I love being a virtual assistant. I love educating others about virtual assistance. And I love helping new virtual assistants get started. With that said, I also believe that if you’re thinking about becoming a virtual assistant there are some things that you shouldn’t need to be taught.
The whole concept of a virtual assistant is that clients are hiring someone who is technology savvy. After all, we rely on said technology to do our jobs right? Yet more and more I’m being contacted by new VA’s asking for help with things that I feel they should already know or at least be aware of.
1. You should know how to do a comprehensive search with a search engine.
2. You should be aware of Word templates and how to use them. This is office administration 101.
3. You should know about online calendars, online file sharing and other ‘cloud’ services. Asking me which services I might recommend is good, asking me what they are after you’ve told a client you’d be using them? Fail.
4. You should never take on client work that you don’t know how to do. It seems like common sense but I’m amazed at the times I’ve had someone say “I told my new client I’d have this project ready next Monday. How do I do it?”
5. You should understand what your clients are requesting you to do without asking someone else’s opinion. Yes, I’ve actually been contacted by virtual assistants who ask me, “My client said he wanted me to do such & such. What do they mean?”
6. You should be able to register, log-in and use the information available to you on virtual assistant forums. I’ve given out the addresses to two of the best forums dedicated to helping virtual assistants many times and you’d be surprised at the number of people that contact me and tell me they ‘couldn’t get on’ them and could I just give them the information they need. What does that mean? To me it means that you either don’t have the technological know-how to register and login in to a forum or you didn’t take the time to check out information I freely gave to you.
7. Other virtual assistants (like me) are generally willing to help in any way that they can, however, don’t expect them to do your work for you. Most of us are running businesses ourselves. We make the time to try to help you because we believe in helping others and we probably had someone help us along the way a time or two. We know how overwhelming being a new VA is, because we’ve experienced it. There is nothing quite like having someone who has been there as a mentor. Yet there is a line that is drawn between helping and doing. Sure, contact me and ask me if I know where you can find a template for something. I’ll give you a few places to look and if I have one I’ll most likely send it to you. E-mail me back telling me that your client is in a different niche than the template and could I change the wording to reflect that? That’s doing your work for you.
With that final point I’d like to give a bit of additional information.
I often end up referring many of the new virtual assistants that have asked for my help on certain items. Yet there have been a few that I would never refer. What is the deciding factor between the two groups of help seekers?
- Professionalism. My clients and clients that are referred to me have come to expect a high level of professionalism. If I don’t sense that level of professionalism in another virtual assistant, there is no way I’m going to refer them to others.
- Initiative. Showing initiative has always been something that employers sought in employees. Just what is showing initiative? It’s the ability to see what needs to be done and doing it. If you tell me that you’ve looked for information on a certain topic and couldn’t find anything and I turn around and find what you’re looking for in the first page of Google results it leaves me with questions. Do you not know how to do a proper internet search? Or do you lack the initiative to try to find the answer yourself first? Regardless of which it is, neither is going to encourage me to pass your name along to clients.
The last thing I want to do is discourage new virtual assistants from coming to me or other seasoned VA’s for help. By all means, contact me if you need a question answered or need a bit of direction. However, if your inquiry falls into any one of the 7 points above, you might want to consider that you’ve gotten in over your head. Is being a virtual assistant really a good fit for you?
What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Are there other items you feel should be added to the list? Let’s start a conversation in the comments section.
 This applies to WordPerfect, OpenOffice or any other word processing software you may be using.