A real demand for virtual assistants

By Laura Raines, for the AJC

Twelve years ago, the field of virtual assisting hardly existed. “Today, the industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and in the next 10 years I think we’ll see a huge explosion in these services,” said Cindy Opong, owner of Creative Assistants in Colorado Springs, Colo., and president of the International Virtual Assistants Association.
The field is growing on both sides of the supply and demand equation.

Jonathan Bill

Jonathan Bill is the president of Sound Business Services, Inc. in Austell. Photo by Leita Cowart, for the AJC.

“More people are leveraging their administrative, creative, technology or financial skills to start their own virtual assistant businesses, and more large and small companies are in need of their services,” Opong said.

She’s seen her association’s membership and jobs board increase in the past several years.

Virtual assistants perform administrative duties and other tasks from home on a contractual basis for business clients. They command roughly $20 to $75 an hour, depending on geographic location, personal circumstance and skills.

“A company can hire multiple virtual assistants to do different types of tasks, like office management, Web site design or accounting,” Opong said.

For streamlined companies, the arrangement provides considerable cost savings. A virtual assistant is not an on-site employee, so employers aren’t paying for a salary, benefits, office space or equipment, said Jonathan Bill, virtual assistant and owner of Sound Business Services Inc. in Austell.

“They only pay an hourly rate for the tasks performed,” he said.

Bill took his accounting expertise and other skills virtual in 2006 when he saw a good market in helping small businesses that couldn’t afford a full-time accountant. He provides accounting, payroll, desktop publishing, technology troubleshooting and other services to a variety of clients. He’s also a QuickBooks ProAdviser. Bill uses a computer service that allows him to work remotely on his clients’ computers, or he uses his own computer and faxes or e-mails the results.

“It takes a lot of stress off small-business owners to have someone else taking care of their books. I let them focus on what they do best by doing what I do best,” he said. “I love helping them grow their businesses and establish a more professional image.”

Virtual assisting is a relatively inexpensive small business to start. All one needs is a computer, Internet service, office equipment, some marketable skills — and an entrepreneurial spirit.

“If you’re the type who likes the stability of a paycheck and 8-to-5 job, this isn’t for you,” Bill said. “You have to find clients and keep them. Every client is different, so you have to be flexible and have the character and perseverance to accomplish what he or she needs done. The juggling can be hard, but if you work hard, you could make more money in the long run.”

Having worked with her colleagues virtually at Earthlink for eight years, becoming a virtual assistant wasn’t a big jump for Lindsey Schocke, owner of Geeks on Tap in Acworth. She offers newsletter writing, e-mail organization, search-engine optimization and technology support to small business owners, many of whom are business coaches.

“Clients soon realize that a VA can do the job quicker than hiring and training a temporary employee,” Schocke said. “I never know what I’ll be asked to do next. The smaller the business, the more likely they’ll need help with multiple tasks. When you complete a project that has been bothering a client for weeks, there’s always a virtual smile.”

Before starting her Philadelphia-based business, Virtual Business Acceleration LLC, in April, Shari Graham took the 20-week certification with AssistU, a virtual training institution for virtual assistants. She had taken early retirement as a project manager with Verizon when it cut her division.

“I had such a strong skill set from my corporate work, but AssistU taught me how to start and run a micro-business,” she said.

She’s found that being a virtual assistant requires good communication, customer service, project management, networking and organization skills in addition to the skills she supplies to clients. She knows it will take time and hard work to build her business.

“But I love working with different clients, being able to partner with them to help their business,” she said. “Having an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life is very satisfying. I’m so glad I found this industry.”

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174 comments Add your comment

T Freeman

August 3rd, 2009
9:32 pm

How can I take advantage of this.

byron

August 3rd, 2009
9:35 pm

I want to know some more information about becoming a va and where can I apply for a job ?

