Why VAs Have Always Been Virtual (And How It Works for Us)

An image of a Zoom chat on a grayscale background. In the foreground, in white letters, is VAs have always been virtual - how we make virtual work for us

Virtual assistants have been around for as long as technology has allowed us to work remotely. Many of the early adopters of virtual assistant work have never looked back. There are so many things we love about remote life.

But many experienced remote work for the first time in 2020. If you fall into that camp, you were likely forced into a remote situation, without warning and with a fair bit of stress.

If that experience has left a bad taste in your mouth, we totally get it. But we want to share with you what we love about virtual life and why we think you can come to love it, too. Allow us to give you a little look behind the scenes at how VA work helps us build lives that our clients and we love.

We Love the Flexibility

One of the first perks newly remote workers discover is the beauty of a flexible work arrangement. Flexible work means you can structure your day to suit your life. You got kids that need school pickup? Set an away message on Slack and hop in the minivan! Need to take a parent to a doctor’s appointment? No worries—take the morning off and put in a little extra time after putting the kids to sleep.

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Asynchronous tools like Slack, Loom, and various project management platforms allow your team to remain connected and aware of what folks are up to without needing to share a space or work at the same time.

VAs are drawn to the flexibility of the work because they often have other passions outside work. Some of our team members are artists or actors. Over the years, we’ve had some virtual nomads in our midst. Virtual assisting is the type of career that gives them the chance to work and pursue their dreams.

Of course, the flip side of flexibility is that time management can be tricky. If you’re not used to remote work, it’s sometimes hard to establish clear boundaries between work and life. And it’s easy to fall into an Instagram black hole and lose an hour of precious working time if you’re not worried your boss is about to walk by your desk.

If you’d like to hear some of our productivity hacks, from designing the perfect environment to tools to manage your time, we’ve got plenty!

We Bring the Creativity

As we said above, some of the folks on our team are also in fields traditionally considered creative, like the arts. But when we talk about creativity, we’re speaking about a broader definition of the term.

Creativity for a great VA also means problem-solving, thinking outside the box, looking for ways to reduce wasted time, and innovating new processes and solutions. Fortunately, those who use creativity in their artistic lives are ready to translate those skills into VA work.

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Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, there are ways to help you tap into your inner artiste! And virtual life makes it especially easy. If you’re facing a problem that’s got you stumped, get up from your desk and go for a walk in your neighborhood. Sometimes the physical exercise and change of scenery will spark a great idea. Kinda like that concept that your best ideas come in the shower; and there’s real science to back up that notion!

You might not feel comfortable walking out your office door in the middle of the day (even if it’s for a good reason!), but remote work gives you the freedom to do what you gotta do to get those creative juices flowing.

We Prize Open Communication

Have you ever been in an in-person office where folks gather around the coffee maker to gossip? Same.

And while that kind of camaraderie might make the workday feel more interesting, it’s not a sign of healthy work culture.

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The great thing about remote work is that the petty-factor is pretty much zero. For one, you’re not sharing a space with your colleagues. Even if someone does something that irks you in the moment, you can walk away from your desk, take a few deep breaths, and get over it. 

But the other truth here is that back-channel communication makes virtual work impossible. Gossiping and side conversations not only fuel resentments and dysfunction, they actually make it impossible to get work done in a virtual environment.

Because you can’t see each other, you have to be open and honest. Nuances are sometimes lost in written communication, so you have to be direct. People can easily miss a key memo when you’re not physically in the same room, so you need to share information in public digital spaces. There’s more room for error when you’re remote, and that means everyone needs to be more mindful of keeping everyone in the loop and communicating clearly.

The more tools you can embrace to allow open communication, the better. Slack is awesome because everyone in a channel can access the same information—nothing is siloed or squirreled away. 

We also love a project management tool that allows for open collaboration. We use ClickUp because everyone working on a given project can see status updates in real-time. There’s never any wondering where things stand or who’s doing what. 

We Possess Technical Savvy

If you’re remote, you need to be handy with technology. That’s the only way to work together from afar! Fortunately, the 21st century has made that easy—no carrier pigeons here—and one of the characteristics most VAs share is a passion for fiddling with the latest internet gadgets.

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There truly is a tool for everything. Need to automate a process in your workflow? Check out Zapier. Want to remove the background from a photo so you can greenscreen in something goofy for a social post? Try remove.bg. Looking to keep your passwords secure? Download LastPass (and use their Chrome Extension).

You don’t need to be a computer genius, but you do need to be curious (which, incidentally, is one of our core values). Be willing to try new things. There are dozens of apps and programs out there to help you work smarter, not harder. It’s just a matter of doing a little exploring to find the ones that are right for you.  

We Strive to Elevate, Always

Some people like the comfort of a more traditional office role, where tasks and responsibilities remain essentially the same, and there’s a clear trajectory to your life. Not us VAs! Our creativity and curiosity mean we love an ever-changing environment. Our best days are when a client comes to us and says, “I know this is a weird request, but…”

We live for the weird request. And even if it’s just a business as usual day, we love finding ways to elevate what we’re already doing. How can we streamline this process? What new tools are out there to help us get this task done?

The Don’t Panic team has an active Slack channel where you can often find people asking for or giving advice. From a new podcast editing hack to a way to unsubscribe from junk mail, someone’s done it before and has a perfect solution they’re itching to share.

Some might think of virtual assistant work as lonely or only for introverts, but in reality, a great VA is a people person! Remote work gives you the perfect balance—you can offer help and build relationships with colleagues when needed, but you can also easily create heads-down time for deep work.

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We love finding the balance that works best for us and collaborating with everyone in our sphere to share ways to work smarter, together.

Virtual work can be an exciting career path. When you embrace the mindset and skillsets that make it possible, you can unlock a new freedom and ease in your life as a whole. That’s why VAs have always been virtual and always will be. Hopefully, some of this advice will help you on your virtual journey, too.

Get tasks off your plate faster with the VA Starter Kit!

Jess Tyson, CEO & Director of Calm

Jess is the founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. (And yes, she invented that title because that’s what you do when you’re the boss!) She wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. Jess's first book, Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business is available now: panicproofbook.com

  • Current location: Redding, CT
  • Go-to Karaoke song: “Hand in My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette
  • Favorite kind of cheese: Aged Goat Gouda
  • Beverage of choice: Champagne
  • Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
  • Superpower: Delivering miracles, especially when all hope is lost.

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