Virtual assistants joined the workforce in record numbers as the gig sector grew amid the pandemic.
Increased interest in virtual assistants on social media is inspiring some to become entrepreneurs.
Insider compiled a list of stories and strategies to help aspiring virtual assistants thrive.
Annalisa Abell, the owner of the virtual-assistant company Elevated Assist.
In August 2020, Jessica Hawks posted her first TikTok video that explained her experience working as a virtual assistant. Specifically, she told viewers that she was earning $9,000 per month without a college degree.
Today, Hawks has more than 850,000 followers on TikTok who watch her content to learn more about the virtual-assistant industry. What's more, #virtualassistant has more than 136 million views on TikTok.
Hawks is part of a growing number of people who've launched virtual-assistant businesses during the pandemic. In fact, gig and freelance work became a significant sector of the economy throughout COVID-19, and virtual assistants reported a 41% increase in hiring in 2020 compared to 2019, said a report by NanoGlobals, a remote-work expert and market analyst.
"In the last five years, people recognized that everybody needs help," Angela Lee, a professor of professional practice at Columbia University, previously told Insider. "Everyone I know needs a virtual assistant, and everyone I know has a really hard time finding one," she added.
For those looking to take a leap toward entrepreneurship, Insider spoke with four virtual assistants and compiled a list of stories, strategies, and daily schedules that helped them build their businesses.
Differentiate yourself from the market
The virtual-assistant space has expanded greatly during the past year. Part of that was prompted by employees who left their full-time jobs and looked for more flexible work schedules in careers they were passionate about. Simultaneously, a record number of small businesses and brands were created in the past year. In the first quarter of 2021, more than 300,000 new businesses were formed in the US, a number that continued to grow throughout the year, with more than 30,000 formations in November alone. These trends joined together as virtual assistants sought new entrepreneurs to work for as social-media, marketing, or administrative assistants.
With the increased number of virtual assistants, it's important to differentiate yourself from others in the field, people told Insider. This can be done by finding a specific niche of clients you'll work with, establishing services specific to your skills or aesthetic, or selling additional products or services on the side.
Choose your services
When determining your services, it's important to recognize what skills you already have and what skills you're interested in learning, people said. Virtual-assistant tasks range from designing marketing materials, creating the social-media strategy, and sending invoices and receipts to clients' customers.
Regardless of what services you decide to offer, there's a tool designed to help you provide quality work for your clients. Some virtual assistants said paying for high-end online tools and platforms was a worthwhile investment, while others used free resources to complete their jobs.
Set your own schedule
One of the benefits of working as a virtual assistant is the flexibility, people said. Virtual assistants can set their own schedules, decide how many hours to work per week, and leave time for family or travel whenever they see fit. Additionally, many start their virtual-assistant careers while holding full-time jobs.
Whatever your circumstances, setting a schedule that works for you is an important step in creating a sustainable business model, people said. If you're an early riser, consider completing your work each morning so you have the afternoon off. If you're a night owl, allow yourself to sleep in, and start working when you'll be most productive, said Hawks, who follows a schedule that allows her to wake up as late as 10 a.m.
Strategically land clients
Additionally, virtual assistants can choose their clients and work with brands they admire.
Social media can be a great place to find brands you align with and potential customers, people said. Determine your ideal industry and tasks, then share your thoughts on how to improve or solve existing problems for clients. The most effective way to land a client is to show them that your work will make their life easier as a business owner.
Grow your personal brand
Virtual assistants are often responsible for completing digital tasks, such as social-media management or email marketing, for their clients. As digital experts, they're typically expected to have a curated platform of their own, people said. Whether that's an artistic or clean Instagram page or a TikTok account that shows off their personality and creativity, a virtual assistant's online presence can be the key to future professional relationships.
Marketing yourself online can be a tricky task, but experts have shared the most effective ways to do so, including specifically crafting your captions and the best social-media features to grow a following.
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