The joys of being a Virtual Assistant

‘Why do you want to be a virtual assistant?’ is something I’ve been hearing often since I started working as one. It’s one of the most common questions after ‘What is a virtual assistant?’.

The what is easily explained by throwing a link to the Wikipedia page your way and hoping you enjoy yourself. It’s a versatile profession, but the article gives an overall good impression.

The why is very personal. If I had to narrow it down to a single sentence, I have to say: “Because there is no greater fulfillment in life for me than helping people and making them happy.”

It’s funny how sometimes a career opportunity just falls into your lap. Over the years I’ve dabbled in many different would-be occupations. I designed and coded websites for fun, I was drawing constantly, I was writing and roleplaying, mastering the English language to the best of my abilities, I nudged and poked programming languages, I got involved with communities in moderator/admin positions, I volunteered for customer service type positions… Among many other things. I tried to pursue a career in IT management, and although I love messing around with hardware and do problem solving and maintenance for software, that just wasn’t it. I got a job in a call center and that wasn’t it either, although it provided me with much needed telephone service skills.

After being stuck at home, unemployed for over half a year and in dire need of money, a casual chat with a good friend of mine brought up the subject of assistants. Or, more specifically, virtual assistants. She had seen all the things I could do; my versatility and wide range of knowledge had prompted a joking suggestion that I should start a freelancing career as a VA for lack of other jobs to do. A week later I got a message in my inbox. “About that VA thing… Would you consider doing it for real?”

So started my adventure as a freelancing VA. My friend, an exceptionally busy web designer and developer with a million and one hobbies on the side and numerous independent community websites, couldn’t find anyone who met all her professional needs. If one assistant had exceptional social and management skills, they were too inept to cover the technical aspects of her job. If one assistant kicked ass in the technical department, they lacked the drive and social skills to cover those grounds. As it turned out, I could cover both and anticipate her needs perfectly.

If I don’t know something, one or two sessions is enough to teach me what I need to know, but only if I can’t find it on Google first. I ask a lot of questions, but only relevant ones that help us both work at much higher capacity. I code a team-friendly HTML/CSS framework from an image one day, and write articles and manuals the next. One moment I transfer content between two sites, the next I am responding to emails and moderating forums.

It both sounds versatile and incredibly boring, doesn’t it? For someone with supposedly so many different skills, why am I basically doing the dirty, simple yet time consuming work?

Because it literally helps my friend sleep better at night.

It’s not the difficulty or the uniqueness of the tasks that make this work rewarding for me. I’ve seen how stressed out my friend gets by the workload of her job. There are so many aspects to consider when one is a web developer that it’s easy to forget that the simplest tasks are, indeed, time consuming. Time that she doesn’t have if she wants to get the really big and important items checked off her list. Yet even these simplest tasks are important in the big picture, so they need to get done one way or the other.

Being able to take over responsibility for these tasks is not about what I can do to prove myself, but about what I am doing for her as a person. To some I may just be a lowly assistant, but to her I’m the reason she can put balance back into her life – and that is why this is my dream job.

I’m currently still in a recovery phase. My health got in the way of building up a solid client base in the past year, but my friend has been graciously accepting of my conditions and worked with me to keep me in the game. I am studying an official course that covers web design and development among other things so that I have a certificate, and I have my friend’s recommendations to make my future dreams possible.

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