Becoming a Virtual Assistant

by Liz Folger


Thanks to the Internet there's a new way to make money with your computer. You might be surprised at all the different services you could offer with this new home business. Most people have become familiar with word processors, which usually consists of typing manuscripts, letters, transcription and writing resumes, but the new virtual assistant is like word processing on steroids.

Diana Ennen, has been a home-based word processor now for about 15 years. She started to educate herself about all the possibilities a person has when starting a virtual assistant business. Diana Ennen along with Kelly Poelker, a certified Master Virtual Assistant, just finished writing an ebook called, "A Bizy's Guide: How To Start Your Own Home-Based Virtual Assistant's Business."

So What Exactly Is A Virtual Assistant? Diana Ennen explains, "A virtual assistant, or VA, is a highly skilled professional who provides administrative support and other specialized services to businesses, entrepreneurs, executives, and others who have more work to do than time to do it.

Many VAs work as independent contractors from their own home. VAs use leading edge technology to communicate work assignments via the Internet, e-mail, disk transfer or such traditional methods as regular mail, overnight shipping and even pick-up and delivery in local areas. A VAs services typically include word processing, medical or legal transcription, database management, Internet research, e-mail handling, reminder service, bulk mailings, information processing, and any other tasks typically given to the office secretary. Many VAs also provide web development, design and maintenance, desktop publishing, meeting and event planning, bookkeeping, and business start-up consultations. The services are endless depending upon your knowledge and skills."

Tisha Silvers explains her virtual assistant business as, "One who assists another from literally anywhere in the world. I don't limit it to just business support functions. And I consider the person a few miles down the street to be just as virtual if you don't meet regularly or at all. I have a few of those kinds of clients myself."

How Can You Market This Business? Showing clients how much you can help them as their VA isn't as hard as you think. Julie McMann explains, "Using a virtual assistant allows clients to outsource any projects that can be done from a remote location. It allows them to accomplish more with less time. Since time is so precious to business owners, anything that frees up time and keeps the business moving ahead is extremely valuable. It's also convenient to be able to hire and utilize a virtual assistant whenever you need them. One month you may have more projects than another. It's much less expensive than hiring a full-time employee who doesn't get used to their full potential. Clients also benefit by not having to worry about providing employee benefits such as insurance, 401K, vacations, etc. Finally, office space and equipment are provided at the expense of the virtual assistant, which again saves the client money."

Do You Have What It Takes To Become A Successful VA? Here are some questions to ask yourself when you think about starting your own virtual assistant business:

  • Do you have excellent typing and proofing skills?

  • Do you enjoy helping people?

  • Are you familiar with the Internet and enjoy learning new things about it?

  • Do you already know several people who could utilize your services?

  • Are you capable of making a great income and will stop at nothing to make it happen?

Skills Needed Diana and Kelly explain, "Every virtual assistant has their own unique skills and experience that enables them to start their business. The right skills are those that you have perfected and can perform well. As you further develop your skills, you can expand your service offering.

Skills range from the basics such as typing to highly specialized areas like web design, graphic arts, technical writing, and more. A professional VA will be proficient in the Internet, computers, software, word processing and spreadsheet applications, etc. In addition to the technical skills, a professional VA will have good business management skills as well as knowledge of marketing, advertising, and public relations. Business management skills not only help you in operating your own business, but allows you to aid your clients in running theirs.

VAs must be motivated. You can't get discouraged when you experience minor set-backs. Start fresh each day. If the phone didn't ring yesterday, make it ring today. Failure is not an option. You need to know that you're going to make it and will stop at nothing short."

How Much Can You Make? "Our research shows most pricing is centered around a base price of $25 per hour. However, the rate does depend on the services you provide and also how long you've been in business. Another consideration is the area in which you live. In some areas you will receive more than in others. For example, in south Florida you can charge a better rate in Miami, than say a smaller town like Pompano Beach.

There are different ways in which you can charge for services. By the hour, by the project, by the page, or for something like event planning you could charge a certain percentage of the total event cost. Many VAs offer reduced rates for a monthly retainer option. With a monthly retainer your client commits to a certain number of hours per month at a predetermined rate. If you work less than the committed number of hours you are still paid the same. If you work over the committed number of hours then you would bill the client for the additional hours at that same rate or whatever is agreed upon," says Diana and Kelly.


Liz Folger is a Work-at-Home Expert and author of The Stay-at-Home Mom's Guide to Making Money from Home .

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