Virtual Assistant: A Job Worth Your Time?

virtual assistant jobsIf you’re a good fit for the work style, and know where to find the best jobs, being a virtual assistant has plenty of benefits, including great pay.

There are now more than 4 million administrative assistants in the U.S. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many of those are now virtual assistants. The outlook is good for the profession and the barrier to entry is low.

A virtual assistant typically works from home and is hired on contract (not an employee). Virtual assistant can really do whatever is needed. Although most tend to perform tasks that lend themselves to the virtual world:

  • online administrative functions
  • email and calendar organization
  • scheduling
  • transcription
  • event planning
  • writing and editing
  • organizing files
  • booking travel

Sound fun? Check out the main benefits…

Benefits of Being a Virtual Assistant

The virtual assistant lifestyle may take some getting used to, and each gig may be different, but you generally will have a standard set of benefits from becoming a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants can typically work from home and set their own hours – perfect for a stay-at-home-spouse.

As a virtual assistant, even though you are “working for someone”, you are typically going to be in business for yourself, setup as a 1099 contractor. For anyone desiring freedom with their work each day, this is a good opportunity.

Virtual assistants can make from $2 and hour (international) to $100 (or even higher based on your expertise. But most assistants fall in the $15 to $30 range. Calculate what you should charge as a virtual assistant.

Additionally, it doesn’t require a lot of expertise or work to get started as a virtual assistant. And as you’ll see below there are many ways to market your services and find virtual assistant jobs.

Of course, it isn’t all rosy when it comes to being a virtual assistant. There are plenty of scams out there to watch out for. Never pay to be a virtual assistant. There’s nothing you have to buy to get jobs in this field.

Who Makes a Good Virtual Assistant?

Can anyone become a virtual assistant and enjoy it? I asked Jessica, my virtual assistant (and now editor at PT Money) what she would tell a friend that might be considering a virtual assistant job. She said, “[y]ou need to be a self-starter and able to handle deadlines well.” Employers will

“usually give you tasks to run with and trust that you’ll have it completed on time. If you struggle with initiative and deadlines, this might be a problem.”

Jessica also mentioned that you need good time management and organizational skills. “This includes attention to detail and the ability to multi-task.”

One of the biggest challenges I face as someone who hires virtual assistants is coming up with tasks for my virtual assistant to do. So I would add that any good virtual assistant should be able to partner with their client to help them find work.

Ways to Find Virtual Assistant Jobs

If you’re still reading this it means you’re interested in finding one of these virtual assistant jobs. Luckily it seems there are several ways to find a good virtual assistant job:

1. Ask Your Network – You never know who is in your network that is in need of an assistant. Remember, virtual assistants can do a variety of tasks, so there’s no way of knowing who needs what done, business or personal.

I hired Jessica because a friend was using her virtual assistant services and she asked if I needed any help as well. It turned out that I did at the time, and the rest is history.

A simple Tweet or Facebook posting will let your network know you are serious about helping them with their virtual tasks.

Carrie Rocha, owner of PocketYourDollars.com has hired a few virtual assistants over the years, all from the same source: her blog’s readership. Carrie said “I have reached out to those who are active in my online community (via Facebook) to ask if they are interested in helping behind the scenes.” Follow your favorite online brands online and you might just be applying for a virtual assistant job with them next time they ask for help.

2. Work for a Virtual Assistant Company Like Zirtual.com – Don’t want to search for clients? Join a virtual staffing company like Zirtual.com.

You can apply directly through their website and if you’re accepted, you won’t have to worry about the administrative side of your business. Of course, your pay will probably be limited to what Zirtual.com’s going rate is.

3. List Yourself on Freelance Sites – There are tons of sites now where freelancers connect with potential employers. Sites like Elance, ODesk, and Guru.com are some of the biggest. These sites are international. So keep in mind that here you’ll be competing with the lowest pricing on the planet.

It does take some time and experience working with these online freelance sites to find the right gigs, so I also would recommend Craigslist or Fiverr.com for quick opportunities. Here’s a great example of a virtual assistant listing on Fiverr.

4. Virtual Assistant Networks – There are several virtual assistant networks and forums available online that allow potential employers and virtual assistants to connect using directories or a request for proposal process. These sites seems to attract some of the top-notch U.S. based virtual assistants and look to be a great place to see what others in your industry are doing to find jobs.

There are also a couple of associations which look to be good places to connect for future gigs: the International Virtual Assistants Association and the Administrative Consultants Association.

5. Create Your Own Website – Having your own website is a great way to attract clients. Even if you’re still going to use some of the tactics above, you should strive to have your own home on the Internet. It’s more evidence that you are a professional and in it for the long-haul. Nothing fancy is required. Here’s a great example from Tracie Shroyer who has her site at VATracie.com.

6. AssistU Registry – I hesitated putting this one in here because it’s a paid service and not for all beginners. But it does come with some solid recommendations. Tracie Scroyer says this about them: “All of my curent clients have come through the AssistU Registry…graduates of its program are eligible to subscribe to a Registry potential clients can use to find the right VA for them.”

So those are some of the places I recommend you start your virtual assistant job search. I’m sure the community will share their suggestions for more places to look for virtual assistant jobs in the comments below.

In the coming weeks I hope to interview a successful virtual assistant about how they make the most of their efforts. Look for that in podcast format.

Are you a virtual assistant? Where did you find your job? Have you ever hired a U.S. based virtual assistant? From where did you hire them?



Last Edited: June 12, 2013 @ 2:12 am
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. I have only recently realized how popular Virtual Assistants have become. With so many great tools for sharing and collaborating online it seems as though almost all of the tasks previously performed by secretaries can now be done by VAs. I will definitively be looking to hire a VA as my business grows in the future.

