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Virtual assistant jobs from home are emerging as a hot career option for women who want to set up their own home based businesses.
A couple of decades back, apart from teaching, women were hired for a very few jobs such as receptionists, stenos, typists, and personal assistants. Everything else was seemingly advanced for a woman’s intellect. How we broke the mould and gained ground in an otherwise male-dominated work realm is something to discuss another day and time.
We women are compulsive optimists. When life-situations forced us to stay-at-home, the optimism only grew in us. First, it was work from home options from companies, and soon we had people searching all over the Internet for work from home opportunities. Sadly, a very negligible part of our society is aware of the work from home concept in its correct sense. (I’m talking about regular people we meet at the bus-stop or social gatherings, not scholars who actually study reports and journals in this field.)
In the US, UK and other European countries, many work from home professionals start off as ‘Virtual Assistants’ (VAs) in some capacity or the other.
Many people misunderstand the concept of virtual assistance as referring only to outsourced tele-caller jobs, online sales, or filling surveys and forms. However, these are just a few of the tasks lined up for a VA. For a Virtual Assistant, her role is not merely defined by a list of tasks, there is more to it.
Not just this, she is not an on-contract-employee. She is an independent business owner who provides services to other business owners/clients (not employers) for a reasonable remuneration for her time, effort and expertise. This gives her the much needed free-will to choose or reject clients. The catch is that she is just physically absent from the client location, and executes her role virtually over the Internet.
Yes, in a certain sense. In its traditional sense, a typical VA is indeed a Personal Assistant (PA) working from home, but without the employee-tag, and with the additional responsibility of having to perform with increased efficiency with little or absolutely no supervision. After all, VAs are ‘Business owners’.
If you already have enough experience as a secretary/PA/admin officer at a company, you have the potential and the opportunity to use your skills and experience to start your own Virtual Assistant business. You can provide the general admin services to start with and eventually branch out to more specialised services once you get a grip on the market.
Becoming a Virtual Assistant is not Rocket Science. If you have basic computer skills, knowledge of the Internet, and know how to locate information (Research) on Google, then you are well equipped to embark on a career as virtual assistant.
If you have traditional office administrative experience, it will add value to your skills as Virtual Administrative assistant. If you have good teaching skills and the patience to prepare your own course materials, know how to share it with others, and conduct teaching sessions online, then you could be a virtual tutor. If you are good at coding and development, and capable of developing end-to-end solutions, know how to test and deploy it online, then you can be a virtual developer for so-and-so platform. If you have excellent graphic/writing skills, you could be a Virtual graphic/content expert.
But these are just a few of the many things that VAs do.
A computer that performs well, good antivirus software, and a reliable Internet connection is all that it is required.
For soft skills, as a VA, you will be expected to have reasonably good command over the English language (unless you plan to work for other language clients) since most correspondence happens in English. As a member of a remote work force, you should be able to communicate well, so that work does not take a beating due to some misunderstanding.
Needless to mention, you should be self-motivated at all times to adhere to deadlines and deliver the promised work.
Scams are all around us. No denying that.
The general thumb rule is “Never ever pay a single rupee/penny to get a job”.
Money is collected under different ruses. It could be “registration fee”, “deposit as security for job”, “for the starter kit”, “for shipping some materials” etc.Whatever be the reason, if you are asked to make a payment in return for work, then it is a scam.
Never trust someone who says, “Do this work for free, I will come back and give you more paid work”. Such scams are called unpaid custom samples/work. They rob you of your money, time and effort. This is a scam too.
Run as fast as you can, run as far as you can. Never look back, never give a second’s worth of thought.
Yes! If you’re lucky enough to find the opportunity that pays just after you have made this decision.
But then, reality is not always what we expect. We cannot get a project/client within a day….Because, before we identify a project (a genuine and legitimate one), we need to do some ground work to get chosen for that work. There will be others competing for the same project, isn’t it?
Groundwork is nothing but preparing and presenting yourself as a candidate for the job. Bear in mind, this is a faceless selection. So it is your text / email / chat messages, and other online communication that matters. You need to sell your services in such a way that the client should feel that you’re the person he/she is looking for to work on his/her project.
