Virtual Assistant: A Home-Based-Business

Published: 20th March 2009
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A home-based-business is something that many individuals hope to pursue. While there are a variety of home-based-businesses that you can launch; one of the most in-demand professions is a Virtual Assistant business. The Virtual Assistant industry is a profession that is growing more in popularity every year. Although the Virtual Assistant industry is highly recognized today; some individuals are still unaware of this profession. In fact, there a variety of questions that is often asked about the Virtual Assistant industry. The answers to many of these questions will be reviewed here in order to provide a better understanding of the Virtual Assistant field.



1. What is a Virtual Assistant?



A Virtual Assistant, or "VA", is a highly skilled independent entrepreneur who utilizes state of the art technology and provides administrative support and other specialized services to businesses, via the Internet, email, fax, and phone, in order to support the growing needs of organizations worldwide.



A Virtual Assistant is a lot like a traditional assistant. The main distinction, however, is that a Virtual Assistant provides their services from their home office. While businesses hire a traditional assistant to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week; a VA is hired to work on an "as needed" basis. For example, businesses will hire a VA for overflow projects, taking on monthly tasks, or simply to become an extension of their office.



2. What services do Virtual Assistant's provide?



A Virtual Assistant can provide a wide variety of services, including:



Word processing

Data Entry

Database Management

Desktop Publishing

Email Management

Bookkeeping

Marketing

Web Design & Maintenance

Transcription (General, Medical, and/or Legal)

Event Planning

Internet Research

And much more



Services provided by a Virtual Assistant, however, are dependent on one's experience and skills. For example, if you have experience and do well in word processing and data entry then you should offer these services. Do NOT offer services in which you have no experience.



If you are interested in other services but are not skilled in those areas, it does not mean that you cannot add them to your list at a later date. You can always get the training needed in order to provide more services to your clients. The main thing to remember, however, is that you want to excel in the areas of services that you offer. When you excel in even one area of service and provide excellent results, your client will be willing to offer you more work at a later date, and even refer other clients to you. So remember when you first start out, be true to yourself and start with what you know.



3. How much would I make as a Virtual Assistant?



Rates charged by Virtual Assistant's range from $25 - $100/hour based on experience and skills. Some services require a lot more work and, therefore, the rate is higher. For example, a VA who offers word processing would not charge as much per hour as a VA who offers web design and maintenance. It basically comes down to the complexity of the service.



In addition to the standard hourly rate, VA's also offer monthly retainer plans. A monthly retainer plan is a set number of hours per month offered at a discounted rate. Clients may purchase monthly retainer plans in advance or you may choose to invoice them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.



4. Do you have to be in the same area as your clients?



VA's are not required to work in the same area as their clients. In fact, most VA's clients are in different cities, states, and sometimes countries. Some clients, however, like to work with local VA's so that they can meet with them. Clients who are just learning about the VA industry, for example, may feel a little more secure when they can meet with the VA face-to-face. So even though VA's provide their services virtually, don't forget about local marketing. You never know where your clients may be.



5. Do I need experience?



Many individuals who start Virtual Assistant businesses today often have previous work experience in the services that they offer. In fact, many organizations feel that you should have at least 5 years experience in the corporate world (non-virtual world). If this is not the case for you, don't give up hope. There are many places you can get the training needed to start your own VA business. There are a variety of online training courses specifically for VA's. Also, if you need to improve your computer skills you can always take classes at your local community college to get the experience needed in order to learn the variety of programs required for VA's as well as how to build a website. Many community colleges even offer online courses for those who are unable to attend campus classes.



6. Why would businesses hire a VA?



Businesses today are looking for someone who can provide the assistance they need to help keep their business running smoothly. While businesses can hire an employee; a Virtual Assistant can provide the same services while saving the company time and money. For example, because VA's are independent contractor's companies are not required to pay benefits or overhead expenses such as: payroll tax, medical and dental insurance, retirement plans, office space, equipment, office supplies, and much more. In addition, companies who hire VA's are only required to pay for the time spent on a project, therefore, saving even more money.



VA's also help companies save time, allowing them to focus on other important aspects of their business, such as, increasing their revenue and building on their client base. Any business who can save time and money will grow a more profitable and successful organization. It is up to each VA, however, to show their potential clients how their services will help the clients business succeed.



7. Do I need to invest any money?



The best thing about owning your own business is that any money you spend you are spending on your business. So, the answer to this question depends on whether you are already set up to run a VA business or whether you need to purchase equipment, programs, office furniture, office supplies, and anything else you may need to get started. Just remember that the money you spend is an investment in your business, yourself, and your future.





If after reviewing the questions above you feel that you may want to pursue a Virtual Assistant business, take a look at the following tips before beginning.



• Research: The number one thing you want to do before starting any business is to do your research. Research the term Virtual Assistant (Assistance) online to find out all of the information you can possibly get. There are a number of websites that can help you answer any question that you may have. One website I highly recommend is VAnetworking. In addition, there are a variety of Virtual Assistant books that you can purchase. Two books I highly recommend are "Virtual Assistant - The Series" by Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker as well as the book "The Virtual Assistant's Guide to Marketing" by Michelle Jamison.

• Services: Know what services you want to offer before you begin. Remember, it is best to start with what you know, even if you are just offering 1 or 2 services.

• Rates: Make sure you set a rate that is appropriate for the services that you are offering. If you are just starting out, have no previous work experience, but have had the training needed to start a VA business, then you may want to charge a lower rate than someone who is more experienced and has worked in the corporate world. Do not charge a rate so low, however, that clients wonder if you are experienced enough to do the work that they require. One way to determine your rate would be to visit other VA's websites to see what services they offer, what rates they charge, as well as what experiences they have. Based on this information you should be able to compare your services and experiences with that of other VA's and come up with a base price.

• Office: Set up an office in your home where you will have some privacy. You will also want to make sure that your workstation is ergonomically correct. You want to be comfortable because this is where you will be working every day.

• Computer: You should have a fast, reliable computer as well as fast internet connection.

• Software: You will need to purchase any software that you do not have in order to provide services to your clients. Some of the software that is often used by Virtual Assistant's is Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Publisher), QuickBooks, Peachtree, Dreamweaver, Adobe (Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat), etc. It basically comes down to what services you offer to determine what software you will need.

• Website: As a Virtual Assistant it is best that you have a website. After all, you are not just an assistant; you are a "Virtual" Assistant.

• Domain Name: You will want to purchase a domain name. This is your business and you want to be taken seriously.





One final thought: Starting a home-based-business is a big step for anyone. It is something that takes a lot of discipline, dedication, patience, and persistence. If you want to start your own business and you feel that the Virtual Assistant industry is right for you, then you should take the next step and start your research. Though owning your own business, even a home-based-business, can be challenging, there is nothing like the feeling of being your own boss. It is a great opportunity, but one that should not be taken lightly.


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