Being a digital nomad has never been as exciting or doable as it is today, and being a virtual assistant is one of the most popular online jobs that allow you to work from virtually anywhere.
However, can you really handle being a VA?
Being a virtual assistant can be hard. It means having to deal with daily distractions at home while you try to work, trying to sync different time zones, having to motivate yourself, and not getting paid holidays. However, you get to manage your own time, choose your clients, and set your rates.
Wondering whether being a VA is a viable career choice for you?
Let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of being a virtual assistant and what you can do to manage its tricky aspects.
The 5 Challenges of Being a Virtual Assistant
All jobs, no matter how passionate we are about them or how much we enjoy doing what we do, have their downsides.
They all will tire us at some point.
And if you have not had a bad day at work yet, you can count on it happening anytime soon.
Therefore, being a virtual assistant does come with some challenges. You just have to know whether you can handle them if you’re looking to be in it for the long haul.
#1 You Have To Fight Off Distractions Daily
One of the best things about being a freelancer in general and a virtual assistant specifically is that you can work from home.
In fact, you can work anywhere you want as long as you have a strong Internet connection.
However, this freedom to choose your workspace does come with its own set of challenges.
It means having to deal with daily distractions at home.
So yes, working at home means saying goodbye to being stuck in your cubicle from 9 to 5.
But it also entails resisting the urge to do the laundry or tend to your garden when you have a deadline in a few hours.
Don’t underestimate the number of distractions you have at home, because they are endless.
Since no one is physically monitoring you, you’re free to go on a movie marathon instead of sitting at your desk and actually working.
And let’s not forget your family members or housemates.
They, too, can be distracting.
Plus, if you have children, it can be even more challenging to concentrate.
It can be tough to focus on your work when you have a baby crying in the other room, or if your partner decides to pop into your home office to ask whether you want something from the store.
In this case, self-control is key.
Create a work schedule and do your best to stick to it.
Of course, some distractions can’t be put off (aka crying baby), which is why sometimes, you will have to learn to work around the realities of work-from-home life.
#2 You Need To Find Ways To Motivate Yourself
Though working from home does give you a lot of freedom, working alone can lead to the occasional slump.
This is owing also to the countless distractions that can sometimes make working look less interesting than, well, doing anything but work!
The freedom of working under practically no supervision puts a lot of the responsibility on your own shoulders for the kind of work attitude and enthusiasm that you bring to the table.
Being able to meet deadlines and deliver expected output is great, but if you want to continue to enjoy what you do, delivering the bare minimum will not cut it.
Try to use work-related goals to motivate yourself, especially when you are in a slump or losing energy for work.
Does your client give incentives for specific metrics? Why not use those to push yourself? Having a clear, reachable aim will help you maintain your motivation.
#3 Differences in Time Zone Can Be a Problem
Another factor you want to prepare for is the difference in time zone. You will likely be working for someone who is on a different continent.
As a virtual assistant, you may need to schedule appointments, set meetings, and even book flights for your client.
And you will need to do all of those things in your client’s time zone.
It can be a bit confusing, especially at first, and if you’re not careful, you may get dates and times mixed up.
Thankfully, this challenge is pretty easy to overcome. All you need to do is set another clock in your client’s time zone.
If you need to be online at the same time that your client is, you may need to work graveyard, so make sure that you’re prepared for that physically and mentally.
Changing time zones is easier said than done.
Some clients are more flexible when it comes to work schedules, though, so if you can’t handle changing time zones, try to choose a client with a more laid-back approach to work.
#4 Paid Holidays and Bonuses Are the Exception, Not the Rule
One of the good things about working at a traditional office job is having paid holidays and bonuses every year.
Working as a virtual assistant, you don’t get such privileges.
If you want to take some time off work, you definitely can, but at the cost of not earning any money.
While there are clients that do provide paid leaves and bonuses, they are the exception and not the rule, and you should not approach your VA job with the expectation that you’re getting any of those, especially if you’re just starting out.
The upside, though, is that taking time off is generally much easier when working as a virtual assistant than at a traditional job, where leave requests are not always approved.
At times, you even have to double your workload before your leave dates just to get approval.
Pro tip: Save up to cover for days when you won’t be working.
That way, you don’t feel guilty about taking time off, and you get to continue to support yourself (and your family, if you’re the breadwinner) while you rest.
Also, since job security is arguably much lower as a virtual assistant or in any freelance job, you should not neglect your savings.
