Virtual assisting is an amazing opportunity to create a stable financial outlook, provide freedom to work whatever hours you’d like, and make valuable contributions to businesses.
But what does a virtual assistant actually do?
The simplest definition of virtual assistants is that they virtually assist businesses with administrative tasks. These tasks vary depending on the business or client. Some common tasks to all businesses include:
Email management ~ which is sorting a client’s emails and expediting the emails that need attention for the client
Calendar management ~ confirming that the client has their appointments organized and knows where they are supposed to be and when.
Customer service ~ this could mean responding to emails for the client, taking phone messages and responding, or answering questions via a phone call
Social Media ~ this one is gaining popularity with virtual assistants as a separate service but some are also including it in their basic service packages.
Virtual assistants can also complete tasks such as updating blogs, responding to comments on social media, work on processes and flows for the business, and sometimes even manage teams for the client.
The more specialized the skill set the more the virtual assistant can charge. This means that it really pays off if you decided to specialize in say, bookkeeping. You can sell your services at a much higher rate than a general virtual assistant.
Virtual assistants are generally independent contractors when they start out. This means that they work for themselves and any companies the work for are their clients. Some virtual assistants start out with a business license and create an LLC immediately before starting taking any clients. Either of these options are completely legitimate and depend on personal preference.
Pay and Training
A virtual assistant does not need a virtual assisting certification or any type of official documentation. While no specific education is required you must be able to perform the tasks that a client might need. This means that you should educate yourself on common virtual assisting tasks and continue to educate yourself whenever possible.
Pay as a virtual assistant varies along with the skill set that you supply as a virtual assistant. A new virtual assistant who has experience in admin tasks could start at $20/hour while a skilled tech virtual assistant could set their pay at $40/hour or more.
The skills needed to start out as a virtual assistant are fairly similar to the skills needed to land a traditional job as an administrative assistant.
Organized ~ VAs have to be organized to keep track of not only every client and the tasks do to them but each client’s unique needs
Communication ~ Because VAs work remotely communication is one of the most important qualities a virtual assistant needs. You must be willing and able to communicate with the client to determine their needs, set your boundaries, and keep projects flowing smoothly
Some Tech Knowledge ~ VAs need to have SOME tech skills or at least be able to run most commonly used software and applications.
Multi-Tasker ~ VAs must be masters of multi tasking especially if you want to take on more than one client.
Becoming a virtual assistant is a big commitment. You commit to yourself, your clients, and your business to be the absolute best you can be every day. Clients will rely on your skills for EVERYTHING. You may not think that organizing an email inbox is saving someone’s sanity ~ but the client who has been staring at 2,000 emails for a month will think you are the best thing since sliced bread.
Are you ready to become an in-demand, money-making, rockin’ virtual assistant?
Freelancers, whether you are applying for projects on a third party site such as Upwork or responding to an advertisement, usually send in proposals.
Proposals are important because they outline what you, the freelancer, can do to accommodate and accomplish whatever needs the client might have. A good proposal clearly defines the services that will be provided in a professional and cohesive way. This gives the client the feeling that you provide high-quality services.
It is important that your proposal shows that you:
Understand the needs and goals of the client
Offer the best alternative and best quality
You are open to communication and ideas that fulfil the needs of the client
Proposals should generally include this information:
Your name or business name and logo in a prominent place such as the header
You should address your potential client if you have a name. Otherwise, use an appropriate salutation
What project you are hoping to be a part of
Scope of services/description of services
Amount of time to complete services – if you are able to estimate based on the description of the project
Price of services
Why the client should select you
A proposal can be long or short depending on the needs of the client. For example, on Upwork you complete a “cover letter” then add your pricing in another section. In that situation you would use a shorter format generally. If you find a project post on Facebook, you would send a more detailed or formal proposal perhaps from a CRM such as Dubsado or even long form in a Google doc.
The important thing to remember is that you want to match the tone of the project poster. A very casual opportunity post probably doesn’t need a three page project proposal. Remember, clients are busy – they need you to get to the point and tell them exactly what you will do to help them.
Get to know your potential client
Analyze the project description as deeply as possible. When writing a proposal the first thing to remember is that the client only cares about how you can help them have an amazing result. Look for keywords within the description and reply to those concerns or hurdles and how you can help the client overcome them.
The job description will also help you decide on the format of your proposal. This means that a less formal job description doesn’t necessarily need a super formal proposal and it can be more casual; where a super formal description would encourage you to make your proposal more formal.
Highlight your strengths
You want to shine a spotlight on your skills, especially if you see that the majority of the descriptions are a perfect match for what you excel in.
Do not include irrelevant skills or experience in your proposal. The client, once again, only cares about how you can help THEM with their specific needs. Be clear on how your amazing skills have helped in specific ways in the past with other clients in other employment.
Grab their attention…
With a strong start. Potential clients will read a LOT of proposals. Don’t use a boring first sentence. Start with a strong lead on why you are perfect for the project. You can be more detailed further in the proposal but draw attention to how amazing you are quickly.
