Working from Home as a Virtual Assistant

by WorkFromHome on January 23, 2012

Virtual assistants are changing the way companies get their office administration tasks done. Instead of hiring a full-time or part-time employee, they are farming out office work over the internet to independent contractors. These independent contractors are known as virtual assistants, and they benefit from having increased flexibility to work from home.

Why Employers Hire Virtual Assistants

Employers can save a large amount of money by hiring virtual assistants. They avoid paying for benefits like insurance and sick days, and they do not spend money on office equipment or space for an employee. Small businesses hire virtual assistants because they may not have enough work each week to justify hiring even a part-time employee.

Why Work as a Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants are professional office staff that conducts a wide variety of tasks. They are essential to the efficient running of many businesses. If you want the flexibility to work from home, working as a virtual assistant may be for you. You can choose when to work, for whom you want to work, and you can work in your home office in your panamas if you want to.

However, working as a virtual assistant does come with some drawbacks. Most virtual assistant positions or jobs are not full-time, and they do not usually come with benefits. Work is typically busy some times, and you may have difficulty finding work other times. Your salary is not guaranteed, although you can typically earn between about $10 and $75 per hour, depending on your education level, expertise, and experience.

Job Description

Virtual assistants perform a variety of office assisting tasks, and their specific duties will vary by employer and job. Having an office in your home that is equipped to handle almost any type of office work is essential. A fax machine, land phone line, personal computer with wired high-speed internet, copier/scanner/printer combination, headset, desk and comfortable chair are a few of the essentials you will need. You may make calls, do data entry, fax documents, schedule appointments, and perform tasks with specialized software for specific tasks you do.

Training

Each employer has different requirements for working as a virtual assistant. Some may require an associate or bachelor’s degree, while others may require formal training in working as an office or administrative assistant. Others may want to see that you have completed some sort of virtual assistant certification course, which are available on the internet or at community/vocational colleges.

The training courses for virtual assistants teach you how to start your own business as a virtual assistant. Some of them, however, may focus on the skills you will need to work as a virtual assistant. Choose a course that comes with high recommendations from others and that fits your needs and budget if you decide to become certified.

Finding Work

You can list your resume on websites that charge a small fee to make your resume available to employers in search of virtual assistants. You can also bid per job or by the hour on sites like Guru, eLance, oDesk, Freelance and many others. You may have a difficult time getting your first jobs on sites where you bid on work on a freelance basis, and the work may be short-term and for rather low pay. Doing some of these jobs, however, can get you the experience you need to become a more proficient and highly-sought-after virtual assistant. As you gain experience and begin to see what others are charging for their virtual assisting work, you can increase your rate per job or per hour.

Another option is to start your own website where you advertise your skills as a virtual assistant. Send a cover letter and resume to local businesses in your area to form relationships with local companies that are in need of office assistance. Attend local professional and business association meetings to network with local business owners as well.

Virtual Assistant Professional Associations

Another good way to network and to find jobs is to join professional virtual assistant associations and websites. Participate in their forums, and search their job listings to find work. Some popular sites and associations include the International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (IAVOA), the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA), Virtual-Professionals.com, and VirtualAssistantForums.com.

Ways to Improve

As you complete a few jobs, you will begin to learn ways to save time and money. Visit the websites of successful virtual assistants to learn how to build your website to your advantage. Read through articles online for tips on becoming a better virtual assistant. Stay in contact with other virtual assistants through forums, and read through virtual assistant professional association publications regularly. Consider specializing in virtual assisting for one type of business as well. For example, you might work with real estate agents, as an editor, translator assistant, marketing assistant, medical transcription or website/graphic design assistant.

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