    • AnastaciaBrice says:

      Anton Ivanov Something to keep in mind… by the time you consciously realize that things are to a place where you need to take action to find help, chances are you actually needed it long before. There are people who will do even a few hours/month for you, and that can free you up to grow faster. Good luck with your business, Anton!

      • AnastaciaBrice  That’s a very good point Anastacia and something for me definitely to keep in mind in the coming months! Thanks!

  2. This is an interesting profession.  It looks like it would be a great job for a stay at home spouse like you mentiioned.  Are most Va’s hired on a part time basis or are most of them 40 hours a week?  I’m sure it varies, but I wonder what the majority of opportunities are.

    • CommonCentsWealth In my research I ran across a poll in one of the VA forums that explored this topic. Although it was a small sample size, the results were about 50/50: 50% worked less than 40 hours and 50% worked 40 hours or more. Hard to say how many of the >40 were using multiple gigs to accomplish that. But that’s the beauty of the virtual assistant gig. You can work up to perfect number of hours using multiple clients.

      • AnastaciaBrice says:

        Philip Taylor CommonCentsWealth And in fact, if you’re going to be a VA who isn’t an employee, you wouldn’t want to work with only one client (assuming you’re in the US or Canada) because the IRS and CRA would see that as employment, *and* because, in your own business, it’s fun to have a mix of clients, and having a mix also makes it easier on your wallet when one of them needs to move on (as they eventually and inevitably do).

  3. I’ve been using virtual assistants since 2004, and their impact on my firm’s bottom line has been enormous. Being able to expand and contract as the market moves is a critical piece of the the puzzle for business success, I think.

    • JayFleischman Great testimony from the entrepreneur side of things. It’s taken me a while to get used to working with someone virtual, but it has certainly paid off and I would recommend anyone looking to expand at least consider it.

      • AnastaciaBrice says:

        Philip Taylor JayFleischman What’s interesting is that it even took *me* time to really get it, and I should be the poster girl for working this way! I still laugh when I remember one of the VA I’d trained calling me to say, “Hey… when are you going to get your own VA?”  It really was a light bulb moment for me.  I’ve not been without a VA since, and now, my entire team is virtual.  I love the relationships we’ve formed and how they make me and my business better than I ever could have done it by myself.

  4. I’ve done some virtual assistant work, and sometimes the pay can be pretty good. All depends on what you do! :)

  5. This is interesting. I’d be curious to see how flexible the hours are. For example, do they care that you’re not working at the same time as them and will be completing projects while they are out of the office or asleep?

    • @debtblag For 90% of the work my virtual assistants do I don’t care when or where they do it…just that it gets done by the deadline. I suppose hours are going to be flexible, but with most online entrepreneurs, unless it’s a customer facing role or gig where you are working hand-hand with a team, then you should be free to work whenever.

    • AnastaciaBrice says:

      @debtblag Some will and some won’t. If flexibility is important to you, you would only look for clients whose work can be done almost any time. A good way to think about this is that-you want clients who fit with you, not ones who don’t. :)

  6. AnastaciaBrice says:

    Hey, Phillip :)
    Thanks so much for mentioning AssistU. I’m the founder and CVO and love helping VAs build strong businesses!
    I started the Virtual Assistance profession back in 1997 when I founded AssistU, and we have trained some of the best VAs in the world (Tracie’s one of them!) in our 16+ years in business.
    Our programs are really second to none, and give those who find value in getting industry-specific training as well as guidance in setting up a business with a strong foundation everything they need to do exactly that in this industry.
    I started AssistU for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to help admins who wanted to leave their corporate jobs but had no idea how to do it, how to start and run a business, how to set their fees for profitability (our VAs, by the way, bill $30-$100+ with the average being $50/hour), or market themselves so they could connect with ideal clients for them (the only kind we think are worth working with!), or how to create strong standards that would allow them to build something for themselves that would contribute to their having high-quality lives. I wanted to help them do it well so that they could beat the statistic that has more than 50% of all new businesses not seeing a 5th anniversary. Many of the VAs we’ve trained have been in business for more than a decade now, and I love knowing that that has been a positive influence on their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of their communities.
    The reason that our company isn’t available to everyone–or free–is because I made the decision when I started AssistU that we’d stand behind our members; something a company can really only do if it’s trained those members and has standards around who can be part of the membership. 
    All of our members have to sign a yearly ethics pledge, and agree to be bound by an ethical review process should their clients file a grievance with us. In all the years we’ve had that process, we’ve only received three grievances, because our members are professionals and take their work and reputations very seriously. 
    Our program is comprehensive, long (11 weeks) and difficult. There’s a weekend-long final exam that has to be passed with a 90 or better. And people who successfully complete it not only know everything they need to to start and grow a VA biz, but are able to join our private community and subscribe to receive referrals from us.
    And we do have a great deal that we offer at no charge to people who want to be VAs. For instance, our blog, at VirtualMoxie.com is an amazing resource about creating and working with high standards. And our Smart VA Starter Series, with over six hours of high-quality content, is available–without even so much as having to exchange an email address to get it (that’s here, in case anyone would  be interested: http://www.assistu.com/smart_va_recordings.html).
    At our core, we are champions for people who want to work this way–as a professional endeavor.  What I’d love to see is more people being educated to the fact that to have their own business (which is what freelancers do!), assuming all the risks and responsibilities thereof, they need and deserve to be happy *and* profitable. And the majority of people who are freelancing, including anyone earning in that $15-$30/hour range you mentioned, are very likely not profitable if they live in the US or Canada. Makes me a bit crazy, actually :)
    We stand, not only for the success of the VAs we train and support, but
    for the amazing clients they work with. So please don’t think that the
    membership standards or fees we have in place are a negative. They really are anything
    but. :)

  7. Very interesting! My wife is on it. :)