Name specific tasks, ideas, or considerations that you would bring to that specific project. Tailor each sentence to that specific project and give details on how you would assist in accomplishing the clients goals.
The Other Stuff
Proofread and spell check – there is nothing worse than losing a project because you didn’t take those extra 3 minutes to check your spelling
Create a template so that you can reuse the proposal – changing the wording, of course, based on each client. Templates help keep your branding consistent and you can plug in the different packages or services based on the client needs
Follow up – send a message if you don’t hear back from the client.
Need more help determining how to set up your back office as a virtual assistant? Check out the various courses I offer. Or join the Business From Home Mom Group to join forces with others starting their journey to get feedback on your proposal templates.
Upwork has gotten a lot of traffic, rumors, and questions about Upwork.
What is Upwork?
Upwork is a third party freelancer website. Potential clients post a project and then freelancers submit bids for that project. Every bid costs connects and each connect is $0.15 per connect. To bid on a project it can cost up to 3 connects so up to $0.45 per bid on a project.
There are also fees on any money you make. Depending on the length of your relationship with a client the fees will vary. Generally, you can count on paying 20% of your pay to Upwork as well.
Upwork terms of service require that if you find a client on Upwork you are paid only through their platform. This means that if you find a client you must use Upwork for payment. If you mention on the Upwork platform working or getting paid off of Upwork they will discontinue your account. Immediately. You will not be able to even retrieve any money owed. They take this very seriously.
Using Upwork has several advantages. The first advantage is that you are protected by their payment program. Any work you complete on Upwork is guaranteed because Upwork requires an escrow payment from the client. This ensures that you receive your pay – no matter what. No more ghosting from clients!
The other benefit of Upwork is that you are submitting bids to potential clients who are actually looking for freelancers. This means that the odds of you being hired on Upwork are much higher. This is a huge advantage to having to do your own marketing.
Paying a bit of your wages to Upwork makes all of us feel icky. No one likes to just randomly pay part of their wages to a third party company. It definitely sucks. How do you circumvent this? You simply increase your hourly or project payment. If you normally (off of Upwork) charge $30 then charge $35 on Upwork. If you normally charge $300 for a month of blog posts, charge $360. Clients are aware of the charge up on Upwork – and they appreciate the same protection of Upwork as well.
Scammers exist on this platform. They are everywhere and Upwork is no different despite their rigorous ability to check and double check both clients and freelancers. Here is what to look out for:
Clients who ask YOU for payment
Clients who say they are going to send you a check for equipment and instruct you to cash it then send them the difference
Non Payment-Verified clients
The other difficulty is the fact that some will try to low ball their payments. Always charge what you are worth ~ whether on or off of Upwork this rule holds true.
If you decide to get started….
You’ll want to have a great profile. Building a great profile that showcases your skills, personality, and experience is crucial to getting solid opportunities.
Use Smart Searching
Once you register you will see a job feed full of hundreds of projects that you can bid on. I suggest using the search feature to find projects relevant to your skills. Searching for virtual assisting will have more relevant results than just scrolling through. There are also filter options. I recommend using filters such as “payment verified” so that you only land on projects for which the client has had their payment method verified.
In order to bid on jobs you submit a Proposal. This proposal has a couple of parts. The first part is the cover letter, then your bid amount, and then the client may have questions specific to the project that they will ask.
The cover letter is very important as it is the first thing the client will see. In this cover letter you should keep it short and sweet while still showing your personality and skills. The most important thing to remember is that you need to keep it short. Why? Because potential clients don’t have time to read a novel when they are trying to hire someone to end the chaos in their lives.
Your cover letter should start with a greeting and then a brief explanation on how working with you will improve their business or solve their problem. Showcase your specific skills that will help this particular client succeed in their business. If their description isn’t clear feel free to ask questions to clarify what their needs are.
Be sure to show a little personality, as well. Are you easy to work with? A pro at all things project management? Say so.
Potential clients will connect with you when they like what they see either on your profile or once you’ve submitted a profile.
One helpful thing you can do is take notes on every project for which you submit a proposal. This will help you develop some questions to ask on any discovery calls. What are discovery calls? Basically, interviews. But I try to stay away from employee/employer language when we talk freelancing because I feel like it puts both clients and freelancers in the wrong frame of mind.
Be prepared for any questions by checking out what you can about a client. Some clients are going to be completely anonymous, and that is okay, there’s nothing fishy about it. Other clients will leave their names and companies so you CAN check them out. Do as much due diligence as you can prior to speaking on the call/video conference.
This is super important. Follow up with any potential clients that you’ve had a discovery call with and feel like would be a great fit. Just a short message saying “thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.”
Running a business from home while in the midst of a pandemic – the mom perspective.
The little kids are crying – they want something to either do, eat, or wear.
The big kids are either so bored, so bored they’re going to cry, or so bored they’re considering actually doing schoolwork.
