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Virtual Assistants


Looking for some help with your business but are convinced that you don’t have enough work to keep someone busy full or even part-time?


The concept of a Virtual Assistant is something you may want to learn more about. I first heard the term a couple of months ago and decided to investigate, even though VAs have been around for a few years now. It seems like a win-win situation both for employers who need extra administrative help and those who are looking for work they prefer to do from their homes.


What exactly is a Virtual Assistant? Even though the term does bring to mind the image of a cartoon character fetching newspapers and coffee, the actual definition is much more practical. According to Stacy Brice, Chief Visionary Officer of AssistU (http://assistu.com/) a VA is “a person who supports a client, across the board, administratively and personally without being geographically present in the client's location.”


A slightly different definition comes from the International Virtual Assistant Association (http://www.ivaa.org/): “A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services. Utilizing advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery, a professional VA assists clients in his/her area of expertise from his/her own office on a contractual basis."


Mary Ann Miller, owner of MaryAnnMiller Communications based in Pittsburgh, has used Virtual Assistants in the past and has been happy with the outcome. “I wanted assistance with some of the administrative tasks that I felt were taking too much time away from providing my clients with the senior level counsel they pay me for. It’s important work, but time consuming.”


“I had my Virtual Assistant sit in on account meetings with my client and me (by phone since she was at her own home) and the assistant then developed the action report that I create after each meeting or phone call,” Mary Ann says.


She feels that VAs can often provide better service than on-site employees. In her case, the VA completed the work and then delivered it. “In this particular circumstance, the work was challenging because the subject matter was not something anyone could easily learn.” Relying on a virtual assistant with that type of expertise made Mary Ann’s job easier and freed her up to do other tasks.


A VA can also provide services such as mailing out requested materials, surfing the Internet for possible business opportunities, answering emails -- many of the day-to-day activities a time-crunched business owner has trouble getting to. Hourly charges for VAs run the gamut from $10 to $12 an hour to upwards of $50 an hour.


With more and more people launching their own businesses, and many of these from their homes, it seems likely that the number of Virtual Assistants will continue to grow. That’s good news for both Baby Boomer entrepreneurs and those who are looking for a second career.


By Teresa K. Flatley



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