What Is a Virtual Assistant? (Definition, Responsibilities and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

With remote work and virtual offices becoming more common, there's an increased demand for professionals such as virtual assistants. Typically working from home on their own devices, virtual assistants perform a wide range of duties to facilitate business operations for their clients. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a virtual assistant, it is important to understand what the job entails and how you can enter the field.

In this article, we describe what a virtual assistant is and what they do, examine the skills you need to succeed as a virtual assistant, explain the steps you can take to enter this profession and discuss how much virtual assistants earn.

Related: What Is Remote Work?

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is a self-employed independent contractor who provides administrative or technical services to a client while working remotely, outside the client's place of business. They typically assist with tasks that take up considerable time for their client, such as scheduling meetings and appointments. Virtual assistants usually work from home but have access to the digital resources necessary to do their job. For example, they may be able to enter data into a client's database and add appointments on their digital calendars.

Related: What Is Self-Employed? Benefits, Types and Examples

What does a virtual assistant do?

The specific duties, tasks and assignments of a virtual assistant can vary depending on the needs of their client, but there are a number of common responsibilities. These include:

  • Providing administrative and technical support to customers

  • Making, answering and directing phone calls

  • Scheduling and managing meetings and appointments

  • Securing spaces for in-person meetings, such as conference rooms

  • Making travel arrangements and reservations

  • Creating lists and purchase orders

  • Transcribing meetings or drafting and sharing the minutes of meetings

  • Managing communications and email accounts

  • Bookkeeping, invoicing and shipping

  • Tracking vendors, travel and sales payments and expenses

  • Conducting online research

  • Creating presentations from raw data

  • Entering data and updating databases

  • Managing filing systems, updating records and organising documentation

  • Creating and managing social media accounts

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Virtual assistant qualifications

While there are no standard qualifications to become a virtual assistant, a combination of education, training and skills are typically necessary to perform the tasks of the. Some qualifications for virtual assistants include:

Education

Most clients prefer to hire virtual assistants with at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in communications, commerce or business administration. However, depending on the type of work, some employees might prefer higher-level education or training, especially for specialised tasks.

Related: How To Share Your Education Background

Training

There are several training courses for virtual assistants available online. Courses in word processing, databases, spreadsheets, business and management directly apply to most of the job's duties. You may also benefit from training in social media management, website design and graphic design.

If you are interested in an integrated approach, you might consider specialised virtual assistant training courses that teach you how to perform basic administrative tasks remotely. These courses may vary in length, from a few days to several weeks. You can complete courses in several specialties to make yourself more marketable.

Certifications

A few online companies offer certifications for virtual assistant skills. With certifications, you can show potential clients that you have specialised knowledge. You can choose to earn certification specifically as a virtual assistant or to obtain certifications in specific areas such as social media management. Some such certifications include:

  • Certified Virtual Assistant: If you have at least one year of experience as a virtual assistant, you are eligible to complete the Certified Virtual Assistant course from VA Certified. Before you receive this certification, the VA Certified review board must question you about your virtual assistant experience, education and accomplishments.

  • Microsoft Office Specialist: This is a very useful certification, as most virtual assistant jobs require basic office software skills. It is available at three levels—Specialist, Expert and Master—and requires completion of a training course and passing of an exam.

  • Google Ads: Google Ads certification is a way to show that you are skilled in online advertising. Before you take the tests, you must complete the training that Google offers in the various areas covered by the certification.

  • Language certification: Foreign language skills can be useful if your client frequently conducts international business. There are several certification programs for various foreign languages, typically offered by language institutes or online.

What skills do you need to become a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant should possess several soft and technical skills, including:

Computer skills

Because virtual assistants work remotely, the ability to operate a computer and remote-access software is critical. Essential computer skills for virtual assistants include word processing, spreadsheets, email and online research. Familiarity with video chatting and virtual conferencing is highly desirable as well.

Read more: Computer Skills: Definition and Example

Communication

As a virtual assistant, you must have excellent communication skills. If you have to answer calls, you should be able to listen well, understand what is spoken, speak clearly and convey information. You should also have good writing skills, especially if you handle business correspondence or update websites.

Read more: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Organisational skills

Virtual assistants often handle multiple tasks at once, many of which require the coordination of schedules and other details. Good organisational skills are essential for performing these administrative tasks and completing your other duties on time. Additionally, since the remote nature of the work minimises direct supervision, organisation skills help ensure that you keep track of all the tasks you must address.

Read more: Organisational Skills: Definition and Examples

Multitasking

As a virtual assistant, you must respond to your client's needs as they arise. Thus, the ability to multitask can help you meet new requests without falling behind on other duties.

Time management

Virtual assistants commonly work with multiple clients, each with their own schedule. The ability to coordinate the priorities of your own schedule in relation to those of your clients can help ensure proper and timely completion of tasks.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Interpersonal skills

Although virtual assistants work remotely, they must have excellent interpersonal and presentation skills since they directly interact with their clients. As a virtual assistant, you should be approachable and professional. You should be able to speak in a friendly manner on phone calls and video chats, and you should be capable of maintaining a professional tone in emails.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to become a virtual assistant

If you want to become a virtual assistant, here are some steps you can follow:

1. Get a bachelor's degree

Most clients prefer to hire a virtual assistant with a minimum of a bachelor's degree. This can be in any discipline, but some degree subjects can improve your candidacy with certain employers. For example, if you wish to offer your services to a professional in marketing, a degree in that field can be beneficial.

2. Complete certification courses

Although certification is not necessary, it can be useful for attracting clients and securing jobs. This is especially true if you have limited work experience as a virtual assistant. To increase your job prospects, consider taking basic courses in computer software such as Microsoft Office, and then focus on specialised areas such as social media management.

3. Join virtual assistant organisations

Joining a virtual assistant organisation can provide you with valuable networking opportunities and the capabilities to develop professionally. For example, membership with the International Virtual Assistants Association offers opportunities for continuing education and access to services to guide you in your career.

4. Draft a resume and apply for jobs

When you draft your resume to apply for virtual assistant jobs, make sure that it reflects your experience and any specialised knowledge that you have. List all your skills and certifications so that employers know what you're capable of doing. You may not have to meet your employers in person, but in some instances you may have to complete an online assessment before you are interviewed for a job.

Virtual assistant salary

The average monthly salary for a virtual assistant in India is ₹23,713 per month. Specific salaries can depend on a variety of factors, including your education, certifications and experience. Virtual assistants who work independently may earn more than those who work for an agency and the kinds of duties performed and services offered can also affect wages.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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