Written by: Danielle Greason, Founder of VA Lifestyle Design
Updated May 2020
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 helping business owners with their day-to-day digital marketing tasks.
When I started working from home as a virtual assistant 9 years ago, I began with a combination of both administrative and digital marketing support work. My experience was that the digital marketing work allowed me to:
- Increase my hourly rate most significantly, from $10 for one of my first clients, up to $20 a couple of months later, and $35 later in that first year. Then $40+/hour from my second year. (Talking in US dollars here, from 9 years ago.)
- Stabilize and then increase my monthly work volume due to the ongoing demand for this type of digital marketing support work.
A couple of years in, I decided to really put my focus on digital marketing support, to keep my income 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 support, that you can learn and be paid well for as a freelance virtual assistant or remote team member.
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. You can think of a blog post as a central, key piece of content that’s published on a website. Then… shorter snippets of that content are pulled out and published in other places, like on a brand’s social media profiles, or in one of the email newsletters.
In its most basic form, a blog post is a combination of text and a featured image at the top. Text that needs to be proofread and edited (by you as the VA), and an image that needs to be found/selected, from a business’s own original photos that they’ve had taken, or from a stock photo gallery that they’ve given you access to. Depending on the business, a single blog post could also need some additional elements and tasks. For example, you may need to:
- include a YouTube video somewhere within the post
- include some type of audio player near the top, and then the ‘show notes’ of a podcast episode below
- email a request to a graphic designer, sharing the details of specific graphic that needs to be created for the post
- create an image yourself, using a template and free tool called Canva
Business owners and remote team leaders absolutely love it when they can delegate this type of blog post work to someone they know is reviewing everything closely to make sure it’s accurate and polished.
There are many different systems used by businesses to publish blog post content, but by far the most commonly used is WordPress. To get a feel for what it’s like in the backend of a WordPress blog, you can sign up for your own free account at WordPress.com to experiment with the editing tools.
2. Email Marketing
Email newsletters and also additional emails within a business’s automated sequences 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, and also updated on an ongoing basis.
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.
Then here are a couple of more examples you can check out to start getting familiar with how this all works…
ConvertKit is an email marketing system that’s really popular for digital product creators… businesses that offer information-based products, like courses, memberships, coaching, books etc.
Klaviyo is an email marketing system that’s really popular for eCommerce brands… online stores that sell physical products that are shipped out to their customers’ homes. Think pet food to organic cotton underwear, and everything in between!
Think of any business you’ve made a purchase from online, recently or in the past. Did you subscribe to receive email from them? Dig up one of their emails, and scan through it to see the combination of text, images, links, buttons that were included. Now think… someone got paid for their time in putting that all together, then double checking it for accuracy. That’s digital marketing support work!
3. Social Media
Do people really get paid well to post stuff on Facebook and Instagram all day long?
They do indeed.
And that’s because it’s one of the most effective ways for 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 hire a team member, or to contract a freelance virtual assistant, to do a really awesome job of curating and publishing their social media content.
For many businesses, it’s often a whole team of people managing the content and communities across all of their social media profiles. So as a newbie, while you’re building up your skills, you can lookout for opportunities to get your foot in the door with one component of social media support work. Reading and responding to comments on social media posts is one of my favorites for this! I learned so much about digital marketing and about the industries I work in, by spending hours upon hours responding to comments (as well as customer emails) in my first few years as a VA.
I still comb through social media comments on a daily basis as part of my work now, looking for ideas that can be used to create Facebook and Instagram ads, and making sure that other team members are getting back to people who are commenting on the posts that I’m publishing. 🙂 If I was to start again tomorrow, I would 100% put my hand up for replying to comments every day, in a topic area I was really into.
For creating and scheduling social media posts for businesses, you might work with a tool like Buffer, or with Facebook’s own content management app, called Creator Studio, which can be used to prep posts for both Facebook and Instagram.
4. Landing Pages
A landing page is a special type of website page that encourages people to take a particular action. For example, to sign up for something, like a live digital event or initial phone appointment, or to purchase something… a digital product, physical product, consultation, conference ticket etc.
You can create these types of landing pages with a business owner’s main website content management system, such as WordPress. But often they’re created with specialized landing page tools, which make the process faster and easier for non-techie people, particularly when you’ll be integrating the landing pages with an email marketing system or an eCommerce system. (Figuring out and then setting up integrations… making one system connect to another… is actually a huge part of your work as virtual assistant!)
Leadpages is a popular landing page creation tool for small to medium-sized businesses, and it is so much fun to use! But as a virtual assistant, what’s more important than mastering just one specific tool, is to gradually build your awareness of the components that make up various types of landing pages. And then to be able to use that awareness to proactively plan out new landing pages, or make improvements to existing pages, on behalf of the clients you’re supporting.
To start getting familiar with various landing page layouts, you can scroll through the examples on this page here.
5. Customer Support
You can categorize online customer support either as an administrative support task or a digital marketing support task. 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 support in conjunction with the blog posts, email newsletters, social media posts and landing pages you’ve already been creating, and your customer support responses are drawing on that familiarity with the business, its products, and its content.
Even though you might typically consider customer support as a comparatively lower rate virtual assistant task, 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 a team leader 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 sets of digital marketing support tasks 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 if you haven’t got all of these skills mastered just yet. Many successful virtual assistants work full-time on only one of these five sets of tasks, particularly in larger businesses where there are multiple team members working on each type of content.
The first client is the biggest hurdle, so put your focus on learning whatever you need to secure that first gig. From there, once you’ve got first-hand experience that it’s 100% doable, I think you’ll find you’ve got all the motivation you need to expand your skills and your income from there.
Ready to dig into this stuff a little further? In this video below you’ll hear me explain the common threads in VA work when you’re supporting either digital product businesses or physical product businesses (a.k.a. eCommerce businesses), and why this means that you don’t need to specialize, in order to work with great clients.
If you’re considering working from home as a virtual assistant or remote team member, you can train with me through video screencast tutorials, to learn an integrated set of systems commonly used for blog management, email marketing, social media, landing pages and digital customer support.
Click here to review the training program.