We can now all agree that the future of work (and business) is virtual. Not because of Covid, even though the pandemic gave us more than a glimpse of that future, but because it just makes sense when you consider it.
The traditional barriers that made it impracticable to work from where we live or happen to be at any given time have crumbled.
Thanks to the internet, many professions can now work virtually. And that includes you, the former secretary who quit their job when you were forced to relocate from Nairobi to Machakos.
It includes you too, who everyone thought was the obvious choice to do the books for your Chamaa or head the organizing committee for your uncle’s wedding. You, whose education and talents as an organiser, orderer, and systemiser are wasting away.
With a laptop and internet connection, you could be earning a good income as a virtual assistant.
Sounds too good to be true?
In this article, I will teach you how to become a virtual assistant in Kenya even if you have no experience.
Don’t know what a virtual assistant is?
Let’s start there.
A virtual assistant is a person who is hired to help with general administrative and sometimes highly technical tasks, completing their assigned tasks online.
Commonly known by their acronym, VA, a virtual assistant may also be called:
Virtual assistants are in great demand thanks to the growing popularity and success of online businesses. Content creators, solopreneurs, and even established businesses are realizing that many administrative tasks can be completed virtually using the many team communication and digital collaboration tools that are now available.
There’s no longer any need to be in the same building, city, or country to work together. The flexibility of engaging a VA only when you need them and not having one on staff is another great benefit of hiring a virtual assistant.
As a virtual assistant, you are essentially a self-employed person. You are a business person in your own right, offering administrative help to clients, sometimes more than one at a time.
The responsibilities of a virtual assistant can run the whole gamut of administrative work, from general secretarial support to such specialized tasks as order-taking, bookkeeping, and social media management.
So depending on your employer or client, as a virtual assistant you can be asked to perform many different tasks. If you are working directly with a business owner or a manager, you may be tasked with specific daily duties.
If you are in a team environment, today you could be doing data entry and answering emails, and making appointments tomorrow. As a virtual assistant, you are therefore a remote worker who does whatever you are called upon to do.
And, no, your boss won’t be asking you to go buy their coffee, collect their suit from the dry cleaners, or pick their child from school. They can’t because they are in Austin, Texas or Dublin, Ireland and you are thousands of kilometers away in Mombasa, Kenya.
Below are some of the most in-demand skills for virtual assistants. Included are tasks you will usually be asked to perform and will need to be familiar with:
Some of the duties above are not standard for VAs. Those that can list those skills on their CV probably consider themselves to be specialists in specific VA roles. Perhaps because they are particularly adept or experienced in those tasks.
But looking at that list above, the question should be, what does a virtual assistant not do? Indeed, at their best, virtual assistants are multi-taskers. You certainly need to be multi-skilled to boost your chances of landing jobs.
According to Payscale, virtual assistants make Ksh750 (USD5.47) per hour in Kenya. On Upwork, VAs can charge between USD 15 and USD 25. That’s more than enough to live anywhere in Africa.
At IntaSend we always advise people looking for ways to make money online to look within and outside Kenya. If a virtual assistant role can unburden you from the confined environment of a physical office setup, why should geographical boundaries? There are no national borders online.
The great thing about working as a virtual assistant is you don't need a specific qualification. Although it helps if you have a business administration degree or specialist VA training, you don’t need it to get started.
You will be surprised to know that the skills you already have are transferable to a VA role:
If you have answered yes to most of the above questions, you have what it takes to start a career as a virtual assistant. You can brush up on the skills you have and learn the others by taking a VA course. There are free and paid courses that you can take online.
A mistake you will make as a virtual assistant though is to not build on those entry-level skills. Once you get that first client your immediate personal task should be to find out what other skills you can add to your resume to land higher-paying jobs.
Beyond the administrative and expertise-based hard skills we have covered, there are soft skills you must have to succeed in the virtual assistant role. These skills will help you build lasting relationships with clients.
Success in any virtual role hinges heavily on your ability to communicate effectively. Good communication skills mean conveying your message clearly, accurately, and concisely. It means asking the right questions so you understand tasks clearly.
Good communicators write and speak clearly in simple English. They ask for clarity when they don’t understand something. They are also active listeners.
If you don’t pay attention and listen when you are in a meeting or call with a client, for example, you will miss important project details like deadlines and deliverables.
Honesty and integrity are traits clients take seriously. They need to know you will speak truthfully and act in an honest manner at all times. When you make a mistake, they expect you to own up instead of lying or making excuses.
Do not promise what you can’t deliver. Nothing hurts a relationship with a client more than setting certain expectations and then simply failing to meet them.
VAs are in relationships with their clients and relationships are built on honesty, trust, and integrity.
Can a client rely on you to keep things running smoothly when they are away from work? Can you work without constant monitoring? How long does it take you to reply to emails?
If you are constantly not reachable when needed, you will not succeed as a VA. It’s impossible to get things done with people who are constantly not there when needed. Unless clients know they can depend on you, your relationship with them will be very short.
At the basic level, clients hire problem solvers. They will hire a VA because they're struggling to keep up with administrative duties, which is causing other areas of their business to suffer.
As well as the problems that forced them to hire you there will be unexpected ones that crop up. You need to be able to solve these problems with calmness, which requires a creative mind and good analytical skills.
The devil is in the details, as the adage goes. Projects succeed and fail on margins, so every detail about a project is important. While your client has a big-picture responsibility, your job is all about the details.
Your job is to pick those small details that can easily be neglected but can mess up a project or portray your client as sloppy. Spellings on important documents, dates for appointments, and amounts on cheques are all details your client can miss but you shouldn’t.
