7 Things Every Virtual Assistant Should Know

I love being a virtual assistant. I love educating others about virtual assistance. And I love helping new virtual assistants get started.  With that said, I also believe that if you’re thinking about becoming a virtual assistant there are some things that you shouldn’t need to be taught.

The whole concept of a virtual assistant is that clients are hiring someone who is technology savvy. After all, we rely on said technology to do our jobs right? Yet more and more I’m being contacted by new VA’s asking for help with things that I feel they should already know or at least be aware of.

1.      You should know how to do a comprehensive search with a search engine.

2.      You should be aware of Word templates[1] and how to use them.  This is office administration 101.

3.      You should know about online calendars, online file sharing and other ‘cloud’ services.  Asking me which services I might recommend is good, asking me what they are after you’ve told a client you’d be using them? Fail.

4.      You should never take on client work that you don’t know how to do.  It seems like common sense but I’m amazed at the times I’ve had someone say “I told my new client I’d have this project ready next Monday.  How do I do it?”

5.      You should understand what your clients are requesting you to do without asking someone else’s opinion.  Yes, I’ve actually been contacted by virtual assistants who ask me, “My client said he wanted me to do such & such.  What do they mean?”

6.      You should be able to register, log-in and use the information available to you on virtual assistant forums.  I’ve given out the addresses to two of the best forums dedicated to helping virtual assistants many times and you’d be surprised at the number of people that contact me and tell me they ‘couldn’t get on’ them and could I just give them the information they need.  What does that mean?  To me it means that you either don’t have the technological know-how to register and login in to a forum or you didn’t take the time to check out information I freely gave to you.

7.      Other virtual assistants (like me) are generally willing to help in any way that they can, however, don’t expect them to do your work for you.  Most of us are running businesses ourselves.  We make the time to try to help you because we believe in helping others and we probably had someone help us along the way a time or two.  We know how overwhelming being a new VA is, because we’ve experienced it.  There is nothing quite like having someone who has been there as a mentor.  Yet there is a line that is drawn between helping and doing.  Sure, contact me and ask me if I know where you can find a template for something. I’ll give you a few places to look and if I have one I’ll most likely send it to you.  E-mail me back telling me that your client is in a different niche than the template and could I change the wording to reflect that?  That’s doing your work for you.

With that final point I’d like to give a bit of additional information.

I often end up referring many of the new virtual assistants that have asked for my help on certain items. Yet there have been a few that I would never refer.  What is the deciding factor between the two groups of help seekers?

  • Professionalism.  My clients and clients that are referred to me have come to expect a high level of professionalism.  If I don’t sense that level of professionalism in another virtual assistant, there is no way I’m going to refer them to others.
  • Initiative.  Showing initiative has always been something that employers sought in employees.  Just what is showing initiative?  It’s the ability to see what needs to be done and doing it.  If you tell me that you’ve looked for information on a certain topic and couldn’t find anything and I turn around and find what you’re looking for in the first page of Google results it leaves me with questions.  Do you not know how to do a proper internet search? Or do you lack the initiative to try to find the answer yourself first?  Regardless of which it is, neither is going to encourage me to pass your name along to clients.

The last thing I want to do is discourage new virtual assistants from coming to me or other seasoned VA’s for help.  By all means, contact me if you need a question answered or need a bit of direction.  However, if your inquiry falls into any one of the 7 points above, you might want to consider that you’ve gotten in over your head.  Is being a virtual assistant really a good fit for you?

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Are there other items you feel should be added to the list?  Let’s start a conversation in the comments section.

[1] This applies to WordPerfect, OpenOffice or any other word processing software you may be using.


Tina Marie Hilton provides online technology services to forward thinking businesses. She writes on her Tips from T.Marie business blog to share insight and information with other small businesses and entrepreneurs. It also makes her feel like that certificate in creative writing isn't going to waste completely.


