3 Things Clients Want In Their Dream VA

Susan Drumm spent over a decade teaching companies like L’Oreal, Viacom and Conde Nast how to lead their teams towards multi-million dollar growth. Now she uses those same skills to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses to seven figure success. Your success as an entrepreneur depends on your ability to hire, inspire and lead team. Get her free ebook on hiring your dream VA here. 

hire right

So you finally (finally!) feel like you’re getting this whole ‘self employment’ thing figured out. You can attend holiday dinners and discuss work with Nosy Aunt Ellen … and she might even understand what you do! You’ve got a nice roster of clients, a healthy profit margin, you’re even booked out a few months into the future. This is me, raising my glass to you.

What you don’t have a lot of?
Breathing space.
Wonderfully unscheduled afternoons for spontaneous coffee dates and reading in the park.

You need a virtual assistant.

I’ve helped hundreds of executives build sales-making, profit-multiplying, freetime-increasing teams, so I know a thing or three about hiring right.

If you’re ready to hire your first assistant - this post is for you.
If you’re interested in becoming a VA - this post is also for you!

Of course, every client and every job is different, but here are three things that will keep just about any client happy and just about any VA steadily booked.

1. Timely and honest communication

For clients
When you send your VA an email filled with instructions and tasks and a huge attachment, you want to make sure they actually, you know, received that email. You also want to know if they understood your request, have any follow up questions, or hit a snag.

When you’re interviewing candidates, rather than asking them how long it usually takes to respond to emails, ask them a more open ended question, like “what do you do when you receive an assignment?” and see what answer they volunteer. Do they mention that they confirm receipt and ask questions within 12 - 24 hours? You’ll get a more honest answer because they don’t know specifically what you are looking for and are more likely to tell you their true process/behavior. Follow up by asking them  what they’d do if a project was taking longer than they expected.

For VAs
Most clients will expect you to respond to their emails on the same day they send them (unless they send it after business hours.) Some clients don’t care - make sure you figure out which type your client is. If nothing else, most clients appreciate a “got it!” email with follow up questions in the next day or two.

Similarly, some clients would prefer that you spend an hour Googling a solution rather than asking them for help. Some want to know the minute you have a question. During your interview, ask your potential client about their communication ‘pet peeves.’

2. A basic grasp of 2-3 social media platforms and scheduling tools

For clients
Unless your business is completely offline, you’re probably on social media and you’re probably sick of spending hours writing tweets. You probably won’t find a VA who’s a bona fide expert in Facebook AND Twitter AND Pinterest AND Instagram AND Youtube (and if you do, they’ll probably be really expensive). It is, however, reasonable to expect your VA to have a good working knowledge of two or three platforms. They should understand how to schedule updates on those platforms and know some best practices associated with them.

For VAs
If you’re only proficient in Facebook, take some time to learn at least one other platform and definitely learn Hootsuite, Buffer, or Tweetdeck. If you’ve done social media work in the past, pull your analytics (average clicks per tweet, how much you grew a client’s profile, etc) and include that information in your resume.

3. A willingness to learn (like, really)

For clients
We all say we want to hire people who express a “willingness to learn” but when you’re working online it’s particularly important. Five years ago, Instagram wasn’t even a thing and seven years ago, blogging was a totally different animal. You’ll probably need your VA to learn new platforms and acquire skills that don’t even exist right now! When you’re interviewing VAs, ask them about the skills that they’ve learned in the last six months and what skills they plan to develop over the next six months? This way you’ll get a specific answer and get a good idea of where they’re all with these newly-acquired skills.

For VAs
Show potential clients that you’re serious about learning and improving; take classes, read trade journals and websites. Find a way to work this information about yourself into your interview!

The right VA (or the right client) can totally change your career. Hopefully, these tips will help you get a bit closer to finding one!

Have your ever hired a VA? Or worked as one? In the comments, I’d love to hear how you found your VA or your client!

Edited to add: this post was originally titled ‘3 things bosses look for in their dream VA’ but as many commenters validly pointed out, the relationship is much more client/vendor than boss/employee. Susan and I apologize for the ruffled feathers!

photo by jeff sheldon // via unsplash // cc



Rosie Shilo

Some great points in there, however, I don’t know many businesses who choose to ‘employ’ a VA over hiring them as a contractor. There is a big difference between the two, at least here in Australia. Hiring a virtual ‘employee’ means taking responsibility for their home OH&S, annual and sick leave, superannuation etc. Most businesses hire a VA as an ‘independent contractor’ and that VA works for more than one business. Other than that, you make some great suggestions. :)


Thanks for writing this, Sarah! I’ve been thinking of hiring a VA and feeling a bit unsure how to go about the process. Really helpful, as always.


Thank you for the information. This does help me as a VA. However, your article is missing the concept that the virtual assistant is a self employed professional. VA’s do not have bosses. We have clients that we chose to work with just as much as they choose to work with us . Unfortunately therw are already misguided business owners who do not know how to work with a VA. I do not feel this article will help.


