Becoming a virtual assistant is a great way to put all those organisational skills you’ve learned as a teacher into good use – just one example of how transferable your teaching skills can be in careers that lie beyond the classroom door.
But what does being a virtual assistant actually entail and what other skills do you need? Is it a viable alternative career for teachers who may have spent years and years in the classroom?
Most definitely. Let’s dive in, shall we?
What is a Virtual Assistant?
Since the arrival of t’internet and the concept of remote working, a whole world of virtual job opportunities has arrived on our metaphorical doorsteps. It’s no longer essential for business owners and CEOs to have a personal assistant glued to their side, now they can have someone doing all those wonderful organisational things from a different location, even a different country!
A virtual assistant role is often similar to that of a traditional personal assistant. It’s a job that involves virtually supporting business owners, taking tasks off their hands that can be delegated or outsourced, so they can grow their business and focus on tasks that only they can do.
What does a Virtual Assistant Do?
Tasks are varied but can include:
- Email management/mailing lists
- Diary & calendar management – booking appointments
- Creating graphics and content
- Social media management
- Maintaining, updating & building websites
- Filing/data entry
- Minute taking
- Making travel arrangements (not needed much this year!)
- Basic bookkeeping and/or invoicing
Many virtual assistants choose areas to specialise in. Having the ability to be flexible and manage change is important too – a lot of the work in 2020 has been about pivoting business online, e.g. setting up Etsy shops, social media accounts or updating websites. Some VAs specialise in bookkeeping or systems.
What Skills Does a Virtual Assistant Need?
Many of the skills that a virtual assistant needs fit really nicely into the skills that you, as a teacher, already have – and by the bucketload! From time management and organisational abilities, to communication and people skills, your time as a teacher can be consistently put to really good use. It’s also important to have strong English and maths skills, so that’s another thing to tick off the list. You see, all those grammar and spelling lessons could pay off in the most unlikely way!
Digital and IT knowledge is useful too, but you can pick up a lot as you go along. There are plenty of online free resources out there, so you don’t need to invest in expensive digital training when you’re just starting out.
What Job Opportunities Are There and How Much Can You Earn?
As mentioned above, the world of virtual work and the remote office means that there are plenty of job opportunities out there for virtual assistants. Most VAs are freelance, running their own businesses around their own individual circumstances. Need to pick up the kids from school? You can work school hours very easily. Want to work part-time? You’ve easily got that option too.
There are some agencies who hire virtual assistants too, so if you’re not confident to set up on your own just yet or you’d rather have an agency look after the contract side of things, then this is also an option for you.
The average virtual assistant charges £25 per hour. You’re essentially exchanging your time for money, but many VAs will sell packages of time, e.g. 10 hours a month for a reduced rate. If you set yourself up with your own virtual assistant business, you have the freedom to choose who you work with, as well as how many hours you want to dedicate to it each day/week.
Notes from a Virtual Assistant
I’m thrilled that Jenny, from Jennifer Cooper Time Saver (IG handle: jennifercoopertimesaver), is willing and able to share her journey from full time employment to virtual assistant business owner! Here she tells you a little bit more about how she started off, what’s typically involved and why she enjoys the job so much.
She’s also been fantastic at providing me with much of the information in this blog post – so you know it’s come from someone who does the job, day in and day out. Thanks, Jenny!
I spent 18 years working as a bookseller, specialising in children’s books. I knew I needed to move on, struggling to find something that would fit around my children. During this time, I spent 6 years volunteering and then running the PTA at my daughter’s primary school. Initially, I joined to meet people, but found it a great place to learn new skills and build my confidence, as I was liaising with the parent body & school, organising events and communicating with everyone.
I learned that people thought of me as organised! Spreadsheets and lists I thought nothing of were something a lot of people did not do naturally. I realised this was a real strength and a marketable skill. Involvement in the village through the PTA gave me the confidence to apply for the role as administrator of the local village hall, and soon I was being asked by hall hirers to help them with their businesses as a VA.
My business has grown rapidly in the past 12 months, despite lockdown. I love learning again – trying lots of different roles a VA can do. I discovered that I hate cold calling, but love helping people implement systems to save them time. My social media offering has been incredibly popular as everyone pivots online, and I now offer training workshops for people starting out on social media.
Most of all, my clients love having someone else who is invested in their business and who wants to see them succeed. You are part of a team, but as equals on your own terms. Having worked for a large organisation, I am loving the freedom of being freelance, particularly deciding my own hours.
I love that I set the terms of my business and that I am not working within an unwieldy, cumbersome organisation. I choose what my business looks like, as well as who I work with. Instead of sitting through dull company appraisals, I can enjoy the thrill of setting my own goals and smashing them.
Two key things that have helped me succeed:
- Confidence – Get out there and tell people what you’re doing. People want to help and will mention you to potential clients. Several of my first clients were all people I had met through the PTA.
- Invest in a coach – You can do it on your own, but the freelance life can be lonely. Having a coach means you have someone to bounce ideas off. Someone who will slowly widen your eyes to all that is possible for you, rooting for you all the way.
Is Being a Virtual Assistant the Alternative Career for You?
So there you have it. All the information you need to help you decide if being a virtual assistant is the alternative career for you. It’s a job that’s varied and provides you with plenty of opportunities to improve your skills, but also to use the ones you’ve gained as a teacher.
It’s also such a great way to continue working with people, albeit in a different way. You are, as Jenny says, part of a team but it doesn’t have all the usual staffroom politics that can go with it. You’re in control of your day and choose exactly how you spend it.
So why not think about it as your alternative career? It could be just what you’re looking for!
Resources from Jenny:
- Virtually Done – supportive FB groups for VAs
- Working with Jenny – she’s happy to offer:
- 1:1 training, e.g. Beginners Guide to Social Media for Business – can focus on Instagram, Facebook or both
- Small Business Toolkit – key apps and tools to help you run your small business.
Don’t forget! If you would like support to transition out of teaching and into a new career, head on over to my Coaching page and see what’s on offer.