Charles Caldwell

August 3rd, 2009
9:35 pm

I am very interested in the Virtual Assistant business. I would like to find out more about this busines.
Any information that can be provided would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your support, Charles

Antionette Tate

August 3rd, 2009
9:53 pm

Hi. Thanks for the article. I am interested in learning more about VA opportunities. Please forward me any information that will help me on my journey. Peace and Blessings

Antionette Tate

August 3rd, 2009
9:54 pm

Enter your comments here

Amara Wheatley

August 3rd, 2009
11:31 pm

I am very interested please send me any information available. Thank you

darryle canyon

August 3rd, 2009
11:41 pm

How can I take advantage of this seemingly wonderful opportunity?

Diane Nichols-Paul/ Georgia

August 4th, 2009
12:32 am

I am Virtual Assistant with over eighteen years as an Administrative Assistant / Coordinator. I have the skill and knowledge to direct complex projects from concept to fully operational status. My wide range of experience in administration within the medical field as well as in the private and financial sectors have allowed me to manage and operate my own business. I am also a student member of the International Special Events Society (ISES) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and hold a certificate in Event Coordination. I would love more information on this opportunity.
Diane N.P.

Shanne

August 4th, 2009
7:24 am

How soon can I sign up and is there a fee for this service.

Bubba

August 4th, 2009
7:24 am

What a load of huey!

Alexis

August 4th, 2009
8:13 am

This sounds like an awesome opportunity. I have been seeking a part-time position, and this seems like it would work for me. I am in the bilingual (spanish/english) administration/translation field. Any further info would be greatly appreciated.

Dorothy McMichael

August 4th, 2009
8:38 am

I very interested in the virtual assistant business. Please advise with more information on the Virtual Assistant. I am retired from Xerox Corp with 30 years. I have experience as an Administrative Assistant, Event Planning, Telephone Supply Sales Rep, and Billing Coordinator. I would love the opportunity to work with this group.

Veronica Adkins

August 4th, 2009
8:49 am

I woudl be interested in getting more information about Virtural Assistant. I have a back ground in sales and administravtive support and customer service. Please send me additional information.
Thanks

Angela Buchanan

August 4th, 2009
9:00 am

I am very interested in the VA business. Please email me more information about it. I’ve been thinking about a home-based business for a while. Thanks a lot.

Chris Merritt

August 4th, 2009
9:35 am

Love it. How do I get started?

Eugenia Quimby

August 4th, 2009
9:43 am

Thank you for the email, have a medical and aviation background,would love to learn more.
Eugenia

Mary Motz

August 4th, 2009
10:16 am

I’ve been working in my own virtual services business since since 2002…and there’s a LOT of bad info out there about virtual assistance and virtual professionals. So to that end, I just want to make two quick points:

1. If you are a company looking for help – do not expect to find a skilled and reliable VA to work for $20 an hour (Tim Ferris’ “The Four Hour Work Week” steered you wrong, sorry). Skill and professionalism will demand an appropriate rate (which is more cost-effective anyway, given the skill and professionalism you would get) ;-) . Bottom line: a VAs are a *cost-effective* alternative to employees, not a *cheapie* one.

2. To anyone thinking of becoming a VA… you have to start a VA business. You don’t look for VA “jobs” – you start a business – and you market yourself and sell your services to clients. Again – VA is not a JOB it is a BUSINESS. If you aren’t turned on by the idea by owning a business, please don’t get into this field, you won’t be happy.

Thanks for the article and discussion!

Melody McIntosh

August 4th, 2009
10:49 am

I too am interested in becoming an AA. What is the best way to break into this business? Thanks for any and all advice.

Alicia C. Anderson

August 4th, 2009
10:52 am

I am a SQL Server Database Administrator with strong Administrative and Technical Customer Support experience. This would be perfect for me. Please send information. Thanks for the artical.

Chuck Gosen

August 4th, 2009
11:37 am

I have over 20 years of accounting and busines experience. Would someone please provide me with the information on how to get started.

