Being a Virtual Assistant (or VA) is one of the most fun and challenging jobs I’ve ever had. One of the reasons it’s so challenging is because no two days are the same, no two clients are the same, no two projects are the same… You get the picture. However, it has been an incredibly rewarding experience because I have learned SO much from so many amazing clients throughout the years. I fully believe that every manager you have teaches you how to be or how not to be. A lot of people want to work from home or own their own business because they want to be their own boss. However, as a VA, you don’t have A boss… You have several. And from those bosses and subsequent lessons, I’ve learned you can be a really good virtual assistant in any field with the following tips.
Good Virtual Assistants are very organized.
Probably the number one thing you need in order to be a good VA is organization skills. Although it’s possible to be a VA with only one client, odds are you’ll have several. So it’s very important to keep tasks, billing, projects, etc. separate. I have separate folders for each client in my email, on my computer desktop, and on my actual desktop. I keep handwritten track of my hours that I upload to an electronic version when I have time. Some people prefer to use apps or websites for time management/hour tracking. But for me, it’s easier to jot down my start and stop time for each task than to remember to pull up a browser or app.
Speaking of timesheets, being organized with your time management is important too. You’ll probably be working on multiple projects with different deadlines. So it’s important to keep deadlines and your workload in mind. Even if that means turning down work because you don’t have the bandwidth. That’s where your organization skills come in! You have to balance your personal life and mental health too.
A Good Virtual Assistant understands their clients needs.
Throughout my years as a Virtual Assistant, I have been able to create more work for myself. And not in the “work hard not smart”/”busy work” kind of way. But rather by anticipating my clients’ needs. If they are struggling with social media posting, I offer to help schedule posts. If they are starting a new venture and don’t know what to do next, I help guide them through the process. Now that’s not the same in every case. For instance, if you are doing general email work, you probably shouldn’t just start advising your client on their next business steps. But you can offer to unsubscribe them from junk mail lists or help clean out their archived or old messages.Think about what your client may need, and then how you can help solve those problems.
Of course this won’t work every time. Sometimes people don’t want or need extra help. And that’s ok! All you can do is provide them the best work you can within your agreed to Scope of Work. Although I’ve created a lot of work for myself (in the good way), I’ve also had to talk myself out of a lot of projects too. For example, I was assisting one client with their Pinterest and I noticed there were some huge ways they could really optimize their website to get more traffic. I suggested it, they declined, and then I had to put it out of my mind and continue with my previous scope. As much as you want to fix things as a really good virtual assistant, it’s also your job to back off when necessary.
Good Virtual Assistants are willing to learn.
I have said yes to many VA projects for which I had no experience. Now I’m not going to run out and get a bunch of VA assignments in astrophysics or heaven forbid… math. But rather, if a client needs me to work on a new platform or skill in my relevant field, absolutely! Not only do I get to help my clients and keep things clean and easy by providing them everything they need in one place, but I also get to learn some stuff too! And you know what that means? More work in the future! It could be work from the current client because they were happy with my results and responsiveness, or it could be a new client because I now have that new skill in my toolbox. And more skills + more experience = charging more money.
As a Virtual Assistant, you are still a business.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as a VA is that although I feel like I work for all of my clients, I am actually my own boss and in charge of my own business. And sometimes I need to act like it. It is very easy to feel like you are (or actually become) friends with your clients. However, you still need to put yourself first.
My high school coach always said “If you don’t look out for number one, who will?” and when you work for yourself, that’s especially true. You have to be your own advocate. If you are working too many hours, you need to back off. If it is impacting your family, you have a decision to make. You are in charge of your schedule. If you want to wake up at 10, start working at 12, and then go to bed at 1a, that’s totally your prerogative! (Assuming that’s ok with however you’ve set up your business.) If you want to go to the grocery store at 2p on a Tuesday because you just need a change of pace, or if you want to go work from the beach for a week, it’s all you! But you have to do the hard stuff too.
Like making sure you’re getting paid. Or understanding the really difficult stuff like your financials, expenses, taxes, and such. It’s really easy to get caught up in the friendships and that feeling you get when your client does something awesome or when they thank you for your help. But in the end, you’re the last one standing in your business. You have to make sure your business is still standing with you.
A Good Virtual Assistant knows their weaknesses.
No one knows you like you do. And one fun thing about owning your own company is deciding what tasks to get rid of first. I had a boss tell me once that you should always have two lists in mind – a list of tasks you love doing, and a list of what you’d get rid of first. Because you never know when your manager is going to say they’re adding someone to your team. However, now you’re the manager. AND you get to choose who you’re adding and what they’re doing.
I know, I know. You’re like wait a second… I’m the one people are hiring to cover THEIR weaknesses. Wouldn’t it be weird if I hire someone too? Not at all! First off, you’re not hiring them to cover your client work. That’s your strength! Instead, you’re hiring out your weaknesses.
My first hire was my accountant. And he’s an absolute lifesaver. (If you’re in the Kansas City Metro area, his name is Rich Adams, and I HIGHLY recommend.) My second was someone to help me clean my house. I work A LOT of hours each week (by choice) and my house can get a bit cluttered. So having someone help me tidy up gave me the comfort of living in a clean space, while still giving me the flexibility to work all of the hours I wanted (and in exchange, earn the money to pay her).
Most recently, I’ve brought on my own VA for my Etsy business. (You can learn more about me and my other creative small businesses here.) I’m a big believer in the “do, delegate, delete” method, and she helps me “do” more in the part of my business that gets the least amount of attention. Plus, I feel like being a VA for so long has helped me learn how to be a good manager for her, and I get to teach someone else how to be a really good virtual assistant too.