Building a lucrative virtual assistant (VA) career is no mean feat. The minute you set up your business you encounter a profusion of virtual assistants looking for the same opportunities. Your hard work, consistency, and resilience may have allowed you to profit heavily from your skills up until now.
But it might be time to rethink your day job. A virtual assistant could be a good career move. The growing popularity of the gig economy is recruiting more workers to the freelance lifestyle, meaning you’ll have to work a little harder and smarter to stand out in this saturated market.
The best way to set yourself apart from the ever sprouting virtual assistants is to establish yourself as the go-to expert in your field. This will not only justify your rates but will also give you a chance to really shine in your niche.
If you’re like most virtual assistants, you dipped your feet in a variety of tasks until you realized that you had a flair for a specific task or skill set. You’re probably wondering if the time has come to specialize , start raking in those big paychecks and make a career move to becoming a virtual assistant.
What differentiates a general VA from a specialist VA?
General VAs have an all-embracing knowledge on various tasks and execute a loosely defined job description. As a result, general VAs are able to multitask and their varied skill set makes it easy to land jobs. Because general VAs are widespread and require little to no experience to get hired, they’re easily replaced.
Specialist VAs, on the other hand, have a narrow skill set, but their experience in a specific discipline or skillset tends to be extensive. Their job description is tightly defined and their KPIs are fixed. Unlike generalists, their mastery makes them valuable and difficult to replace.
Is it possible to become a specialist general VA?
There are those who prefer to specialize in general administrative tasks such as:
- Schedule management
- Data entry
- Database management
- Running personal errands for the client
- File management
- Customer service
If you’re a jack-of-all-trades VA then you’re one of the unsung heroes of business owners everywhere. Your client’s business operations run smoothly due to your ability to wear many hats.
If you enjoy this and excel at it, all you need to specialize is to look at your proven track record. Use your testimonials and the client relationships that you’ve nurtured over time to establish yourself as an expert in your field. You can also adjust your service offerings according to client demand to increase your earnings.
Why become a specialist VA?
Becoming a Specialist VA enables you to take advantage of several opportunities:
Increase your earning potential
Business owners aren’t willing to pay high rates for low-skill work so you can expect a general virtual assistant to earn around $32,718 annually.
Julie Stoian, who was once a general VA decided to specialize in digital marketing and now commands at least $180,000 per year.
She now advocates for specialization and identifies sales funnel design, copywriting, web design, Facebook ads and social media management as the most in-demand skills right now.
It’s clear that specialist skills add value to businesses and improve your prospects of getting hired (as fewer people will be vying for the jobs you want).
Increase your bargaining power
Working remotely means you have to negotiate your rates as well as your time so that your work-life balance is not affected. Specialists come off as reliable because they’re able to deliver high-quality work with minimum supervision.
They work when they want to and the client doesn’t interfere with their schedules, since they trust that they understood the brief and will execute it accordingly. Once you specialize, you’ll get the confidence to ask for what you’re worth.
Your unique skills will put you in demand and give you the power to negotiate better terms. The client will often oblige because they’re acutely aware that your expertise is hard to come by.
Establish yourself as a thought leader
To fast-track your career, share your expertise. As you make your presence felt online (through thought pieces shared on your blogs and social media channels) as well as offline (through events and public speaking engagements) you’ll become a widely recognized thought leader in your niche.
Demonstrating your expertise and how well you know your industry and customer needs will establish you as an authority. Before long, business owners will be clamoring for your prowess, which translates to higher demand for your services and higher rates.
Be more productive
Specialists accomplish their to-dos faster and with fewer errors, so they’re inclined to have efficient work processes. Their well-developed skill set also eliminates the need for initial training so they’re hired and on-boarded fast.
A general VA can often need their work corrected, which wastes time and team resources. Time wasted for a virtual assistant translates to loss of income. Tragic.
How to become a specialist VA
Becoming a specialist VA starts with market research. What online skills are most desired by businesses right now? The last thing you want as a virtual assistant is burn out so make sure the role you settle for is one that excites you from the onset.
Check out hiring VA companies and job boards
Some specialist VAs use their personal networks to get clients who already know the value they bring to their companies. Their client portfolio will usually include at least one of these:
- Small to Medium Businesses (SMEs)
- Large corporations
- Ecommerce websites
- Legal firms
- Accounting firms
- Digital marketing agencies
- PR firms
A few sign up on virtual assistant firms such as:
- Prialto: It connects sales and admin virtual assistants with high-growth startups, executive teams and business owners.
- 99 Designs: This site allows designers to choose which industry, style and project they’d like to work on. They’re then paid within 3 business days after the project is done.
- Toptal: Developers and creatives go through a rigorous screening process before joining Toptal. They only hire the top 3% of the virtual assistant candidates who apply monthly. This may seem daunting, but if you have a proven track record and you know your stuff, you can join this exclusive network that only caters to known brands.
Most specialist VAs prefer to work for global clients by signing up on freelance job boards, in particular:
- Upwork: Different specialist VAs can sign up for short term projects, recurring tasks and full-time jobs.
- Outsourcely: Specialist VAs can work with startups and businesses from around the world
- Working Nomads: VAs can work on exciting projects while exploring the world.
Learn on the job
Take on more challenging roles that expose you to the specialty you want to venture into. If you show initiative your client may even provide on-the-job training. For instance, if you’re hired as a social media manager, volunteer to set paid ads and send a performance report to the client. They’ll find it more cost-effective to provide you with opportunities to train on this than hire a paid advertising manager.
Find other specialists with whom you can brainstorm ideas when work gets challenging. They will also let you know when certain clients are hiring.
Remember to consume relevant content, keep up with industry trends, attend in depth workshops and, if possible, find a mentor who works in your specialty.
Part of going pro involves learning. There are at least 15 digital marketing certifications every specialist VA should consider if they want a competitive edge. These websites offer useful online courses for every specialist VA:
- Content marketer: Hubspot Academy
- Social media manager: Skillshare
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist: Semrush Academy
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) specialist: Udacity
- Graphic designer: Coursera
- Lead generation specialist: Udemy
- Copywriter: Small Revolution
- Web designer: LinkedIn Learning
Continuous learning is key to making a career move to a virtual assistant
Continuous learning is important in the digital age. As technology advances, roles change and specialists who do not evolve will be made redundant. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears on the ground for trends in the virtual assistant sector and perfect your skills accordingly to stay on top of your game. A virtual assistant could be a good career move.
This guest blog article was written by Katrina McKinnon, founder of Small Revolution, an online learning platform, library of articles, bookshop and community. She has more than 20 years’ experience building and operating high performing businesses.