Like in the real world, an online career’s success is largely dependent on how you handle it. Having survived this virtual world after six years, it still feels awful when there’s some who give up after a few months. Particularly when they have it going for them in terms of resources, skills and gift of time, all they needed was a mind shift of sorts, more patience and the proper motivation. If you’re among the doubting, frustrated or simply disillusioned ones, then these 10 survival tips for virtual assistants should push you toward the tunnel’s end.
Knowing there’s much good ahead for online office work and other tasks usually assigned to VA – if they pushed harder – I just had to write this. And yes, you’re welcome. But save that for later. These 10 survival tips would help those aspiring for better income, life and career as virtual assistants. That means you. So close that Facebook tab and logout of your chat. Focus on this if you really want to survive as a virtual assistant.
1. Start small and handle it excellently. Many “would’ve been VAs” gave up because of the overwhelming work load they got from the first few weeks. But others are juggling three to four projects after a year as a VA. Really. How? By not biting off more than they could chew. That’s how it works for newbies. Take projects that you can manage, work well on it and assess your performance and output. Then take a similar project, or other smaller tasks. Just take it slow and sure instead of grabbing major opportunities and failing others and yourself.
2. Work and learn equally. Once you get the hang of perfecting small projects, spend the same number of hours learning other stuff. If you’re good at accounting, Excel and bookkeeping, try to spend extra hours learning other areas usually required of VAs. Examples would be file conversion, research and finding contacts, analysis and others. After six years and proving myself great (ahem!) at writing, PR and marketing, I’m still learning how to create videos, CSS and HTML. The survival key here is having the desire to know more than what the current project requires.
3. Master the basics. Most VAs would be required to handle emails and social network sites, data entry, support services and doing personal stuff for their employers. Most of the time, your performance at basic tasks are gauges or tests of employers. If you perform well, you’d be given more workload and higher rates. Perfect output – or something close to it – with the basics will definitely get you rewards.
4. Learn SEO and how it works. While not all VAs are required to know how SEO works, it’s best you learn this ahead. In the future, you’ll come across the need to prove you understand the process. A great part of VA jobs nowadays require this and you wouldn’t want to be left wit just the basic tasks for many more months. So take SEO seriously, know the tools and how other virtual assistants implement it for their employers.
5. Be a whiz at social media. Many of our clients consider mastery at Twitter and Facebook a great plus. In fact, management of social network sites is like an indicator of a VAs potential for any online business. Incidentally, most of the employers are into online businesses or have social media helping them in marketing. That means they’d rule out applicants who don’t prove themselves great at it. Know how social media could benefit small businesses and you’d understand better.
6. Sharpen your writing skills. A good writer is a gold mind for employers. Practice, practice and practice some more. Don’t limit your writing to email updates or posting tweets; that won’t count at all. Instead, try rewriting the web content of your boss. Better yet, target writing 2 to 4 articles each week on a variety of subjects. Start with simple how-tos or reviews of products you actually use. Or start a blog via WordPress or Blogger. There you could post all your rewrites. Remember, most VAs are not really good writers but learned along the way. Be among them.
7. Work credibly. If you’re expected to work 4-hours from Monday through Friday, then work on these allotted hours. Meet deadlines by targeting work completion hours before or a day before the deadline. This way, you have time to go through your work to make sure it’s clean, clear and commendable. If along the way you have questions, point it out right away and have it resolved. Don’t waste time and effort doing something you’re not sure about. And definitely, don’t claim to be working on anything while you’re having a swell time stalking people on Facebook!
8. Exercise your initiative. For any extra hours, indicate this to your employer and volunteer to handle other tasks. Always provide updates even before they’re sought. Both spark better communications between you and your employer. On your free time, search for relevant information and keep your boss posted. Email a motivating quote or an inspiring video with your personal message. Do something positive for both you and your boss. You’re building a career so build it well. Your output speaks for your abilities and potential; your attitude towards work speaks of the person that you are. Most employers see it that way so you take note of that.
9. Take another work or two. If your employer doesn’t have any more tasks, then it’s time to take another project or work. Make sure you are ready to juggle the two, and that their sked don’t mess you up. Manage both very well so that you earn double and still remain sane and motivated. There’s no point to wanting to get bigger bucks at the expense of work output. Again, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
10. Keep yourself healthy. A healthy body and mind is still your best tool to success, whether online or not. It’s great that most virtual assistant jobs need not be on unholy hours, like most call center work. Because you work at home, you have the time to cook nutritious meals, rest very well and even do gardening on the sides. Or take your pet out to work. Remember that your greatest asset is your health. So live healthy, eat well, exercise regularly and take good breaks.
So, that ends my 10 survival tips for new, budding virtual assistants. What’s your take on this? Care to share?