How I landed a Virtual Assistant job and YOU can too
As soon as I got home from the hospital with my first daughter Eloise, the dreaded thoughts of leaving my little girl and heading back to work ran through my mind daily. So many moms must know EXACTLY what I’m talking about! I could barely enjoy my maternity leave with her because of the worry.
Who would watch her? Daycare? Nanny? Nanny share? We did not feel comfortable putting her in a daycare at the young age of 12 weeks. We also had no family close enough or without daily obligations of their own, that we could leave her with. I ended up returning to work while a very dedicated nanny cared for Eloise. I know how lucky we were to find someone so trustworthy and gentle. However, after seven months back at work, it was best for our family and for Eloise, for me to stay home and care for her.
After being so independent and working two jobs throughout college and full-time since graduating, I was nervous to give up my income and career. I initially worked as a Human Resources Executive Assistant, then as an Operations/Accounting Associate at a financial firm in midtown Manhattan for five years. Growing up, my mother was a stay-at-home mom. I knew firsthand how rewarding yet how difficult it would be. I wondered how I could be a dedicated stay-at-home-mom and still remain employed part time from home? Even though my husband agreed to take on most of our household bills, I wanted to bring in some supplemental income to continue paying my student loans and afford frivolous girly things for Eloise. You know – baby bonnets, leather baby moccasins, glitter hair clips, snazzy stroller accessories, etc. Things that all GIRL moms want to be able to provide for their daughters. The things that all Dads think they can do without! (THESE ARE NECESSITIES! That’s what I tell my husband) I also wanted to be able to take Eloise to events and exhibits in Manhattan – all of which came with the need for extra cash.
So, in October 2014 within my first month home, I searched, found, interviewed for, and landed a virtual assistant role – working from home. (And still managed to care for my 9 month old!) I currently support that same client and two additional clients since then. I work between 15-20 hours a week. Calendar management, travel reservations, research projects, expense reports, and various personal appointments are some of what I do. I desired additional hours in 2015 and began working evenings for a virtual assistant start-up company, Esper Technologies, for nine months. Unfortunately the business did not last, but from that experience, I was able to gain more valuable skills for being a stellar virtual assistant.
When I first began searching for virtual jobs, I was overwhelmed and did not know where to begin. To help other moms like me, I’ve compiled my go-to list below for successfully landing that virtual role:
1) Update your resume
A virtual assistant job is a real job. It simply takes place at home. The atmosphere may be a bit more relaxed than the office, but employers will want to see your resume. It should be tailored towards the administrative role. Make sure that even if your experience isn’t all administrative, everything you did demonstrates aspects of it somewhere. Just like any job, employers want to see how the tasks and skills gained from your past experiences can be used in your new role.
2) Keep looking and looking
The internet, of course, is the place to find these jobs. I first checked Craigslist twice a day for 3 weeks before I found my particular job. Search Craigslist and internet search engines for keywords like: REMOTE, VIRTUAL, TELECOMMUTE, WORK FROM HOME, REMOTE ADMIN, VIRTUAL ASSISTANT, etc. If you live in a suburban area, check not only your local Craigslist community, but also that of the nearest city. I now live in the NY Hudson Valley but would search in the Manhattan area of Craigslist as well. Because the work is virtual, it is likely that it can be done from anywhere. If you don’t see anything in your nearest big city, check others like Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. The same location concept applies. Do not get frustrated and give up too soon. It’s difficult not to get discouraged when 9 out of 10 times you receive no responses to your application or the response is often a scam, but just keep looking and applying to EVERY job that would be a good fit for you. A legitimate job takes weeks, even months to acquire.
3) Speaking of SCAMS, be aware of scams and fake job postings
Never give out your bank account information, home address, social security number, or allow someone into your home. Schedule online video interviews or meet at public coffee shops for in-person interviews. I say these things because I have NEVER been sucked into a scam…maybe…ok…once my husband stopped me just in time! (Job desperation can cloud your judgement!)
