As the employment landscape continues to shift, some job titles are waning in importance, while others are on the rise — among them, virtual assistants. In fact, more than half of the respondents to a 2008 survey by Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce said they’d started their VA businesses in the last two years.
Monday Morning VA owner Dawn Martinello defines a VA as someone who “works off-site and provides administrative and other business support to different types of businesses.” As Caroline Pigott of VIP Assistant Solutions notes, “Clients are happy to find a one-stop shop rather than find someone different for every task,” she says.
Could becoming a VA be a good career move for you?
Virtual Assistant Careers
Administrative activities run the gamut from managing calendars and travel arrangements to planning meetings and doing data entry. VAs schedule appointments, proofread documents, work with invoices, manage logistics for moves and handle mailings.
Creatives do web design, graphic design, desktop publishing and set up blogs.
Marketing assistants work on marketing strategies, manage web site content, handle brochures and advertisements, write and distribute press releases, publish newsletters and create presentations. They also help with social networking, search engine optimization (SEO) research and pay-per-click (PPC) monitoring activities.
Office management involves human resources activities such as managing employee benefits, doing medical research and management, checking references, screening applicants, helping personnel and new hires. Responsibilities may also include financial activities such as bookkeeping, billing and managing payroll.
Combination Most VAs do some combination of some or all of the above activities. Laura Paul, Virtual Administrative Success Solutions, says she’s an administrative assistant, executive assistant, business manager, project manager, sales assistant, marketing assistant and human resources assistant.
Jennifer Goodwin, CEO of Jennifer Goodwin Companies, says, “VAs do it all. A VA can choose to niche in one vertical market or a VA can be a ‘Jane of all Trades’ who specializes in the full spectrum of marketing from traditional print opportunity seeking to the latest web technology and social marketing.”
How to Qualify
The Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce survey reports that almost all of the respondents said they had five or more years of administrative experience, with skills ranging from administration and bookkeeping to web design and marketing. Half of the respondents gained experience on the job while almost 30 percent have VA business training or skills certification.
There are quite a few places offering VA resources, including:
- Alliance for Virtual Businesses
- Canadian Virtual Assistant Connection
- A Clayton’s Secretary (Australia)
- International Association of Virtual Office Assistants
- International Association of Virtual Assistants (UK)
- Online Biz University
- Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce
- Virtual Business U
Several organizations offer certification for VAs, including:
Many VAs rely on as little as a computer, Internet and phone. Of course, they use the usual software for documentation and emailing. Depending on an individual VAs focus, they may use a scanner, time tracking software and invoice services, publishing tools and/or video editing software.
Most VAs find their clients through referrals and social networking sites. Other marketing methods vary; many VAs join organizations and forums, get listed in directories, run email and direct mail campaigns, blog, write articles and more.
Judy Schramm, CEO of Proresource LLC, says, “I recommend specializing, as with any other kind of freelancing. That will help VAs get more and better referrals. It also reduces the cost of marketing and increases the rates you can charge.” Schramm suggests visiting sites that match VAs with clients such as Assistant Match, Virtual Assistant Networking Association (also a business network) and IAVOA’s Directory.
Are you considering a VA career?
Image by stock.xchng user Zanetta Hardy