Become a Virtual Assistant in Australia
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What skills do I need to be a Virtual Assistant?

This is one of the most common questions our team gets asked from potential virtual assistants.  In fact, we built our competency assessment tool because we get asked about the skills that new virtual assistants need so often. To access the assessment – click here.

However, the skills you need is just part of the question.  Virtual assistants come in a range of flavours –  just like your favourite ice cream. It got me thinking about what actual skills you need to be a small business owner because that is exactly the same.  However, I can’t discuss skills without discussing attributes because really a better question would be:

What do I need to do to be a successful virtual assistant?

I took this question to our group and asked experienced and new virtual assistants alike what they thought. This is a summary of some of the answers.

alexAlex from The Admin Hound

Alex offers dedication, devotion, a high level of organizational skills with a genuine & honest approach in working with businesses or community groups.  Alex states:

“Get paying clients through advertising and networking.”

While this sounds like a simple thing to do, there is a lot riding on it.  How much do you want your clients to pay you, what services do you want to advertise, where will you advertise and who do you network with?

catrinaCatrina MacLeod from Virtual Assistant 2U

Catrina offers social media, customer service and travel services to her clients.  She is passionate about the 80% of your business you aren’t focussed on.  Catrina states:

“Determination, clear goals, a fabulous mentor (Liz Parker) and an open mind”

Catrina is being very kind mentioning me, but really you do need someone to bounce ideas off and give you their time when you need it.  You can get adhoc advice from forums or discussion groups but they can be confusing and just plain not right for your own particular circumstances.
SusanSusan Wilkin from Adminaholics

Susan specialises in delivering virtual online business management services including the day to day running of her client’s business.  With over 6 years experience as a VA Susan states:

“The drive and determination to stay true to your goals. A great service offering that appeals to your target market and the confidence to put it out there. Plus someone (like Liz Parker) to throw you off the ledge and in the deep end.”

Susan has been working with me for many years and I love how she mentions the ledge and someone to push you off it.  Sometimes others can see your potential more than you and it takes just a little guidance to take that first step.

kirrillyKirrilly Barton from Virtually Awesome

Kirrilly excels at prioritizing and completing multiple tasks simultaneously. She specialises in administrative support to busy businesses with experience servicing small, medium or large companies.  Kirrilly advises that you need:

“Perseverance and commitment”

Kirrilly is someone who could help all of us with these 2 qualities and she is absolutely right – marketing your services can sometimes be like rolling a rock up a hill and persevering until you reach the pinnacle and get over the other side – true in most businesses.

kellyKelly Pagett from Executive VA Support

Kelly is a brand new virtual assistant who provides expert and professional planning and administration services for meetings, events, parties or weddings.  Her advice is:

“Have a lot of patience! 🙂 from working for someone who does everything for you to learning how to do it all by yourself. It’s taught me I need patience! And then determination, drive, passion, creativity and an open mind.”

So to summarise – the attributes you will need to be a successful virtual assistant are patience, perseverance, drive, determination, commitment, passion, creativity, an open mind together with a mentor.

But what about the skills for a virtual assistant?

Running a business means that you have to look at the different aspects of your business and pay attention to each of them.  While you don’t have to be an expert in everything, you do need to be aware of the need to have things in place.  I have put together the following 7 Elements of a Virtual Assistant Business to help:

  1. Planning – Start with a plan and it will keep you on track
    There is so much distraction available that unless you have a plan you will waste a lot of time and effort pursuing things that won’t get you to where you want to be but it will fill up your time.  Breaking down the planning activity, set the following targets:

    1. The Number of Hours you want to work each Week/Month
    2. The amount of money you want to earn
    3. The things you love to do (services you will offer)
    4. What your exit strategy will be (how much will you need in 10 years time).  By calculating what you will need at the end, it is a simple exercise to work backwards and find out what you will need to earn in the first year of operations.  Then do the calculation based on the number of hours per week you want to work.
  2. Compliance – The legalities of what you need to do to start operating.
    Most countries require you to do something about advising the Tax Office about your business, you may need to register (in Australia you need an ABN) and you should also check your business name against the register and whether a domain name is available.  The IP Office or Trade Mark Office should also be searched in case you are breaching someone elses trade mark and check for any local licences for operation a business from home.  Privacy of information you collect is important these days and also any and all anti-SPAM legislation.  Thing about what the risks can be in regards to interruption of service can also help you create a risk management plan. (eg. what happens if you have an extended power cut).
  3. Finance – Take the numbers you have worked out in the planning element and work out your expenses and likely income to find a break even point.
    Break this down into months or weeks so that you know what figure you need to make that week to keep on track.  Adjust as you go.  Create a simple spreadsheet to keep track of expenses and income.  Check your tax department for any rulings in regards to tax deductions.
  4. Marketing – It needs to be authentic and genuine to work well.
    Knowing who will benefit most from the services you offer can make a huge difference to your marketing efforts.  Select a target market and then follow them around and make sure they know who you are.  Branding yourself so that it accurately reflects who you are is important as well as your unique value proposition.  Clients will pay more for an expert so promoting your expertise as a signature dish will help.  Build 10 channels of leads into your business initially and these will pay off continually.
  5. Operations – The systems and processes that you use to support your clients.
    Think about “the moments of truth” in your business.  Those moments when the client touches your business and how you will handle it.  Write template agreements, policies and procedures to handles these moments.  Think about ways in which you can build a team to help you – accountant, lawyer, mentor but also about the things that you can delegate to other virtual assistants when you are too busy to handle everything.  Work to your strengths and outsource everything else.  We advise our clients to do this so why shouldn’t we take our own excellent advice?
  6. Customer Service – Keeping your clients coming back time and time again.
    If you don’t offer a quality service then you can’t expect a client to stay with you.  The lifetime value of a client can be substantial and it is worthwhile considering how to keep your clients happy and coming back to you.  It takes some time to build trust so take full benefit by adding value.  The things you can do is provide them with testimonials or reviews online.  Every time they pay an invoice thank them with a small gesture.  Provide a guarantee of satisfaction and act on all feedback.  Build social proof to attract more clients.  Share their content on your own social media sites and generally be seen to be supporting them online.
  7. Developing You – If you don’t look after yourself you will deflate and lack motivation
    Create a default diary so that you can fill in all your personal commitments first then fit in the different elements of your plan into your schedule.  Create a PD plan for your own skills as you see where you have the most interest and don’t forget to give to others and build an engaging community around you.

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If you need more help, view the contents of our Virtual Assistant Handbook