Chapter Two

Virtual Assistant Skills

Not everyone is cut out to be a virtual assistant, and not everyone has the skills and the education needed to succeed as a virtual assistant. The good news is, even if you lack the necessary skills and education, you can become a virtual assistant as long as you are wiling to work hard.

Let's start by looking at the basic skill set you will need to possess to succeed as a virtual assistant:

Word processing skills. Many virtual assistants do a lot of word processing, including data entry and typing, so you will need to possess good word processing skills. It is also important to remember that while you might type 100 words per minute, it is even more important to ensure that your work is accurate.

Computer skills. Most of your work is going to be done on the computer, so you must have strong computer skills. In addition, you should be proficient in popular word processing programs like Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect. Your computer skills should also include literacy in spreadsheet programs.

Strong communication skills. It is essential that you possess strong communication skills whether you are working for a virtual assistant company or running your own virtual assistant business. You must be able to communicate effectively with your clients both verbally and through writing.

Strong writing skills. Much of the communication you do as a virtual assistant will be via email and fax which means you must have strong writing skills. You may also be required to do a good deal of writing as a virtual assistant, so it is essential that you have strong writing skills. If you are a weak writer, sign up and take an online course or take a basic writing course at your local community college to improve your skills.

Ability to proofread. Proofreading goes hand-in-hand with writing. Clients do not want a virtual assistant that produces sloppy work, including typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors, which are all simply unprofessional. Clients will expect professional work, whether it is an email or a thank you letter you are responsible for writing and sending to customers.

Strong organizational skills. You are the glue that holds your clients' businesses together, so you must be extremely organized and efficient. In addition, you may work with numerous clients at one time, and keeping their work organized and separate is essential. When the phone rings, you want to be able to know which client to whom you are talking and to be able to access that client's file quickly so you do not waste your client's time.

Strong management skills. If you are running your own virtual assistant business, you must have strong management skills. But, even if you are not running your own business, you need to know how to manage a business because that is exactly what you will be helping your clients to do. You should have at least a basic knowledge of such areas as advertising, marketing, and public relations and how they can be used to help your client grow his or her business.

Internet savvy. To succeed as a virtual assistant, you must be internet-savvy. In addition to knowing how to access the internet, you must be able to use email and conduct online research. In some instances, you may need to know more than basic internet skills if your client requests that you maintain and update the business Web site on a regular basis.

It is also vital that you have a fast internet connection, if possible. (If it is available in your area, opt for DSL or a cable connection. Dial-up should only be used if you are in an area where a faster option is not yet available.)

Ability to meet deadlines. Missing deadlines can be the death of your business; at the very least, it can cost you clients. Always meet your deadlines. If you do not think you can meet a deadline, be honest with your client before you agree to the deadline. It is always better to be honest up front than to agree to a deadline you know you cannot meet.

What's more, you must be calm under pressure because there are times you will likely be forced to meet an extremely tight deadline. Instead of panicking about the limited time you have, you must be able to take a deep breath and get the work done to the standard that is expected of you.

Motivated. Motivation is absolutely essential when you work as a virtual assistant whether you work for another company or run your own virtual assistant company. Are you motivated to succeed? Do you get out of the bed in the morning, ready to work, or are you sluggish, always looking for other things you can do to procrastinate and not work? Because virtual assistance allows you so much freedom, you must be motivated if you want to succeed.

Disciplined. To succeed as a virtual assistant, you must be disciplined. You are not going to have your clients hovering over you, barking orders and reminding you of deadlines. You must be disciplined so you can get your work done when it needs to be done and to have the ability to say "no" to outside distractions (personal phone call from a friend, a favorite television show, etc.) when you are working.

Technologically savvy. In addition to knowing your way around the internet, you are also going to need to be technologically savvy. You must know how to use a fax, how to use online message systems such as Skype and MSN, and you must be able and willing to keep up-to-date with the advances in technology that directly affect you and your clients.

Quick thinking. Are you a quick thinker? Can you think on your feet, so to speak? You need to if you want to succeed as a virtual assistant. You must be able to process information very quickly and act on that information just as quickly.

Decision-maker. You have got to know how to make decisions, and quickly, if you want to be a successful virtual assistant. Can you make decisions in a split second, or are you a waffler who can never really make a decision?

Love of learning. Virtual assistance allows you plenty of diversity and if you want to stay at the top of your game, you are going to have to be prepared to learn on a daily basis. Are you up for the challenge?

If you have worked in an office, you likely already possess most, if not all, of the skills that you need to succeed as a virtual assistant. Even if you do not have all of the skills needed, you can learn them and hone your skills as you work.

Next: Chapter Two: Education: What You Need To Succeed

Previous: Chapter One: The Reality Of A Virtual Assistant Career: Pros and Cons

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