What Is A Virtual Assistant?

By June 7, 2008 General 4 Comments

I was sitting at my local café in 2002 browsing the newspaper and sipping on a steaming café latte. It was the weekend and I was determined to make the most of my precious two days off. After all, I was a 9-to-5 secretary, another cog in the corporate wheel, and for two days of the week, I tasted freedom.

A headline caught my eye. It read ‘How To Stay At Home And Earn A Full-Time Income As A Virtual Assistant.’ Stay at home and earn a full-time income? Yes, please! I didn’t know what a Virtual Assistant (VA) was, but it sounded very intriguing.

Fast forward to today. I’m a Virtual Assistant working from home full-time. I’ve never looked back and love what I do.

So, what IS a Virtual Assistant? Well, let me tell you about my typical day. Get up, shower, put my business pyjamas on and have breakfast. Commute down the hallway to my home office. This ‘daily commute’ takes less than one minute and there’s no traffic or sweaty commuters to speak of. Check emails for any work that may have come in overnight. Start my working day, pretty much deciding what I want to do, and when I want to do it (of course, if there’s an urgent deadline to meet, then of course I’ll fit in with that).

What kind of work do Virtual Assistants do? The beauty of becoming a Virtual Assistant is that you have control over what services you want to offer. You can type and format documents, do research, data entry, transcription, editing and proofreading, copywriting, Powerpoint presentations, design newsletters, flyers, logos, book meetings, organize events, update and design websites. Those are just some examples of what you can do. Basically, if any task can be done in your own home without having to actually sit with the client, you can offer it as part of your Virtual Assistant services.

The difference between a Virtual Assistant and say, a data entry person or typist, is that a Virtual Assistant usually offers more than one service. Also, a Virtual Assistant tends to work more as a kind of ongoing business partner to the client, rather than offering a one-off piecemeal service.

You don’t have to offer lots of services right away. You can start with what you’re comfortable doing, and add to your services package whenever/if you’re ready. For instance, I didn’t start offering web design right away. I learnt the skill in my own free time, and eventually added it to my services list later.

Do you need special training to become a Virtual Assistant? Well, that depends on your existing skills. If you’ve already got good secretarial and computer skills, you probably don’t need training. You will however benefit in taking a small business course to become savvy in that area.

If you don’t have existing skills, then yes, you’ll need training in those areas before you can think about becoming a Virtual Assistant.

I know what you’re thinking. How much can I really make as a Virtual Assistant? It’s definitely possible to make a full-time income. According to this article (from 2004) by Entrepreneur.com called ‘Starting a Virtual Assistant Business’:

“According a survey by the Virtual Business Alliance, a global consortium of virtual assistant trade organizations, the average full-time virtual assistant working in the United States grossed $39,452 in income last year.”

Please note that that article was published a few years ago in 2004 so the figure is higher now. Note the words “average full-time virtual assistant”, which obviously means some earn less than this, and others earn more.

You can really increase your income substantially by building a team of Virtual Assistants that you outsource work to. For example, you charge the client $40 per hour and pay your subcontractors $30 per hour. The difference is yours to keep for managing the client relationship.

It’s the perfect time to jump onto this opportunity and become a Virtual Assistant. More and more people are becoming aware of Virtual Assistance and realizing the benefits of having a VA. There’s more than enough work to go around too.


  • Mandu says:

    Good Evening,
    I have a question about having a virtual assistant business, presently I am studying to become a medical transcriptionist and also have a background in administrative assistance and am seriously considering having a virtual assistant business, but wasn’t sure about which niche I should concentrate on, even though I enjoy both. Would it be better to combine these skills or concentrate on one skill over the other?

  • Lisa Taliga says:

    Hi Mandu, medical transcription is a great niche. However, if you enjoy both medical transcription and admin assistance, I would start by offering both services. They complement each other well. A client wanting medical transcription may well want help with admin too. There is no need to restrict yourself at the start. It is good to niche down, but I believe this comes with time.

  • Mandu says:

    Thank You! Now I have a goal to attain after I complete my medical transcription and what direction to go in. Thanks again for taking the time out of your schedule to answer this question for me.

  • Lisa Taliga says:

    You’re welcome, Mandu, and best of luck with your medical transcription course. It’s a very good niche and there will always be demand for good medical transcriptionists. I’m not just talking about traditional medical professionals such as doctors, dentists etc, but also other health practitioners such as naturopaths, osteopaths, homeopaths, physiotherapists, the list goes on!

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