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Career Idea: Have You Thought About Becoming A Virtual Assistant?

July 16th, 2008

I frequently see e-mails from people who have x years in administrative, bookkeeping, organizational, etc. roles, who are well-seasoned and well-skilled.  Because they are not quite sure what else they can do, they are looking for some kind of executive assistant role, hopefully paying more than $10/hour.

I hate thinking that someone with so much wisdom, experience and business savvy will have to digress to an entry-level role when they really could and should be able to contribute so much more.

That’s where Virtual Assistants (VA’s) come in.  I’ll confess I don’t know a ton about VA’s, and if I were as good as Alexandra Levit I would have done a bunch of interviews, and had great stats for you.  Alas, I’m not that good, so I’ll throw out my ideas, and point you to some resources, and let you do your own research.

I love the concept of setting up a VA business because:

  1. You can earn more than $10/hour. Depending on how you speciliaze, or where your clients are, I think you can charge more than $40/hour.  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
  2. You can set your own hours. You are a VIRTUAL assistant, meaning you don’t have to go into an office (no commute), and play the political games, and punch your timecard just for the fun of it… if you do your best work at midnight, cool. If you do your best work between 9 and noon, cool.  That’s when you work.
  3. You define what you do. VA’s are quick to point out they are not merely data entry clerks, although I’m sure many do data entry ($40/hour is pretty pricey for data entry, but hey, people pay it).  But I’ve seen other VAs define their boundaries, and I’m amazed at the skillset they are bringing to the table.  Seriously, think about what an assistant would do for you, or for a CEO, or a one-man business…. that is what these VAs are doing.  I’ve been on radio interviews where the VA is the technician, because they understand what buttons to push to get the recording… define your own skillset and market that.
  4. It is entrepreneurial. And you already know how I feel about being an entrepreneur, or at the very least, having another income stream.
  5. Need more money?  Get another client! Too busy?  Scale back.  You are your own boss, and you set your own schedule.
  6. what did I miss?

Of course, this isn’t for everyone, but I really think it’s a great option for a lot of people.  And it helps that Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Workweek, really sensationalizes the idea of having a virtual assistant, so he’s turned the world onto the idea of buying the services.

If I were going to look at being a VA, I would start by googling the phrase.  But I would pour over the information at Virtual Assistant Directory,  and the owner’s website, Kathie M. Thomas.  She writes the popular and information-rich blog for Virtual Assistant Directory.  Another site to check out is Ultimate VA Support.

I don’t write about career ideas like Alexandra Levit, but this is one of a handful of ideas that I really, really like, and know I’ll be pointing people to this post for a while.

9 Comments »

9 responses to “Career Idea: Have You Thought About Becoming A Virtual Assistant?”

  1. Megan says:

    Jason,

    VA is a great career for expats – very portable so you can take it with you wherever you go. It is very popular with miltary spouses who are constantly on the go. Some great traninig programs for folks too. If you need resources on this topic, just let me know!

    Ciao!

    Megan

  2. The Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce at http://www.virtualassistantnetworking.com is a fantastic resource for those interested in starting their own Virtual Assistant business. Those who do it right can make more money than they ever earned as an employee and dramatically change the landscape of their lives.

    We offer all kinds of free information and other resources to help get them started, as well as completely affordable Virtual Assistant business forms, contracts, templates and guides.

  3. Alex says:

    I use Sandy for my personal assistant ( http://www.iwantsandy.com/ ) It’s great for daily reminders.

  4. I’m so glad you mentioned virtual assistants. I am a VA and one of the things I stress to my clients is when you are freed from administrative tasks, you can do what you do best and not be mired in daily tasks that hold you back.
    If you’re thinking of becoming a VA there is a great course you can take from home. It comes as a set of CDs or as electronic transcripts. Just go to http://tinyurl.com/5zr2mq and read what it’s all about.

  5. Lia Harman says:

    I’m a VA in Sydney, and your reference to Kathie Thomas as a way to start out on the road to finding information is spot on! She’s the guru of VA’s as far as I’m concerned, and a wealth of knowledge and support, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s a very rewarding career path, and one that I’m so glad I found. Not only can I work flexible hours myself, but I can offer more flexibility to my clients by taking away the ‘mundane’ and allowing them to work on their own core strengths. What more could I ask for!

  6. Jason, thank you so much for mentioning our industry. This is one I’ve watched birth and grow and I so love that it’s allowed me to be home for my family and run a fulltime business using skills I’d developed in the corporate world. I’ve been home in business now for well over 14 years. That’s longer than I stayed in any job anywhere! And I still love what I do today.

  7. VA is a bit of a “buzz word”, but if you’ve got a track record in providing high level administration, are RELIABLE, flexible, organised and can keep your wits about you while everyone is losing theirs then you can build a good client base that will see you through. Another aspect needed for success is a healthy relationship with money – ensuring you are working for an amount that reflects your skills and covers your costs (not just what everyone else charges), and being prepared to follow through with accounts to make sure the money is coming in will also see your business succeed. Just because we work from home doesn’t mean we don’t have overheads.

  8. Peter M says:

    I collected a little info which may be useful two sister sites, i find them reputable and there is a disclaimer of they ty their best at do diligence, but be careful

    http://ratracerebellion.com/

    http://www.wahboom.com/

    and an article form aol

    http://jobs.aol.com/article/_a/companies-that-hire-home-based-workers/20071218172609990001

    Some need prerequistes dedicated land lin secure office in house, high speed modem. Most scompanies lay it out. I belive the VA is respondible for set up coast if needed and I do not know if there are stipends for modm fees etc. I guess it is figuring your costs vs the payrates.
    But gas savings etc is a big plus there is flexibility in most cases.

    With the AOL sites there is no direct link but just google the companies name.

  9. What a great idea for those who are planning to reenter the workforce after an absence? I really like that Peter M cautions for folks to be proceed carefully.

    I will share these resources with readers of my career reentry blog.

    Marcie