Starting a Virtual Assistant Business From Home

by WorkFromHome on December 11, 2011

The recent economic downturn has forced many companies to cut costs and consider outsourcing what were once office-based positions to professionals who work from home. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the burgeoning virtual assistant market. Where these positions were once called an “Administrative Assistant” and based in offices or cubicles, they are now increasingly given to people who work from a home-based office. So, how do you enter this business and increase your chances of success among a competitive group of professionals?

Make Sure You Have the Relevant Set of Skills

The qualifications for being hired as a virtual assistant are often no different from those required of a traditional administrative or executive assistant. You will need to make sure you have excellent typing skills — often upwards of 100 words per minute. And you’ll want to make sure you know how to use Microsoft Office applications, time management and scheduling tools, printers, scanners, and fax machines. You may also be required to bring some unique 21st-century skills to the table: blog posting, web designing, or text messaging. And you’ll be required to present a confident and friendly phone presence just as any typical office would require.

But these skills are only the ones which help you successfully perform in a job once it is secured. Because a virtual assistant is a self-employed, home niche business owner, they will also be required to excel in marketing, advertising, and management skills. They will be responsible for managing their own time, money, and skills — and failure to do so will only decrease profits, the chances of finding a position, and the chances of keeping it.

Research the Appropriate Rates for Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants are typically paid on an hourly basis, but only for work they perform. For this reason, the home-based version of an administrative assistant is often paid in billable hours rather than by a full-time salary. Make sure to research every prospective position and check into how much they pay per billable hour, and whether or not they offer any kind of bonus structure or employee benefits. Many companies will require a virtual assistant to pay for their own benefit options — like health and dental plans — separately and independently, but some may offer plans or subsidies that help increase the overall net income of a virtual assistant. Don’t settle for inferior compensation, and always be aware of your value as a professional. Working from home is not an excuse to settle for sub-par compensation.

Set Up an Appropriate Home Office

Succeeding as a virtual assistant means creating an office at home that can compete with the office where you’re providing assistance. That means you’ll need to have a functioning computer with all of the relevant software — from Microsoft Office products to time management and scheduling applications. And you’ll need a functioning printer, scanner, copier, and fax machine. All of these tasks will likely be required of you, and failure to have the appropriate equipment will reduce your chances of getting hired or maintaining equipment. You will also need an appropriate phone system — either landline or wireless, depending on each company’s requirements. And having adequate desk space cannot be overstated, as you will still be responsible for the company’s basic functions and paperwork.

Pursue Employment Opportunities Confidently

With these considerations and requirements having been met, it’s time to pursue the virtual assistant job market with confidence. Remember that working from home gives you the ability to earn a stable, full-time income with the stress that a boss would place on you in a traditional office. You’ll feel better about your work and, best of all, you’ll know that your employer needs you just as much as they needed their traditional administrative assistants.

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