Are you a stay-at-home mom, nursing mother or unemployed graduate? Are you web savvy? Do you specific work skills and you want to make money working from home? Then below is a free in-depth guide on how to work from home as a virtual assistant.

In order to save the cost of hiring in-house employees to handle secretarial and clerical tasks, many professionals and businesses now resort to hiring virtual assistants on a contract basis. This has increased the demand for virtual assistants and has created more opportunities for them.

In case you didn’t know, a virtual assistant (or VA, for short) is like an office assistant. But unlike in-house office assistants, virtual assistants work from remote locations. As a virtual assistant, you will offer help to busy individuals, companies, or organizations over the internet. The tasks you will be handling include:

Common Tasks and Duties Handles by a Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants earn anywhere from $15 to $100+ per hour based on their experience and the complexity of the tasks they handle. So with a decent number of clients, a virtual assistant should have no problems paying the monthly bills and even keep some savings.

So if you are interested in becoming a virtual assistant from home; or if you are an office assistant who wants to start enjoying the flexibility of working from home, this post is for you. In this article, you will learn all you need to know to start working from home as a virtual assistant.

How to Become a Virtual Assistant and Work from Home

1. You need education

There is no general standard of educational requirements that virtual assistants must meet. Rather, educational requirements vary depending on the employer’s needs and the tasks to be completed. Most employers require no more than a high school diploma or an equivalent degree, but some may require a university degree. You don’t have to worry about your qualifications if you have a high school certificate. What matters to most employers are your accuracy, skills base, and experience; all of which will improve with time.

Another step towards becoming a virtual assistant is to contact someone with years of experience in the business. Ask about the mistakes you are likely to make when starting out and how to avoid those mistakes.

Ask what that individual would do differently if given the chance to start all over again. By asking relevant questions about virtual assistance, you will understand all you need to know about the business including the shortcuts to success.

2. Get the necessary training

While there is no accredited certification for virtual assistant training, you may need to enroll with a training program in order to hone certain skills. Many websites offer online training programs for virtual assistants. You can find them using Google, but be wary of dubious websites.

You are unlikely to find an employer who would ask how exactly you got your training. As stated earlier, most employers are most concerned with your skills and experience and most importantly, how you can use these to benefit their business.

But this is not to mean that you shouldn’t get yourself trained in areas in which you are lacking. It is very important to hone your skills, as this will make you more attractive to potential employers. The following are some of the necessary skills you must have to succeed as a VA:

  • Stellar communication skills
  • Excellent typing skills (at least 70 wpm)
  • Excellent grammar and writing skills
  • Ability to use word processors, spreadsheets, databases, and email

3. Define your services

The truth is that you cannot handle every office operation. So, you need to define what services you will render as a virtual assistant. Will you be handling simple tasks like reading and replying emails or complex tasks like bookkeeping? Figure out what you are very good at, what you like doing, and what many people need.

A good tip is to look at your career history or interests and target people in that area. For example, if you are very good at academic research, your target clients would be professors, scientists, and others in the academia. If you define your services and have a niche, you will be regarded as an expert in that area and will get more suitable enquiries and projects.

4. Determine how much time and energy you are willing to commit to your career. Are you planning to work full- or part-time?

5. Conduct thorough research to determine where your services are needed in your locality.

6. Outline who your clients are, where they are, and how you can connect with them easily. Some good places to meet clients is Odesk.com, Onlinejobs.com.ph and Elance.com

7. Know your financial constraints; your projected expenses, expected income, and how long you can stay afloat until your business starts to become successful.

8. Prepare a comprehensive virtual assistant business plan and review it often. This will help you manage growth and other changes.

9. Get the necessary equipment

As is the case with any other career, you need to check your equipment and resources; and ensure that they are up-to-date and would meet client needs Having the proper equipment and resources to carry out your tasks is germane to your success as a virtual assistant. Some of the equipment you will need as a VA are:

  • A personal computer with high-speed internet connection
  • A printer
  • A scanner
  • A copier
  • A fax machine
  • An active phone line
  • A home office that is free of distractions

10. Complete all necessary paperwork

Before you start hunting for clients, you need to finalize on all legal and financial aspects of your new career and complete the necessary paperwork. This includes obtaining all permits and licenses required by your state or federal government, and drafting a contract agreement document for your clients.

11. Network like crazy

You need to consider joining a professional organization or networking group. This will give you the opportunity to network with other professionals. Try to meet people and tell them about your business. Explain what services you render, and why they need your services. Even if they don’t need your services, they will most likely link you up with those who do. Networking might not be easy from the start, but it becomes easier with time.

Think about your previous business contacts. Consider attending local chamber of commerce meetings and other gatherings where you can meet potential clients. You can also meet people online (after all, you are a virtual assistant). Many online conferences give you the opportunity to chat with fellow attendees, so that’s also a good place to meet people.

12. Get on social media

Social media is one of the most effective tools for reaching out to potential customers and spreading word about your services. Set up accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and whichever social media platform your potential hang out on. Social media can help you find clients, and it can help clients find you as well.

13. Set up a website

Since you will be working from home, the internet remains your best tool for finding clients. For people to be able to find you, you need to set up your website. Establishing a web presence not only helps potential clients find you, but it also gives you a more professional appearance, the chance to highlight some of your skills, and an opportunity to explain your services. Your website doesn’t have to be expensive to look professional. In fact, simple is better. Just make sure it’s clean and compelling.

14. Market your services like hell. Below are a few marketing ideas you can try out:

  • Market your business at forums and online communities
  • Advertise your services in local newspapers and on free classified ad websites such as Craigslist.