Being a Virtual Assistant can be liberating. You’re free from the 9-to-5 office routine, your hours are usually more flexible and you can even work while travelling. Still, the life of a VA is not entirely a walk in the park. You need initiative, as you are usually operating solo or with a smaller team. And you’re interacting directly with the client, without any superiors acting as a middle-man (unless something goes wrong!). Home-based VAs have to handle purchasing and maintaining their work equipment. In lieu of this, a VA who wishes to stay on top of his or her game needs to cultivate certain qualities that are crucial in this field. And a prospective client should look for these traits when assessing applicants. These must-have attributes include:
Working remotely means that VAs interact with their clients through e-mails, messaging services and the occasional video conference. Nonetheless, there’s a lot that’s lost in translation when you’re not meeting face to face. To avoid misunderstandings, a Virtual Assistant must have a good grasp of the client’s language, the ability to read between the lines and good listening skills. The VA must also be understandable verbally and in writing, and actively ask for clarification if things are unclear. This goes doubly so if the VA is handling customer service roles.
Drive and Active Initiative
VAs should do more than just passively wait for instructions, especially since they aren’t physically in the same office as their clients, who might lose track of them if the day is particularly busy. Sometimes the VAs must be the ones doing the prodding, inquiring if there are more tasks in the queue. Yes, the temptation to kick back and relax is hard to resist, but good VAs must find the motivation. Particularly if they’re handling calls, where sounding happy is important. VAs who are freelancing or working at home really need this as they might have no one else to remind them to get back to work.
Meeting and Keeping Track of Deadlines
Everyone hates being disappointed, including clients who have set a deadline. So a VA has to keep track of when their work is due and meet these deadlines as best as possible. Otherwise, if delivering on time is dicey, VAs should tell their clients beforehand as a courtesy and so they can adjust their plans accordingly.
By its nature, working remotely through the ‘net and using various apps and tools to fulfill tasks requires more than a modicum of technological understanding and ability. Beyond that, VAs should keep track of the latest developments and should be able to adapt to new tools as required by the job.
Attention to Detail
While keeping up with deadlines and remembering delivery schedules, VAs should also remember to look over their work and proofread. It’s not a good look to deliver output that’s riddled with typos, encoding errors and other glaring mistakes. These can be costly, as correcting these muck ups will take even more of your precious time. It might also cause delays further down the production line, if someone else is waiting for your output in order to begin their own tasks. So be considerate.
This is a must for VAs who are trusted to do their job honestly, bill their clients fairly for the amount of work done and fulfill their obligations as stated in their contracts. Moreover, for VAs such as bookkeepers who will actually handle sensitive information and transactions, maintaining confidentiality is not only a matter of honor but also a matter of security for clients and their businesses.
Openness to Criticism
There’s always room for improvement. While adapting to a new client’s work process, or even chugging away for a longtime employer, a VA should always be receptive to input regarding how he or she does the job. Are there oversights and slip ups? Could there be more effective ways to fulfill certain tasks? VAs can always learn from their clients, most of whom have been in business for quite some time.
At the same time, VAs have a wealth of skills and experiences, so they should be willing to propose their own ideas and raise suggestions in a polite yet assertive way. They can contribute in more ways than one, and this can be a major help to their clients, particularly those who are new to the startup scene.
Flexibility and Creativity
Adaptability is a premium in this ever-changing world. Often enough, VAs have to juggle multiple roles and even fulfill tasks that they’re not so well-versed in. So they might have to learn on the job. And they should keep abreast of new apps and tools that can help them do their work better. There will also be circumstances that weren’t predicted in the job description, surprises that will require the VA to go “off-script.” In such cases, flexibility must go with creativity in order for the VA to innovate solutions.
At the same time, a Virtual Assistant should know his or her strengths and develop this expertise. VAs who truly excel in their fields will be sought after commodities with an edge over generalists. Attaining this level of proficiency will not only make you irreplaceable, there’s also a satisfaction in knowing that you are damn good at your job.
A Step Up
These are just some of the skills Virtual Assistants should cultivate in order to stand out. VA deserve to be even better at their jobs, not only for the sake of their clients, but for their own sake most of all. In an increasingly globalizing world with growing competition, it pays to stay ahead of the game. VAs should not be complacent, for there are many challenges in this profession, and by actualizing that drive for improvement they can prepare themselves for any curve balls the vagaries life or the market might throw at them down the road.-John Li