How to become a virtual assistant

how to become a virtual assistant

Virtual assistants are in hot demand — and a very popular work-at-home option, especially for parents. Benefits include:

  • High pay. Depending on skill level, you can earn $20 to $75 within the first year.
  • Extreme flexibility. Work anywhere in the world you like, often any hours you prefer
  • Very high demand. Every industry and business requires some support, and it is easier and more cost-effective to hire a remote worker
  • Interesting work. The types of tasks required of virtual assistants are wide, varied and changing. You can pick and choose what you want to specialize in
  • Easy to get started. If you can type, do basic skills on a computer, run social media, you are ready to start your virtual assistant business.

Here is what you need to know:

  1. What is a virtual assistant?
  2. What kinds of tasks do virtual assistants do?
  3. How does a virtual assistant work?
  4. What skills do you need to be a VA?
  5. How much do virtual assistants earn?
  6. How to find virtual assistant jobs
  7. Pros and cons of being a VA
  8. How to become a successful virtual assistant with no experience

What is a virtual assistant?

Virtual assistants are exactly what they sound like they would be — assistants that work virtually (online) instead of in a physical office.

While many virtual assistants are self-employed freelance workers, some virtual assistants work for an agency or for one employer.

See what full-time and part-time jobs are available for VAs >>

Virtual assistants provide online support to a wide range of professionals who need help managing their online businesses.

People who employ VAs run the gamut from bloggers to online entrepreneurs, podcast hosts, online colleges, and pretty much any business owner who needs a support staff — but that support staff does not need to be in their physical office.

Why would someone hire a virtual assistant? In many cases, people who hire VAs work virtually as well so they don’t want to bring someone into a brick-and-mortar office.

If everyone on a team can work from home from wherever they live, businesses can save money on overhead by not paying for office space, and also get the benefit of happy, loyal employees.

What kinds of tasks do virtual assistants do?

At this point, you want to know:

What does a virtual assistant do?

While the answer to this question varies widely, most VA duties are similar to those conducted in any traditional office.

A virtual assistant who works for a blog or major website may perform tasks such as reading and responding to emails, helping their employer add people to their mailing list, creating documents, and proofreading.

They may also create virtual images to be shared online, and they may even perform basic social media management.

Other tasks that are performed by VAs include:

  • Update documents with new data
  • Create spreadsheets to track performance
  • Input or documenting payments
  • Send invoices to clients
  • Set up interviews
  • Respond to media or informational requests
  • Basic data entry
  • Schedule appointments
  • Writing
  • Ghostwriting
  • Project management
  • Pinterest management 
  • Customer service
  • Real estate agents and brokerage assistance with administrative tasks

This is not an all-inclusive list since VAs in a specific niche may perform additional tasks. However, it’s important to note that the bulk of your work will take place on your computer and online.

Legitimate work from home jobs for single moms

While these may seem so obvious they are a scam, there are many jobs that require the following skills — even for large companies like Amazon and Google:

  • Work from home on a computer
  • Work from home typing jobs
  • Work from home data entry jobs
  • Work from home customer service jobs
  • Work from home chat jobs
  • Work from home medical jobs
  • Work from home transcription jobs

How does a virtual assistant work?

In short: A virtual assistant is just like a traditional, in-person, or in-office assistant — but VAs work remotely. Often a virtual assistant communicates with clients via regular phone or Skype meetings, email, text, or a project management system like Trello, Asana or Basecamp, but that all depends on the agreements between the VA and their clients.

Most virtual assistants work on a contract basis. You may choose to charge an hourly rate, with a package based on a minimum number of hours. Your clients may assign you a list of tasks to be completed over a week or month or quarter — or you may respond to their requests as they send them throughout the day.

It is up to you as the business owner, the types of tasks you agree to handle, the way in which you are paid, the hours you work, and deadlines you feel comfortable with.

What skills do you need to be a VA?

Since your entire VA career will be spent in front of your computer, it’s natural to wonder if you have all the skills required for the job. Fortunately, you do not need a ton of technical skill to find work in this profession.

Kayla Sloan, a six-figure virtual assistant and the founder of $10K VA, even says that you don’t even need a formal education to get started. You mostly need a very basic set of online skills, attention to detail, an aptitude for excellence.

While the skills and knowledge you’ll need can vary depending on the specific type of VA work you do, basic skills to get started likely include:

  • Strong communication skills — ability to understand exactly what the client needs, and express what you need to the client
  • Highly organized
  • Ability to use Microsoft Office products, specifically Microsoft Word and Excel
  • Google Docs
  • Software editing programs
  • Organization and scheduling software such as Basecamp, Asana, Evernote, or Trello
  • Excellent reading comprehension and writing skills
  • The ability to proofread your own work
  • Accounting and bookkeeping knowledge, including QuickBooks
  • Experience with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest
  • Extreme attention to detail

If you haven’t mastered these skills yet or have never heard of some of these programs, don’t stress! There are many skills you can learn as you go, and there are even virtual assistant training programs that can get you started off on the right foot and with the knowledge you need.

