Simply put, a virtual assistant is someone who provides administrative support to business owners but does not necessarily perform these services in the owner’s office. This is the aspect that makes us “virtual.” Although some virtual assistants do spend time in the offices of their clients, most do not.

Most virtual assistants work with a wide variety of clients from across the country they live in or from around the world. Being that the work is virtual, the possibilities are limitless when it comes to location.

Virtual assistants also charge for their work on an hourly basis. Every virtual assistance business is different in that they may have hourly packages setup or retainer rates but most just charge a flat hourly rate for their services. The clients then pay the virtual assistant for the work that he or she performs for them in a given pay period. These pay periods are also defined by the virtual assistant themselves.

Most virtual assistants work from home and have their own home office setup. This allows flexibility in the hours that you would work and it also allows you the comfort of working in your home.

There are various types of virtual assistants. Most virtual assistants are focused on the administrative aspects of assistance and they provide services such as word processing, editing, proofreading, document creation, scheduling, event management, file organization and other similar tasks. These virtual assistants generally charge in the $15 to $25 dollar range per hour.

The next type of virtual assistant would be what I call the ‘web savvy’ virtual assistant who does administrative based support but also has experience in the operations that are required to run an online business. The tasks that are included here include shopping cart setup and maintenance, website maintenance, autoresponder management, blog posting, etc. These virtual assistants can charge a bit more since their knowledge is at a higher expertise level than the administrative based virtual assistant. These virtual assistants generally charge between $20 and $40 per hour.

The last type of virtual assistant would be someone who considers themselves more of an online business manager. This person would work with their clients in a business partner role and provide a mutually beneficial relationship for them. What I mean by this is that this type of virtual assistant would be much more inclined to evaluate the operations of a client’s business and suggest ways in which he or she could improve their processes. These virtual assistants generally charge $50 and above per hour.

The types of skills you would need to be a virtual assistant really depends on what type of virtual assistant you are looking to become. At the very least, one must be knowledgeable with the office based software programs – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc. – and the Internet. You must be able to have general knowledge of these things before you can begin to serve your clients or you will cause frustration to both yourself and your client.

On a higher level, you will learn and acquire a broad spectrum of new skills. You may already be talented in the area of web design or copywriting, as an example, but you may not know aspects of shopping carts and autoresponders. The best part about being a virtual assistant is that you can take the time out to learn these things because it will only help to further your business.

Being computer savvy is a requirement – you won’t become a successful virtual assistant if you are not computer savvy. Most business owners want to trust that when they send their work, they won’t be paying for training time or time spent figuring out how to do the requested task. If you aren’t yet computer savvy, I would highly recommend taking a course at a local college or career development institute so that you can learn the basics.

Other skills that a virtual assistant must have are communication skills and the ability to manage their time. Focus is also a key part of being a virtual assistant. Due to the fact that most virtual assistants work from home, it can be very easy to get distracted by friends, family, the phone, the television, a good book or your bed.

Communication is important because you will be the sole operator for all aspects of your business. You will need to talk to your new customers; you will need to send e-mails to potential clients who are asking questions about your services and most of all, you want to be able to clearly communicate what it is that you do.

Time management plays a huge part in being a virtual assistant. You need to know how to prioritize your to-do list so that you don’t fall behind and miss deadlines.

You also want to be someone who is eager to learn and willing to put in the time to learn new technologies and new industries. Not all of your clients are going to be in one specific industry. I work with people from the fitness industry to the marketing industry to the body esteem industry. It’s never the same and it’s ever-changing.