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Become a Virtual Assistant: How to Make Money Working From Home

Updated on September 19, 2012
Imagine having the freedom to work when you want, from where you want!
Imagine having the freedom to work when you want, from where you want! | Source

What would you pay a virtual assistant to do?

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Although I have never been a virtual assistant myself, I have worked with several over the last couple of years and plan on working with many more in the future. Although it is not always easy to find someone I can trust and does great work, when I do, they make my life so much easier. Whether it's filling out information, managing emails, making fixes to a website, or leading out in a social media campaign, virtual assistants are amazing people who have been invaluable to me.

If you are well organized, motivated, interested in working your own schedule, and believe that you can provide value, than you have the ability to make a great virtual assistant. Being a VA is not an easy job, and it is not for everyone. However, for someone who would like to earn a little extra money from home, in their free time, it can create a great side income.


Where to Start

Clearly the first question to answer is "where to start?". What is it that you need to do to get going as a virtual assistant?

Fortunately, we live in a time where you do not have to do much to start promoting yourself and finding jobs. Follow these few steps and you will be ready to start making money!

1. Setup a PayPal Account

This is essential for work as a virtual assistant. Because your employers will never see you, they will have to pay across the internet. Paypal is the most common and well used process for transferring money between users. Besides, it is necessary for most freelance and independent contractor websites that you will want to sign up for.

2. Join Freelance Platforms like Odesk and Elance

I have used several freelance platforms, but these are my favorite. In fact, I think that Odesk is the best website for hiring individuals (if you are starting up, you are probably just an individual), when I need a big job done I visit Elance (such as programming a website from scratch, operating a large marketing project, etc).

I currently have two virtual assistant that I found on Odesk and I am very happy with their work.

3. Join Fiverr

Fiverr is a website where anyone can post a job for $5. If someone is interested in that job, they pay the person and the job is completed. The worker then gets $4 (Fiverr takes $1), and the employer rates how well the job was done.

Although Fiverr is not a great way to make a living, it is certainly a valuable way to promote yourself. There is also the option to up-sell customers. Meaning that you can make more off of a job my offering a little bit extra.


How to Set Yourself Apart as a Virtual Assistant

The world is full of people looking for ways to make money online. This means that there is a proliferation of virtual assistant wanna-bes. From offering to manage my Facebook account, to declaring that they can arrange my travels, there are many people saying that they can solve my problems.

Because everyone uses Facebook and Twitter, most people have become self-proclaimed social media marketing experts. Therefore, simply stating that you can manage my Facebook account for me is not going to get you a job. After all, I am very vain - I like to post witty comments on Facebook and see all the people who like, comment on, and share them.

Additionally, with the ability to outsource jobs to India, the Philippines, and other developing countries, I can have many simple jobs done for a mere couple of dollars per hour. If you live in a western country, I doubt that you want to work for $2.50/hour.

So what can you do to set yourself apart?

1. Focus on Developing a Niche

Do not try to do everything for everyone. This will lead to mediocrity. Strive to become the best at one thing and people will pay you for that. There are many areas that you could focus in:

  • Managing public relations (creating press releases, running competitions, etc)
  • Managing a WordPress website, emails, and PayPal payments
  • Doing online research
  • Creating PowerPoint presentations and newsletters
  • Become a ghost writer - write articles or books for others
  • Arrange travel
  • Specialize in Twitter campaigns, Facebook pages, or email publishing

2. Build a Reputation

Getting started is often the most challenging aspect. As clients start coming in, provided you do a stellar job, they will keep coming back, refer friends, and provide valuable references. The key is to build up a reputation at the beginning.

In order to build a reputation, it is important to get your name out there. In other words, it will be necessary to post your services everywhere you can think of (that is relevant, do not spam people), and sell yourself politely, but firmly.

Additionally, you may need to offer your services at a lower price to start. Because you need to build up a track record of doing a great job, you may need to offer your services for less than you would otherwise - just remember to state this to your employer and request that they give you a good recommendation for your hard work.

Once you have a portfolio of accomplished tasks behind you, begin raising your rate - you certainly want to make sure that you are making enough to live on.

3. Do a Great Job

People eventually end up getting paid what they are worth. I hate saying this, because I often feel very underpaid for many things I do. However, I believe that it is true. If you perform as good, or even better, than expected, your clients will be very pleased.

The more you accomplish, the more you will be seen as an expert - and experts end up getting paid much better than amateurs.

Keep in mind that you have a job that is flexible and provides you with a certain amount of freedom. You should be enjoying it! Act like it and do your best, it will pay off in the end.

Although working as a virtual assistant can be challenging, there are many benefits and opportunities to increase your standard of living through working as a VA.
Although working as a virtual assistant can be challenging, there are many benefits and opportunities to increase your standard of living through working as a VA. | Source

Making a Living as a Virtual Assistant

Being a virtual assistant is unlikely to make someone rich. However, it can be a valuable way to gain experience and make some extra money on the side.

