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Enter the Brave New World of Virtual Assistants

What is a virtual assistant? And what do they do? What don't they do, really? If you're willing to work from anywhere, for anyone, doing anything at all (that you know how to do), then step up.

Older guy virtual assistingThe economy is changing and it is doing so at an unprecedented pace. As the globe becomes smaller and more interconnected, and technology continues to transform old industries and create entirely new ones, it’s important for IT professionals and job seekers alike to be aware of burgeoning fields and emerging occupations.


Rapid advances in communications technology coupled with the already decades-long trend towards outsourcing has created an entirely new, intriguing occupation that’s colloquially known as the “virtual assistant.” Let’s take a look at what virtual assistants do, what kind of skills they have to possess to acquire employment, and what job prospects look like for this burgeoning occupation.


What is a Virtual Assistant (VA)?


A virtual assistant is essentially someone who provides professional creative, technical, or administrative services to businesses and organizations from a remote location. Whether it’s managing client relations management databases, performing secretarial duties, handling bookkeeping, or managing social media accounts, virtual assistants do anything and everything that can be done from a remote location with an internet connection.  


While VAs can be hired to perform pretty much any internet-based task, they generally are highly sought after to work in six major administrative and technical categories.


Writing virtual assistants generate content and communications material for businesses and organizations. Rather than hire in-house staff to maintain a company blog or e-mail newsletter, companies often hire virtual assistants to remotely create digital content for them. To be a writing virtual assistant, all you’ll need is a solid internet connection and access to writing software. Freelancing platforms such as Guru and Upwork enable individuals interested in becoming a writing virtual assistant to readily find work.


Personal virtual assistants handle pretty much everything that a traditional personal assistant would do, except they do it remotely. This includes scheduling meetings, answering emails, writing thank you notes for clients and so on. Most personal virtual assistants use a Client Relations Management tool (CRM) to keep track of their clients and the tasks they need to perform for them. Popular CRMs include Fresh Desk and Zoho, although using just an email address will suffice; additionally, you’ll need Skype or a similar virtual messaging software so that you can communicate remotely with your clients.


Research virtual assistants are hired by companies looking to obtain information on new markets, products, and competitors. Because so much data these days is available digitally, hiring virtual research assistants has become a popular way of getting information while saving on costs and expenditures.


Data Entry virtual assistants are responsible for managing and maintaining the databases and client relations management tools of the businesses and organizations they are hired by. Whether there’s a spreadsheet that needs regular maintenance or a whole slew of data that needs to be entered into a database, data entry VAs help companies save plenty of time and money in fulfilling their database management needs.


Apart from having access to and knowledge of popular tools such as Excel, many virtual assistants also use data entry software such as Forms and AccuMail Frameworks to expedite their work.