If your life’s dream is to ditch your 9-5 and make a living while traveling the world, then you’re in the right place. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be a social media influencer with 300k followers or a website with 100k views/month to make it happen! In this post, I explain exactly how to become a virtual assistant with no experience and live as a digital nomad.
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How to Become a Virtual Assistant with No Experience
It’s a cliche but I’ll say it anyway, my semester abroad changed my life. You’re probably rolling your eyes at this point, but it’s true! Admittedly, most of my activities that semester involved drinking copious amounts of Italian wine. But let’s be honest, if Italian wine isn’t life changing, I don’t know what is. Besides decimating my bank account and bringing me to the brink of liver failure, that semester in Rome helped me define what I wanted my life to look like. When you’re 20, that kind of clarity is invaluable.
After college, I moved back to Italy (Florence this time) to work in operations for a student tour operator. Although I wasn’t allowed the freedom I would have had working for myself, it was the perfect job out of college to introduce me to the travel industry.
Again seeking the industry I loved, I moved to Chicago in February of 2020 to work for an award-winning luxury travel company…and promptly got let go three weeks later. Nothing like a global pandemic and nationwide quarantines to make a girl pack up her plant wall and reevaluate her life.
After being unemployed for a few months, a friend reached out about a course I might be interested in. The course was Kat Ann Coaching’s The VA Vault. The course wasn’t cheap and I was unemployed, so naturally I was skeptical. Thankfully, I went for it. It was the starting point to living my digital nomad lifestyle.
Fast forward 14 months and I’m living the island life in Roatán, Honduras…while making a living from my living room! I’m currently assisting four clients in the states and just hired my first assistant. After living in Roátan for a year, I’m planning on continuing my digital nomad life in Bali in 2022. Keep reading to learn how to become a virtual assistant with no experience!
Useful Skills to Find Virtual Assistant Work
The best thing about being a virtual assistant is you can tailor it to your specific skill set! Before taking the plunge and purchasing the VA Vault, I killed the boredom of unemployment by taking tons of social media and blogging courses online. This ended up being invaluable in the long-run since many of the skills I learned to grow my own brand also apply to growing my clients’ brands.
My tasks and responsibilities as a virtual assistant vary completely by client. One of my clients hired me exclusively for SEO and Pinterest. Another wanted social media growth and content creation. Yet another needed my help building a WordPress website. Basically, if it relates to digital marketing, chances are I’ve dipped my toe.
That being said, there are some skills that I use much more frequently than others. As of August 2021, my main tasks for clients relate to social media growth, content creation, graphic design, Pinterest strategy, SEO strategies, email marketing, WordPress design and troubleshooting and copywriting.
Online Courses to Give you Experience as a Virtual Assistant
Online courses are key when learning how to become a virtual assistant with no experience. Depending on your education and skill level, you may not need to take any courses before finding your first client. Since my degree was in Journalism and I knew very little about social media or blogging, these courses are what qualified me to work as a VA.
The VA Vault: Kat Ann Coaching’s VA Vault was the first step I took to becoming an entrepreneur and designing my life as a digital nomad. The online course teaches you valuable information about defining your skill set, pricing your services, finding clients and more! Kat also includes tips on invoicing and payments that are extremely helpful for new freelancers. Use code MADISON for 10% off!
The Influencer Bootcamp: Christina Galbato’s Influencer Bootcamp was a turning point for me in my career. I started my personal brand, Madison’s Footsteps, back in 2017. The only problem was…I had no idea what I was doing. My photo editing skills were shit, I had no idea how hashtags worked, I was replying to “collab?” comments on posts and the only Instagram engagement strategy I used was follow/unfollow. After the Influencer Bootcamp, I grew my Instagram from 4.8K (which took three years to reach) to 8.5K in just three months. I started collaborating with brands and have even worked with three different hotels!
TikTok for Dummies: Although TikTok isn’t my platform of choice, it’s important to have a basic understanding of all social media platforms as a digital marketing VA. TikTok for Dummies, by SoulCial Media, is the perfect introduction course to TikTok. At only $35, it’s also a total steal.