None of the skills required to be a VA are overly complex or technical, and you will usually do some learning as you go. That’s totally normal.

In addition to the main skills you need, however, you also need excellent work ethic since you will be working from home. You need the drive to get up and do the work every day even if you don’t want to — and without a boss to motivate you. For many people, this is the hardest part about working as a virtual assistant or in any other work-at-home job.

Finally, you need to be a somewhat organized person with excellent time management skills. While most virtual assistants are paid by the hour, they need to be efficient with their time if they want to keep their employers happy. Remember that people who hire VAs are doing so to save both time and money. If you’re not efficient or you’re terrible at managing your time, you won’t be a “good deal” to anyone who might hire you.

How much do virtual assistants earn?

Now on to the question we’re all here for: How much do VAs earn? This is another topic that is up for debate because it really depends on:

  • Salary or part-time / self-employed (self-employed earn a higher rate, typically)
  • Experience level
  • Type of services provided. Data entry will command a much lower rate than organizing meetings of C-suite executives for the oil and gas industry
  • Industry. Clients in financial services, medicine, law and other fields that require high levels of service and have big budgets can pay more than serving an individual influencer or small business owner (though not necessarily)

How much do virtual assistants make, by job type

Virtual assistant salary (full-time)

Just as there is a remote version of every type of job (including surgeons, who can now perform operations remotely via robots!), any assistant job can now be applied to the VA category. In this case, some assistants doing very beginner tasks may earn a flat rate of $20,000 per year salary, an executive level assistant supporting the full schedule of a Fortune 500 CEO can earn $150,000 or more.

Virtual assistant full-time jobs may come with benefits like health insurance, retirement, paid time off, equipment like a computer, phone and desk, and/or rental on office space or a community office like WeWork. This is true for VAs working for large businesses, as well as solopreuneuers.

Virtual assistant part-time jobs

If you’re a self-employed freelance virtual assistant with multiple clients, you can typically charge a lot more than virtual assistants who work for agencies of a single employer.

How do you find virtual assistant jobs?

Virtual assistant work is in more demand than ever, but that doesn’t always mean the jobs are easy to find. For the most part, the *first* job you find as a VA is the most difficult to secure. From there, you can usually get more VA work via referrals. That’s why many virtual assistants start out with an agency at first.

Find a job at a virtual assistant agency >>

How to find virtual assistant jobs

Now that you are ready to launch, where do you find jobs?

Virtual assistant jobs for beginners

If you are just getting started, there are countless ways to find VA gigs to build your skills and resume.

To market yourself to potential clients, it is important to have attractive social media accounts, as well as a simple website that showcases who you are, and what you offer.

I give you easy, step-by-step instructions in this post, sharing what I learned from blogging for 7 years:

How to quickly launch a website and get 1,000 monthly visitors

Find a domain name now for your virtual assistant business, before someone else grabs it!

  • Fivrr is a marketplace where creative professionals promote their services — including designers, writers and virtual assistants. Keep in mind that marketplace is global, so you are competing with people in places like Thailand and El Salvador where wages are lower.
  • FlexJobs is an incredible resource for those seeking telecommute and other flexible and work-at-home jobs. There are hundreds of virtual assistant positions on FlexJobs, which does charge a fee to access its database of highly vetted companies. In other words: These are only quality positions at quality companies.
  • Ask around. Talk to friends and family who own small business, as well as work at corporations. Hiring remote workers on a contract basis is very common now. Offer to provide data entry, social media management, or any other services.
  • Networking events in your town
  • Conferences
  • Facebook groups and other online communities. There are a number of Facebook communities specifically for VAs, which can be useful in connecting with others in your new field to brainstorm business-building, as well as make new friends who might refer business. Also seek out communities of professionals where you specialize. For example, if you have experience supporting a dental practice, find an online community of dental practice managers.
  • Kayla Sloan's $10VA course (virtual course, of course!) is not only a deep resource for all the skills you need to be a virtual assistant, she also guides you step-by-step on how to find VA jobs and build a successful virtual assistant business.

You can also look for jobs using ZipRecruiter

These sources may sound really vague, but these are the best places to find VA work and VA jobs. You have to remember that, as a virtual assistant, part of your job really is finding and keeping clients. Fortunately, highly-skilled virtual assistants with plenty of knowledge and great communication skills tend to have no problem finding and retaining work. Happy clients will be thrilled to refer you to their colleagues and friends.

Remember: If you are successful in helping your clients' business grow, they are happy to help you grow you business — with increased fees and hours on their payroll, as well as recommendations to their friends and colleagues.

Find full-time and part-time virtual assistant jobs >>

How much do virtual assistant charge per hour?

If you work for an agency or full-time for one employer, you’ll take a cut in pay in exchange for help finding clients. VAs that work for an agency or single employer typically make between $10 and $20 per hour.

