I sat there working quietly in my home office with the sound of the children playing outside and I thought of the thousands of Virtual Assistants worldwide, who, like me, had opted out of full time employment. I also thought of those who were planning to say good bye to the corporate world, so that they too could taste the freedom and flexibility of working remotely or virtually. Oh! We knew that there would be challenges; yet the vision of a freedom so sweet, beckoned.
What would determine our success in the world of virtual assistance? What skills would be required to survive virtually in the 21st Century? I recognized that it would require a certain sense of knowing, ability, knowledge, confidence, ….savvy. I always liked the sound of the word savvy. It could be my creole Caribbean background. I remember when I was a child and I had answered a little bit more wisely than my age, my Mom would retort that I was too ‘savant’ – a Creole word which to us meant just that — you were ‘knowing’, perhaps a little ahead of your years, too.
So I thought that the 21st Century Virtual Assistant really needed to be savvy, acquiring certain skills and abilities to stay ahead of the game and set the stage for success. Having started my virtual assistance business in 2008, after over twenty years experience as an administrative professional, here is the first of five skills in what I consider the Top 10 Skills for the Savvy 21st Century Virtual Assistant:
Communication (Verbal and Non-verbal): As a business owner you will need to be able to clearly articulate your line of business. The next time someone asks where do you work or what do you do for a living, will you flounder or hesitate? What will your body language say about your passion for your business? The more clearly you can articulate what you do, the greater your chances of securing a new client and enhancing your clients’ teams.
Then again you will need to write introductory letters to your clients, proposals, articles, general correspondence, and even emails. Yes, there are templates; however I am sure that you will want to add your own flair to these documents. Do you know the rules of grammar? What about your business (n)etiquette? Master the art of communicating through practice. Your exceptional communication skills will help you project a savvy professional presence virtually and in person.
Customer Service: Customer service skills are also important in differentiating you from your competition. Superior service begins with the way you treat yourself and your team (we are our first customers) and projects onto the way you treat your clients. Are you proactive in meeting your clients needs and do you seek to build rapport? Do you appreciate your clients’ need to be understood, and to be made to feel welcome and important? Do you treat each client as though he or she is your only customer? What is your virtual response time?
Information and Communications Technology (ICT): The savvy virtual assistant needs to be skilled in using technology to create and share knowledge, and provide services which will empower clients. Whether you are posting entries on a blog, assisting a client with setting up a Facebook Page, providing a call management service, or networking with your fellow virtual assistants for personal development, you will require information and communications technology skills. The Savvy VA must be adept at using the available hardware, machines and systems, materials, tools and resources to relay information with accuracy, clarity, speed, quality and consistency.
Personal and Time Management: Working virtually presents its own challenges and the Savvy 21st Century Virtual Assistant must be able to prioritize tasks to achieve the most desirable outcomes. Good questions to ask are: Could I be investing my time more wisely? Will the task which I am performing now take me one step closer to achieving my goals?
Separating the office from the home can be a very challenging exercise. For me, with the kids at home, summer vacation seems my least productive time. Therefore, I am constantly seeking ways to make the most of my working hours and to create pockets of time for a thirteen year old and an active six year old. Do explore various time management and scheduling systems to see what works best for you.
Virtual collaboration: In a study entitle Future Works Skills 2020 the University of Phoenix recognizes virtual collaboration as a new skill for this century and defines it as ‘the ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.’ As a Savvy 21st Century Virtual Assistant you will need virtual collaboration skills when you serve on virtual project teams to assist in bringing projects to fruition. This means that you will need to be able to work independently and seamlessly while promoting your brand. Do recognize and appreciate cultural differences while working within a virtual team and remember, there is power in presence.
To help you stay ahead of the curve, follow us for our next article, where we will explore the other skills in the Top 10 Skills for the Savvy 21st Century Virtual Assistant.
Eunice Nisbett is the Owner of Savvy Corporate Planners+ a Caribbean based administrative services and virtual assistance consultancy, providing innovative solutions for administrative challenges.
We want to thank Eunice for her “Guest Blog” post and invite you all to engage with her in the comments section. This is Shilonda Downing for Virtual Work Team LLC.