Quick and Dirty Guide to Virtual Assisting

Work where you want, on what you want

By Natalie Winzer, iHire
Virtual assistant working in home office

Virtual assistants (VAs) are professionals who provide a wide variety of administrative, technical, and/or creative services to clients from a remote location. Generally working from a home office, they specialize in a myriad of areas such as bookkeeping, data processing, event planning, purchasing, web design, research, digital marketing, and social media. Today’s technology makes it easy to instantly connect with people across the world, enabling companies to hire VAs on an as-needed basis and allowing VAs to succeed as self-employed professionals.

Does this role appeal to you? Review the basic guidelines below before launching your VA career.          

Work Environment & Necessary Equipment

Working from a home office has a number of perks, such as no commute, dress code, or boss hovering over your shoulder. On the other hand, a quiet, organized, and secure place to get your job done is still essential, and this will take some planning and financial investment. The specific equipment and software you’ll require will vary based on the work you perform, however VAs generally need to invest in a computer, printer, phone, and a reliable, secure internet connection. Be prepared to pay for software packages yourself as well.

Core Skills

As noted above, VAs can be hired for multiple projects beyond basic secretarial work depending on their individual skill sets. At its core, however, this role requires the following traits and capabilities:

  • Time management
  • Tech-savvy
  • Self-motivation
  • Accuracy/attention to detail
  • Multitasking
  • Professionalism
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Customer service
  • Critical/analytical thinking

VAs run their own companies, so be sure to take business administration classes if this is new to you. Ongoing education/training in your specific areas will benefit you as well, especially if you provide services such as social media account management where the landscape is constantly changing.

Salary & Job Outlook

According to Indeed.com, the average annual salary for a VA is $35K. PayScale calculates the median annual salary to be $39K (up to $42K for those with 10 to 20 years of experience). The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 12% increase in assistant jobs by 2020 in their Occupational Outlook Handbook, though this statistic encompasses traditional assistants and VAs. Another indicator of growth in this field is the number of job postings for VAs on oDesk (now Upwork): 2.5K in 2008 vs. 25K in 2012.

VA Resources & Job Boards

For further VA career guidance, support, and education, check out these resources:

Professional Organizations:

Training/Certification Providers:

Job Boards/Placement Services:



International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA)

Nina Feldman Connections – 101 Ways to Use a Virtual Assistant

Heather Barnett – What is a virtual assistant?How to become a virtual assistant

Carolyn Moncel – Starting a Virtual Assistant Business

Alina Dizik – 10 Things to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant


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