Good virtual assistants manage their time well. They know what to prioritize to deliver projects on time as well as what they can realistically accomplish in the time they have.
Between the tasks you have to do you have to know what you can delegate and what you can put off for a later time. When you work in different time zones with your client, you have to design your workflow and timetable in such a way that your work days overlap by at least a few hours if possible so you can stay caught up on what needs to be done.
It is crucial that you can draw a timetable and stick to it. And this without anyone micromanaging you. It’s a tough skill to master but as a virtual assistant, you are relied upon, hired in fact, to make sure that work is done on time.
Now that you know what skills and attributes you need to succeed as a VA, let’s look at the specific steps on how to become a virtual assistant in Kenya.
As we have said, you likely already have the skills to get started in a career as a virtual assistant, but that does not mean you are ready for job interviews. You need to brush up on your skills first by reading up on the key skills and job expectations.
You will boost your chances of finding a job quickly and excelling if you take some VA training before you offer yourself to clients. There are many free and paid courses on platforms like
Udemy and Coursera that you can take and gain the key skills you need.
Other than enrolling in a course, you can also find a mentor who will coach and guide you. Ideally, you want an experienced VA as a mentor.
If you can’t find a mentor, you can try networking on a platform like LinkedIn. Connect with VAs who are already in the trenches and ask if they would be willing to share some tips with you.
There is no shame in admitting that at this point there are some virtual assistant skills you lack. Be honest with what skills you have. Even the best virtual assistants have tasks they don’t do so well.
You need to be clear about what tasks you are not yet ready to perform at this time and avoid jobs where success will depend on doing well on those.
In short, know what you are good at and stick to it. Failing at tasks you never should have accepted can crush your confidence at the beginning of your journey when you need it to be high.
Salaries and rates typically depend on the level of experience and the amount of work you will be expected to do. It can also depend on the size of the clients you are working with. But usually, there’s a market average.
Do your research on freelance sites like Upwork and check on job placements on sites like Indeed and Flexjobs. See what clients are offering on the jobs they are advertising. The market average is usually a good place to start with your own rates as a beginner VA.
When you charge, consider taxes, internet, equipment, software, and other costs you will incur. If you don’t account for these, you may end up with very little money as your actual income.
Also, remember that as an independent contractor, you don’t have the usual benefits of full-time employment like medical aid and paid vacation.
Hopefully, you have decided on a rate that will make this worthwhile. Your rates should also not be so high that you will scare off potential clients. Assuming you have settled on a good rate, where can you find virtual assistant jobs online?
There are many places where you can look and apply for VA jobs. The usual places are Upwork, LinkedIn, Flexijobs, and Indeed.
You can also pitch businesses directly. While the conversion rate is low with that strategy, you do get to choose your clients and the industries you work in.
As a beginner, that first client is the hardest to find. You are not used to putting yourself out there and have yet to master the art of winning clients over. The good news is it gets better with every application and interview.
You have to learn how to deal with rejection as well as learn from it. When applying for jobs, always remember to clearly articulate the value you are bringing to the client. When you do get a rejection, use it as a learning opportunity.
Clients want to hear that you are coming to save them time so they can concentrate on higher-level tasks and that you want to help them run a tight ship by attending to the small details that can easily fall through the cracks.
Hopefully, you don’t take long to land that first client. Once you get it, you should start on the quest to expand your skills so you can target bigger clients and pursue more lucrative contracts.
Remember those skills you were honest enough to admit you lacked in step 1?
Now is the time to learn them. Don’t get comfortable where you are at. There is always a higher level to aspire for.
Ask yourself what skills could set you up for success in your next role. What skill do you need to add so you can raise your rate? Study and read up on it.
Take a paid course if there aren’t any free ones. You are investing in your future so the cost will be repaid by the higher rates you will soon command.
Working as a virtual assistant can be a great career for the right person. It is a flexible job that allows you to choose your clients, work from home, learn multiple skills, and potentially earn a good income.
With more businesses going fully virtual and realizing the cost savings and practicality of remote work, and more people running successful online businesses, the demand for virtual assistants is exploding. The market for virtual assistants is forecast to cross USD 14 billion by 2030.
Yes, you can apply for a job as a virtual assistant with no experience. What you need to get started are the basic VA skills and qualities such as good communication, organization, care for yourself and the client, attention to detail, honesty, and self-motivation. Everything else you can learn on the job.
Virtual assistance is a legitimate career or online business. While you can treat it as a side hustle, it has great income potential and there is enough demand for it to be the main hustle if you take it seriously.
The most difficult parts of working as a virtual assistant are the distractions that can come with working from home. Without the social connection of co-workers, you may also struggle with the isolation of remote work.
Virtual assistant jobs are more accessible than you think, even if you are in Kenya looking offshore for clients. Kenyan virtual assistants can find work with clients from anywhere in the world.
What may not be as accessible are the payments. Traditional payment gateways like PayPal charge high fees for receiving payments from outside and put too many rules for users in developing countries. By the time you get your payments, a significant chunk has been swallowed by fees.
IntaSend offers a better way to receive payments from your international clients. As a locally-owned company, we understand the unique needs of Kenyans. We have made it easy and cheaper to receive your payments.
Right within your IntaSend dashboard, you can invoice and send payment links to clients. When the client sends the payment you can receive it in multiple ways - M-Pesa, ACH, and Bitcoin. Your clients will also love that our platform supports Visa, Mastercard, ACH, as well as Bitcoin payments.
Don’t pay more than you have to for accessing your payments. Sign up with IntaSend today and experience a better way to receive and withdraw your earnings.