Virtual assistant: job function, salary, and how to become one

Oluwatosin Jegede

A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an independent contractor providing administrative services from outside a client’s physical office. Typically working from a home office, VAs efficiently manage tasks remotely, accessing necessary documents like shared calendars online. Originating as roles for experienced administrative assistants or office managers, the VA’s job has changed significantly.

Today, VAs are versatile and adept in social media, content management, blog writing, graphic design, and internet marketing. The shift to remote work, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has increased the demand for skilled VAs, marking a significant change in the workforce.

How a virtual assistant works

Virtual assistants are becoming increasingly vital, especially for small businesses and startups leveraging virtual offices to reduce costs. These professionals operate differently from traditional full-time employees. As independent contractors, they don’t receive the same benefits, and businesses don’t incur the same taxes as they would for full-time staff. Unlike salaried administrative assistants working from home, virtual assistants have a distinct compensation and tax structure.

One key aspect of a virtual assistant’s work environment is their independence in terms of location and equipment. They work offsite, eliminating the need for a dedicated workspace in the company’s office. They are responsible for their own computer equipment, software, and high-speed internet, ensuring they have the tools needed to perform their tasks efficiently.

Virtual assistant duties

The duties of a virtual assistant are diverse and tailored to the client’s needs and the specifics of their contract. Common tasks include clerical work, bookkeeping, social media updates, blog article writing, managing travel arrangements, scheduling appointments, data entry, and handling online file storage. This variety allows businesses to delegate a wide range of tasks, ensuring operational efficiency.

Virtual assistant qualifications

There are no strict educational requirements to become a virtual assistant, but many clients prefer those with higher education or specialized training. Some online platforms and community colleges offer courses and certifications tailored to virtual assistant skills.

Virtual assistants should be proficient in a range of computer skills and familiar with commonly used software and business programs. For those specializing in areas like bookkeeping, skills in basic accounting tasks, such as account reconciliations and double-entry bookkeeping, are essential.

This skillset diversity enables virtual assistants to cater to various business needs, making them an invaluable asset in the modern digital workspace.

Benefits of a virtual assistant

Hiring a virtual assistant offers clients remarkable flexibility. They can contract for specific services they need, often paying by the task rather than by the hour – a stark contrast to the fixed-hour payments in traditional office settings. For small business owners, virtual assistants are a boon.

They free up crucial hours, allowing entrepreneurs to focus on business growth and revenue generation. Outsourcing tedious and time-consuming tasks to skilled virtual assistants is easier and more cost-effective.

How to hire a virtual assistant

The rise of freelance contractors working from home has led to an increase in web-based companies acting as intermediaries between employers and virtual assistants. These platforms host a diverse pool of individuals from around the world, each with unique skills and experience.

Clients can post job details and budgets on these sites, inviting virtual assistants to bid for the task and provide work samples. Some clients may opt for video interviews to better assess the qualifications of applicants.

How can you become a virtual assistant?

While having experience as an administrative assistant or support staff is advantageous, it’s not mandatory to become a virtual assistant. Individuals new to the field can undertake training courses to learn necessary skills, such as proficiency in administrative software.

Freelance networks like Upwork and Fiverr offer platforms for aspiring virtual assistants to find work. Additionally, traditional job boards and networking sites like LinkedIn are valuable resources for finding opportunities.

How much can you earn as a virtual assistant?

Earnings as a virtual assistant vary based on the tasks and the employer. According to Indeed, the national average for virtual assistants is just over $25 per hour, especially for more basic administrative roles. Those with skills in higher-value areas, like design, can command higher rates.

Virtual assistants may find jobs through standard job sites such as Robert Half, Monster, and Indeed with set hourly rates. Alternatively, those using platforms like Upwork or Fiverr have the flexibility to set their own rates, potentially earning more. Social media platforms, including Facebook, also offer opportunities for virtual assistants to advertise their services.

Read also: Who is a Cybersecurity Architect and how to become one

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