What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of a virtual assistant: Assist clients with any administrative tasks they need help with, locate and screen potential clients, convince potential clients they should choose you as their VA

The Balance / Julie Bang

Also known as virtual professionals, virtual assistants are remote administrative assistants. VAs typically work from home, performing tasks that an administrative assistant or secretary would normally do. For example, they might schedule appointments, make phone calls, plan travel arrangements, manage email, perform social tasks (such as sending thank you notes to clients), or conduct database entry.

Some virtual assistants have more specific jobs based on their particular skill sets. For example, a virtual assistant might do bookkeeping, conduct online research, or create presentations using raw data.

Virtual assistants are often independent contractors; that means they work for themselves, and the company is their client. Virtual assistants can generally work for multiple companies at once.

As with any work-at-home position, be careful to make sure that any businesses that hire you as a virtual assistant are legitimate. Avoid scams by doing your research before signing contracts or sharing banking information.

Virtual Assistant Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to do the following tasks:

  • Assist clients with any administrative tasks they need help with
  • Locate and screen potential clients
  • Convince potential clients they should choose you as their VA

Virtual assistants need to be able to do everything for their clients they would do in the clients' office, only from their own home or shared office space. They must act as professionally as an in-office employee even if they're at home in their sweatpants and T-shirt with their cat on their lap.

Virtual Assistant Salary

A virtual assistant's salary varies according to the years of experience and the skills they can offer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not compile salary data specifically for virtual assistants. These figures are for secretaries and administrative assistants generally and assume a 40-hour workweek.

  • Median Annual Salary: $40,990 ($19.71/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $67,510 ($2.46/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $26,880 ($12.92/hour)

Virtual assistants must factor in additional costs for their business, including purchasing and maintaining their own office equipment and marketing to attract new clients.

Education, Training, & Certification

A four-year degree isn't necessary to become a virtual assistant, but it will probably put you at an advantage when it comes to landing clients.

  • Training: You can take online training courses through a company or online educator to learn how to be a virtual assistant.
  • Certification: A few companies can also certify you as a virtual assistant. Some online educators, as well as community colleges, also provide certification for VA skills.

Virtual Assistant Skills & Competencies

Many of the skills needed to be a virtual assistant are the same as the skills needed to be an administrative assistant or secretary.

  • Superior organizational skills: VAs have to be organized to keep track of assignments for different clients.
  • Communication skills: Since they work remotely, VAs have to be adept at communicating by email and phone.
  • Tech savvy: The best VAs have a wide range of computer skills and are proficient at the most commonly used software programs.
  • Multitasking: VAs need to be comfortable jumping from one task to another as individual clients make new requests.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects that jobs for secretaries and administrative assistants will decline 9% from 2019 to 2029. Job growth statistics specifically for virtual assistants are currently unavailable, but there is potential for growth in this position as more and more companies move to remote operations, and hire part-timers to do work that used to performed by full-time staff.

Work Environment

VAs typically work from home. If they want to get out of their house or apartment, they may rent their own office or space in a shared office or coworking setting.

Work Schedule

VAs can generally set their own hours. They may have to work evenings and weekends to complete an urgent or last-minute project from a client.

How to Get the Job

Join an Organization: Become a member of organizations that offer networking and professional development opportunities, such as the International Virtual Assistants Association and VAnetworking.com.

Search for Clients: You can look for clients on big job sites, such as Indeed and Monster, or on sites that focus on telecommuting and flexible employment opportunities, such as FlexJobs and Upwork.

Check With Your Connections: Use your network, and let your friends, family, and professional contacts know that you're seeking work as a virtual assistant.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in becoming virtual assistants also consider the following careers. The figures provided are median annual salaries:

  • Receptionist: $31,110
  • General Office Clerk: $35,330
  • Financial Clerk: $41,520