Q:I'm an administrative assistant who would like to work out of my home full time for more flexibility and independence. What can I do to start something soon?
A: Your path is clear, and it can pay well. It's called being a virtual assistant. According to the International Virtual Assistants Association, a virtual assistant is "an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services." In other words, virtual assistants provide what used to be called secretarial services or office-support services, and arguably carry more prestige. Typical hourly rates range between $20 and $50.
Virtual assistants work from home and perform a wide variety of tasks, including word processing, desktop publishing, transcribing, editing and proofreading, business writing, office managing and organization consulting, preparing spreadsheets or databases, maintaining contact-management programs, bookkeeping, billing, providing notary services, graphic designing, doing multimedia presentations, offering answering services, preparing mail, writing resumes, designing websites, and doing research.
Typically, most virtual assistants work for a variety of clients, such as new businesses, small businesses and self-employed individuals who do not have full-time secretarial help. To learn more, read books such as our own Up Close & Virtual: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own Virtual Assistant Business and The Virtual Assistant's Guide to Marketing. Also check out sites like www.assistu.com and www.virtualassistanceu.com.