This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Falyn Golub, a 37-year-old virtual assistant from Long Island, New York, about her job. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I didn’t know that a virtual assistant was even a job when I decided to start working from home in 2016. I was at a point in my life where I wanted to dictate my own schedule, stop commuting in and out of New York City, and create a better work-life balance for myself.
Over the past five years, I’ve created my own virtual assistant business, and it’s become an incredible career for me. But being a virtual assistant is not a cushy job you can do without any experience. It’s challenging and difficult, but it’s incredibly rewarding professionally and financially if you do it well.
After realizing I was missing out on life with my kids, I reached out to the owner of an event-planning company I had worked for after graduating from college, Shaw & Co Productions. I asked the owner if I could freelance part-time to help plan their large-scale events.
After a while, it occurred to me that I could take on some additional clients, specifically small-business owners. I did some research online on various job boards and postings and found out that there was indeed a job title for all the work I was doing, and it was called a virtual assistant.
From there, I connected with virtual-assistant recruiting firm Association of Virtual Assistants and they placed me with some challenging clients, but through it all, I grew my craft, expertise, and confidence. Part of the challenge with some of my initial clients was that I wasn’t very selective. Finding the right clients takes time, as well as the confidence to know when to move on when a relationship doesn’t feel right.
This would allow me to take ownership over my career, so I created an LLC called The Invisible Assistant in January 2017.
When I started, I was charging a $25 hourly rate. From the first client I took on, I put all my eggs in one basket. Over time, I learned to spread my services wider and not just have one client.
I now offer services like calendar management, email management, setting up customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, business development, client intake, employee onboarding, research projects, event planning, tax preparation, and more.
I’ve learned to grow my business by talking about my job and what I do all the time. This isn’t to brag to others, but instead to keep connecting with those around me and find leads where I might least expect them. Just the other day, I got a new client from a Pilates class.
At Def Jam, I was an executive assistant to three to four people at the same time, so being available to that many people at once taught me how to manage my time, prioritize, and stay meticulously organized. It also gave me the experience and confidence of working with various personalities and management styles. My experience of assisting that many people simultaneously has definitely given me an edge in my career.
I also have an MBA, and that’s helped my career tremendously. Since my studies focused on business management and entrepreneurship, I was encouraged to always think “big picture.” I believe much of my success can be attributed to not just taking on clients to make more money as a means to an end.
I also created custom pricing packages that have taken my job from a very task-oriented position to a boutique-value concierge service that my clients are very happy with. Each client is very different, so my packages are custom created to meet their individual needs. I always start with an initial call to discuss their goals and what level of service they’ll need. From there, I’m able to gauge the estimated hours I’ll be working for them and build a bespoke pricing package.
My company now makes more than six figures a year because of that change from hourly rates to monthly retainers, and I’m excited to keep growing. I brought on a full-time employee in 2021 to work as my assistant and be the lead on a client account. She helps me with various research projects and keeps the behind-the-scenes project management super organized. In the future, I hope to have her take on clients of her own so I can hire an assistant. I plan to grow and hire more employees over time.
My clients have included everything from event-planning companies to public speakers, authors, dental practices, interior design firms, public relations agencies, private families, and individuals who are semiretired but still hold board positions. This isn’t an industry-specific career because the need for a virtual assistant can be applied to just about any industry.
Many of my clients paused their work with me because their own work had stopped, but I never lost any clients. They just needed some time to pivot and find a new way to move forward, but now my work is booming, and I believe it’s going to keep booming, especially now that many businesses are embracing virtual-based work.
Some of my clients I talk to daily, and some of them I talk to once a week. Seeing people on camera creates a level of comfort, especially for people who were used to working face to face and are now not.
One major requirement with this job is to stay composed and be ready on deck. Your clients need to know that you have the job covered because they’re going to be busy and they aren’t going to necessarily be there to manage every step of your work.
Companies will always be looking for someone who’s versed on new technology, especially project management tools, so just keep up with that, even if you just have to watch some YouTube tutorials to learn. It’s not necessarily the technology, but more so the readiness to take on the challenge of learning new tools, whatever they may be.
If I don’t know a tool, I take the time to learn it, even if it’s on the job. While sometimes I take time on my own to learn a new tool that I may personally use, like Canva, for example, oftentimes, I learn as I work in the tool, which is really how I learned Asana.
I’ve been using Asana for a few years now, and on an interview a client mentioned they’d just invested a lot of time and resources in building out this platform to get a better overview of their various projects, teams, and deliverables. They were very happy to hear that I use Asana daily.
And if you don’t know already know them, go ahead and learn Google Calendar, Excel, Outlook, project management tools, workflow tools, CRM tools, and all of the Microsoft Suite programs. Be willing to become a master of the tools your clients need you to know.
Are you a virtual assistant who wants to share your story? Email Lauryn Haas at firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to The Refresh, Insider’s real-time news show
Listen to The Refresh, Insider’s real-time news show
Hire me on the World’s Leading Online Marketplace Freelancer.com to design your website. Additional services like- graphic design, virtual assistance, SEO, Data entry, etc are available. Click on This Link to start your project