If you’re interested in making some extra income on the side, then learning how to become a virtual assistant might be the right path for you.
What is a virtual assistant?
The terms virtual assistant or VA are fairly generic. Pretty much any job where you help someone else accomplish something remotely (or virtually) rather than going to their physical workspace can be called virtual assistance.
It’s become such a catch-all role that even specialized jobs — like graphic design, photography, administrative tasks, email list management, marketing and more — are sometimes rolled up into the VA description.
There are even entire online courses and communities dedicated to educating VAs, bringing them together for support, and helping them find work. Facebook Groups, in particular, are rich with opportunities for new and established VAs to find jobs.
What’s the beauty of becoming a virtual assistant?
According to Carlee of Moms Work Hard VA, an online school and group for Virtual Assistants, you don’t need any experience in order to get rolling with your virtual assistant side hustle. This is great for stay-at-home moms (SAHMs), in particular, who have often spent years being primary caretaker for their children — so haven’t had a chance to get practical work experience in a corporate job.
They need income, but their schedules don’t allow for standard hours in an office. They need to work from home — and it needs to be flexible!
In the article above, she points out that the beauty of virtual assistant work is how you can fit it into the margins of your schedule. As long as you are organized and personable, you can find work answering emails, answering customer support calls — and any number of other things that don’t require years of education to pick up.
Related: 5 tips for starting a home business
How to become a virtual assistant on the side
Regardless of where you decide to look for VA opportunities, there are a few foundational things you need to get settled before you learn how to become a personal assistant:
Decide what kind of work you’d like to do.
Figure out what hours you can commit to your side hustle.
Get your resume (website) together.
Determine how you’ll get paid (plus taxes).
Get your office set up.
1. Decide what kind of work you’d like to do
Sit down and start thinking about your skills. Where do you shine? Maybe you came from a traditional work environment where you had a particular role, like graphic designer. Or you have had a hobby doing photography for years and want to start photographing people’s products as a service.
Perhaps you’ve been a homemaker your whole life but your house is organized like a military encampment. Then your skills could likely be applied toward organizing someone’s business behind the scenes, keeping things running smoothly.
Once the ideas start flowing, it’s time for a brain dump!
First, you’ll want to make a big list of everything you can think of that you’re great at — including the items you brainstormed above. Then add things you’d like to learn to do. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to do copywriting, but never got a formal education in it.
Now’s your chance to take some classes or start studying writing techniques so you can look for jobs that help you broaden this skillset. You can also look at what other virtual assistants offer as services and see if any of those sound fun.
Some common VA services are:
- Handling emails and email newsletters.
- Customer service calls and messaging.
- Uploading and downloading files.
- Backing up important documents.
- Posting to social media.
- Designing images for social media posts.
- Data entry and/or spreadsheet work.
Next, go back through your list and put a checkmark next to the things that light you up — those you’re really excited about and love doing. This is the stuff that you talk about for fun and would practically do for free.
And finally, take a third pass through that smaller list and highlight the ones that would be a good fit for doing remotely for someone. That’s your sweet spot in the the quest to learn how to become a virtual assistant.
Related: Side hustle ideas
2. Figure out what you can commit to your side hustle
Since you’re doing this work on the side, it’s really important to be realistic about your time. If you only have three weekday morning hours to dedicate to your VA work and can’t work weekends, or you can only work weekends and not weekdays, or you only work in the middle of the night, jot it down.
And don’t worry, there’s going to be a perfect customer for you and your calendar. So keep learning how to become a virtual assistant on the side.
Sometimes your clients may be across the world in an opposite time zone. Or the work can be done any time of day and they’re flexible about when it gets done. The most important thing is to make sure you are crystal clear about your schedule so you can make that evident up front in any discussions with clients.
They’ll appreciate it and it will make your search so much easier. No need to waste time on a job that is outside of the hours you’re available.
3. Get your resume (website) together
It’s important when you’re applying for VA jobs that you have a way to explain to potential clients what your skills and experience are. You can put together your resume, just like with a traditional job, and then send it over as a PDF or Word Doc (or Google Doc.)
But you’ll get more traction, faster and easier, if you just go ahead and make a simple website to house it in.
You’ll look more professional and it will be easier on clients, too. They’ll be able to see all your skills and pricing (if you choose to list it) before spending time chatting with you — so this saves time on both sides.
This might feel intimidating, but don’t be scared!
You can even design it right from your phone. I gave this a trial run the other day and created most of it on my phone automatically. It’s fast and comes pre-populated with images and placeholder text.
I continued editing it on my laptop, adding in the resume contents with the Menu feature. Plus I added a free consultation section using the Appointment Scheduling feature. This is a special section on the site where a client can click to book time for a discovery call. You can even use this feature to get paid for an appointment!
4. Determine how you’ll get paid (+ taxes)
You’ll want to figure out how you’ll collect money from clients before you dig in too much deeper. So set up a separate bank account (you don’t want to mix your personal and business finances) and a way to invoice your clients.
There are tons of services to help with this, but the most popular is probably PayPal.
Most everyone trusts PayPal and will feel comfortable paying you through the service and you can invoice directly from there — so that’s easy. And as far as taxes go, you’re likely going to be set up as an independent contractor, but make sure you consult with a tax pro for the best advice on how to handle this piece.
5. Get your office set up
This one is optional, but if you have a dedicated space in your house where you’ll be doing your VA work, you’ll have an easier time staying organized and on task. Maybe you can snag a desk in a corner, or you’re lucky enough to have room for an office.
As you learn how to become a virtual assistant, remember you can also be totally remote. That means working from coffee shops, libraries — or your car! Figure out what works best for you, your schedule, and the equipment you need to work with.
6. Find clients
The next step in learning how to become a virtual assistant is to tap your existing network. What I mean by that is telling all your friends and family about your new virtual assistant side hustle. Tell your dentist, and the grocery clerk, even.
You’re likely going to fill out your first client list from this group because they already know, like, and trust you.
Then expand your search to social media. You can put your new VA availability on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else you think relevant people will find you. Facebook, in particular, has a wealth of opportunities for VAs to find work.
Look for groups specifically for VAs to gather, groups where jobs get posted, entrepreneur groups, and also groups where your ideal client would be.
Then get in there, make an impression, and start gathering some leads. You’ll have your first virtual assistant side hustle clients before you know it!