{Virtual Assistant: Your Perfect Home Business

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Do you want to start a home business with the technology knowledge you have and/or do you possess good secretarial skills? If so being a Virtual assistant just might be the right home business for you.

Virtual assistants are independent entrepreneurs who work remotely and use technology to deliver services to clients globally doing various clerical and administrative tasks for individuals and companies. So you can work from your home offices and receive their project instructions by phone, fax, e-mail or even instant message. Although many virtual assistants offer secretarial services, as more people with diverse backgrounds and skills enter the this business, virtual assistants who specialize in such areas as marketing, graphic and Web design, IT support or even translations are becoming more common.

So why do these clients want the services of a Virtual Assistant? Clients are most likely to hire virtual assistants to save money-virtual assistants pay for their own equipment, taxes, training, healthcare and insurance-or because they need help with a temporary project. Industries most often hiring virtual assistants include the real estate, coaching, financial services, accounting and legal.

The online revolution has made this business possible. Essentially, you can do everything from your office that you might do at a worksite - except perhaps greet guests and make coffee! You would be your own boss and could have flexibility in scheduling and in choosing what kinds of work to accept.

What you need:
A computer with Internet access (preferably high-speed).
A business phone line (and some companies may want you to add a separate line to answer their calls).
A printer
A fax machine
Office space

Essential Skills
Successful virtual assistants are good at organizing, planning, scheduling, communication, writing, and dealing with people. Just like any good administrative assistant, your job would be to handle projects and tasks requested by the company or person who contracts your services. Your computer skills should be excellent and should include word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and of course emailing, instant messaging and internet navigation.

How to Start
As with any home-based business, check with your local government about business licensing requirements. Typically, your state or county officials can help you get up and running.

There are many certification programs available that may be helpful to you in establishing your credibility and getting clients. Examples include AssistU, IVAA and VACertification.com. These sites can also give you tips on running your virtual assistant business.

Here's how you can grow
Small businesses and individuals are good targets for your services. Entrepreneurs often do not have time to do many of the clerical tasks that must be done and need help. Examples are business start-ups, other home-based businesses, attorneys, independent real estate and insurance agents, and even writers and artists.

To market your virtual assistant business, you need a resume with good references. Prior administrative experience is definitely a plus. In fact, one of your first clients could be your former employer.

Make a list of all the things you could do - word processing, writing and mailing letters, setting appointments or keeping a schedule, maintaining databases, paying bills, making travel arrangements, setting up meetings or seminars, answering telephones, doing research, and so on. If you have prior experience in secretarial work you are a definite advantage. Inside knowledge of a specific industry will definitely help, too.

What to Charge
Rates vary for virtual assistants based on the industry you work in and your experience. The range is from $12 an hour and up, with $20 being fairly common, but some virtual assistants can make over $50 per hour. When setting your fees, remember that you have to pay your own Self-Employment Tax (social security), insurance and other "benefits".

You can charge by the project, or you can charge a "retainer" for a certain number of hours per week that would cover any projects your client assigned.

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