What Makes a Good Virtual Assistant?

what makes a good assistant

As the former leader of client relations and current leader of Don’t Panic’s recruitment team, I’ve spoken to a lot of entrepreneurs looking to hire a virtual assistant for the first time, and even more men and women considering whether or not to become a virtual assistant for the first time. I’ve often heard both groups circling around the same question:

What makes a good virtual assistant?

Potential hires aren’t sure if they have the chops to work remotely as a VA, and clients don’t know how to assess what kind of person would be easiest to work with and able to take the most work off their plate.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years: the hard skills required for virtual assistant work are always changing. Do you need to be able to write well? Do you need to know how to edit audio and video for podcasts? It depends on the client’s needs. Every assistant and every job are different.

But even with the myriad options in a client’s contract, the soft skills it takes to become a virtual assistant are the same. So, whether you’re wondering if you should become a VA— or if you are ready to interview and hire a virtual assistant yourself—here are the six qualities that make up the profile of the perfect assistant.

Good Virtual Assistants Serve Without Ego.

When you commit to being someone’s virtual support, you commit to working quietly behind the scenes and serving without ego. You’re not their quarterback; you’re not even their second-string kicker. Your job? Waterboy. And you love it! You think being the waterboy is awesome.

A sense of humility is critical to a career in service. As a virtual assistant, you’ll do the small things that sometimes go unnoticed, but it serves an important purpose. Your job has a big impact—thanks to your work, your client can perform at their peak.

Humility in Action

Not sure if you’ve got what it takes to serve without ego? Let’s see if this sounds like you:

Building up someone else’s brand is just as fulfilling, perhaps even more so, than building up your own. You don’t mind ghost-writing or answering emails under a generic “admin” email account.

There’s no job too small for you. Little tasks like making a lunch reservation or rewriting the copy in your blog intro don’t annoy you. In fact, you like them. In your mind, it’s all in a day’s work!

Virtual Assistants Provide Help With a Light and Open Heart.

If you think you want to be a VA, it should give you joy to bring others joy. Whether it’s your client, your client’s client, or a fellow team member at your agency, you approach all interactions with a friendly face and a welcoming attitude. You’re not afraid to go the extra mile to lend a hand and make someone feel good.

Growing up, you invited the new kid at school to sit at your lunch table. You’re the neighbor who brings brownies to the new family across the street. When your friend moves into a four-story walk-up, they know they can call you to (loving and begrudgingly) help them get their couch up the stairs.

Your personality doesn’t have to be all sunshine and daisies—I love #dark humor as much as the next person—but whatever your unique brand of youness, it’s open, affirming, and generous of time and spirit. This comes in many forms: introverts and extroverts both can make awesome virtual assistants!

This Neighborly Attitude in Action

You hear your client is going through a particularly tough time: maybe it’s a divorce, or their parent is in the hospital. The first thought that pops into your head is to see about sending them a special treat to brighten their day.

You consider your clients’ acquaintances or even friends. You know their significant other by name, how many kids and pets they have, and whether or not they’re all caught up on the latest season of Game of Thrones.

Prepared to Work at Home? You’ll Need to Take Initiative.

Sometimes being a useful virtual assistant means being a little bit of a nag. Clients are busy, and they don’t always know when they need help, how they need help or the best way to communicate. That dynamic doesn’t intimidate you in the slightest. You are more than happy to motivate yourself.

You’re not the assistant who sits around twiddling their thumbs and waiting for an assignment. You constantly look for gaps in your client’s workflows and seek new ways to assist them by asking and re-asking, “How can I help?”

Proactivity in Action

You notice the task management tool your client uses is pretty old school. You research some better options, offer them up to the client, and explain why making the switch will make their life easier. Then, you help them implement the new tool for a smooth and easy transition.

You receive a process doc for a project that’s full of gaps. (Hello, it hasn’t been updated in two years!) As you work through your assignment for the first time, you make edits and tweaks so that the process doc will be more user-friendly for the next guy.

Sound like you? You’re in luck.

You Follow Through and Always Deliver on Time.

As a freelancer, you are your own boss. So you act like it. You don’t need an editor combing through each of your assignments. You don’t need a weekly reminder about which projects you have due. The idea of someone holding your hand while you try to get work done actually bothers you—you’d rather own your role.

Working from home presents some unique challenges. Your client can’t (and shouldn’t) stand over your shoulder to make sure you’re meeting your contract’s requirements and getting your work done on time. While it may be tempting to blow off work for the day and binge the latest Netflix release, you don’t have a problem taking care of business instead.

Reliability in Action

Most people like to think of themselves as reliable. But what would you past clients or bosses have to say? Consider these scenarios to really examine if you are a master in the art of getting shit done.

When you plan a vacation, you prep all your deliverables for work ahead of time, or work ahead with your client to meet your virtual assistant hours in a different capacity. When you sign-off for that R&R, no one needs to cover for you because the work is already done.

You edit your own work. You catch the typos from your first draft of social media posts or the missing cut in your podcast’s audio. No one needs to review your work because you always check and recheck what you’ve done.

Share Openly and Honestly.

You know you don’t operate in a vacuum. Because of that, direct communication is your best friend. You feel comfortable presenting your clients with status updates on your work and sharing major life milestones that might affect your schedule or workflow.

You feel good and do your best work when everybody is on the same page, and there are no unanswered questions looming in the air.

Strong Communication in Action

Virtual relationships are tougher to track than IRL ones. While keeping some level of privacy is appropriate and understandable, here’s what we mean about virtual assistants communicating and sharing openly and honestly:

If unforeseen circumstances such as an internet outage or a sick little one cause a delay in your work, you email your client before your deadline passes to let them know when they can expect your deliverables and why.

The Best VAs Seek Opportunities to Learn and Grow.

Your whole life people have said you have a curious mind. You’re known for the size of your bookshelf, the browser tabs you keep open, and how frequently you say, “Let me Google that.” Your podcast queue is never-ending, and people always laugh about how you seem to know just a little bit about everything. You are the star performer at trivia nights.

When it comes to client work, you’re not afraid to raise your hand and ask questions. When they ask for your advice, you don’t say, “I don’t know.” You answer, “I don’t know… but I’ll find out.” You seek professional development to broaden your skills offering and bolster your career.

A Curious Mind in Action

You hear about a service that other virtual assistants offer. You can’t do it, but you’d like to learn. You sign up for an online course so you can learn how to do it yourself in the future.

The mantra, “No news is good news” just won’t cut it for you. You frequently check in with clients on how they are feeling about your work and ways you can improve in the future.

The Profile of a Good Virtual Assistant

Becoming a virtual assistant is an awesome gig for parents, artists, and just about anyone looking for a side hustle. But it does take a certain type of person to be successful! Whether you think you’d like to become a VA or you are interviewing candidates for your business, these characteristics are a great metric of the person who would thrive in a remote environment as an assistant.

In fact, at Don’t Panic we believe so strongly that these are the qualities of a great virtual assistant that we’ve made them our personal core values and we hire and evaluate our current team against them. Interested in hiring one of our team members? Or maybe you’d like to join our gaggle of bad ass assistants? Contact us.

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