You could lose your client any day, so aside from not putting all your eggs in one basket, make it a point to save, save, save.
#5 Differences in Work Culture Can Be an Issue
Another downside to working as a VA is that cultural differences, particularly those that affect work style, communication, and even work ethics, can be a real issue.
Sure, you can speak the same language and understand each other pretty well, but often there will be nuances in our way of communicating and use of language that differs from others.
This can lead to poor communication or lack of it between you and your client, which can then cause issues in your output.
Understanding precisely what your client needs is critical to delivering excellent work.
Moreover, differences in work culture or style (Is your client too impersonal in their approach, for example?”) can also affect the working environment.
No matter how remote you are, since you will be working under little to no supervision and possibly thousands of miles away from your client or their company, rapport is very important for a happy and mutually enriching working relationship.
There may be clients that are hard to connect with on a personal level, and sometimes that’s something that you’ll just have to deal with.
So if you meet a client that you enjoy communicating with and who relates with you as a person, consider it a blessing!
The 4 Advantages of Being a Virtual Assistant
Of course, there also are upsides to being a virtual assistant, which is why thousands of people all over the world are choosing it as their career.
Some even say that the benefits of being one far outweigh its disadvantages.
If you want to decide that for yourself, here are some of the pros of being a VA.
#1 You Are the Boss of Your Own Time
No more staring at the clock waiting for 5 pm. No more struggling through rush hour to get to the office on time.
No more spending a fortune on gas.
No more waking up panicked to the shrill sound of your alarm clock.
Yes, that’s definitely a huge advantage.
When working as a virtual assistant, you manage your own time.
You don’t have supervisors breathing down your neck for that report or checking whether you’re at your table at 1 in the afternoon.
As long as you deliver what you’re expected to deliver, you’re all good.
This is great for those who are always on the go or those who lead busy lives.
You can sit at your desk while watching your kids and doing laundry.
And if you need to, you can always take a break from working and run that urgent errand, because you can resume working anytime later.
The freedom to do your work at any time of the day can really be a blessing.
Sure, there may be instances when you will need to be at your desk at a particular hour for a meeting or two, but most of the time, you determine your work schedule.
You get to do what works for you.
#2 You Get To Choose Who You Work With
Another huge advantage about being a VA is you get to choose the clients that you work with.
Submitting work proposals can be long and tedious, and you may not even land a job right away, but when you do, you can make sure that it’s something that you like, instead of something that you just had to do.
Negotiations regarding job roles and tasks are also generally more open and accommodating in the world of freelance work, especially if you’re a niche expert.
So, if you’re in the process of going through interviews or discussing a job, don’t be afraid to speak your mind and ask the questions that you need to ask.
Doing so will help you determine whether you are suitable for your client and vice versa. It will benefit not just you, but your client as well.
#3 You Dictate Your Rates
As a virtual assistant, you also get to set your own rates.
When you submit a proposal, you get to include how much you charge per hour, based on what you think is reasonable given your expertise and experience.
Do some research on industry rates, and go from there.
If you have had plenty of experience, you can make your rates competitive. However, when you’re just starting out, you may have to set the bar a little lower.
Still, remember to not sell yourself short.
This may send the wrong message.
If you set your rates too low, potential clients may become less inclined to work with you.
However, if you set them too high, you may also risk getting ignored because you’re either too expensive or simply unaware of industry rates (which says you don’t have that much experience).
Don’t worry, though, because as you gain experience and tenure, clients usually increase your pay plus give bonuses (If they’re happy with your work, of course!).
But no matter how much money you make, make sure that you can save. Freelancing can be unpredictable, so it’s important to save for a rainy day.
#4 Countless Job Opportunities
Tired of having to do jobs that you don’t have any interest in?
When you work as a VA, there are literally hundreds of job opportunities for you. And you can choose to do those that you genuinely like.
Nowadays, there are so many platforms to look for potential clients and job opportunities.
Truth be told, the only real question to ask nowadays is how many clients can you handle? So if you’re new and have not been able to land a job, don’t fret.
The job will come. Or Jobs. It’s just a matter of time.
If you’re a VA, you will encounter problems, momentary slumps, and challenges. But if you’re to ask me, the advantages of being a VA significantly outweigh its disadvantages. As long as you’re prepared to deal with the obstacles and work around them with a healthy attitude, you’re bound to become a top-tier VA.