Are We All Becoming Virtual Assistants?

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Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

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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  • Bearing in mind a great many VA’s don’t actually opt to join the variety of VA associations that have sprung up over the last few years, the number of new VA’s is probably a lot bigger than we think.

    I wonder also, if so many PA’s, Secretaries and Administrators are getting laid off and are saying “to heck with it all, I’ll be my own boss”, is there going to become a shortage of this expertise within the employable market, say for when the Recession is finally over? If they enjoy running their own Business and choose not to go back to employable work, companies may have to turn to the virtual option more and more in the future.

    Alex Trapnell : Virtual Assistant (UK)
    http://www.alexandratrapnell.co.uk

    “…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…”

  • Joyce

    I think my idea has been changed once after I used BPOVIA as my VA, you know, as my business is small. So I will try to do everything myself. But now my business is developing, so I can’t handle all the things at one time. Then I search on the internet to see whether there are some good ways to solve it. Suddenly, I found BPOVIA (www.bpovia.com). To be honest, I was attracted by their price at very beginning, because it’s cheaper consider with local VAs, but I am not sure that whether they can do a good job. After long-term relationships. I think my choice is wise. They are the one who I am looking for. :)They are professional and they really help me a lot in my business. Thank you!

  • I personally do not believe that there will be a shortage of expertise in the employable market after the recession. Many people may decide to become a VA but they will soon realise that it is a very difficult market place to conquer. Unless you are determined, and self-disciplined you will find it hard to succeed. As a VA you have to promote yourself endlessly, to get the PA jobs you also have to be a salesperson. I think many people become VAs when job possibilities are small, but when the economy does finally pick up the numbers will drop again.