A virtual assistant is someone who works from home serving clients worldwide. They deliver a variety of services using technology. Many virtual assistants specialize in a particular field, such as working solely with real estate brokers or attorneys, while others provide general services to any client. Here are the basics if you're thinking about becoming a virtual assistant:
Education and Training
You can enroll in online courses to help you launch your virtual assistant career. These courses will teach you the skills you need to serve clients from home and how to use the various technologies needed to work with clients worldwide. There are also associations that offer certification programs. You can become a Certified Virtual Assistant or obtain a specialized certificate, such as a Certified Real Estate Support Specialist. Courses and certifications will help you compete in this growing industry. However, you can become a virtual assistant without them.
The skills you need as a virtual assistant vary depending on the jobs you take and the clients you choose to work with. You might decide to work in an industry that you're familiar with due to prior work experience. The skills required would then be to learn how to work remotely. If you don't have experience working in a particular field, then you'll need to acquire the necessary skills to support clients in that area. Because you'll work primarily over the web, it's important to become proficient in typing, word processing and using the internet. To extend your services, and therefore your reach to potential customers, you should consider becoming proficient in desktop publishing, online research, writing and search engine optimization.
The following is a list of equipment you'll need while working as a virtual assistant:
- Computer (with Internet access)
- All-in-one printer/fax/copier/scanner
You'll also need basic office supplies including:
- Pens, pencils, markers, and highlighter pens
- Scotch tape, duct tape, and glue
- Scissors, rulers, and a tape measure
- Stapler, staples, and paper clips (all sizes)
- Paper, and ink replacements
If you plan to use a name other than your legal name for your virtual assistant practice, you may need to register with your state to get a DBA license. DBA stands for "doing business as" and is also known as a "fictitious business name" or "assumed business name". Go to your county's office and register your DBA with the clerk (sometimes you'll have to register with a state government agency). Some states want you to fill out a "fictitious business name statement" and pay a fee, or buy a certificate of "doing business as." You can also purchase DBA forms online or from office supply stores. Once you have a DBA, you can open bank accounts and engage in other business activities. You can also sign contracts and not have to worry that they won't be enforced (just because you failed to get a DBA license).
The key to succeeding as a virtual assistant is to provide quality and professional services to clients. Satisfied customers will do much of your marketing for you through repeat business and referrals.
Daphne Mallory, Esq. is the co-owner of Mallory Writing Services and has written more than 100 articles helping home based business owners and entrepreneurs start and market their business. You can learn more about her here.