Are you tired of the daily commute and the dull drums of doing the same tasks over and over again? Would you like more flexibility and control over your time and be able to work independently from you home? How about becoming your own boss while running your own business and being able to set your own pay rate and schedule? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be a ripe candidate for transitioning out of corporate life and becoming a virtual office professional or virtual assistant as they are more commonly known.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant (VA) is an independent contractor who provides services to individuals and small and medium sized businesses via the internet. As virtual assistants only charge for the hours they work, more and more self-employed individuals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners across all industries are reaping huge savings and benefits by hiring them. These benefits include increased productivity, savings in office real estate space, employee benefits, training and more.
Jobs requiring virtual office skills include the virtual office assistant, virtual administrative assistant, virtual executive assistant, virtual secretary and virtual office manager. Virtual assistants have skills and knowledge in many different areas and often choose a specific skill or niche that they are good at to specialize in. While these skills are by no means limited to office skills, as a Virtual Office Assistant, Virtual Administrative Assistant or Virtual Executive Assistant, you’ll find your office skills are in big demand especially in the following areas
Virtual Office Skills
- Managing calendars, email and voice mail
- Designing and creating PowerPoint presentations
- Word processing and document creation including creating newsletters, letters, memos, press releases, flyers, brochures, letterhead, resumes, cover letters and more
- Spreadsheet Design and Modifications especially the more advanced features including the use of Lookup functions and Macros.
- Data Entry
- Database Management using software such as Microsoft Access
- Mail Merge and bulk mailings
- Bookkeeping using software such as Quickbooks
- Knowledge of basic office procedures
- Proof Reading
- Proficiency in Keyboarding
- Electronic Filing and records management
- Maintaining Contact Lists
Many virtual assistants also offer specialized services in many other fields including
- Internet and Market Research
- Desktop Publishing/Graphic Design
- Website Design and Maintenance
- Blogging and Social Media
In addition to the technical skills listed above, virtual assistants need to possess certain business and interpersonal skills in order to be a success during their transition from employee to business owner. These include:
- Good project and time management skills
- Knowledge of online file sharing and storage devices such as Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Docs
- Basic knowledge of Bookkeeping/Accounting
- Good business communication skills for dealing with clients
- Office procedures for organizing your clients forms, policies and procedures
- Knowledge of social networking and marketing
- Knowledge of how to create an effective web presence
Virtual Assistant Training
While a college degree or formal training isn’t a requirement to be a virtual assistant, some colleges are now offering the Virtual Office Professional as a major concentration. These programs not only prepare students in the latest office software and emerging technologies but also teach them the skills to create, market and manage a virtual office. While most of these certificate and AS Degree programs are currently not offered online, the colleges leading the wave are Portland Community College, Stark State College, Sierra College, Merced College and Southwestern College.
If you already have training and experience in office skills, but lack the necessary knowledge of how to to create, market and manage your virtual office, there are many books, ebooks and shorter courses available such as the FabJob Guide to Become a Virtual Assistant (FabJob Guides) or the six week course offered by iap College.
Virtual Assistant Jobs
The hourly pay for independent virtual assistants varies depending on experience and the type of services offered and can range anywhere from $25.00 to $100.00 an hour. If the prospect of starting your own virtual office seems somewhat overwhelming at first, you may want to consider working for one of the already established virtual staffing agencies. While there are many to choose from, some of the better known ones include Zirtual, eaHELP, upwork, elance, and virtualassistantjobs.com. Keep in mind that the pay will be significantly lower as you will be sharing your hourly fee with the agency.