Technology has spawned a lot of jobs and not all of them are in the tech industry. Today is International Virtual Assistant Day. Yes, there are enough of them to proclaim a day. In fact, they are having a convention as we write this.
There was no such thing as a virtual assistant before 1996. According to virtualassistant.org, that was when Life Coach Thomas Leonard mentioned the phrase to Stacy Brice, an entrepreneur who took that tag and ran with it. She started a very successful business called Virtual Assistant in 1997. There are others who claim to have been the first, but that is the way it goes in business.
Of course there could be no virtual assistants without a virtual world! The fine people in this occupation usually work from home and provide administrative assistance to clients. This could include technical and creative services.
Virtual assistants usually work as independent contractors. Many small to mid size businesses use virtual assistants because it is cost effective if they don’t have enough work for a full time employee.
If you are considering starting your own business as a virtual assistant you need to make sure that you have the qualifications and diligence to work on your own. You should have at least a few years of administrative experience under your belt. It doesn’t hurt to be a good sales person, because you will be marketing yourself and your business.
A virtual assistant has to be familiar with the following:
- Microsoft Office Suite knowledge, especially Word and Excel
- Photoshop or other imaging skills
- Knowledge of WordPress or other blogging platforms
- Business and creative writing skills
- Great research skills and web savvy
- Basic bookkeeping skills
- Fast typing skills
- Good communication skills
- Time management skills
- Organizational skills and the ability to prioritize
- Good networker with a pleasant and approachable demeanor
- Negotiation skills
As well as all of these attributes, you have to have the right equipment and processes in place:
- A quiet home office
- Good Internet and phone connections
- A computer, obviously, but preferably more than one in case of failure
- The latest innovative software to help you do your job
- A printer, scanner, fax machine
- Typical office supplies
- A pet to keep you company – you are going to be alone all day. (optional) That way, when you are talking to yourself, you can say you were talking to the dog. Just make sure it isn’t a dog that barks when you are on the phone with clients. Some people can handle working alone, some can’t.
There are all kinds of software programs that will help you to do your job more effectively. If you are working for creative clients, they may want someone who knows Photoshop or other photo editing software programs. You may have to put together brochures or newsletters, so you should have a good eye for layout. PowerPoint presentations are often requested by clients. Many clients will want you to PDF their files.
There are other clients who will send you PDF files and want you to use information in those documents in newsletters or other correspondence.
All virtual assistants must know Excel. You will be using it a lot for calendars, invoicing and contacts. A PDF to Excel converter allows you to take those PDF files and convert them to a spreadsheet so that you can more easily create the documents that your clients are looking for. You’ll also be saving precious ink and paper. When you have to pay for it yourself, you’ll realize just how much this adds up.
As long as you have the experience, ability to work on your own and the right tools, a virtual assistant business can be wonderful way to start your own company with little investment and low overhead. You will be your own boss, you won’t have to commute and you’ll have job satisfaction.