4) Be prepared to interview
Although the interview may be over the phone or video call, prepare for the interview as if it were face to face. Know your skills and present yourself confidently. If video chatting, wear professional business attire. (At least from the waist up – wear just underpants down below if you want, but be professional when it comes to what the employer can see!)
5) Know what employers are looking for in virtual candidates
They are looking specifically for workers who are self sufficient and don’t need “hand-holding.” This is because they won’t be right in an office with you to guide you. There are no group check-in meetings or other colleagues to run ideas by. Preemptively let your prospective employer know that you are a self starter, who is independent, able to run with tasks and work with little guidance. Stating these skills before even being asked by the employer will put you ahead right away.
6) Have References
Just like any other job, a virtual employer will want to check at least one reference to make sure you are a legitimate person with a good work background. Be prepared by asking a close friend or past boss/colleague to be a professional reference for you. Be sure to have their permission to give the employer their email address or phone number to contact. Having this information during the interview process will ensure and quick and smooth transition from interview to securing the job.
7) Legitimate virtual assistant companies
If you are not having luck finding individuals looking for virtual assistants, two companies that are real (not scams) companies looking to hire virtual assistants are Time etc and Belay Solutions. You can check out their websites below. Both companies offer part-time job opportunities and are serious about the candidates they choose. They will ask you to participate in the interview process, so use my tips above and be PREPARED! I had opportunities to interview with both companies in 2015 prior to ultimately accepting a role with Esper Technologies.
There are so many perks to working virtually. You get to work in your pajamas – save money on work clothes, save money on transportation costs, work when you have the time to work, work from your phone on the go, and determine how you receive payment. There are so many options for work “out there” you just have to find one that fits you and your schedule. The clients I currently support allow me an “end of day” turn around policy. I consistently check my email systems once an hour and if nothing is urgent, I complete their tasks by the evening of the day I receive the requests. Large research projects or expense reports will take me a few days and I openly communicate deadlines for those items. Occasionally I get a last minute flight change request or dinner reservation request which I do my best to complete as soon as possible, if I am at my computer. You can find jobs where you can do a similar “end of day” policy or work certain shifts, like I did for Esper Technologies. I worked an evening shift from 5-9pm every day. I currently receive payment via check, Paypal and direct deposit. I prefer Paypal since it is quick and secure. Most virtual assistant jobs pay anywhere from $11 – $20/hr. It is likely you will have to file a 1099 tax form at the end of each year, declaring yourself as an independent contractor. You can read more about how to file a 1099 here:
Some of the clients that I work for currently, I met and interviewed with in person. Another I met online and interviewed over video chat. Once clients are satisfied with your work, word of mouth can get you even more jobs! Work as little or as much as your schedule allows. In fact, I just got offered another job TODAY! A friend of a client needs virtual assistance and my client gave me rave reviews!
I truly love the flexibility of being able to stay home and care for my two girls and still have a job. I am able to “keep my foot in the door” so I can transition back to work when my girls are in school. I’m able to maintain a sense of self-sufficiency and independence that is 100% necessary when you’re a full-time stay-at-home mom. (I would go crazy if I didn’t interact with a few adult humans throughout the day! Baby and toddler talk doesn’t always count as human interaction, you know?) I do the majority of my work later in the evenings once my daughters are playing or sleeping. Sometimes bedtime conflicts with my work time since we have co-sleepers. But, that’s a different story! I am always telling myself that I will wake up early, say 6AM, and begin working then, but somehow it NEVER happens. Caring for a crazy active three year old and nursing a four month old all day and night is TIRING!
I followed the above steps several times and successfully landed jobs. I still work for the same client I acquired in 2014. I am confident in my virtual assistant skills. My past experience in an administrative role in Human Resources has opened my eyes to what employers want. I hope this information will help you land the virtual assistant role you are looking for too!
Any questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy virtual job hunting!