Once you have located a prospective job, try researching the client / company / position/ skills needed online. Connect with like-minded professionals on social networking sites. Engage in conversation intelligently. Get noticed.
Prepare your project proposal with due diligence. Do not shoot off your stock-CV with a note saying, “I want to work on this”. Instead, elaborate on why you are a good fit, and how your skills can bring value to the table. Wherever possible, exemplify. Take inspiration from your regular office work experience and cite the relevance of your skill, without revealing any sensitive information about clients with your previous employer.
Be professional in all your communications. What you write, what you speak is what defines you in this virtual space.
It is exactly what it means. Be Professional just as you would be at office.
Just because you work from home, does not give the liberty to slack around. If you’re a work from home mom, make an arrangement to work around your kid’s timings, or get help to take care of the child while you attend to a client call.
Always have a pleasant voice and empathetic ear to listen to your clients. If you have a video call with the client, look professional in front of the camera.
You might have multiple clients, but let every client feel that he/she is important all the time.
How is a VA / WFH professional different from a WFH employee? Don’t they all work from home?
If you are looking for a regular job with steady income, without taking any risks, being a work from home employee could be good option. Also, you will not be allowed to take in private clients, as you will still be under the employee-employer contract. The trick is to convince your employer to allow you to work from home.
VAs or WFH professionals are independent business owners who have greater control on the jobs they undertake. As a VA or WFH professional you can work for multiple clients, at a flexi-time of choice, and often have greater potential of earning. The sky is the limit.
However, there are other challenges to becoming a VA or WFH professional.
You need to proactively promote your skills and services online and offline to find good opportunities; identify genuine ones, pursue them, and convince them to utilize your services, and be hired; not to mention managing your own accounting as well!
In our culture, women often leave work/take a sabbatical when they enter motherhood.
If your current employer is unable to give you a flexible/WFH employee option, there is great potential in becoming a VA. The trend of using a VA is increasingly becoming popular in India. Start-ups are our early adopters. They are cash strapped to hire full time experts, but willing to pay for quality services.
Currently only 10% of start-up companies are aware of hiring a VA, the rest of them have no idea that such an arrangement exists. So it is the ignorance about the VA industry in business circles that needs to be addressed. The more you educate your client about the advantages of using a VA, the more likely you are to generate well paying projects for yourself.
The more you educate your client about the advantages of using a VA, the more likely you are to generate well paying projects for yourself.
Let us also not forget, given the Indian context, some clients cannot leave their old system of checking over their employee’s work every now-and-then, which is not possible when working virtually. So educating prospective employers would be your first step, to get your VA job.
Here are some typical tasks that you’ll be doing, if you’ve been hired as a Virtual Assistant.
Jessie, you have been a VA / WFH professional for over 5+ years. What kind of work do you do? It helps us understand better when we see a working model.
I work as an Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant for my clients. I mainly work with Life Coaches, Career Coaches, Wellness Coaches and Energy Healers. I have been in this profession since 5 years. Along with my friend Deepa Govind, (a VA homepreneur for 8+ yrs), I started a Facebook group Work From Home Divas India on 8 April 2012 and it has 6000+ members now.
For some strange reason, Facebook has locked our group settings (may be due to the large numbers; we don’t know and Mark isn’t answering our calls). So if you cannot find us via the URL, send me/Deepa a personal message on FB. We will send you the join invite.
We have launched our new website Work From Home Divas India where we guide and mentor aspiring work from home professionals to explore their writing talent in the form of blogging (without the hassle of setting up a blog) and also provide a space to showcase their portfolio, especially when they don’t want to share via personal email.
We are also planning to launch our first VA training programme in the first week of May 2015 for aspiring work from home professionals. This training will help a lay-(wo)man to learn the ropes of becoming a successful virtual assistant.
So, are you ready to live your dream by working from home? What’s your biggest challenge to work from home? Are those challenges coming from your mind’s voice? Or from the job market? Share in the comments below!
Entrepreneur concept image via Shutterstock