Is being a Virtual Assistant a ‘proper’ job?

Caroline Wylie of the Society of Virtual Assistants outlines what it takes to be a virtual assistant.

mum who works at home


My daughter was playing offices when I picked her up at nursery the other day. She excitedly told me: “Mummy, when I’m a big girl, I want to work in an office!”. Flattered that she wanted to follow in my footsteps I comment: “Oh, like mummy?” “No mummy – a PROPER office!” My entire career as a virtual assistant, dissed by a four year old.

But, contrary to popular belief (and my daughter’s career aspirations!), it is a real job. It’s paid my mortgage since I started in 2004, as a singleton with no choice but to pay the bills.

On target earnings for VAs working full-time are £67k* a year, making it comparable to the best-paid of Executive Assistant roles. The flexibility it affords means that most VAs only work part time, with the average salary ranging from £11-£20k – ideal for mums looking to spend more time with their families but keep their skills relevant.

But, as ever, there are some downsides:

  • It’s self-employed, essentially a commission only role
  • You will usually work alone, so being self-motivated is essential
  • Those figures don’t account for the expenses of running your business – which can vary hugely between different VA business models

What skills do virtual assistants need?

VAs provide administrative support to businesses on a freelance basis – so sometimes that is general secretarial work or diary management; and other times it will be more specialist online marketing support, such as organising social media or ecommerce sites. The more specialist skills will command a premium price, but the demand for basic help with everyday tasks is huge. These are delivered remotely – the VA will work via email, phone, video conferencing, but won’t visit the client’s premises, so it works well for solopreneurs who work from home or out on the road a lot. Coaches and consultants who have flexible workloads tend to be the ideal VA client.

The variety of work you do will be huge compared to a traditional secretarial job, and you’ll need to be able to juggle conflicting client demands, so VAs tend to be experienced Executive Assistants before making the leap to self-employment.

How much do you earn?

The most common hourly charge is £25/hour* for a VA – specialist VAs or VAs working as a team will charge more. Not all hours you work will be billable, as you still need to fit in your own admin, marketing and billing. And of course, being freelance, the hours can be unpredictable depending on client’s workload.

Most VAs choose to work part time, which is reflected in what most VAs earn (circa £11-£20k PA*), but full-time VAs can expect to earn £67k PA*.

How to become a virtual assistant?

Whilst there are many courses available for VAs, about 60%* of VAs are self-trained. You will need to register as self-employed, have proper email and storage in place, and make sure you comply with privacy laws such as GDPR.

* Source = UK VA Survey by the Society of Virtual Assistants.

**Caroline Wylie has been a Virtual Assistant (VA) since 2004. Virtual assistance in the UK was a fledgling industry, so she worked with a collection of VAs to educate the business community about virtual working which grew rapidly into the Society of Virtual Assistants which conducts industry research and promotes best practice in the industry. Twitter: @SocietyofVAs Facebook: LinkedIn: Website:

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