Blogging and Pinterest
The Blogger Bootcamp: Another one of Christina Galbato’s courses, The Blogger Bootcamp was a game-changer when it came to my success as a blogger. Before this course, I had no idea how SEO worked, my Pinterest had about 300 views/month, I had 20 subscribers over three years and my blog was hosted on WordPress.com. After implementing the strategies I learned in the Blogger Bootcamp, I have three blog posts ranking on the 1st page of Google, my Pinterest receives 22K views/month and my email list is growing every day! Click below for my review of The Blogger Bootcamp.
Travel Blogging Success 101 (FREE): A free course by Mike & Laura Travel, Travel Blogging Success 101 is a great resource for those trying to blog on a budget. In this five module course, you’ll receive valuable tips for niching down, setting up your blog and monetizing your hard work. You’ll also get access to the Facebook group where Laura uploads helpful videos about mastering SEO and more!
Pinterest with Ell: Mastering Pinterest is crucial to getting views on your travel blog. There are specific strategies that lead to running a successful Pinterest for Business account. At only $39, there’s no excuse not to start growing on Pinterest ASAP.
Master SEO on Pinterest (FREE): Justyn Jen is a travel blogger who has built her career around helping other bloggers achieve Pinterest success. Although she offers a comprehensive Pinterest course for $447, if you’re not ready to spend that kind of dough I would recommend downloading her free guide to mastering SEO on Pinterest! Simply scroll to the bottom of her homepage and enter your email.
Master of Photoshop: Amy Seder is one of my favorite travel bloggers of all time! So naturally, when Away Lands came out with a course divulging all their editing secrets, I had to try it out. This course drastically improved my editing skills. It also convinced me to make the switch from Adobe Lightroom to editing in Photoshop Camera Raw. I’ve never looked back!
Adobe Photoshop CC – Essentials Training Course: Depending on your client, Adobe Photoshop skills could come in handy! This course on Udemy costs only $16 and teaches you Photoshop essential skills in a simple and easy-to-digest way.
Adobe Photoshop CC – Advanced Training Course: If your client requires a deeper understanding of Photoshop, considering taking the advanced course as well.
Must-Have Programs for Virtual Assistants
Tailwind: If Pinterest is involved in any of your VA responsibilities, Tailwind is a must! It’s the only Pinterest-approved scheduler and makes it super simple to schedule out weeks of Pinterest content ahead of time. Tailwind will suggest smart schedules when your audience is most active, allow you to set up board lists and even has a “Tailwind Create” feature to help design pins.
Canva Pro: You cannot be a virtual assistant without Canva PRO. Trust me, if there’s any program to invest in right away, this is it. I spend at least two hours on Canva every single day. I use it for every single one of my clients as well as my own brand.
Adobe Photoshop: My favorite editing software! I use Photoshop Camera Raw to edit all my photos on my blog and Instagram.
Adobe Lightroom: Although I prefer Photoshop Camera Raw, Lightroom is the more popular option when it comes to photo editing. For either one of these programs, I would suggest not wasting your time with the free mobile version. The desktop version will make your life 1,000% easier and I only pay $10/month for both.
Keysearch: The best SEO research tool! Keysearch makes it easy to find the perfect keywords to rank on Google. It also allows you to check your rankings for keywords you’ve already used on your site.
OnlyPult: In terms of social media schedulers, I prefer OnlyPult over Hootsuite. I find it easier to use and it’s much more affordable! Unfortunately, there’s still no option to schedule IG reels but you can schedule out stories, posts and IGTV.
InShot: I love the free InShot app for short-form video editing! It’s easy to use and has all the features I need.
Mojo: I use Mojo for both clients and my personal brand. Mojo allows you to create beautiful and professional looking Instagram stories in a fraction of the time. For $30/year, it’s definitely worth upgrading to the Pro version.
Tunnel Bear VPN: If you’re planning on traveling while working as a digital nomad, a reliable VPN is an essential tool. My favorite VPN is Tunnel Bear and not only because the bear growls every time it connects.