If you are simply wanting a job that you can do from anywhere, or if your costs of living are incredibly low, than being a virtual assistant may be where you want your career to stop. However, if you are interested in moving up into positions of greater responsibility and higher pay, there are two ways to do that: 1) Increase your expertise, or 2) Increase your output.

Increase Your Expertise: This can be done through experience and developing skills. By becoming an expert in a particular field, it will then be possible for you to charge more, write books, or put on seminars. Once the world sees you as an expert, you have much more control over your destiny.

Increase Your Output: "But I'm already working as hard as I can! How can I do more?!" Good question. The key is to either find software that can make your life easier, or outsource some of your work to someone else. If someone is paying you to make their life easier, why can't you do the same? Of course, you will want to make sure that the quality is up to the standard that you want. But why not hire someone from Odesk (I would recommend this site for this) to do a job for you. If you can pay someone else to do it for you, and make more money because of it (while providing someone else with a job), then why not?!

Whether you are an experienced virtual assistant, someone just looking into it, or an employer, I am sure that there is much that you can share from your knowledge and life experiences. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

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    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi Robert Erich,

      This is valuable information as we seek to add an extra coin to our budget. I have already checked oDesk and i will go on and check the other sites that you have suggested. I like the idea of developing a niche. Although am yet to develop my own niche, I find working on a niche very attractive especially because you learn and gain experience over time. Great article, voted up and useful.

    • tjdavis profile image

      Teresa Davis 4 years ago from Moscow, Texas

      Good hub..the competition, as you said, is extremely high and Odesk is a good place if you don't mind waiting sometimes months between getting picked for a job lol. There are so many scams that it's really hard to actually find good decent work online.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      These are very helpful tips about becoming a virtual assistant. When I operated my real estate brokerage, I hired virtual assistants to help maintain transactions. They were awesome and a tremendous help. In specialized industries such as real estate, where "paperwork" has become digital, being a virtual assistant can be quite lucrative.

    • profile image

      Ghaelach 4 years ago

      Hi Erich.

      Enjoyed this hub. You have a lot of interesting info as well as tips and tricks. I'll be popping over to your two recommended sites.

      LOL Ghaelach

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      Thank you all for your comments and tips. It is true that being a VA is very competitive, perhaps focusing in something like real estate (as Marlene mentioned) is a good way to become successful. I wish you all the best as you pursue writing and other online business avenues!

    • BigEd5857 profile image

      BigEd5857 4 years ago

      Very informative Hub, voted up and useful. Thank You !

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 4 years ago from American Southwest

      I received advice from one of the highest paid graphic designers on oDesk (I happen to know his parents). As a result, when I started I: put a lot of effort into making the best profile I could; took all the applicable tests as many times as I needed to get a top score on them; and put out bids showing that I read the job description.

      After doing a couple jobs for practically nothing but the recommendation, I got picked up by a company I have been working for about a year now, and I have been recommending oDesk to family and friends.

      As you explained so well, one can get hired over people bidding $2/hr but only by demonstrating better work (and attitude!) than average.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

      Excellent information and you presented it very succinctly -- virtual assistant work sounds enjoyable to me -- I already do a bit of writing for several people -- might be time to move on to a larger scope. Thanks muchly! Best/Sis

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      That's some amazing tips, advice, and experience aethelthryth! Thanks for sharing.

      And I am glad you stopped by Angela. I wish the best as you continue your freelancing work!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

      I've heard about virtual assistants, but wasn't exactly sure how to do it. Thanks for a great hub on this! I now understand it and know how to go about it. Really great info.

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      Glad it was able to give you some pointers on the topic! I hope it helps you get started if that's the way you're wanting to go.

    • greeneryday profile image

      greeneryday 4 years ago from Some tropical country

      Actually I'm thinking of hiring a virtual assistant for myself, not now but maybe later, so I am going to check for the websites you listed above. Thank you for sharing, and writing such an interesting hub... Voted up and more!

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      You should definitely do it! Hiring a virtual assistant has been a great thing for me to do. They can help you with virtually anything that can be done from a distance.

    • Doctore Evile profile image

      Doctore Evile 4 years ago from the Northeast of the U.S.A

      Really good stuff...

    • mbwalz profile image

      MaryBeth Walz 3 years ago from Maine

      A lot of very good advice here!

      When I lost my job, I tried elance.com. But I admit that I was surprised at how little people were bidding themselves out for. I'm not an expert in anything, but was a very good and reliable assistant, web site assistant, etc. and I just thought - do I want to work for someone that is willing to pay $2/hr for my work? I understand how you need to prove yourselves, but we've gotten to a point where we just don't seem to have a realistic value for ourselves or worth for others. I have not tried oDesk though.

    • Robert Erich profile image
      Author

      Robert Erich 3 years ago from California

      It does take some thinking and creativity to make it worth your time. Sadly, many people on freelancing websites (employers) are trying to get the best work for the cheapest price. There are good people, however, who recognize that it takes a decent amount of pay to make the work worth the freelancers time. Any time I hire freelancers, I try to pay a fair wage - and I suggest that we all do that.

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