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.”

Note to readers: Please refrain from including your email address or phone number in the text of your blog post responses. They will be removed. Thank you.

174 comments Add your comment

Dessaire

August 13th, 2009
9:23 pm

It’s nice to see all the postings of us Techies looking for such an opportunity–but is there an answer to our questions: “How do we get the job…?” Give up the information already!! We are READY TO ROLL with it—-

Carol LaRussa

August 14th, 2009
11:04 pm

I would be interested in becoming a VA. I work full-time as an administrative assistant and would like to create some extra income in my spare time.

Thanks, Carol LaRussa

Amanda Dufries

August 17th, 2009
7:51 am

Great article. The VA business has blossomed. Becoming a VA is the best thing I have ever done for myself, my family, and my community. I am able to work from home, successfully balancing my career & family life in a way that helps me be successful at both, all while I am serving the community and helping others! http://www.virtuallysupportivesolutions.com

Michael

August 17th, 2009
9:49 am

This is a great article and I am glad to see that the Virtual Assistance Industry is beginning to get the attention it needs and deserves. I just read another great article about setting your VA rates that should be very useful to readers of this post. Setting your professional fees can be a frightening thing to do and this article addresses much of that angst.
http://virtualassistanceuniversity.com/how-to-set-your-virtual-assistant-professional-rates/

Diana

August 18th, 2009
12:18 pm

How Can I get started?

Glenda Howison

August 20th, 2009
1:33 am

I am a single mom and need to home school my three year old, as well as the quest to complete my degree on line in Business Administration. I am available immediately to begin and can type 100words a minute. Hook me up people…770-866-9168

Shari Sultana

August 20th, 2009
12:21 pm

This is such a great article. I began my Internet Marketing Virtual Assistant practice in 2007 with not much more than a drive to succeed. Less than 2 years later I operate a very successful mulit-VA business specializing in assisting small business HubSpot customers. We implement the inbound marketing methodology for them. The Virtual Assistant Forums are a great place for new and aspiring virtual assistants to learn about the business.
http://www.modernmarketingsupport.com

Jeff Machado

August 20th, 2009
11:23 pm

If I had to share one secret about getting started as a VA for all the people reading this article, I would suggest learning about the marketing techniques that are time tested and effective. Apply them to the VA world, get some results, and then you’ll have even more ways to bring in clients.

Also, don’t be afraid of forming strategic partnerships. If you see someone doing what you admire, contact them. Offer to help out in any way you can. Participate on their blog and show interest – if you keep on coming around, they’ll find work for you to do for sure. There’s so many wonderful opportunities out there that you could start pursuing today even.

Always be willing to learn and put yourself out there.

http://www.youroutstandingva.com

Paula Davis

August 29th, 2009
2:44 am

I am interested in becoming a virtual assistant.

[...] AJC Blog Break: A real demand for virtual assistants [...]

Lindsey Schocke

September 18th, 2009
6:03 am

I really enjoyed chatting with Laura Raines about being a virtual assistant. If you have questions or comments about becoming a VA, I would be happy to help. You can find me at http://geeksontap.wordpress.com/

Carla Still ~ Virtual Assistant

September 25th, 2009
11:00 am

Virtual Harvest ~ Virtually Assisting You With Your Harvest

Having birthed my business in Colorado over 3 years ago, I am now raising it up in Georgia. This article was very well written. I offer general administrative services and I greatly appreciate the growing recognition and PR for virtual assistants. Many are still learning about the VA business, so thank you for publishing this article.

ms t

October 1st, 2009
9:41 pm

how would i get into virtual assisting?

Elena Morgan

October 6th, 2009
5:06 am

What Would You Do With More Free Time?

http://www.taskescape.com/

Teresa Jackson

January 7th, 2010
4:46 pm

It is great to see an article that explains how we as virtual assistants help companies. I started my virtual assistant business in 2002. Thank you for your article.

Joseph Kocovsky

January 14th, 2010
2:53 pm

Unemployed too long. Looking at various at-home opportunities with care. Very much interested in becoming a VA. Have been in Information Technology all my life.

harvey

May 6th, 2010
2:26 am

Wow…thanks for this post. very informative for VA like me.

http://www.secretstaff.com

TONY SCOTT

June 11th, 2010
2:18 pm

It was a very interesting topic, its all about virtual assistant it gives our business more easy and quick with better pay.

Kerry

June 28th, 2010
5:28 am

Hi,

You have a nice blog. We are UK based team of quality virtual assistants providing online marketing and business support to coaches, consultants and trainers. Please visit us at ukvirtualassistant.co.uk. We would like hear your feedback.

Amy

June 28th, 2010
12:41 pm

http://www.stayathomemominfo.com
Virtual assistants require someone who is self motivated, kind of similiar to taking online classes. What you put out, you will get in return. I have a website that has valuable information on virtual assistant jobs…check if out if you get a chance.
-Thanks,
Amy

[...] Virtual Assistant, a virtual assistant is an assistant that works for a company from their home. A virtual assistant would be nice for someone who could setup their own home office, there are many virtual assistant jobs available for stay at home moms and the income potential is between $25-$35/hour. Some job duties include: secretarial like services such as word processing, communication, marketing, website publishing, bookkeeping, etc.  Qualifications include: ability to meet deadlines, computer and office skills, good communication, ability to become motivated and take the initiative. [...]

[...] I recently spoke with Luara Raines of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and am pleased with this latest article about the Virtual Assistant industry. Check it out and let me know what you [...]

get a virtual assist

August 26th, 2010
11:03 pm

there are different online avenues for sending newsletters and depending on how much you want to spend, your virtual assistant can find something to suit your budget preferences. virtual assistant can handle all subscribe and unsubscribe requests, put your newsletter together and send it out as required, including handle all advertising requests and billing arrangements.

virtual assistant firm

September 2nd, 2010
11:40 pm

Nice post.The role of a VA is to support someone with a big vision.

Thank you for posting this .