can personal assistants actually work remotely? It might come as a surprise to learn that they can, they do, and the role itself is gaining in popularity fast!
What is a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant is a professional that offers administrative, creative or technical support to an individual or team while working remotely, usually from a home office. A virtual PA usually offers one-to-one support, often for high-level executives who need all of their administrative needs taken care of, but do not require a physical person in their office with them.
Thanks to task management software and instant messaging apps being so commonplace, virtual assistants are able to complete assignments with little or no delay, plus they can work flexibly.
→ Browse all virtual assistant jobs on Adzuna.
What exactly does a virtual assistant do?
Just like an assistant who works in a commercial building, virtual assistants take on a huge number of tasks. Job descriptions can include:
- Internal communications
- Managing databases
- Web admin
- Social media management
- Diary organisation
- Travel booking
In some ways, working as a virtual PA leaves less room for error, as tasks are often communicated through email, giving a physical list of duties to be worked through. As a virtual assistant, you will still develop a close working relationship with your client, but depending on how you structure your week, you might have more than one to take care of.
Which skills should a virtual assistant have?
Virtual assistants need a full complement of abilities that any office-based worker does, plus a couple of extras such as self-discipline and motivation. Working from home allows for greater flexibility, but also more distractions. Inexperienced homeworkers can find themselves struggling to work set hours, but professionals can treat a home office as they would a regular place of work. Some even wear smart clothes for working hours!
Anticipated skills for any virtual assistant include:
Word processing – Basic capabilities are not enough, as there could be large volumes of typing needed – documents don’t create themselves.
Communication – You’ll need to be at the top of your game, both in written and spoken format. Regardless of where you work from, you will be representing a person and a company when you send an email, letter or answer a call, so first-class communication skills are essential.
Decision-making – When you don’t have the luxury of simply popping into somebody’s office to clarify a few things, you get adept at making fast, accurate decisions. As an assistant, it’s your job to make somebody else’s life easier, so autonomy is a must.
Computer use – Given that most of your work will be completed on a computer, you need to know your way around. Brushing up on your Microsoft Office abilities will never be a waste of time.
Adaptability – If you start liaising with a new client who has a particular way of working, you’ll need to get on board quickly. You might also have to learn how to use a new software package and time is money, so speed is important.
How many hours a week do virtual assistants work?
The beauty of a virtual assistant role is that you can choose the hours you are willing to work. This makes the role popular with parents and those with other responsibilities, such as studies.
Part-time assistants can work as little as one hour a day, carrying out basic administrative tasks and little else. It is most common for part-time workers to have set hours or a set number of hours on certain days, when their employer can be in contact.
Full-time virtual assistants mirror the hours worked by their employer and are on hand throughout the day. Tasks are usually given via a team management app, through email or via a messaging service such as Skype. It is not uncommon for a full-time virtual assistant to work a full 40-hour week.
Who hires virtual assistants?
Anybody looking to offload some of the day-to-day work they accumulate but cannot seem to get around to. Entrepreneurs, home-based business owners and anybody looking to minimise operational costs can benefit from having a virtual assistant to lighten the load.
When physical business premises are not needed, it makes sense to keep assistance virtual as well. This model works particularly well for employers who prefer to always be moving rather than stuck in an office, as their right-hand support can be at the end of their phone all the time.
Types of virtual assistant jobs
There are a number of virtual assistant niches, so you can choose to specialise if you feel more confident in one area. The most commonly recruited varieties are:
Someone to create and schedule social media updates and on-brand articles. This will usually span a number of accounts across various platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Being able to conduct thorough, relevant research is a specific skill and one that is sought after. From business owners to authors, there are plenty of potential clients for a competent researcher.
As close to a regular PA as possible (without being on hand) in the same location. Diary management, call fielding and email handling will usually be major parts of the job.
If you have marketing experience and can devise a seriously good strategy, this could be a great work from home opportunity for you. Virtual marketing assistants often need to attend virtual meetings to update relevant people about campaign results.
People who can type fast and with a high degree of accuracy make great virtual data entry or bookkeeping assistants. The former usually has a number of entries, per day, to complete, with quick workers being able to benefit from more free time.
For bookkeeping and accounting, experience will be necessary, but thanks to most accounting software being available for multiple users, work usually syncs across all user profiles, giving a clear indication of how much has been done.
Specific industries can also have their own virtual assistants, such as estate agency and e-commerce, though these often fall into the administrative assistant category, with some extra duties thrown in for good measure.
