At a recent dinner party I was talking to a good friend whose wife had recently had twins, but was getting back into the workforce after only 6 months of having the babies. What was more was that she was able to do all this while staying at home and still have a relatively flexible schedule. This sounded a bit too good to be true, and I was worried that she was falling for one of the countless working-from-scams.
So I asked my friend more about this “job” and he told me his wife was starting as a virtual (administrative) assistant. “A what?” I asked. A virtual assistant (VA), I found out is basically an administrative assistant to one or more people, that does his/her job from home. Thanks to the wonder’s of modern technology and communication this is rapidly becoming an expanding industry as busy executives and working people want the organization benefits that come with an assistant to manage their schedule/tasks, without having to pay for the over head of a full time worker.
Hearing about this job, I was interested to find out more and what the potential earnings could be from this type of endeavor. I know with a young family, the thought of my wife or I working from home in a flexible (decent paying) job is an option I definitely wanted to investigate further. I did a number of Google searches around administrative assistant jobs and surprisingly employment site Monster.com, had a lot of ads for these positions. Here are the key aspects and requirements for a VA position:
1. Virtual Assistants typically provide professional administrative, basic accounting, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office. They usually work for other small businesses and consultancy groups. It is estimated that there are 40,000 virtual assistants worldwide.
2. They normally get paid on an hourly basis, with rates ranging from $20 to $50 per hour. Most have had experience in a “real” office environment and have a basic diploma or degree. 90% of VA’s are women and work on average 25 hrs a week for 2 to 4 clients.
3. There is a lot of software and setup books currently available to help you with becoming a effective virtual assistant. If you work through a company to find clients, they can provide you with the software/training or you can buy it online.
4. Despite having flexibility and the opportunity to work from home on a full time basis, you still need to be very professional since reputation is critical to keeping and getting new clients. The ‘working in my pyjamas’ mentality will not get you far, and you cannot afford to treat this as a secondary concern.
5. There will be an upfront investment to get your home office and supporting systems setup, but most of it is tax deductible and you should consult with a tax professional for exactly what deductions you can take based on your financial situation. Ongoing investments will mainly be related to marketing costs and/or any agent fees you have to pay if working via a third party.
So there you have it, my review on the VA world. It is a rapidly growing profession and I know that as companies try to reduce the number of full time permanent staff and people get busier in their lives, the demand for VA’s is set to continue. The ones with the best reputation and professionalism will be the ones that succeed (my friends wife will do very well!). If you are reading this post and are planning to, are or have been a VA leave a comments with any tips or experiences you have had so far. Who knows, if I go full time with this blogging caper I may even find myself in need of a VA one day.