What’s the difference between a virtual assistant and a freelancer? (And which best way to start a career online?)

Difference between a virtual assistant and a freelancer

Do you know the difference between a virtual assistant and a freelancer?

You tried to go online and look for jobs. You’re seeing two job categories of online work: virtual assistant and freelancer.

Between the two, you seemed confused about which way to go to start an online career. The fact is, you probably don’t know the difference between the two.

Which way to start online? It depends based on your knowledge and skills.

Knowing the difference between a virtual assistant and a freelancer, it’ll get you to a good start working online.

Today, that’s what I’m going to talk about.

Let’s dive in.

The Difference Between a Virtual Assistant and a Freelancer

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is derived from the two words virtual and assistant. When we say virtual, it refers to the internet. To access and perform your job at home or anywhere you can. If we remove the internet in the picture, the word virtual will not be making sense.

What’s only left is assistant.

When we partner the words virtual and assistant, it becomes a job position online. The underlying meaning of an assistant is a person who assists someone. Because of the internet, helping someone is no longer limited in a typical office job.

If you become a virtual assistant, you can assist and support any client regardless of where she is in the world right now. Just like my client today, she’s in the US, and I’m here in the Philippines.

Two types of virtual assistants:

1. Generalist Virtual Assistant
2. Specialist Virtual Assistant

specialist vs generalist

Generalist Virtual Assistant

A generalist virtual assistant is the one who does a variety of jobs. She’s a jack-of-all-trades. But most of the time, a master-of-none. A generalist VA must be flexible as the job she performs are general or very broad.

People who need a general virtual assistant are CEOs, executives, business owners, etc. These folks can’t keep up with smaller tasks like checking emails, creating appointments, and other tasks.

Furthermore, generalist VA functions also like a real offline assistant. A sort of personal assistant in an office working directly with a boss.

It’s not easy to function in this kind of job. You have to be patient with yourself to learn a lot of online tools and some crucial tasks at the same time.

You now have an idea of what generalist VA is. Now let’s talk about what’s a specialist VA.

Specialist Virtual Assistant

This one does a specific type of task. It’s confined to a limited workflow based on what agreed with a client. The sample jobs are E-commerce VA, Podcast VA, Writers VA, etc. Specialist VAs possess some degree of skills. You can’t be a specialist if you don’t specialize a particular skill.

However, some clients will train you to do a specific kind of job that allows you to specialize in something. From generalist VA, you’ll slowly transition to become a specialist one.

Specialist VAs are people ready to take clients because of the skills they already have.

Do you want to become a specialist VA? Learn some technical skills first. Technical skills don’t mean computer programming skills. In the online world, technical skills are specialized skills.

It’s good to be a specialist VA; the pay is most of the time higher compared to a generalist virtual assistant. If I were an expert VA, I charge higher as I invested a lot of time in skills mastery.

Now, let’s proceed with what a freelancer is.

What is a freelancer?

The word Freelance came from the two words, Free and Lance. You know the meaning of free. How about the Lance? It refers to a weapon, a long spear used by knights or soldiers in the ancient time.

Freelance people way back in the 1800s refers to mercenaries. Or in today’s usage, mercenaries are serial killers.

The Free Lance folks are ready to work with anyone who can feed them, afford their price, and provide the necessary weapons to go to war or kill someone. Regardless of affiliation to a country or nation.

But the usage of Freelance word has evolved today. It is now used online for people who work with clients temporarily, on a short-term basis, or doing project-based work.

According to Wikipedia, “Freelance, freelancing, and freelancer are terms commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not committed to a particular employer on a long-term basis.”

Freelancers are quite advanced with their skills compared to virtual assistants. That’s why they’re confident doing freelance jobs online.

If you go freelancing, clients are confident you can produce good results. You are deemed an expert. Clients will hire you because they believe in your craft.

And they’ll pay you most of the time above average than virtual assistants.

Of course, this depends on your worth and how much you charge clients. Freelancers are one of the highest earners online. Not virtual assistants.

What are the jobs for freelancers?

It is anything under the sun for as long as you know what you are doing. And you’re confident in your craft. Again, your skills must be advanced. If not, you’ll get bad reviews online with clients who took advantage of your service. Reviews will make or break your freelancing business.

That’s why today, I don’t want to dive into freelancing yet. But hopefully, soon. I’m planning to transition slowly.