I see Susan’s name now…and I’ll have to check out her site!


Tara, I hope one of the VAs commenting here contact you to discuss how they can help you. regards, Liz


We’re not employees, so the terminology of “boss” puts us off. We are business owners and entitled to be treated like that.


I am a VA and I don’t have bosses. I am an independent contractor who works for and with a number of clients and NEVER get interviewed for a job. Your article is not well researched and does not talk about a VA but talks about an employee.

Sheila J Davis

This post has some helpful information… However, Virtual Assistants are NOT employees and should never be treated as an employee.

VAs are independent contractors. VAs are highly skilled, talented, hard-working entrepreneurs just like those clients who hire them. Some VAs have specialties that they provide, like social media (including all platforms at very reasonable rates) and others are general VAs who provide general administrative tasks. VAs typically use project management systems and work with the client on the best form of communication.

If an entrepreneur is looking for an employee they will pay for taxes, health insurance, vacation, and sick leave, etc.. They would pay for their training, phone bill, computer, and more. VAs pay their own taxes, manage their own businesses and all expenses that come with it.


I do appreciate some of what you have written here. And I must agree…it is a “dream VA” because we are not employees. We are business owners offering a service to another business owner. If at any time our client wants to make himself or herself our “boss”, then he/she will need to pay employee taxes as well as provide us with the tools of our trade, such as a laptop, software, training, etc.

We come to the table trained and with specialties in many administrative areas, including social media.

The secret to a successful relationship with a VA, is mutual respect.

Susan Marshall VA

You have a lovely blog and I understand the value of guest bloggers, but I would recommend changing every instance of “Employer” to “Client”. You’ve really gotten a lot of VA’s upset over this not to mention that any of the actual value of your post content is not coming across because of it. I’m surprised you posted this since you seem to be a VA yourself. Oops!


Unfortunately posts like this strike a nerve within the VA community as they, themselves, are business owners charging billable hours to their clients. They are not employees…they are entrepreneurial equals offering a valuable service as any other entrepreneurial service provider.

To equate the VA/client relationship to an employer/employee agreement is a disservice to both parties as it undoes all the effort the VA industry as a whole and virtual assistants individually have worked for as well as diminishing entreprenerial spirit which the VA represents.

It’s misinformed media like this that perpetuates the confusion and diminishes the value of the virtual administrative professionals.


Hi Susan, I really love your branding and how you have positioned yourself in the market. Your website is great - you have nailed your target market, told them exactly what you do and really encourage engagement. I think it is one of the best websites I have seen in a long time. Oh and I like your article, I think that clients often see themselves as “bosses” and any clients reading this will relate to your message.
regards, Liz

Kathie Thomas

I love that people bring our industry to the forefront often but it is a concern when they don’t use the right terminology as that is a very important thing for any industry. All of us in the industry see it as part of our role to educate the general public :-)

I see that Susan makes reference that she has changed the word ‘boss’ to ‘client’ and that is a good thing. I’ve only ever been interviewed by clients twice in the 20+ years I’ve been in business. Generally people contact me because they’ve been referred, or found my website and tell me what they need. I’m the one that asks the questions (just as a Dr asks the patient, or a mechanic asks their client) and from there I determine whether I can assist them or if it’s best to refer them to another VA I know who would be better suited. I’ve had long-term business relationships with most of my clients, with many current clients having used my services regularly for well over 7, 8 or 10 years.

I see my self as their personal Virtual Assistant - each and every single one of them and enjoy the mix of work that I do each and every day. This is a great industry to be in and for anyone reading this article, looking to become a VA, I would be very happy to give them more information.

Theresa Christine

So funny to see all these employee/independent contractor comments here. I was recently “employed” as a VA for someone…meaning I worked FT for this person’s company but didn’t get employee benefits. And unfortunately, it wasn’t until AFTER I stopped working for him that I realized how much he benefited from not claiming me as an employee and how little I benefitted from being a misclassified independent contractor. That said, thank you for this article! Those are definitely great qualities a virtual assistant should have :)

Susan Drumm

I really appreciate all the feedback from the VA community on your great insights. I’m sorry if the original terminology offended and I totally see your points - my oversight! If you see my site, you will see I am a big proponent of business owners hiring / outsourcing VAs and encouraging the growth of the industry. I originally come from doing leadership work in the corporate world, and both my current VAs refer to me as their ‘boss’ even though I never actually wanted them to. To be honest, I’m actually uncomfortable being called ‘boss’ myself, so I will both stop them from calling me that, and stop using it in any other way. I believe VAs are the lifeblood of business growth and I have the ultimate respect for their invaluable contributions. I hope the work I do convincing others to hire a VA when they have been hesitant to outsource helps outweigh my faux pas..

Miranda Barzey

I’m curious how to find a VA job. Traditional job boards don’t seem to have much. I’ve seen mixed reviews on Zirtual. I’m considering making a personal website/blog, but how do I get that in front of people who need a VA?


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