Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
A virtual assistant is one who typically works from their own home, doing various clerical and administrative tasks for individuals and companies. Could this be the home-based business for you?
The online revolution has made this business possible. Essentially, you can do everything from your office that you might do at a worksite (except perhaps greet guests and make coffee). You would be your own boss and could have flexibility in scheduling and in choosing what kinds of work to accept.
What you would need:
A computer with internet access (preferably high-speed).
A business phone line (and some companies may want you to add a separate line to answer their calls).
A fax machine
Essential Skills: Successful virtual assistants are good at organizing, planning, scheduling, communication, writing, and dealing with people. Just like any good administrative assistant, your job would be to handle projects and tasks requested by the company or person who contracts your services. Your computer skills should be excellent and should include word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and of course emailing, instant messaging and internet navigation.
How to Start
As with any small or home-based business, check with your local government about business licensing requirements. Typically, your state or county officials can help you get up and running.
There are many certification programs available that may be helpful to you in establishing your credibility and getting clients. However, certification is not required. If you have excellent skills, a great resume and references from former employers, certification is not necessary.
Small businesses and individuals are good beginning targets for your services. Entrepreneurs often do not have time to do many of the clerical tasks that must be done and need help. Examples are business start-ups, other home-based businesses, attorneys, independent real estate and insurance agents, and even writers and artists.
To market your virtual assistant business, you need a resume with good references. Prior administrative experience is definitely a plus. In fact, one of your first clients could be your former employer.
Make a list of all the things you could do – word processing, writing and mailing letters, setting appointments or keeping a schedule, maintaining databases, paying bills, making travel arrangements, setting up meetings or seminars, answering telephones, doing research, and so on. Inside knowledge of a specific industry will definitely help, too.
There are several Virtual Assistant job boards online and most of them charge a fee for listing you on their site or giving you access to requests. Just as with anything else, be careful and do your research before you pay anything. And don't rely on just those sources, do local networking (try your Chamber of Commerce meetings to start) and let your associates and friends know about your business and ask them for referrals. You could also try social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
What to Charge
Rates vary for virtual assistants based on the industry you work in and your experience. The range is from $12 an hour and up, with $20 being fairly common, but some virtual assistants can make over $50 per hour. When setting your fees, remember that you have to pay your own Self-Employment Tax (social security), insurance and other “benefits” so you should definitely charge more than the same position would pay an employee. The benefit to the client is not having to add another person to his or her payroll. Benefits for any worker often add up to 25% of their salary.
For small operations who do not need a 40-hour a week employee, they save considerably when hiring a virtual assistant for just a few hours a week or just for special projects.
You can charge by the project, or you can charge a “retainer” for a certain number of hours per week that would cover any projects your client assigned.
For more information, The 2-Second Commute was written by the owners of StaffCentrix, pioneers in the Virtual Assistant business and is very highly recommended.
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