The development of high-speed internet has fundamentally changed the working world around us, thereby leading to the popularity of the virtual assistant job. Virtual assistants are typically skilled workers that offer an array of services including marketing, bookkeeping, and even office organization from a remote location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of administrative assistant work typically requires nothing more than a high school diploma. With a low barrier for entry and the average pay of nearly $19/hr, there are plenty of reasons to consider a career in this rapidly growing industry.
The role that a virtual assistant will play within a business will vary based on the needs of the company that they work for. What remains consistent from one job to the next is a developed tool belt of skills that can be sharpened and honed for success.
Top 6 Virtual Assistant Skills
In theory, a virtual assistant can provide any level of support required by the company that they are contracted by, with the exclusion of physical in-house demands. Some virtual assistants will focus on crafting a specific skill set, such as accounting, while others will opt for a broader set of skills and techniques.
No matter where a potential virtual assistant plans on working, it is important that they have a foundational set of skills to accomplish their goals. Consider developing the following skills to increase your chances of success as a virtual assistant.
1) Effective Communication
- Importance: A foundational tool for success as a virtual assistant, effective communication skills can broaden your horizons while empowering your efforts. Being able to communicate quickly, clearly, and effectively is of the utmost importance as it lends an air of credibility to your job. Half of what makes an individual effective as a communicator is their ability to listen and absorb information.
- Highlighting It: When communicating with a potential client, ensure that you are listening carefully while taking detailed notes. Taking detailed notes will allow you to clarify questions at a later time while keeping your focus on the individual you are speaking with. Virtual assistants that can offer clear and effective communication will find themselves at an advantage when exploring potential jobs. Notes can be taken manually or after-the-fact if calls are recorded.
- Developing It: Developing and clarifying your communication skills can take many different forms. When working remotely, relying on powerful tools can make communication easy. Working with a platform like Evernote can help to facilitate accurate and in-depth notes. Additionally, outfitting your office with a work-ready webcam and audio device can help enrich your potential avenues of contact when working with a client.
2) Planning and Strategy
- Importance: The cornerstone of an effective assistant is their ability to plan and strategize on behalf of their company. When a virtual assistant can accurately forecast their strategy, it allows their entire base of operations to improve. As it turns out, when you know where you are going, it is easier to get there.
- Highlighting It: As virtual assistants typically work on their own, the onus to plan and strategize your workday will fall on your shoulders. There are a variety of ways to approach your day-to-day tasks with planning and strategy in mind. Some virtual assistants will opt to chart their schedule for the week ahead of time. Other virtual assistants will work with a planning board like Trello to keep their tasks visually laid out before them.
- Developing It: Developing your planning and strategizing skills requires a look at how you approach your work. One of the easiest ways to improve these skills is by developing S.M.A.R.T. goals. A S.M.A.R.T goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. An example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal would be to market to mailing lists in search of a 5% traffic increase by next period. This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, and bound by a specific period of time. Additionally, there are many project planning tools that can help to automate improvement within this skill set.
3) Effective Time Management
- Importance: Can be paired with planning and strategy, effective time management is a broader overview of the techniques we take to accomplish our goals. As virtual assistants are often required to handle time-sensitive duties, it is incredibly important to hone your time management skills. Working in a largely unsupervised capacity can lead virtual assistants to struggle when these talents are not improved upon. According to a study by TechJury, nearly 46% of reported stress among employees within the U.S.A.. is caused by an 'overwhelming' workload. With time management tools, this workload can be reduced.
- Highlighting It: In order to improve upon your time management skills, focus on scheduling blocks of time to navigate your duties more appreciably. Breaking up your larger duties into smaller sub-sections can allow for effective time management and delivery skills while reducing stress.
- Developing It: While some virtual assistants can thrive with nothing more than a minimal schedule in place, others will fare far better with actionable techniques on their side. Following the Pomodoro Technique is an effective and free way to improve your time management while retraining your brain at the same time.
4) Discipline and Self-Motivation
- Importance: Discipline and self-motivation are two hands on the same clock. Discipline is founded on the idea that you can train yourself to stick to your objective until the project is complete. Self-motivation is the ability to get started in the first place while maintaining your efforts. As virtual assistants are rarely overseen by third-party regulators, it is essential to be both motivated and disciplined in your day-to-day activities.
- Highlighting It: While working on your regular duties, take time to track what distracts you during your work. Do you find yourself browsing social media? Do you catch yourself checking your phone? When is the average start-time and finish-time for your daily duties? This information will give you a good look at how disciplined and motivated you are on a day-to-day basis.
- Developing It: Developing motivation will come as a byproduct of maintaining your discipline. Discipline is your ability to stay focused while allowing distractions to bypass you. If you struggle with self-motivation and discipline, installing third-party applications to 'block' problematic websites (social media, news, entertainment) can help you stay on track. Browser extensions like StayFocusd can be beneficial.
5) Developed Computer Skills
- Importance: Virtual assistants are frontline workers in the digital world. As a result of the job and duties you are likely to face, you must feel comfortable navigating basic computer systems. The tools and software platforms that you work with will vary based upon your industry. With that being said, there are core programs that most virtual assistants should be at least comfortable with, including the Microsoft Office Suite.
- Highlighting It: Virtual assistants work almost solely on the computer. In order to continue developing this skill, focus on ensuring your comfort with software like Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word. There are many generic alternatives to consider should budgeting become an issue, including the free OpenOffice suite.
- Developing It: Depending on where you are with your computer skills, pursuing a computer class at your local community college can be an effective way to develop your talents. Students often receive discounts when purchasing software from Microsoft. Additionally, educational organizations like GCFGlobal will offer a range of classes for various Microsoft Office products.
6) Attention to Detail
- Importance: Attention to detail is vital for work as a virtual assistant. Routine mistakes can be damning both to your reputation and that of the company you are working for. Poor attention to detail will devalue your work, risk your position, and complicate your efforts all at the same time. While some companies will opt to verify the work performed by their virtual assistants, others will rely on your skills and talents to ensure that the job is done correctly.
- Highlighting It: Paying attention to detail comes in many shapes and forms. Focus on crafting error-free copy that has been checked for facts, grammar, and spelling mistakes all at once. Get into the habit of re-reading your work while developing multiple drafts of your content.
- Developing It: To develop your attention to detail, lean into the idea that you must expend energy toward the effort. Tools like Grammarly and Copyscape can ensure that your content is legible and free of incidental plagiarism. In addition to automating your spelling and grammar, taking English and Computer Courses at your local community college can help to enhance this skill set.
Virtual assistants provide support for a wide range of administrative tasks from a remote office. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that remote work will exist and thrive in the future. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a virtual assistant is $42,907. With the industry poised to grow in the coming years, now is the time to develop the skills that will enhance your future career.