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Is Starting a Homebased Business For You?

How you can use existing skills to start your own homebased business.

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 and

Authors and career coaches Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book is a new edition ofMaking Money With Your Computer at Home.Send them your questions at or in care of Entrepreneur.

This story appears in the March 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »