Are We All Becoming Virtual Assistants?

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Virtual assistants–administrative assistants who perform tasks remotely–are emerging as a promising new career class. The Washington Post has more:

The term (virtual assistants), around since the Internet became widely available, encompasses anyone who telecommutes and does administrative tasks for other businesses, usually on a contractual basis. Most do tasks such as document preparation, paperwork and accounting. Some have niche areas, such as bilingual translation or creative services.

In the current economy, Jane Weizmann, a senior consultant at Arlington, Va.-based human resources consultant Watson Wyatt, said she’s seeing more businesses with a “part-time cadre or network of people” who telecommute and bring different skill sets to projects as needed.

The numbers are difficult to track because there is no formal certification and not all people doing similar work call themselves virtual assistants, but one small trade group, the International Virtual Assistants Association, said its number of new members doubled from 2007 to 2008. To date this year, the association has added 160 new members, bringing membership to about 900.

Association officials say the number of virtual assistants is increasing as companies lay off their administrative and executive assistants. Plus, the barrier to entry is low, because most people already own the equipment they need, such as computers, printers, fax machines and Internet access.

“You meet people at the conferences who say, ‘Oh, after I was laid off four times, I decided to become a virtual assistant,’ “ said Lauren Hidden, marketing director for IVAA. “They get tired of the insecurity of being an employee.”

The article cites hourly wages as ranging between $20-$75. As more companies downsize, virtual assistants can only become more marketable.

Many perform tasks outside of general administrative work. Some manage Twitter accounts or social networks, blog, research, translate, edit, market, analyze, bean count…the opportunities for “virtual assistance” are almost endless. I wonder whether the term is going to grow to encompass all kinds of online functions, and certain job titles–blogger, market researcher, translator–are eventually going to translate to “virtual assistant with blogging skills,” etc.

Regardless, the field looks promising, especially if you’re looking for a work from home opportunity. The International Virtual Assistants Association (www.ivaa.org) and independent sites like Home With the Kids (www.homewiththekids.com) can get you familiar with virtual assistant opportunities.

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