Thank you, Chuck Gosen

Tanya Bell

August 4th, 2009
11:46 am

I love this article. I have been thinking about doing something like this. Please give me more information; how to start, what skils may be useful, etc? I have been doing administrative work for over 30 years. Right now I am office manager for three Psychologists. I do everything including medical billing. I also have very many other skills that may be useful to small businesses.
Thank you in advance for giving me the information I need.

Scott Risley

August 4th, 2009
12:49 pm

Im a stay at home dad that has been doing ebay for the past 5 years.
I need more now that ebay is slowing down.
I have cable high speed access, 2 computers to work with, I am internet and pc savy and ready to work!
24/7 – ready to work, email me people.

Carmen Bussell

August 4th, 2009
2:26 pm

I am interested in becoming an Virtual Assistant. I have a background in Customer Service Representative and Administrative Assistant. Please send me information and companies that are seeking Virtual Assistants.

Thank you.

S P

August 4th, 2009
3:13 pm

I am very interested in the VA business. Please email me more information about it. I’ve been considering doing this on a part-time basis for a while.

Wynne Vance

August 4th, 2009
5:01 pm

Great article! I’ve been a virtual assistant for one national company in the Atlanta area for 9 1/2 years and was recently laid off. I am now seriously working my own virtual assistant business. Your article is very encouraging, and I would appreciate your sending me information regarding virtual assistant business setup and the IVAA.

Thank you so much.

Bruce Huff

August 4th, 2009
7:57 pm

I have a computer with internet access. I have strong proofreading, data entry, legal research & writing, criminal record researching, organization, and communication skills. Please send me detailed information on the VA business.

Thank you very much,
Bruce Huff

Jennifer W

August 5th, 2009
1:11 am

To those that are interested in doing VA work, I started doing this a few months ago. And I too love it. it’s good for a full-time if you have the ability but it’s also good for supplemental income as well. Go online to a site called Odesk, it is a site that puts VAs in different skillsets together with different businesses/people who need our help. I love it and have gained a few long term clients in the interim. Good luck!

Linda Hobart

August 5th, 2009
9:23 am

I am very interested in doing this. Would you please send me any information and links on the subject. Thanks!

Allegra R. Anderson

August 5th, 2009
11:26 am

I am a retired person and would like to earn a little extra money. I have an iMac 10.5, a printer, scanner, and access to a fax. How do I find out about existing openings?

Allegra R. Anderson

August 5th, 2009
11:29 am

I am a retired person interested in earning some extra money. I have an iMac 10.5, a printer, scanner, and access to a fax. Can you tell me how I can find out about any existing job opportunities?

Alana Crane Daveduk

August 5th, 2009
12:21 pm

I am also a freelance Virtual Assistant. My background includes marketing, administrative, advanced commputer skills (love excel) and orgainzation. I assist small business owners with brainstorming, organizing, flowing the workflow they don’t enjoy and taking their marketing plan to a more efficient level- which includes the use of social marketing and internet research. I am in Ohio and also just love to network and learn from others.

Alana Crane Daveduk

August 5th, 2009
12:24 pm

Contact me via Facebook.

Stacy Brice

August 5th, 2009
12:27 pm

To further what Mary said–Virtual Assistance is about admins owning their own businesses, usually running them from home offices, and working in long-term and collaborative relationships with clients (not employers).

There *is* a real demand for VAs. And you can look, but you won’t find reliable (non-scam) “jobs” for VAs. That’s simply not how it works.

But if you’re interested in owning your own small business, and controlling your own destiny (self-employment, btw, is the only way to provide real security for yourself–you will never be secure as long as someone can yank your job out from under you at whim) while providing high-end administrative services to clients, becoming a Virtual Assistant may just be right for you.

