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How do you become a virtual assistant?

Are there any specific skills or requirements to become a virtual assistant in Australia? What skills does a successful VA need?

Top voted answer
Hatty Bell

Hatty Bell, Community Manager at

Would love to get your thoughts on this @Kathie Thomas !

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Kathie Thomas

Kathie Thomas, Owner at

Thanks for asking. Generally VAs are people who have worked in office based roles in the corporate world, or other businesses. It's important that they have a minimum 3-5 years' working experience so that they're in a position to make decisions, deal with clients, and offer the best options when asked by clients.

VAs should have good keyboarding skills and know the software well, that they wish to provide services in. There is a huge range of services that VAs provide these days - doesn't look like I can add an image here, otherwise I'd share a pie chart showing the range of services but it can include administration, secretarial services, telephone/reception services, social media support, broadcast emails, spreadsheets, database management, website management and a huge number of other things.

It's important for people to know and understand that VAs here in Australia are self-employed - they're not employees. As a result, they work with several clients, rather than just one. The ATO would deem them an employee if they were getting the bulk of their income from the one client source, so there's that to think about too. So important that anyone considering becoming a VA starts with that thought in mind, as well as the things below.

I know that offshore VAs charge less $$ per hour than we do, but you need to think about these things:

  • Offshore VAs often only work with one client, and do this through an agency. Consequently they offer 60-100 hours a month to that one business. clients need to think about if they have enough work to outsource to fill those hours.
  • Offshore VAs generally have a lower cost of living (I'm talking mostly about the Asian countries). UK VAs have a higher cost as do some other countries.
  • Australian based VAs need to charge to cover their overheads - just as clients do in their own business. So VAs charge accordingly.
  • Australian based VAs understand our geography better and also the Australian culture so less misunderstanding
  • The client's IP is important and they need to keep it safe - Australian VAs are covered by Australian law
  • As with the client database - it stays here in our country and for the majority of businesses, their database is their bread and butter.
I tend to give my VAs (through my network) a document that gives them guidelines for setting up and a formula to work on, to help them work out their base hourly rate and go from there. But basically they need to think about what they want to earn per annum (what you were earning in your job is a good start), then think about how many hours a week you want to work, allowing for time off, holiday leave, sick leave, etc and then go from there. It also depends on what state the VA lives in as some states have a higher cost of living than other states.

It would serve prospective clients well to understand that VAs are usually very well versed in the services they provide - they've already had the necessary training and charge accordingly. Yes, they have to learn about the client's business but they don't generally have to learn about how to do the work. And VAs generally save their clients a lot of time, so that the client can concentrate on their business while the VA concentrates on the behind the scenes stuff.

Kathie Thomas

Kathie Thomas, Owner at

I should have added that it is common for most VAs in Australia to perhaps do 10-15 hours month per client, but it can be less or more. Some clients can be ad-hoc, i.e. just pop up now and then when they have a project. I have many clients like this myself. Some clients may be just passing through, some may be long-term. I have clients who have been with me for well over 10 years and longer.

There is no hard and fast rule about what a VA should be doing with respect to how many hours or what they should be charging. The industry is global, not national, and, therefore, there is no legislation dictating what you should or shouldn't do here, in Australia, other than what the ATO tells us about being a subcontractor versus an employee.

If you decide to become a VA, please do the research and, in particular, who it is you decide to learn from or do training with, if you feel that's what you need to do. Research the person. They should have been in the industry for some years and have personal experience of being a VA. There are many out there who do it for just 6 months and then decide to set up a training course as they feel that's more financially effective for them. The trouble is, they haven't yet submitted a tax return, let alone several, haven't been through the ups and downs of business - there are always quiet times and busy times. Important to experience it all before deciding you want to teach others, or likewise, take your learning from someone who fits that scenario.

Hatty Bell

Hatty Bell, Community Manager at

Great insight @Kathie Thomas ! What seperates a VA with marketing responsibilities from a marketing service provider? Interesting to hear your thoughts on offshore vs Australia based, I know this is a subject on lots of peoples minds right now and the lower costs can seem very attractive.

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Kathie Thomas

Kathie Thomas, Owner at

I think I've shared about the offshore vs Australian based above but if you want me to take it further - perhaps a new question specific to that I can answer? Or do you want to keep it in this thread? I have done presentations on this in the past.

Re marketing - there are VAs with marketing experience. It really depends on the client and what they want. So probably needs to be more specific what you're asking perhaps?

Hatty Bell

Hatty Bell, Community Manager at

Good idea! Just seems to something that I've read a number of times recently.

It sounds like it's very specific to the person and the requirements of the client. Thanks for answering @Kathie Thomas !

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