© Diane M. Aull
Put your skills to work as a Virtual Assistant (VA) / Virtual Office Professional (VOP)! Working from your home, you can provide a variety of business services to individuals, small businesses, and corporations.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is essentially an administrative or executive assistant, except that instead of working on-site in the office of a businessperson or executive, they provide support services from an off-site location, in many cases from their own home. To accomplish this, they make use methods such as postal mail, e-mail, telephones, fax, overnight delivery services, and the Internet.
VAs and VOPs are usually hired as independent contractors. Employers only pay for the time and services they actually use. This can be especially useful to employers who are in a start up or business growth phase or those who have only intermittent needs for administrative assistance.
Because they are independent agents, VAs and VOPs are free to work for multiple employers at the same time. You are limited only by how hard you’re willing to work and how many hours you have available. This provides the VA / VOP with both increased earnings potential and greater employment and earnings stability.
What sorts of services do VAs / VOPs provide?
Everything that a traditional administrative assistant or executive assistant does on-site can be done off-site by a VA, through the use of the Internet, e-mail, postal mail, overnight delivery services, telephone and fax.
Many VAs answer phones, handle e-mail and postal mail, transcribe dictation, type, file and generally provide all the administrative services one would expect from an administrative assistant.
Some VAs offer other services instead of or in addition to those standard administrative functions. For instance, some offer such services as Web site design and maintenance, event planning, bookkeeping, small business consulting, business plan writing or customer follow-up.
The specific services offered by any individual VA will depend on her interests and skills.
Why would anyone hire a VA instead of a traditional assistant?
There are lots of reasons why a person might choose to hire a VA rather than a traditional on-site employee.
- On-site employees are often salaried and usually get benefits (such as paid holidays and paid vacation, sick days, subsidized insurance, and so forth). VAs are generally hired as independent contractors, which means the employer only pays for the time the VA actually spends working on their specific project.
- For home-based businesses, the owner may not want an employee coming in every day to their home. They may feel uncomfortable with the idea, or they may simply have no room to accommodate another person’s work space. Some small offices may also have space issues.
- Legal, insurance, and zoning:
- There are business insurance issues to consider if you have employees coming in to your place of business. There are also sometimes work-site related laws that will apply to businesses with employees that don’t apply to sole proprietorships. They may also have local zoning issues: perhaps it’s permissible to have a "home office" but not a business with on-site employees.
- For some business people, particularly those who travel extensively or otherwise are rarely in their office, it may not matter where their assistant is physically located — they simply want the best person for the job. Often, by hiring a VA, an employer can get a wider range of services or a higher-quality assistant than they might be able to find drawing only from their local pool of applicants.
The reasons why employers might want to hire a VA are as varied as the employers themselves!
Why would anyone want to work as a VA or VOP?
As with employers hiring VAs, the reasons why people work in the field are as varied as the individuals themselves:
- Rather than limiting yourself to employers in your home town, you’ve opened up your potential employment market to the world.
- Because you’re an independent contractor, you can work for more than one employer at the same time. If you love variety or simply prefer to be busy, this can be a powerful incentive.
- You can tailor the specific services you offer to match your individual interests and skills. Rather than having to fit yourself into locally available jobs, possibly spending a good bit of your time on tasks you find difficult or boring, you can specialize in the things that you do well.
Now that you know what being a Virtual Assistant or Virtual Office Professional entails, this list of resources will help you do additional research or get your new VA business off the ground!
- Virtual Assistant Networking Association
- An online community of VAs, offering a discussion forum, a VA directory, educational/certification resources and many other goodies for VAs.
- International Virtual Assistants Association
- A professional trade organization for Virtual Assistants worldwide. They sponser the IVAA Certified Virtual Assistant program.
- International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (IAVOA)
- An organization devoted to promoting the use of Virtual Assistants worldwide.
- Virtual Assistance U
- Online courses and seminars for aspiring virtual assistants. Become a Graduate Virtual Assistant.
- Virtual Assistant Certification
- Professional Virtual Assistant and Master Virtual Assistant certifications; sponsored by The International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (IAVOA), AVirtualSolution (AVS) and Virtual Assistance U (VAU).
- VA Group Discounts
- Save money — no membership required! Upon completion of a questionnaire you will be assigned discount codes for each participating VA Group Discounts partner.
- The Virtual Business Group
- A community of virtual office professionals. Includes a discussion group and member directory.
- Assist U
- Training, coaching and referring for virtual assistants.
- Products and services to help those wanting to get started as Virtual Assistants.
- Executive Solutions
- Virtual Assistant training and certification. Add your listing to their VA Directory.
- The Canadian Virtual Assistant Network
- A community of Canadian Virtual Assistants dedicated to bringing further awareness to the profession of Virtual Assisting in Canada and around the world.
- How to Become a Celebrity Personal Assistant
- Okay, so probably it won’t happen for most of us, but wouldn’t it be exciting to be the personal assistant for a celebrity? This for-purchase e-book promises to teach you all the inside information you need to know if you’re interested in being a celebrity personal assistant (and, well, a lot of the advice is useful even when your clients aren’t celebrities). 107 pages. (Download or CD-ROM)