Although still considered an uncommon profession, the Virtual Assistant role is fast becoming the best recognized choice for companies, particularly web-based companies, to pursue nowadays.|
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is much like a traditional Administrative Assistant in many ways. VA’s handle correspondence, scheduling, customer support, website updates, writing and design projects, data entry – pretty much anything you can think of that an online company would require for their day-to-day operations.
Many parents who want to stay home with their children have opened their own VA Service. It is a perfect career choice for Mothers of young children, or people who must take care of older relatives. You work out of your home office as an independent contractor. Often times the schedule can be quite flexible.
This is an ideal position for women who plan to return to the workforce when their children are older. It will enhance your resume’ and inevitably you improve your old skills and acquire new ones.
Basic skills and equipment you will likely need include the following:
§ Microsoft Office – Excel, Access, Outlook, and Word
§ HTML skills with either Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage
§ Instant Messaging software – ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger
§ Cable Modem or DSL – Dial up is far to slow for the pace most online entrepreneurs are accustomed to working at.
The above aren’t always necessary – but acquiring each and learning to use them will only increase your desirability and worth.
There are many places to start looking for a Virtual Assistant position:
§ one of the easiest places to land your first clients is through an ad placed in your own local classifieds. It seems unlikely – but trust me, there is far less competition for local clients then for jobs being bid on through Internet Job sites.
§ Freelance Job Sites such as elance, smarterwork.com, findafreelancer etc. There is an extensive list of these types of resources here: www.freelancemom.com/gigs.htm
§ Via Freelance, Home Business, or WAHM forums. Virtual Assistants with an established client base often times search for reliable ‘Over-flow Partners’. Forums are an excellent place to network and seek out these types of opportunities.
§ Building your own website. Unless you do some very good website promotion, it isn’t likely you will actually gain clients through a website that you build to promote your service. HOWEVER, you really should have a website. Just as business cards are an expected and valuable piece of your traditional business, websites are like an online business card/resume. You should list your rates, your skills, your availability and your portfolio. A well thought out website will give you the edge when bidding on a position.
When you are applying or bidding on a Freelance position, you must come across as a professional. There is something about the online medium that invites a casual correspondence style. You will do well to avoid this temptation. Save similes, abbreviated internet slang (LOL, IMO etcetera) for later on in your relationship with your client.
Your client needs to trust that you are going to help him/her run their business with professionalism. Your first impression must come across as professional as a traditional cover letter for employment. Be confident and clear in your interactions with them. Ask intelligent questions and be very honest about the time that you have available in your schedule.
I strongly advise all aspiring Virtual Assistants to do an honest assessment of what their career objectives are before they begin seeking out work. It is easy, and common to over extend yourself. If your main goal is to earn a part-time living specifically so that you can put raising your children ahead of your career… then be very clear about that when you begin to take on new work assignments.
Start off slow and add clients or responsibilities for clients gradually. Being too eager to succeed can quickly be your worst downfall. The quickest way to lose a good client is by under-delivering. Make realistic promises. You will gain their respect and their trust. And you will find that as their business grows, they will be more then willing to work around your schedule and needs in order to keep you as a valued independent contractor.
Lori Redfield is a freelancing Mother of three, happy wife and blooming online entrepreneur. She is founder of newly launched http://www.freelancemom.com/ an esource for women who want to work from home.
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