What a Virtual Assistant Job Is

Debunking the Use and Misuse of the Term

virtual assistant
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It’s not easy to pin down exactly what a virtual assistant does, but most often, it's a term that's applied to a person who functions like a personal assistant but does it online or remotely. However, this title gets misused often.

What a Virtual Assistant Job Is

Generally, virtual assistants are self-employed individuals who have cultivated a clientele in need of their services. Most often, their clients include other business owners, like real estate agents.

Services may include administrative tasks like managing email, creative or technical skills like updating website content, or support services for business and personal needs. Sometimes, business owners may even hire an assistant to take care of social media management needs. Ultimately, virtual assistants can be asked to handle anything from acting as an off-site personal secretary to being a remote project manager for a business.

Virtual Assistant Work

A virtual-assistant home business is not the same as a virtual assistant job. There are several legitimate companies offering virtual assistant jobs that are similar to what a self-employed virtual assistant does, but many of the jobs advertised have different job requirements.

Most often, virtual assistants are people who perform short tasks on sites like MTurk or UpWork, where people earn small monetary amounts for performing tiny tasks online.

This type of digital work is similar to micro jobs and freelance projects.

Types of Jobs

Virtual assistants can be grouped into a larger category of people who work online. Truly, any virtual position is open to interpretation. Some positions that you may find advertised online as virtual assistant jobs may include:

While many of these positions may be legitimate work-at-home jobs, they could also be scams, unfortunately. When reviewing the job responsibilities, consider your career goals.

Small Projects

Many positions on task sites may technically be assistant jobs, but they're not always virtual. For instance, companies like TaskRabbitGigwalk or other micro job sites can offer a way to connect people who need small tasks performed with those willing to perform them. However, these gigs are often done in person or are one-offs that are designed to be performed per project. Thus, they may not necessarily be a long-term work-at-home job.

Additionally, there are home business “opportunities” for virtual assistants. Many of these are scams, so it's recommended to carefully examine them to ensure they're legitimate. Signs of a work-at-home scam include asking for your social security number, asking to accept or send money right away, providing a generic or too-good-to-be-true job listing, or having a questionable URL or company that has no true backing. For example, the brand may not even have a website or a phone number with someone you can talk to.

Similarly, it's important to be wary of classes that will certify you as “virtual professionals." Legitimate virtual assistant home businesses were built by the hard work of their owners, so a class won't lead you to the right role.