My First Client as a Digital Nomad
I was very lucky in the sense that I was one of Kat Ann’s very first students of the VA Vault. Since she is the guru on all things virtual assistant, she receives countless requests from entrepreneurs looking to hire virtual assistants. When her course was new, it was common for her to give you your first client upon finishing the modules. This is how I received my first client as a virtual assistant and we are still working together today!
Since then, I’ve expanded my business to include multiple clients. Of my four clients: one was referred directly by Kat Ann, one was referred by aforementioned client, one was referred from a friend in the Influencer Bootcamp community and one was found via a Facebook post in the Blogger Bootcamp community.
Finding Clients as a Virtual Assistant
Community is key. The more you surround yourself with entrepreneurs and people trying to ditch their 9-5s, the more digital nomad jobs are going to become available to you.
To do this, I would start by joining and being active in niche Facebook groups like…
…and posting in them advertising your services for virtual assistance. I would also suggest setting up new post notifications in those groups in case someone posts searching for a VA.
If you’re joining Facebook groups specific to a location (ie: Girls in Bali), I suggest making sure the timezone is compatible with your own. Otherwise, location doesn’t matter! We’re nomads girl, eat it up!
Another way to find clients is through Instagram or other platforms like TikTok. If you have a good-sized following, post on your stories advertising your services. Make sure to use relevant hashtags like #virtualassistant #socialmediastrategist #pinterestguru.
Additionally, it’s easy to tell which social media influencers could be in need of a VA (if you know what to look for). Look for influencers with large audiences who don’t keep up on responding to comments and don’t respond quickly to DMs. Chances are, they need someone to help them with those tasks!
Tips for Juggling Multiple Clients and Remote Work
If you’re wondering how to become a virtual assistant with no experience, learning how to juggle multiple clients is key. Juggling multiple clients at once can be challenging but, unless your client is offering you full time hours, it’s a necessary skill. This is where project management tools come into play.
Personally, I’m obsessed with Trello for project management. The free version allows you almost all the features you need and it’s an amazing platform for collaboration and communication. Below is an example of one of my Trello boards. Each board is separated into lists and each list is separated into cards. I create a separate board for each client, add them via email as a collaborator and begin separating out tasks, login credentials, important deadlines and inspiration into lists. For example: If I create a list called “login credentials,” the cards under that list might be “Canva,” “Instagram” and “Hootsuite.” Inside those cards I would list the corresponding passwords.
In terms of team communication, I keep it simple and stick to WhatsApp group chats. You can tag members of the group chat in messages to bring things to their attention immediately. During my time working in Florence, our company utilized Slack to communicate with 50+ team members separated across three different countries.
Work Samples for Potential Clients
When searching for new clients, it’s always smart to have some work examples on hand. This could be your resume, similar projects you’ve worked on in the past, your website or any relevant social media accounts.
When I started as a VA, Madison’s Footsteps was already established across multiple channels. I felt that my Instagram, Pinterest and travel blog were sufficient in communicating to clients the scope of my work. For this reason, I did not create any VA-specific social media channels or sites. However, if you’re just starting out, creating VA-specific channels could be helpful when searching for clients.
Part of how I became a virtual assistant and live as a digital nomad has to do with my personal travel brand, Madison’s Footsteps. I started Madison’s Footsteps back in summer of 2017 after my study abroad semester as a creative hobby. It was only in 2020, after the start of the pandemic, that I became serious about growing and monetizing the brand.
This year, my focus has been on scaling my VA business and Madison’s Footsteps Travel Blog. Social media has taken a backseat in favor of growing my email list and publishing regular blog posts. However, I’m still collaborating with brands and putting out tons of Caribbean travel content! I recently collaborated with Grand Roatán Caribbean Resort, one of the nicest resorts on the island, and have another Roatán hotel collab in the works.
My long-term goals for Madison’s Footsteps revolve mostly around my website, madisonsfootsteps.com. I’m learning more about SEO and Pinterest every day and currently have three blog posts ranking on the first page of Google! I’m hoping to start collaborating with brands on my website soon.
If you have any questions about how to become a virtual assistant with no experience and living the digital nomad life, feel free to jump into my DMs or send me an email at email@example.com! I love to help like-minded travelers achieve their dreams of traveling the world.
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