Question from a reader
I would like to learn about other ways of making money online. For instance, I know you have been a Virtual assistant. What does that entail?” Annie
Who is a virtual assistant?
According to Wikipedia: A virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely from a home office.
In simple terms, this is a work-at-home professional who offers his/her online services to individual clients and companies.
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What types of tasks can you handle?
Well, the types of tasks to handle will vary depending on the client’s needs. But, some of the most common ones are:
- Email response handling
- Web/Keyword Research
- Writing articles
- Arranging for meetings and appointments
- Social media services like posting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Formatting ebooks and posting on Kindle or Creatspace
- Website maintenance services
These are just some of the tasks that you can do as a VA.
You will see that most of them go hand in hand with transcription.
There are clients who may ask you to transcribe their interviews or webinars and then convert them into ebooks and post on Kindle, or into articles and post on their websites/blogs. You can take advantage of this and create VA packages. This is explained, in more detail, in Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker’s book Become a Highly Sought After VA
For example, you can charge $40 per audio for the transcription project and then include $20 or even $100 for posting on Kindle or writing an article and posting on their site. Be creative here and make the most out of such opportunities.
Now that you know what services to offer and how to package them, the next step is to ask your client the following.
- Should I be online the same time as you?
- I am confident that I can complete most of your tasks with ease, but I also understand that there may be some that I’m not familiar with but I’m willing to learn;
- Will you train me or do I need to get training on my own?
- If you offer training, will it be paid training or free training
- How long will the training last?
- After the training, will I start working immediately?
- Will I be working alone or collaborative with a team?
Charge what you are worth
When I go to sites like Upwork, I see some VA’s charging amounts that are below what they should be charging. I think this is a wrong approach when working online. The thing I always say is, ‘charge what you are worth’. Don’t charge too much, and don’t charge too little either.
Go to Upwork or Elance and find out what others, who are doing the same things as you, are charging. If it’s $10 per hour, charge the same. If it’s a fixed project of $100, don’t charge $50. Some clients may want to negotiate on this $100 project. Depending on the client and the relationship you have with him/her you can give a discounted rate of maybe $8 per audio hour or $90 if it’s a fixed project of $100.
One thing I know also is, if you have been working for a client for a while and he loves your work, he won’t mind paying you more because he knows that if he doesn’t you might find another client who will.
This brings me to another important point. Offer a world class service
Online marketplaces have serious professionals who know their work and do it to the best of their abilities. But, there are others who simply don’t like putting in the required effort.
So, for you to get paid what you are worth you need to do the following:
Underpromise and over-deliver
If you tell a client that his tasks will be done in 4 or 5 hours make sure you do them in 3 hours or less. Give yourself some room so you get this done in a timely fashion. When a client sees that you are delivering before the set deadline he will know that you are professional and he might even refer you to others. And that is more business for you.
Offer great customer service (Communication)
Many are times I give freelancers work to do and they take hours before they respond. This is totally wrong. A good tip is, follow up with a client at least every two hours if it’s a client who expects you to be online the same time as he is. If it’s a fixed project, it is advisable to be communicating with the client at least once a day. Don’t keep him/her waiting and wondering whether you are working on his project or not.
Be professional at all times
Address the client by his name and don’t give him stories of why you didn’t work. If you get work and know for a fact that you won’t be able to complete it in a specified period, be courteous enough to let them know about it and possibly ask for an extension. A good client will be happy to extend the period. I have seen this happen with my own clients.
They will just say, “Oh, that’s okay Virginia. You don’t have to deliver in the next 4, 5 or whatever time you agreed upon. They might just say, “Tomorrow morning will be fine.” And make sure by tomorrow morning the first thing they see is your email informing them about the completion of their project.
How to craft a cover letter that gets you hired
Online marketplaces have so many VA’s offering the same type of service that you are offering. Before you land a VA job you must first write a cover letter to your future client and you must stand out from the crowd.
- Avoid generic cover letters. Clients hate them with passion
- Make sure it is specific to the job at hand
- Follow client’s instructions
- Make it simple, sweet, short and to the point
- Use power words
- Don’t rumble. Talk results
Example cover letter
I saw your job posting (describe exact post) and read it with keen interest.
You mentioned that you wanted a dedicated VA who has, at least, 2 years VA experience. I am an adapt VA who worked for XYZ company and helped boost their business from 10 clients to 15 paying clients in the six months I worked there as a customer service representative. (Show your portfolio or show examples of your work, if possible)
I know my way around the internet and computers in general and can finish any internet-related task in as little as 1 hour. I am efficient and super productive. Working with minimum supervision is one of the many strengths that I pride in when working with respectable but busy clients like you.
I am available Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00 US Pacific Standard Time.
Feel free to contact me via Skype so we can discuss further.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
There are many places to post these eye-catching cover letters but the two most common and reliable ones are:
Other places to find VA jobs (US-based)
- Assistant Match
- Contemporary Virtual Assistance
- Fancy Hands
- Life Bushido
- Office 88
- VA For Experts
- Virtual Gal Friday
- Virtual Office VA Staffing
- Worldwide 101
The Interview Stage
Many clients after seeing your cover letter will want to have a feel of who you are as a person. So, the next step will be setting up a virtual interview via Skype. They may suggest a Skype call.
They do this to test your English skills (both speaking and hearing), see how well you communicate.
Their thinking is:
- Are you confident?
- Do you shy off and start fidgeting?
- Are you excited to work on their project?
- And, are you someone they can entrust their confidential information with?
The client will come with a set of questions to ask you like the ones I have mentioned above. But, it’s also good to have your own set of questions to ask.
Gather interesting and tactical questions about their company and about the project at hand. Doing this will show the client that you are someone who is willing and ready to work for them and can go an extra mile to get something done even if it’s out of your comfort zone.
When the client sets the time for the meeting, make sure you are online at least 30 minutes earlier to prepare yourself. Lateness is unprofessional.
Should you do trial tasks?
If all goes well after the interview stage, the client will give you some trial tasks to handle. At this stage, he believes in your ability but wants to confirm that you can actually do the job better than any other applicant that he interviewed. Be aware that he may have 2 or 3 other applicants that he is sending the same work to. His thinking is, the person who submits high quality work, in a timely fashion, and who follows instructions is the person that will get the whole project.
Many clients offer to pay you for this type of work. It may not be the whole amount but he will show appreciation with something small for now. He will evaluate your work and make a decision if he should hire you long-term.
One thing you should remember is that there are certain clients who may want to exploit you. So, watch out for those. But if the tasks are easy to do and the pay is reasonable i.e doing web research for 1 hour and he pays you half the price per hour as you agreed upon, that is totally fine.
After going through the whole process of finding a job post, crafting a cover letter, going through the interview stage, handling a few trial tasks here and there, now you are officially hired! Isn’t this amazing? Yes. It definitely is. Great job! Congratulations.
If you do a superb job, on the trial tasks, and beat your competition you will get hired, no doubt about that
I wish you success in your future VA endeavors.
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