There has never been a better time to explore the world of working from home. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world works forcing many of us to not only loose our jobs but also learn new ways of working. While many companies are having their workforce return back to work after the mandatory shutdowns, many others are not so quick to welcome employees back to the office, creating more of a demand for work from home staff than ever before. A lot of brick and mortar businesses who were once just thinking about getting their businesses online have now gone online and they are hiring more and more work from home staff. According to the Global WorkPlace Analytics website, 75 million U.S. employees (56% of the non-self-employed workforce) could work-from-home or currently hold jobs that are compatible with remote work. Many of these skilled individuals may not be eager to return to the workplace or have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and these individuals are now exploring the world of working remotely.
Work From Home Jobs
Individuals who work from home are often referred to as Virtual Assistants. Prior to the pandemic, many skilled workers worked at home as virtual assistants. A virtual assistant is essentially an independent contractor who provides services to individuals and small and medium sized businesses via the internet. The field of virtual assistance is extremely broad and can involve skills ranging from basic office skills to more specialized skills like email and calendar management and social media specialist. Those who possess specialized skills can make much more money than those who possess basic office skills such as word processing and typing. However, all types of virtual assistance is currently in demand and growing. Some jobs you can do from home that are currently in the most demand are blogging, email marketer, video editor, bookkeepers, tech support specialists, customer service representatives, project managers, author assistants and event specialists. There is also demand for virtual administrative assistants who can assist clients, manage calendars and email, plan travel arrangements, do advanced document preparation, create spreadsheets, manage and generate expense reports, take meeting minutes and project coordination.
What Does It Take to Work from Home?
The Work from Home industry is rapidly growing and more businesses are hiring virtual assistants as a cost effective way to get many tasks done and expand their productivity. This means more and more people are making their a dream of working at home a reality. While there is little formal education requirements to become a virtual assistant, in order to be a successful work at home entrepreneur, you will need more than just the job skills to handle the services you will be offering your clients. You need to possess three essential characteristics that will be the key to your success and set you apart from others.
- Business and Entrepreneurial Skills – You will need the business savvy to start and run your own business and the skills to find, get & keep clients. As a business owner, all the decision making will come down to you so you have to be good at planning and organizing, setting office policies and procedures and setting and keeping goals. Whole courses exist on just this subject and involve choosing your business name, business structure, business licensing, financing and marketing your business.
- Hard Skills – You need the hard skills mentioned above like word processing, spreadsheets and email and calendar management to perform the job and provide the services you’re offering. To be really effective, you should have at least two years of experience behind you. Knowledge of the Google docs, word templates, online calendars and cloud services like OneDrive or DropBox are a must. It will be virtually impossible to convince anyone to hire you if you have absolutely no office skills or office experience at all.
- Soft Skills – You will need soft skills (personal qualities) also called people skills that enable you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. These include problem solving, communication skills, listening skills, organizational skills and emotional intelligence such as the ability to show empathy to others. Also, the ability to be adaptable and flexible is a necessary soft skill in todays ever changing job climate. As soft skills are considered just as, if not more, important than hard skills, many employers today are requiring Soft Skills Training for their employees.
Work from Home Equipment
Renting office space can be expensive so setting up a nice home office will be much less overhead and easier on your budget. While it’s possible to sit on the couch and work with a laptop, you will feel much more professional and comfortable if you have a dedicated room in your home or a space in a room where you can have a desk, chair and any other equipment you need. Even if you don’t have a dedicated office space, set up an area in your home for:
- A computer with the ability to connect to the Internet. If you’re purchasing one from scratch, make sure you get one with a good amount of RAM Memory and a good size hard drive.
- Wireless/High Speed Internet Connection – The extra money you spend on bandwidth will actually save you a lot of time as you will be uploading and downloading a lot.
- Email Account – Do not use your personal email account for your business and be sure to use a professional email name.
- Telephone – A powerful smart phone with a separate number for your business.
- Office Suite Software – MS Office or free open source software like Open Office, Libre Office or Office for the Web.
- Invoicing Software – Quicken or Quick books. Excel will do fine to start with.
- Online Cloud Storage – OneDrive, Drop Box or Google Drive
- Calendar Management such as Google Calendar and Outlook
Work at Home Virtual Staffing Agencies
While many virtual assistants choose to run their own business as independent contractors, many prefer to work as subcontractors for one or several of the many virtual assistant staffing agencies. This is often a good solution for those just starting out in the virtual assistant business as they can essentially hit the road running without all the overhead involved in starting a brand new business. Even if a virtual assistant is starting their own business, working for a virtual staffing agency is a good way to gain some experience working with clients and getting a feel for what it is like to work at home.
These jobs typically pay by the hour at a significantly lower rate than if one started their own business but it does alleviate the need to spend money on marketing, website creation and other expenses involved in building a client base.
The following are just some of the companies that offer online virtual assistant services and hire virtual assistants for a variety of tasks. Hourly pay for virtual assistant jobs varies depending on skills, experience and seniority. While you’ll find your office skills are in demand at most of these companies, there are also a variety of other skills in demand from managing Zoom meetings to digital marketing and social media jobs.
- Zirtual – This is US based company that is seeking only US-based applicants and only accepting applications for the positions and locations posted under their careers section. They only accept college-educated virtual assistants who live in the United States and their hiring process tends to be tough but if you meet the qualifications, it could be worth a try.
- upwork – Upwork is unique in that it lets you run your own business and choose your own clients and projects. All you need to do is complete your profile, search for projects, and respond to client invitations. Upwork recommends that individuals create a great profile and submit a compelling job proposal for any work you’re interested in. Upwork does charge a service fee, taken as a percentage of your earnings.
- Belay – Belay hires Virtual Assistants, Bookkeepers, Web Specialists and Social Media Strategists. They tend to post their available positions on their website, Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkUp, ZipRecruiter, Monster, Facebook, Flexjobs, Remote.co, and Virtual Vocation.
- Flexjobs – A lot of companies advertise remote, work from home jobs on Flexjobs.
- Careerbuilder – Search for Virtual Assistant and you will see several jobs appear such as Virtual Executive Assistant, Virtual Office Assistant, Virtual Customer Support Assistant, Remote Data Entry jobs and more.
The continual trend towards outsourcing, company downsizing and more brick and mortar companies going online brings huge opportunities for those individuals with the skills and the drive to seize the moment and make their work at home dreams a reality.