Blog Post

Web Worker Careers: Virtual Assistant

VA WorkerAs the employment landscape continues to shift, some job titles are waning in importance, while others are on the rise — among them, virtual assistants. In fact, more than half of the respondents to a 2008 survey by Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce said they’d started their VA businesses in the last two years.

Monday Morning VA owner Dawn Martinello defines a VA as someone who “works off-site and provides administrative and other business support to different types of businesses.” As Caroline Pigott of VIP Assistant Solutions notes, “Clients are happy to find a one-stop shop rather than find someone different for every task,” she says.

Could becoming a VA be a good career move for you?

Virtual Assistant Careers

Administrative activities run the gamut from managing calendars and travel arrangements to planning meetings and doing data entry. VAs schedule appointments, proofread documents, work with invoices, manage logistics for moves and handle mailings.

Creatives do web design, graphic design, desktop publishing and set up blogs.

Marketing assistants work on marketing strategies, manage web site content, handle brochures and advertisements, write and distribute press releases, publish newsletters and create presentations. They also help with social networking, search engine optimization (SEO) research and pay-per-click (PPC) monitoring activities.

Office management involves human resources activities such as managing employee benefits, doing medical research and management, checking references, screening applicants, helping personnel and new hires. Responsibilities may also include financial activities such as bookkeeping, billing and managing payroll.

Combination Most VAs do some combination of some or all of the above activities. Laura Paul, Virtual Administrative Success Solutions, says she’s an administrative assistant, executive assistant, business manager, project manager, sales assistant, marketing assistant and human resources assistant.

Jennifer Goodwin, CEO of Jennifer Goodwin Companies, says, “VAs do it all. A VA can choose to niche in one vertical market or a VA can be a ‘Jane of all Trades’ who specializes in the full spectrum of marketing from traditional print opportunity seeking to the latest web technology and social marketing.”

How to Qualify

The Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce survey reports that almost all of the respondents said they had five or more years of administrative experience, with skills ranging from administration and bookkeeping to web design and marketing. Half of the respondents gained experience on the job while almost 30 percent have VA business training or skills certification.

There are quite a few places  offering VA resources, including:

Several organizations offer certification for VAs, including:


Many VAs rely on as little as a computer, Internet and phone. Of course, they use the usual software for documentation and emailing. Depending on an individual VAs focus, they may use a scanner, time tracking software and invoice services, publishing tools and/or video editing software.

Find Clients

Most VAs find their clients through referrals and social networking sites. Other marketing methods vary; many VAs join organizations and forums, get listed in directories, run email and direct mail campaigns, blog, write articles and more.

Judy Schramm, CEO of Proresource LLC, says, “I recommend specializing, as with any other kind of freelancing. That will help VAs get more and better referrals. It also reduces the cost of marketing and increases the rates you can charge.” Schramm suggests visiting sites that match VAs with clients such as Assistant Match, Virtual Assistant Networking Association (also a business network) and IAVOA’s Directory.

Are you considering a VA career?

Image by stock.xchng user Zanetta Hardy

14 Responses to “Web Worker Careers: Virtual Assistant”

  1. Good post, I think the virtual assistants can now be put into different categories. There are VA’s that are employees either working from home for big corporates. Then we have VA’s that are business owners that might work from home that rent out Virtual Offices to benefit from administration facilities that might not be possible at home and also provides you with a business address in different countires at times. If handled properly, have to say being a virtual assistant is the way forward! Cost effective in most cases!

  2. This is a great article about Virtual Assistants! I must say the most difficult part of being a “VA” is that it has become an “umbrella title” for so many online job positions. :) I love the Virtual Assistant Forums that posted a reply as well! They are also a very nice resource.

    Amber Whitener
    Virtual Assistant

  3. VA’s are definitely a great resource for the growing business owner. I found them to be so helpful that I now teach other entrepreneurs how to find the right VAs for the tasks they most need to outsource.

    I’ll tell you, this has gotten so popular I regularly get asked by VAs to help refer them clients from our programs.

    And yes, I do believe that specializing is key. I’ve had way better results using VAs who specialize than generalists.

    Happy delegating,

    Melanie Benson Strick
    CEO, Success Connections, Inc.

  4. Virtual Assistance is a great way for someone to earn income and to be able to stay at home, to make their own business decisions and provide great services. I really recommend that emmerging VAs “niche” in an area where they have a lot of expertise. I, too, began in 1996 as a general VA but found that specializing in real estate was the place that my talents were best utilized. I would also recommend as a great resource for VAs who are looking to specialize in Real Estate Support services! Lots of great tools/tips and networking opportunities!

  5. @Taryn, sounds like a natural transition for you. You echo the experience of the people I’ve interviewed.

    @VA Forums, thanks for adding. We limited the resources to three categories or else it would’ve grown out of control. :)

    @harmonsmith, I agree. You only pay VAs for the time you use them instead of for putting in 40 hours a week plus benefits.

  6. harmonsmith

    As a small business owner, outsourcing work to Virtual Assistants is fast becoming a popular and intelligent decision. The business owner saves enormous amounts of money by cutting the costs of offices and equipment overhead as well as expensive benefits packages. I am also running a small business using this facility by valleyhq I am very satisfied and feel like I am able to increase my business now.

  7. I have been a Virtual Assistant for 5 years now. It was a natural choice for me as I have over 20 years experience as an Executive Administrative Assistant.

    As long as one is strong in basic administrative skills, has a high business acumen, and well honed people management skills, Virtual Assistance can provide a most satisfying career and business experience.