Some self-employed VAs who are highly trained and skilled charge upwards of $75 per hour and remain in demand, but the majority of freelance VAs earn in the $20 to $40 per hour range. Of course, there is a downside that comes with being a freelance VA — for the most part, you’ll in be charge of finding all your own work.

While earning on the low end of the scale may not be ideal, it’s important to keep in mind that you can charge more as you learn new skills and become better at your job. If you start out as a VA with an agency and become proficient enough to run your own client base, you could even double or triple your starting income within a few years.

How to create virtual assistant packages

Often, a VA will charge per package, or a set fee for a fixed number of hours. This is a benefit to both the client and the VA — clients know they are paying a fixed fee for work that they are incentivized to use. They are also more likely to get organized to work with their virtual assistant in a meaningful way that gets the most accomplished in the fewest number of hours.

Creating a package benefits the VA: You now can budget both your time and money, instead of hoping work comes in each day — and then having to scramble to tackle it.

To incentivize clients to buy a package, offer a discount for bulk hours billed. Here is an example:

“My rate is $40 per hour, with a minimum of 10 hours per month. These packages are discounted:

  • 10 hours/mo. = $350 (13% discount)
  • 20 hours/mo. = $680 (15% discount)
  • 40 hours/mo. = $1,280 (20% discount)

Pros and cons of being a VA

Working from home can be absolutely amazing, but the fact remains that no job is perfect. Virtual assistants face many of the same struggles as individuals in any regular job, and even a few more. Before you decide to become a virtual assistant, consider some of the pros and cons:

Advantages of being a virtual assistant:

  • Work from home or anywhere with an internet connection
  • You can usually work the hours you want with a flexible schedule
  • You can earn fair wages for your work with the potential to earn more as you improve your skills
  • You have the option to “be your own boss”
  • You can often work as many hours as you want, including part-time
  • You can plan your work around your family and personal schedules

Disadvantages of being a virtual assistant:

  • It can be difficult to find new clients at first if you’re not employed with an agency
  • You will need to learn new skills and perfect them to earn the highest VA rates
  • If you are self-employed as a VA, you will need to spend some time on bookkeeping including sending and tracking your own invoices and payments
  • You will likely need to pay quarterly taxes if you’re employed as a freelance VA and self-employed (a tax preparer can help)
  • Since many VA jobs are for independent contractors, they typically do not come with vacation or other benefits like insurance
  • You may face a learning curve when you first start out

How to become a successful virtual assistant with no experience

If you’re curious about this career path, it’s important to know that you don’t have to do this alone. There are a handful of helpful virtual assistant courses out there, including the one we referenced before — $10K VA.

$10K VA

This course is taught by Kayla Sloan, a professional virtual assistant who earns more than $10,000 per month. There are a lot of VA courses on the market, but Kayla’s course is the only one we know of that is actually taught by an experienced VA who is in the trenches doing the work — and earning a LOT of money from it.

Here is what $10K VA teaches:

  • How to pitch and land your first (and second, and third…) client, so that you can build that monthly income
  • How to set your initial rate — and how to raise it
  • How to onboard clients, and legal matters that will protect yourself and your business
  • Create an efficient system so that you can maximize your billable hours

A couple happy $10K VA clients:

how to become virtual assistant

To market yourself to potential clients, it is important to have attractive social media accounts, as well as a simple website that showcases who you are, and what you offer.

I give you easy, step-by-step instructions in this post, sharing what I learned from blogging for 7 years:

How to quickly launch a website and get 1,000 monthly visitors

Find a domain name now for your virtual assistant business, before someone else grabs it!

How to make $10,000 a month

Successful virtual assistants who earn $10,000 per month or more have these qualities: highly organized and professional — always delivering on time, with excellent communication skills.

Higher-earning VAs also possess skills that translate into profits for clients. For example, if you can manage a social media account to drive leads and sales for you client, then you pay for your own salary — and more.

Remember that business owners need people just like you to keep their businesses running smoothly and free up time they can spend on other goals. You can work as a virtual assistant and escape the daily grind of your 9-5, but you have to take that first step to get started on the path to the life you really want.

To set an hourly rate that helps you reach your goals, consider a quick equation:

  1. What annual income do you want to make as a virtual assistant? Let's use $120,000 per year as an example ($10,000 per month).
  2. How many hours per week do you want to work? A typical full-time job requires 2,000 hours per year (40 hours/ week x 50 weeks). In this case, the equation is:

$120,000 / 2,000 hours = $60 per hour.

Maybe you only want to work 20 hours per week — great goal! That then means that you need to both charge $120/ hour — as well a offer services that command that high fee.

Likely, your rate and schedule will be somewhere in the middle.

All totally possible!

Check out $10K VA online course now.

Also, peruse great telecommute and work-from Flexoffers.

Find a domain name now for your new business, before someone else grabs it!

Read more:

Flexjobs Review: Does this site really find high-paying work-at-home jobs?

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How to become a social media manager

How to become a graphic designer

How to become a corporate event planner

How to become a clinical research coordinator

How to become a bookkeeper


About Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.

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