7 Essential Virtual Assistant Skills and How to Improve Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Virtual assistants perform a valuable role in supporting people remotely. They can manage social media accounts, content, schedules and internet marketing. If you're interested in becoming a virtual assistant, understanding the most relevant skills for this career may help you earn a job. In this article, we explain what a virtual assistant is, list some essential virtual assistant skills and show you how you can improve or acquire these skills.

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is an assistant who performs their role remotely, typically using online communication channels. They might be an independent contractor or full-time employee. They manage a lot of the responsibilities of a traditional assistant, such as taking phone calls, organising meetings and events, entering data, managing calendars, supporting customers, managing social media accounts and even creating content.

Sometimes, a virtual assistant may work with more than one person simultaneously, especially if they're experienced and know how to balance multiple priorities. All they require is a stable internet connection, preferably a webcam with a microphone, headphones and somewhere appropriate to work, which could be at home.

7 essential virtual assistant skills

Here are seven virtual assistant skills and attributes which are important for doing the job effectively:

1. Communication

One of the most essential skills for becoming a virtual assistant is to be an excellent communicator. This refers to both verbal and written communication. A virtual assistant's responsibilities typically involve frequent communication with the person they're assisting. This could be through audio calls, video calls or through some kind of text-based messaging. Good communication skills allow them to understand precisely what's necessary and take the appropriate action.

These skills also help assistants convey the information they want to clearly and accurately. Since they often help with other communications, the ability to write a formal email, handle a phone call with an important client and satisfy a dissatisfied customer are all useful aspects of this.

Related: Communication Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Organisation and time management

Virtual assistants are often in charge of setting and managing schedules. This can involve arranging meetings, resolving scheduling conflicts, notifying of deadlines and prioritising their own work tasks. Being able to do this consistently and effectively requires excellent time management and organisational skills. Virtual assistants can also manage certain tasks like data entry and scheduling social media posts, both of which also benefit from an organised approach. A client typically relies on their virtual assistant to keep everything organised, as they might be busy with other responsibilities.

3. Social media usage

A virtual assistant's client may rely on them to manage their various social media accounts. This could be to check on engagement levels, interact with other users or schedule posts. Knowledge of the various social media platforms and their respective differences can help you do this more effectively. This could involve creating social media groups, moderating comments, responding to queries and communicating with sponsors.

Related: What Is Social Media Management? Definition and Steps

4. Attention to detail

This skill complements your organisational and time management skills. Since you may be balancing many priorities simultaneously and handling a lot of incoming communications, it's important that you're able to attend to small details. These could alert you to a scheduling conflict, a dissatisfied client or a mistake on a social media post. This is also helpful if your client gives you instructions, as it allows you to follow them as closely as possible and even surpass their expectations.

5. Flexibility

The ability to be flexible is essential for a virtual assistant because of the nature of their work. To keep everything organised, you may change your approach, rearrange a schedule or make last-minute alterations. Your client might suddenly come to you with a new task or requirement, requiring you to stop what you're doing and rearrange your workload. Being flexible allows you to do all of this without becoming stressed or disorganised.

6. Reliability

One of the most important attributes for keeping your clients happy in the long term is reliability. Since they're going to depend on you as their assistant, being reliable allows them to do so with greater confidence. This means consistently delivering to deadlines, answering promptly, regularly handling issues and being punctual. Being reliable like this is typically going to develop a significant amount of trust between you and your client, which may make them happy to work with you in the future.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Professionalism

7. Computer skills

The most important set of hard skills that a virtual assistant requires are typically those that involve computer use. This can involve a lot of different competencies, and they could vary from one job or client to another. Some of the essentials are the ability to competently use various email platforms and software, word processors, spreadsheets, internet browsing and typing. You can make yourself a more appealing candidate for virtual assistant positions by further developing these skills. For instance, you could learn some basic accounting or bookkeeping, content writing, basic graphic design or marketing.

How to improve your virtual assistant skills

Improving your skills as a virtual assistant can make it easier to secure a job. If you want to improve these skills, consider the steps below:

1. Read job descriptions

A good way to start is to identify which skills are going to be necessary. One way of doing this is to browse job advertisements for virtual assistant positions and carefully read the desired skill set in each one. Consider checking as many of these advertisements as possible to identify the most commonly mentioned examples and make these into a list. Remember to check both the required and desired skills, as the latter can make your candidacy more appealing than competing candidates'.

You can find these descriptions on job sites and platforms for freelancers and independent contractors. It's usually best to look at both and see if there's any difference between a virtual assistant who's an independent contractor and one who's a full-time employee. You can even find social media groups and pages that advertise for these positions, so it can be a good idea to check these too.

2. Consider your current skill set

Once you've got a list of the commonly desired skills, you can start to consider what you have in your own skill set. There are two ways that you can do this. The first is through a self-assessment. Try to think about yourself objectively and determine which skills you possess, those you'd like to improve and any skills which you lack entirely. You can also separate these into hard and soft skills. The other way is to ask others to assess you.

If you're currently employed, ask a colleague, supervisor or customer to rate your skills. You could also ask friends and family, especially if any of them have experience working with you. For instance, you could ask them if they think you possess particular skills from the list you derived from job advertisements. With this information, you can list your own skills. It's often useful to split these into three categories. These would be skills you're happy with, skills you'd like to improve and skills you lack. You can then compare this to the list of desirable skills from vacancies.

3. Prioritise your development

Now that you know which skills to improve and which to acquire, you can start to prioritise them. This depends a lot on the skill in question and how important you believe it is for acquiring a job. If there's a skill you lack that you saw in almost every vacancy, this could be a high-priority skill to develop. Additionally, it can be easier to start by improving existing skills in some scenarios.

Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

4. Consider courses

There are online and in-person courses for a wide variety of skills. Many of these are free or have a relatively low fee. These can be particularly useful for some of the hard skills that you want to acquire, such as basic accounting or graphic design. Consider finding courses that align closely with your requirements and dedicate some time to taking them.

5. Practise your skills

Among the best ways to improve a skill is to practise it. Courses can be a good idea to acquire new skills, and practice can consolidate the learning experience. For example, if you're trying to learn to type faster and more accurately, practise typing every day with some creative writing, a diary or any other kind of writing. If you've learned some basic accounting, use the skills you've acquired to manage your own personal finances or someone else's.

Explore more articles