  1. Virtual Assistant Forums on November 4, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Superb article Tina… #s 6 and 7 really resonate with me – as the founder of Virtual Assistant Forums I find myself banging my head against the wall sometimes in frustration at the sheer lack of CAN DO some people have. I built an entire site for them to use to build success and some still come to me with some variation of the statements you mentioned. Can’t get on the site? Puh-leeze 🙂 My stock answer anymore, when requests cross that invisible line is ‘If you expect to help you run your clients’ businesses, you’d better figure out how to run your OWN first.’ Wonderful post, thank you!

    • T.Marie Hilton on November 4, 2010 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks so much for adding your thoughts on the post! #6 is one of the most frustrating ones for me, because honestly that’s where I feel new virtual assistants can find answers to most of their questions. How serious are they about their VA business if they can’t even take the time to learn how to register, post and read?
      I’m glad I’m not being an old grouch and these things bother others too.

      • Virtual Assistant Forums on November 5, 2010 at 4:58 am

        Holding people accountable to their own self-proclaimed goals is definitely not grouchy…
        What’s that old saying about leading a horse to water? 🙂

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  3. MyOfficeLee on November 5, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Great article Tina. I appreciate pointing out #7, I am always amazed at the number of new VA’s that want you to give them all the answers. We seasoned vets worked hard to get where we are and it shows in our businesses.

    I do not think you are being harsh at all, just realistic. Many new VA’s think it is easy to start and run a business however it is that, a business. Just because you have xx years of experience does not make you a business owner.

    • T.Marie Hilton on November 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      I think you’ve made an excellent point ! Because most of us work from a home office and offer skills we’ve gained through experience many individuals see it as an ‘easy’ way to become their own boss. Those tend to be the ones that find themselves in over their heads fast.

      Thanks so much for adding your voice to our conversation!

  4. Andrea Cannavina on November 5, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Another excellent post Tina!

    I, too, get frustrated by those looking for the quick answer who obviously have no business holding themselves out as a VA. It’s a business, not a hobby!


    • T.Marie Hilton on November 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm

      Thank you Andrea,
      Your point is exactly the reason that I stress to people asking about starting their own VA business that they must be prepared to not only provide services but be a CEO of their own business. Being your own boss isn’t for everyone.

  5. Melissa on November 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Thank you for this article!! I often wonder if I should be “asking more questions” on VAF; but there is so much info already there, that I find the answers I need without posting and your website(s) provide a wealth of info, also 🙂

    ~ Melissa

    • T.Marie Hilton on November 5, 2010 at 12:59 pm

      Thank you Melissa!
      I’m so glad you mentioned this. This is why #6 frustrates me so much. There is so much truly useful help and information on the forums, and at VAF it’s all available for free. I give the address to new VA’s starting out because I know this is where they are going to find the answers they need. The fact that so many come back telling me they can’t access it really frustrates me. It’s not that hard.
      But trust me, we all want to answer your questions there, so if you find yourself with a question you can’t find the answer to, never hesitate to ask!!

      • Melissa on November 8, 2010 at 12:50 pm

        Thanks, much!! You Rock…

  6. DynastyDiva on December 10, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Although I am new to VAF and am just recently starting my VA business up, I agree with everything you said above. I think in any business, one should never make promises they can’t keep (or say they will do something they have no clue how to do!) I can understand not wanting to lose a client but I have learned from my previous business experience that honesty pays off every time.

    Thanks for the thoughts….I look forward to reading more of your blogs!

    • T.Marie Hilton on December 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

      So glad to have you stop in and take part in the conversation. I honestly don’t believe most virtual assistants intend to mislead clients about what they can and can’t do, but when you’re struggling to get those first few clients, it’s hard to see a possibility slip away. And many times I believe they feel they can ‘learn’ it for the client. And many times they can.
      The problems I have with that are: 1. Will they be able to master it to the extent that client is going to expect. 2. What if it’s something that completely eludes them. and 3. are they making the client aware that they are not familiar with whatever it is.
      Thanks again for dropping by and sharing!

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  8. atarjamat_co on March 10, 2011 at 5:01 am

    a good 7 steps that helps me as a virtual assistance company ….. Atarjamat


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