Often, I get asked by people who are looking for work or a change in career, how to get started as a virtual assistant and navigate the daunting process of transferring skills from the corporate world to a home office. Since “vocation” and career transitions are so often a hot topic, I figure writing about my journey from corporate to VA might be helpful.
Networking Near and Far
When I transitioned to working as a freelance virtual assistant in 2008 after taking several courses in social media marketing and copywriting, I had a simple website and was part of several online virtual assistant networks and forums. It was sink or swim! The connections I made among classmates and other industry influencers was enough to learn about access to job boards, and dialogues with other VA’s from all over the world about client leads. This brought an opportunity fairly quickly to work as a copywriter for an agency that outsourced a team of expertise to a variety of businesses and solopreneurs in different industries.
I landed other jobs by networking locally in my home town, which luckily was brimming with progressive entrepreneurs and start-ups. Through word of mouth and answering local ads, I worked successfully with three different business over several years with copywriting and social media management. All of which resulted in building my niche, testimonials on my website and a growing portfolio of clients and experience.
Tips for Getting Started
If I were starting out all over again, I would most likely take the same combined networking approach and get the word out locally, as well as online job searches and community forums. In order to gain initial experience and testimonials, don’t underestimate offering your new VA services to local charities or small businesses at a reduced rate or affordable package. One of my first local clients was a charitable endeavor on my part, in order to gain experience writing copy for their new community website. Although the pay was little to nothing, it was akin to a valuable internship, and with new connections made that blossomed into future opportunities.
And it goes without saying that nowadays, having a professional online presence, with a website, blog, or at the very least, a comprehensive LinkedIn profile is a must.
Where It Started for Me, and Where it Continues
The two constant skill-sets that have been in demand since I entered the VA world are social media marketing and copywriting, and it continues to this day. Although other skills are certainly also in demand, such as project management and bookkeeping, these require a higher level of education and are niche industries in themselves, which not everyone can easily jump into.
When someone asks me what they can do most quickly from home without having a particular niche in mind, I tell them anything social media related will allow the easiest transition into supporting clients remotely. With todays’ vast array of online courses at our fingertips, becoming an intermediate expert at social media marketing with essential writing skills is quickly accessible, and doesn’t require a degree.
And, it’s one of the top skills that clients need now, and will continue to.
Staying Current, and Keep on Learning
The first thing I consider when applying for a job or considering a new client, is how I can bring value in a real and tangible way to their business. I assess whether they’re requiring skills and experience that I already have, along with a small allowance for managing a learning curve and building on my skills if needed. I always tell prospective VA’s, the learning never stops.
As a Virtual Assistant in todays’ business world, the willingness to continually learn is the most essential ingredient for success. Being okay with stepping out of my comfort zone (what comfort zone?) is not only necessary, but completely expected in order for me to continue working as a professional VA.
Are you ready to take the leap?