→ Tip: If you find a job that isn’t advertised as virtual or remote, but you think you could easily do it from home, don’t dismiss it right away. Think, how can you negotiate a home-based role for yourself? More and more companies are comfortable with strong applicants negotiating this type of agreements – so there is definitely potential for making any role into a remote one.
Are virtual assistants in high demand?
Yes. Increasing numbers of people are seeing the benefit of conducting their entire business online. Reducing the cost of personnel, negating the need for premises and eliminating expensive equipment purchases means that more funds are available for virtual support. Remote business support has never been so in demand and it looks as if it will keep growing.
Most openings for virtual assistants are advertised in July-August, as well as October and November, so you can align your job search activities around that time. See more stats for virtual assistant job availability here.
Can you make a living as a virtual assistant?
Absolutely! If you have the right skills and/or experience, you could find yourself in demand and turning away new clients. Just as a great PA can find themselves working for one person for decades, so too can virtual assistants form close bonds with their clients, leading to pay reviews, performance-related bonuses and job security.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that a flexible work-from-home opportunity doesn’t have the potential to be very lucrative as it can and you are in control, choosing how and when you want to work.
Do virtual assistants make good money?
Your earning potential as a virtual PA is, essentially, limitless. You can choose to work part or full-time hours and once you have the experience to back your salary expectations up, you can expect to earn well. Think about how essential a dependable assistant is and who needs them the most and you’ll start to understand why you can earn good money in this sector.
The keys to being a great assistant are to always maintain transparency about your productivity, record how many hours you work and always keep the lines of instant communication open with your employer. If you can do this, go the extra mile when necessary and always try to anticipate needs, you can definitely earn great money as a virtual PA.
What is the average salary for a virtual assistant?
The average full-time salary for a virtual assistant will depend of your experience and also the type of virtual assistant work you will do. As demand for these roles increases, the average salary does, too.
Specialist assistants can charge more for their services, as there are fewer people able to offer them, but any proficient and experienced business support professional can expect to enjoy a reasonable salary.
How do I become a virtual assistant?
Anybody who can demonstrate experience of being an assistant can decide to work freelance, but if you’re wondering how to become a virtual assistant with no experience, that’s when things might become a little trickier.
Experienced assistants can produce references that attest to their attention to detail, computer skills and general suitability for the role. This means that any direct employer or virtual agency will be happy to consider them for a role. If you’re inexperienced, you might have to be prepared to undergo tests.
Online virtual assistant agencies will consider new applicants with little or no experience and depending on the results of a basic skills test might ask for some training to be completed. You should be prepared for a direct employer to be wary of taking on an inexperienced virtual assistant, as they will be unlikely to have the time to get you up to speed. It will be beneficial to gain either in-office experience first or to complete a certified course so you can hit the ground running.
Do you need a degree to be a virtual assistant?
There is no formal requirement for a degree, although some employers might find it preferable. If you have completed a degree but have no job experience, you could use your further education as an example of your motivation and focus, as well as your organisational skills.
What do I need to become a virtual assistant?
A few pertinent life skills! If you have mastered the following, you could make a good virtual assistant:
- Time management and self-discipline
- Solo working
- Excellent communication skills
You will also need a place to work from, a computer, a reliable internet connection and a mobile phone. Being contactable is a huge part of a job like this.
What is the best virtual assistant company to work for?
There are lots of virtual assistant companies to choose from, each having their merits. Some offer virtual training, while others look to match specialist assistants with more high-profile clients. What’s great for one assistant may not work for another, so you’ll need to take a look at a few different companies and see which fits your circumstances best – and bear in mind that some will require you to work a minimum number of hours per week.
Where to look for virtual assistant jobs
We list lots of virtual assistant jobs here on Adzuna, but you can find opportunities elsewhere. Google is always a good place to start with search terms like “virtual assistant jobs” or “virtual secretary jobs”, but LinkedIn, Upwork and People Per Hour can take all of the hard work away from you. Once you’ve registered, you can easily search for vacancies or let potential clients come to you. You could even start your own company!
Read more: How to set up a home-based virtual assistant business by The Guardian
Is being a virtual assistant worth it?
If you like the idea of having some freedom, working from home and during hours that suit you, then yes. You’ll have to throw out any notions you might have about being able to work in your pyjamas all day, because you never know when a client will want to Skype in, but that’s a small price to pay for a career that you control.
If you think you might have the right skills and mindset to be a virtual assistant, see if any of the current vacancies suit you!