Why Virtual Assistants Should Never Stop Learning New Skills

I never intended to work as a virtual assistant.

I was simply the fan of a particular blog and wanted an opportunity to write for it. As a journalism student in my senior year, I figured I could make a little extra cash blogging about something I was passionate about.

When the blog owner responded that yes, he would love to hire me, I was completely floored. And when I found out that what he really wanted me to do was answer emails on his behalf and write only occasionally, I was, naturally, a little disappointed.

But, thankfully, I was inexperienced and enthusiastic about the blog’s topic: So I said yes.


You Never Know Where A Gig Might Lead

That was just the first of many times over the past few years I’ve said, “Sure thing!” when my experience level (and even interest level) said, “No thanks.”

At the time, I wanted to write eloquent articles, not answer mundane emails. But I have no idea where I’d be today had I not taken that job.  

Maybe I’d be a famous columnist, but I doubt it. Instead, I manage to work from home part time, take care of my baby daughter, and make a respectable side income as a virtual assistant. I’m the envy of many stay-at-home-mom internet friends on Facebook.

I worked for that client for over a year and a half, and went from answering his emails to writing/editing content, managing editorial contacts, running the blog’s social media accounts, responding to comments and even drafting an eBook.

And all those skills are the reason why I was hired by other clients (at a higher wage!) to do more work. Saying no to doing something I wasn’t 100% “into” ended up creating a stream of work and revenue that I’m still benefiting from today.


Clients Are Busy: Become Invaluable To Them

Having a good skillset is what gets you in the door. Learning new skills is what keeps you there.

It’s important to remember that as a VA, you were probably hired because your client #1 Doesn’t know how to do the things you are doing or #2 Knows how, but simply doesn’t have the time. Either way, learning how to do a wide variety of tasks efficiently makes you “a keeper.”

Another client of mine also originally hired me to write blog posts for the small businesses he worked with. Steadily, that job evolved as he occasionally asked me to run reports, figure out the art of Facebook advertising, and eventually, build websites.

I’ve come to the conclusion (with no scientific studies to prove it, of course) that many clients may ask you to learn something new rather than hire someone new who already has that skill. Why? Because even if they’re paying you to learn something unfamiliar, it’s less time-consuming for them to let you figure it out, and you’re probably a cheaper option than the experts.

Besides tinkering around the backend of Wordpress sites to change colors or upload blog posts -- something I learned from that first gig I mentioned -- I knew very little about actually building a website when I was first asked to do so.

But, I was “in the door” and I got paid to figure it out. So, I did it.

And guess what? That client asked me to design another website and it took me half the time the second time around. Learning that skill allowed me to get more work and keep the business relationship I already had established.


Technology/The Internet Is Always Changing: Keep Up!

Many of my skills (besides writing) are self-taught. And usually because a boss or client turned to me and said, “Hey, can you do this?” and I said, “I can learn how!”

Many articles on “How To Become A Virtual Assistant” insist upon you specializing in one particular skill, be it press-release writing, graphic design, or social media management. And while I do believe that there’s nothing wrong in having an expertise (for example, I sold myself as a writer before I had any other skills), I also encourage you to embrace expanding your portfolio.

Reality is that virtual assistants must be adaptable. The internet and technology is constantly evolving. I was just talking to a client about how she was archiving posts on her blog about cassette tapes, CDs and even iPods. Those articles were all relevant just a decade ago, and now -- they seem almost prehistoric.

If you want to stay relevant to your clients, you need to be learning new things -- no exceptions. Whether that’s the latest social media platform or a new way to edit videos or a state-of-the-art software for scheduling content, you are more valuable to clients if you keep educating yourself.

When I was first hired as VA, all I could do was write and I was terrified to try my hand at anything else. Now? Every request to learn something new excites me. I know that someday, I’ll be so glad I learned it.


A Word of Caution: Be Honest & Know Your Limits

Of course, never lie about your skillset. Be honest with your clients that you have a basic working knowledge (or none at all) of a certain task, but offer to learn.

And, finally, know your limits. I did express my concern when asked to help with some legal paperwork. I’m not an attorney and I want to make sure I don’t get tangled up in anything -- I let the lawyers deal with it instead.

There’s a time to say no, but more often than not, it’s in your best interest to say yes.

How do you keep your skills up to date?





Natalie is a mom and virtual assistant who makes her living online. See some of her latest work at Nursing Shoe Heaven.