The year is 2020, the Covid pandemic hits and the world shuts.
Like many other countries, Kenya (which is where I am from and currently living) experiences a countrywide lockdown and everything comes to a stand still. At the time I am working as an environmental impact auditor for an NGO based in Nairobi. As fate would have it (and the obvious impact the pandemic would have) I lose my job. So I am stuck home, no job, binge watching Netflix and wearing sweat pants day in day out but hopeful this will only go on for a couple of months (I am convinced no longer than three months, life will get back to normal, and I will swing right into job hunting.
The three months turn into four, five, and at the sixth month I get a startling wake up call and an eerie feeling that life is certainly not going to get back to normal and I have to adjust.
Having always loved tech but having never really gotten seriously into it, I begin teaching myself how to code, then apply for a full stack web development scholarship (which I get!) and right there I begin transitioning my career into a different space all together. The next challenge, though, is how am I going to get a job?
Here I am, nobody is hiring, companies are downsizing and I have a whole new skill set that I have acquired. I begin figuring how I will work from home like the rest of the world but most importantly how I will widen my pool of getting jobs, not just in my country but globally, and here I stumble upon conversations and content about being a virtual assistant and working remotely!
Fast forward to two years post pandemic and I can proudly say I am a Virtual assistant!
I’m still met with blank stares when asked what I do for a job. I have found it much easier to approach the question by explaining it with a familiar term: personal assistant. The conversation goes something like this: “You might be more familiar with the term, Personal Assistant. The only difference is that I work from home (I’m virtual) and businesses outsource their administration tasks to me.”
The role of a virtual assistant will vary from one VA to another, one client to another, as well as day-to-day. It is therefore important when deciding to become a VA that you are able to figure a couple of things out, Among them:
1) Deciding the service you want to offer.
Because of the vastness of the roles that one can play it is important that you begin by deciding what services you want to offer. Take an inventory of your existing skills while considering the things that you enjoy doing and are equally good at. For example, I love planning and executing projects, so I began looking for VA opportunities that wanted someone who was highly organised. Examples of such roles include managing a client’s schedule, project management, and social media campaign execution, to mention just a few.
Once you have an idea of the services you will offer, it is important that you level up your skills with free or low-cost training. There are a lot of resources online from Youtube videos to short courses on platforms such as LinkedIn �" learning that will help you upskill.
3) Define your ideal client.
By identifying your ideal client you are able to find the client that could most benefit from your skills. You must always remember the value you offer to one client, and in turn how much you get paid differs drastically depending on the type of service you offer as well as the type of client you have.
For example, if you are a tech enthusiast and have skills in coding and working in virtual environments that are mainly used by people in the tech industry you are able to then design your CV to get clients who would benefit from a VA who is skilled in tech, and therefore charge more than you would if you were working in a different role. This comes in handy when setting your rates and actively interviewing for jobs.
There are essential soft and technical skills that a competent VA has. Some of the soft skills include: a growth mindset, great communication skills, confidentiality and the ability to remain discrete, resourcefulness, being able to anticipate client's needs, and great time management skills, among others.
For technical skills, it's important to learn how to manage a client’s calendar, project management skills, writing correspondence, and internet research among others.
It's important to also know how to use a couple of tools that are key for VAs. These tools include Trello, Google forms, Google docs, Canva, Hootsuite, MailChimp,, Zoom, Asana, and Slack, just to mention a few.
Being a virtual assistant has its perks. These benefits include;
- The ability to work from home. This has meant I do not have to sit through hours of traffic to go to work.
- The opportunity to work in different industries. Since you are continually working with clients in different fields, time zones, and cultures, you get the opportunity to learn on a daily basis. No two days are the same for me. It's not monotonous but rather interesting being a VA.
- You are also in control of your time. (You are the boss.) In addition to working in your own space, you have the autonomy to structure the hours you work. This gives you leverage to create the lifestyle you need and want.
- Low start-up requirements. Unlike other career spaces, being a VA requires you to only have a computer, good internet space, and power (and of course don’t forget your mindset and willingness to learn are key for every great VA). You do not need any specific certification to get started.
- The demand is currently high for VAs. This is because the virtual administration industry is continuously growing. Individuals and companies are realizing the benefits of outsourcing, which puts VAs in a prime position to grow their careers as a VA.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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