I first heard about the concept and role of a virtual assistant through “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss, a book which spent more than four years on The New York Times Best Seller list. The book itself played a significant role in the move for entrepreneurs to ‘outsource’ their daily tasks, in particular, the types of tasks that would traditionally be considered the responsibilities of a personal assistant: inbox management, calendar management, errands, document prep and data entry.

As online business has evolved, the types of tasks and services that now fall under the umbrella role of ‘virtual assistant’ have expanded way beyond that initial perception many people held. Virtual assistants still support online business owners with those important daily administrative tasks, but they’re also providing services in website building and management, writing, marketing and design.

During the past 9 years providing each of those service sets to clients, my experience has been that the marketing services have allowed me to:

  • Increase my hourly rate most dramatically – from $10 in 2011, up to $20 and $35 later that same year, and following that $40 from early 2013.
  • Stabilize and then increase my monthly work volume due to the ongoing demand for these particular marketing services.

I decided to really put my focus on online marketing services, to keep my business growing, to enjoy the work… and… to love our everyday schedule and lifestyle.

Here are those 5 specific in-demand services that fall into the category of digital marketing, that you can learn and be paid well for as a virtual assistant or freelancer.

1. Blog Management

Learning how to edit and format blog posts is one of the best places to get started when you first begin working online. Online business owners understand the importance of regularly updating their blogs with high-value content that brings in new readers, leads, links and sales.

But it takes a lot of time to do!

There’s a huge perception of value if business owners can move that task off their plate for the long term, and know that someone who really understands their business is taking care of it for them each week.

Online businesses use a variety of different website and blog platforms to publish their content, but by far the most commonly used is WordPress. If you’ve never created a blog post before, then you can sign up for a personal blog for free at WordPress.com and start experimenting with publishing your own.

2. Email Marketing

Email newsletters and autoresponders need to be published just as frequently, if not more so, than blog posts. The reason is that while an online business usually has just a single blog where they’re publishing content, often they’ll have multiple segments of their audience that require different types of email messaging. That means more individual emails to be created.

It’s not rocket science, but it does require:

  • Familiarity with navigating your way around the specific email marketing system your client is using.
  • Consistent availability each week to receive raw draft text, proofread and edit it, add links, find images, review for errors and then schedule it ready for sending.

MailChimp is one of the most popular and easy to use email marketing systems out there, and you can start getting familiar with it by signing up for a free account here.

3. Social Media

Sharing blog post links, graphics, videos and status updates… do people really get paid well to do that all day long?

They do indeed.

And it’s because it’s one of the most effective ways for online business owners to expand the size of their audience beyond those people who are already their readers and customers. When a business owner has the potential to reach more people that might be interested in what they have to offer, then it makes sense to pay a virtual assistant, social media manager or agency to maintain a social media presence for them on a daily basis.

4. Landing Pages

A landing page is a special web page that has a single action-based goal. For example, a landing page may encourage people to sign up for a newsletter or for a free download; it may prompt someone to register for a webinar or a free consultation; it may be a sales page for a product or service.

Landing pages can be created directly inside an online business owner’s own website platform, such as WordPress, Squarespace or Adobe Business Catalyst. But often they’re created with specialized software systems which make the process of putting the web page together faster and easier, particularly when integrating the pages with the business owner’s email marketing software.

Leadpages is one of the most popular landing page creation platforms for small to medium-sized online businesses, and it is so much fun to use! Don’t hesitate in putting this skill on your ‘to learn’ list as a virtual assistant, because the pay-off in work volume and hourly rate will be well worth it.

5. Customer Support

You could categorize online customer support either as an administrative service or a marketing service. I believe that it moves into the marketing side of things when:

  • You consider that each email response sent back to a customer or potential customer is contributing to their overall perception of your client’s business.
  • You are providing this service in conjunction with the blog posts, email newsletters, social media messages and landing pages you’ve already been creating, and your customer support responses are drawing on that familiarity with the business marketing.

Even though you might typically consider customer support as a comparatively lower rate virtual assistant service, my experience has been that’s not the case at all… provided that you’re bringing to the table a familiarity with the business and their online systems.

In this way, you really become valuable and can be paid accordingly because you’re able to completely free up a business owner’s time – they don’t need to spend their own time or pay an online business manager to feed the required information through to you before you reply to customers. You’re actually able to dig it up easily yourself.

And you can get to that place of competency in a client’s business by offering a combination of the previous four online marketing services that I shared above. You’ll see so many drafts, images, product details and links going through your inbox that it won’t be long before you’ve got yourself a clear overview of the business and how it all fits together.

Remember, don’t get stuck on launching your new freelance career if you haven’t got some of these services mastered just yet. Many successful virtual assistants work full-time providing only one of these services, particularly in larger sized online businesses where there are multiple freelancers working on specific areas of the business.

The first client is the biggest hurdle, so put your focus on learning whatever you need to secure that first gig. From there you’ll find that you’ve got all the motivation you need to expand your skills and your income.