What is a virtual assistant? *insert hand-on-chin-thinking-hard emoji here*
I used to be like you: I had no idea what a virtual assistant was or what they do. It seems like a vague term at first, admittedly. “Virtual” clearly refers to online, but what about “assistant?” That could mean any number of things, because assistants do a wide range of tasks in an equally wide array of fields.
So…how do we narrow this down?
Now Really, What Is a Virtual Assistant?
In a rather basic sense, a virtual assistant is someone who remotely helps people cross items off of their to-do lists. You can think of a virtual assistant like an administrative assistant or executive assistant, except they often don’t live in the same city–or even state–as their clients. Say what?! How does that work?!
If you think about it, more and more companies and jobs are going digital. Technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and there are always new apps, software, and online tools that make it easy for virtual assistants to complete work for their clients. Plus, think about it: If you’re a small business owner, and you can’t find anyone in your area who’s qualified to do what you need them to do, where are you going to look? Online, for someone who can do the work virtually. I’ve literally had a potential client tell me this–she tried finding someone in her area who could help her, and she was unsuccessful. So what did she do? She found my business card on a table at a conference, kept it, and emailed me after the conference ended.
We’ll go into a little more detail soon, but in general virtual assistants can do lots of tasks for clients in many different niches. Most virtual assistants choose a niche that they prefer to serve, usually because they have a passion for it or because they have a background (professional or otherwise) in that niche themselves. They also likely have a list of particular services that they offer to clients. Yeah, it would be great to find someone who can literally do everything, but…do you want someone who’s okay at doing lots of different things or someone who’s specialized in a select couple of areas? …That’s what I thought. There’s one more important point that I’m mentioning here, but I discuss it in more detail in another post: Virtual assistants are independent contractors, not employees. (I will concede that I think there are some rare occasions when virtual assistants are employees, but for the most part, they’re independent contractors.)
Are There Virtual Assistants Serving My Niche?
Yep, I bet there are! I’m still amazed when I see people posting about the niches they serve in a Facebook group I’m in for virtual assistants–and I’ve been a member of that group for a few years now! Here’s a definitely-not-covering-all-of-the-bases list of some of the niches represented in that group (some may be general, some may be very specific):
- Small business owners
- Bloggers (business, healthy living, parenting, lifestyle, food…you name it)
- Creative professionals
- Wedding professionals
- Personal trainers
- Member-based organizations
- Web design agencies
- Spiritual professionals
- Wellness professionals
- Graphic designers
- Online marketers
- Life coaches
- Start-up businesses
- Pastors and churches
- Real estate
I grabbed this list from the document that we have going in that aforementioned Facebook group so that we can easily refer potential clients to someone more suited to their needs. I also have to note that there are over 1,000 members in the group, and only a small percentage of them have added their business information to that document! Additionally, I added a few that weren’t on that list but that I recall people posting about in the discussion area. This list is by no means fully inclusive, so if you don’t see your field on there, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t virtual assistants serving your niche. I bet if you were to do a little digging, you’d find at least one!
What Kinds of Services Can Virtual Assistants Provide?
Again, this is sort of a “if you can think of it, somebody does it” category. Even I’ve provided a pretty wide variety of services to my clients in the past, and I’ve narrowed it down over time to the point that I’m not only offering proofreading and editing services. It’s important to keep in mind that the services offered will largely depend on your niche. A blogger doesn’t need someone to cold call people to see if they want to sell their home, for example.
- Proofreading and editing
- Cease and desist emails for copyright violations
- Guest post management
- Blog clean-up
- Graphic design
- Email management
- Customer service assistance
- Data entry
- Content writing (or ghost writing)
- Blog/website maintenance
- Event planning
- Project coordination
- Platform specific website development
- Email campaigns
- Webinar support
- Podcast editing and transcribing
- Video editing and transcribing
- Administrative tasks
- Online surveys
- Calendar management
- Etsy shop management
- Landing pages
- Sales letters
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. There’s even someone in the group whose business is to match potential clients with the right virtual assistant! She made herself a job out of that, and from what I can tell, she’s pretty successful with it!
I also want to point out that, as you can see, sometimes virtual assistants can blur the lines between virtual assistance and other fields. For example, there are people who go to school for graphic design and build a business as a graphic designer, but you might have noticed that one of the services that popped up on the list of services a virtual assistant might offer is…graphic design. What’s the difference here? It varies on a case-by-case basis, but I would have to bet that someone who is a professionally-trained graphic designer charges more than someone who’s gotten good at graphic design over the course of time in doing it on her own.
I think this about rounds it out for covering the question of, “What is a virtual assistant?”, but keep your eyes peeled for the other posts in this series. I hope that you’ve found this helpful and encouraged you to venture into the realm of finding yourself a virtual assistant, if you just can’t seem to keep on top of your to-do list!
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This post was most recently updated in March 2019.