4 Skills Needed To Succeed As A Virtual Administrative Assistant

Bonnie Wooding's picture

Becoming a virtual administrative assistant can be an excellent career move. But, like any other job, there are certain requirements. Providing administrative support is challenging enough when you’re a staff member in a traditional office. Working virtually adds another layer of complexity. Plus, you need to go out of your way to prove to a client that you are worth the investment.

These are not things that should be taken lightly. Before you take the plunge and start your own small business as a virtual administrative assistant, make sure you meet the basic criteria:

1. Self reliance – You should be a self-starter and provide your own motivation and rewards. You also need a positive attitude, self-confidence, high energy levels, a strong drive to succeed, creativity, and a willingness to learn new skills on the fly. You can’t just call IT when technology breaks down. You are your own support.

2. Experience – You should have at least five years of upper-level, real-world administrative experience supporting a manager or executive. Clients could be reluctant to hire you if you’re still learning the job. Excellent written and verbal communication skills are a must, as are people skills. It’s also important to be an independent and critical thinker. You need to be able to analyze the problem and figure out how to fix it for your client.

3. Expertise – You should have a solid foundation of office management skills. You must know how an executive office is run, thoroughly and completely, because as a virtual administrative assistant you are the only one in the office. There is no one to give you direction and your client will typically only give you a general outline of what needs to be done. Often, you will find that they are not aware of what should be done. It’s up to you to provide clarity.

4. Time and Project Management – Qualities businesses look for in a virtual administrative assistant include on-time delivery, accountability, reliable quality, trustworthiness and availability. If you’re going to succeed, you have to provide these things as a bare minimum to your clients.

Being an administrative assistant is hard work. The level of your responsibilities will increase. You will be running things, which means you plan the project and oversee it through all stages and bring it to a close, sometimes for multiple clients simultaneously. Whether you work in a traditional office or work virtually, one thing that is consistent is the need to wear many hats: researcher, project manager, marketing and sales assistant, desktop and multimedia specialist, travel agent, database and CRM coordinator, mind reader and magician.

The toughest things about being a virtual administrative assistant are self-motivation and establishing your professional network. Administrative professionals who work in a traditional office don’t often network for business. It’s a necessity if you’re going to build your client base. But, you can learn to network well. Joining a professional organization like IAAP will give you a great head start. Members network regularly at chapter meetings and IAAP events and functions. These are excellent places to spread the word about your services and get referrals for potential clients.

(Bonnie Wooding owns and operates HyWood Services, a virtual administration and management service based in Ontario, Canada. She has more than 25 years of administrative experience.)