The role of the virtual assistant has evolved over the past ten years and is emerging as a practical, winning solution for many small businesses and work-at-home professionals. As such, self-employment has never been easier. In short, a virtual assistant is an independent contractor working on a contractual basis for one or more clients on a variety of business tasks. This type of work arrangement allows for lots of flexibility in your daily scheduling making it an ideal profession for many stay-at-home moms and dads.
According to both the International Virtual Assistants Association (www.ivaa.org) and Staffcentrix (www.staffcentrix.com), the self-proclaimed creator of the Virtual Assistant industry, initial demands for the “Virtual Assistant” began in 1995 as more and more people began to acquire Internet access and a few websites even started offering staffing solutions. It’s difficult to determine how many virtual assistants are currently working in this fast growing industry, but recent research shows that although practices are growing overseas, the majority of virtual assistant’s currently work in the United States.
The fantastic reality of this profession is that it is not necessarily defined by a specific skill set or an office location. Today, virtual assistants handle many needs of small business owners including, but not limited to: typing, transcription, database administration, graphic design, desktop publishing, customer service calls (inbound & outbound), bookkeeping, website maintenance and market research. With the need for virtual assistants growing each year, the desired skill sets will become even more diverse over time.
While the competition among virtual assistants is stiff, you can quickly and easily set yourself apart by offering a specific, niche skill set, offering quick turnaround times and setting a professional atmosphere in your home office. By becoming a partner to your clients and offering much needed services, you become like they, the CEO of your own company.
Virtual Assistant Associations
As the need for virtual assistants increases, so does their support. The nature of this profession requires you to be technologically savvy. So, it makes sense that the professional organizations developed for virtual assistants are all totally accessible online. With a quick Internet search, you could probably find dozens, if not hundreds, more online virtual assistant resources and this list is certainly not intended to be inclusive of all of the online, professional organizations. It does, however, include the most used sites by successful virtual assistants working in the field today.
The first place many Virtual Assistants start is the International Virtual Assistants Association (www.ivaa.org). The IVAA has been working hard for the past several years to build a favorable online presence by offering annual memberships beginning at $75/year. In addition to providing you with up-to-date information on the virtual assistant profession, for this nominal yearly fee, you will gain access to valuable Request for Proposals (RFPs) among other benefits. These RFPs are your direct link to employers who are looking specifically for virtual assistants to help out in their business.
The Alliance for Virtual Businesses (www.allianceforvirtualbiz.com), a volunteer run organization that works to advocate virtual businesses of all sort including virtual assistants, is another online and valuable resource for new and seasoned virtual assistants. In addition to the wealth of informative articles provided on the Alliance for Virtual Businesses website, you can have your business information posted here for as little at $10. This site also sells enhanced listings for a mere $25.
In addition to the two sites already mentioned, the International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (www.iavoa.com) offers similar benefits for $75/year. The difference between IAVOA, IVAA and the Alliance for Virtual Businesses is that website hosting is included in your membership fee.
Work-the-Web (www.work-the-web.com) is fast becoming a hot resource for virtual assisting knowledge worldwide. Among their better facets is a page dedicated to articles published on popular websites such as Woman’s World, CNN & Entrepreneur.com about the virtual assisting industry.
Finally, a distinctive type of site can be found in the Virtual Assistant Network Forum (www.vanetworking.com). This site is a volunteer run forum encouraging virtual assistants from all over the world to network. The beauty of this site is that it’s free. All you need to do to access the forums is complete a short registration form.
When you’re ready to begin bidding on jobs, you can also go to frequently used virtual job posting sites including www.guru.com, www.craigslist.com, and www.elance.com.