To get more info on this terrific profession, check into the leading industry networking sites: VANetworking.com, and VirtualAssistantForums.com. And if you don’t value having to reinvent the wheel, and *would* value getting industry-specific training, soup to nuts–everything you need to start, grow, and sustain a business as a Virtual Assistant–take a look at my company, AssistU.com. We formalized this profession in 1997 and are the world-leader in training top-notch VAs, and connecting them to top-notch clients.

Paris

August 5th, 2009
3:23 pm

Has anyone been able to get more details on these opportunities. I would appreciate it if you would let me know.

Margaret Harris

August 5th, 2009
4:07 pm

Please send me information as to how to become a virtual assistant. I would love to do this type of work. I love helping people, and have worked in customer service many years.

Thank you for the wonderful article.

Tamara

August 5th, 2009
5:53 pm

This article was very much needed for me. I am currently looking to get into this business ASAP. I have Medical Billing, Collections, Account Receivable and Marketing skills. I am in corporate however my passion is to help small businesses with their business. I am a single mom and my ultimate goal is to work from my home office. As I’ve retreived some useful information from this site I am in desperate need of any information VA’s actively working can provide to me. Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.

Tamara

August 5th, 2009
6:01 pm

Thank you Stacy Brice for your information. Can you please contact me via email to discuss further. I will visit your website as well. Thanks

Delores Parr

August 5th, 2009
7:07 pm

I was downsized out of my job as Contracts Manager for a civil engineering consulting firm in 2008. I have a solid background in contract administration, program development and business management. I would love to know more about the VA field and how I can started as well. Please advise.

Thank you so much…!

Sondra Jacob

August 6th, 2009
2:29 am

I am a certified bookkeeper, MBA and experienced income tax preparer seeking work at home opportunities as a virtual assistant. I would appreciate any information you can provide to assist me in this endeavor.

Thank you very much!

Nika Wilson

August 7th, 2009
12:29 pm

I would love to have additional information on becoming a VA. I am what they call a jack of all trades!
and love to learn and do many things.

Rosalee Sanderson

August 7th, 2009
12:42 pm

I am happy about the article you wrote and would like more information on becoming a VA. I have read several articles on the topic, strated researching but unable to find the connecting link. Please let me know how I can offer my skills and expertise in the Administrative Assistant field to a small business.

Shanna

August 7th, 2009
4:05 pm

not to sound like everyone else but I too would really like more info on this. I have plenty of computer skills and have touched a little with working from home kind of stuff. Currently the field I work in is suffering miserably from economy and I do not see my town recovering soon. Thank you for any input.

Sharon

August 7th, 2009
4:19 pm

How do you go about starting a virtual assist business. Please let me know

Rebekah Brinson

August 7th, 2009
5:12 pm

I am trying to find ways ro break into this line of work. How do you find employment when your funds are limited?

Andrea

August 7th, 2009
5:38 pm

Great article but will there be a follow up with information providing a course of action to proceed in VA?

Vida Buckner

August 8th, 2009
2:00 am

How can someone become a VA?

PCarruthers

August 9th, 2009
9:13 am

This IS a great article. Those of you anxious and ready to work at home potential VAs need to understand that becoming a VA is like building any business. You have to build your client base; usually the wedge between a successful business and an unsuccessful business. You must market well and hard, and anticipate gaining customers one-by-one and slowly. If you don’t like sales, the grunt work in building all businesses, this certainly isn’t for you. If you’ve never embarked in MLMs or attempted a business venture, I suggest you attend a great deal of workshops first. Don’t quit your day job yet! You gotta love risk-taking and have passion and faith, especially if this will be your primary gig.

Carli Hawkins

August 9th, 2009
9:43 pm

I would also like more information please.

Nancy

August 11th, 2009
2:39 pm

I am very interested in this, I do a lot of accounting from home, however I need the help in marketing new clients.
Thanks for the info

Kim

August 12th, 2009
6:18 pm

I’m very interested in the Virtual Assistant business. Please send me all the great information about this opportunity. I’ve work in healthcare field for over 15 yrs.