The adults are eyeing either a glass of wine or that car sitting in the driveway like it’s manna from heaven by 10 am.
Welcome to running a business during a pandemic. This entire month has redefined my business and the entire world. But how do we really function in this new and strange world? There’s no childcare, school, activities, and there’s absolutely no break.
So. Let’s check out my quick advice on surviving (along with your business) in these new and strange times.
Keep Expectations Low
You may have started out with awesome ideas and plans; maybe even a little color coded schedule? Now, though, we are weeks into the “stay-at-home” here in Ohio and all of those good intentions have flown out of the window. I found myself so stressed out and overwhelmed trying to keep to a strict schedule, that I created myself mind you, that no actual work got finished. I was working in 10 minute spurts. Clients were understanding – they were in the same boat – but the pressure I was putting myself under was doing more damage than good.
So I set lower expectations. No one dressed today? That’s okay. Eating breakfast at 10 am instead of 8 am? At least they’re fed. We have to remember that everyone is living this same “normal” right now and comparing ourselves to others, or to our own expectations is overwhelming and unrealistic.
Get Your Priorities Straight
Is everything really important right now? Like everything? The best way to calm the chaos is to sit down and truly think about what is actually a priority.
Let’s say you have four hours you can count on working every day because a partner, older child, or TV program is able to watch your littlest. What are you going to do with those four hours? What is really important to get completed?
Personally, it’s client work. I know I have three solid hours per day (during the daylight hours) that I can knock out some work. So do the work. Then stop. You can randomly check email, texts, and do odds and ends here and there. Do the biggest chunk that requires the most concentration when you have that work time carved out.
Then go spend time with your kiddo’s. Or come take mine…just stand outside and make sure none escape…
Do Not Compare
Just don’t. Don’t compare any part of your life to anyone else. This is true from a parental perspective, business perspective, and personal perspective. There is always going to be someone who you think is doing better than you are. Some mom is always going to have better craft ideas, some business person is always going to have a better promotion going on, and some lady’s makeup is always going to be looking good while you look like a character from the Lost Lagoon.
You can only do what you can do.
Yesterday, my four-year-old daughter decided to test my absolute limits. First, she woke up at 7 am demanding popcorn for breakfast (she got it), then she wanted to paint (which went surprisingly well), then a whole bunch of life stuff happened and I had to focus on work. So my littlest decided that stripping naked and streaking through THE FRONT YARD would be a good idea. Yup. But check out my social media. We look totally sane.
My point? Don’t compare – you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes.
That’s it. There’s nothing earth shattering. Just a few simple reminders that you’re not going to lose your mind, good enough is good enough, and you are an amazing parent. Stay the course and keep dreaming.
I remember the days, not fondly at all, where I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. The one thing I was absolutely sure of during that time (20 years of it) was that there had to be a better way.
There are a lot of words that others use to describe me – single mom, crazy, mom, mommy (depending on what they want), sarcastic, funny, smart, quiet, and laid back are just a few. The words I want to apply to myself? Successful, independent, happy momma…
My three girls are my biggest inspiration. Every single move I’ve made the last 14 years has been about giving them MORE. Not stuff. But time, experience, enjoyment; less struggle, sadness, insecurity.
I started my virtual assistant business just this side of poverty with a Google search for “work-from-home” jobs while pondering what I ultimately was going to do with the rest of my life. But where?
I’ve never felt like I “fit in”.
I’ve always been the jeans and t-shirt girl ackwardly trying to mesh with the corporate world. Incredibly skilled but not willing, or able, to play the part of the high level exec. But I’m not the type of person who knows what to say and when to say it. I never know how to act when it comes to small talk, or big talk, for that matter. So where did that leave me?
Finding a way to make money in jeans and a t-shirt, of course. Or my jammies. Or dressed up in leggings and a sweatshirt if I was feeling super fancy. But it’s really all about the jeans.
And that wasn’t the only challenge. I was a single mom which brought about its own passel of unique experiences. Society (or at least the ones I’d always listened to) said things like: single mom and freelancer is a mistake; you can’t be happy as a single mom; you can not, absolutely can not work only 30 hours per week and be a single mom; you must work two jobs and be constantly exhausted in order to be a successful single mom. Not a real optimistic outlook, was it?
Finding My Place
There were a lot of reasons to NOT take a chance on myself and start this business. Three big ones – my kids – who needed me to make money to do things… like to feed them. BUT the more pressure I put on myself to work the business – and make the business work for me – the higher I’ve flown.
There are a lot of questions that could discourage me from following this path ~ Can I afford health insurance? Is my income dependable? How will I make X amount of money per month if I lose all of my clients? I have to talk to HOW MANY people to get a client?
I’ve been incredibly blessed with super supportive people in the last three years who have allowed me to walk this journey of self discovery. I’m finally the person I always imagined I’d be. A high level exec in business jeans.
If you want to follow more of my journey, learn more about starting a freelance virtual assistant business, and work life balance while working from home – follow me on Instagram or Facebook and keep connected with my blog.