Online freelancing is one of the best careers to do online. You control your own time. You work at any time of the day. And you can work at any place you want for as long as you’re connected to the internet. Above all, you are not a slave to anybody.

If clients can’t afford you, you can simply walk away and find another one.

When you are a freelancer, you can charge more. The income is unlimited. Only your time limits your income. And that’s the catch.

Can a virtual assistant go on freelancing?

Of course! I did freelancing with my previous clients. It was a part-time job. My job was limited to a certain task assign. Once a task is finished, another one is assigned. I performed one task at a time. Unlike when you work as a full-time virtual assistant, you’ll be doing things at the same time.

Doing freelance VA, it’s hard to find a new client once you lose one. Why? There are lots of virtual assistants out there looking for clients as well, including the experienced ones. Hard doesn’t mean you can’t find one.

There’s a technique on how to attract clients fast online (I’ve written this on my book). But that would be a different article to write.

Doing freelance jobs as VA, I’ll be honest with you, it won’t give you a steady income. It is quite unstable. Anytime, a client will stop working with you. Remember, freelance jobs are temporary, right?

So, don’t’ expect much to this kind of career. To do freelance as a virtual assistant, it has a lot of cons than pros. Except if you don’t need a steady income. That you’re single and not feeding someone but only yourself.

I won’t recommend this for virtual assistants. You only do this as a sideline.

You have to get a full-time client first and then take part-time clients to go freelance.

But either way, whether you go freelancing or do a full-time virtual assistant job, there’s one thing you need to make sure to succeed online. This is a prerequisite skill. This is a must for anyone who goes online and wants to work with clients. Do you know what it is?

The most important thing to become a virtual assistant and a freelancer

I won’t sugarcoat this. You need to have excellent communication skills. If you don’t possess it, good luck finding clients. Especially if you are looking for a non-voice job. Strong written and even oral communication skills is a must online.

99.99% of the time, excellent communication skills are a gateway to be successful online and to attract clients easily.

That’s why if you are not good at communication yet, learn this skill first. This will break the barrier between you and a client to work together. You’ll wonder why you’ll find it hard to get clients online when you start applying, it’s because of this #1 skill requirement.

This is the foundation skill. How good are you with your written and oral communication skills using the English language? English is the main language online.

In addition to excellent communication skills, a typing skill is also important. You need to type fast. An average of 40 words per minute (wpm). Though 30wpm is okay.

Once you have these two foundation skills, you can proceed to learn the basic tools online.

What are the skills I can use online to start a home-based career?

Good question. But let me ask you two questions: what are you passionate about? And what are your core strengths and weaknesses?

Know your passion and your strongest skills. Often, our passion is our strongest skill. For example, are you excellent and passionate about doing language translation? English-Filipino or Filipino-English, or some other languages you can translate. This is a valuable skill online.

One freelancer posted his income on Facebook. He translated a 40,000-word book from English to Filipino in just a week. He earned $2,500. That’s around P125,000 (Assuming P50 vs. $1 conversion.). It’s amazing. He earned a six-digit income in just a week only. Wow.

If you believe you’re excellent in language translation, this can be a profitable job online. You can go to Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr. And start charging clients with your skill.

This is one of the rarest skills that can also be used online.

I’m only talking about one skill here. There’s a lot of skills you can start. Anything that is relevant online. Like if you are an excellent gamer, you can make money off this skill. If you are a good writer, you can also make good money. If you are a good guitarist, you can offer a tutorial online.

Here’s my suggestion: start freelance work if you possess advanced skills. If you don’t (like me), start as a virtual assistant.

Final thoughts

Now you know the difference between a freelancer and a virtual assistant, it’s easy for you to plan in starting a career at home.

Like me, who lacks skills, I started as a general virtual assistant. I plan to transition soon as a freelancer. That’s why I opened this blog to explore more opportunities and build some skills.

Are you planning to start as a freelancer or as a virtual assistant?

I leave the choice all to you. You now have a clue.

What’s important today, you know the difference between a virtual assistant and a freelancer.

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Marleo Enobio

Marleo is a work-at-home father. He blogs about his journey towards learning how to code and some online opportunities and tech news. When he's not working or doing anything online, he spends time with his family and serve a Christian community. He lives in General Santos City, Philippines.

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