For all those seniors who hate answering pesky questions about post-graduation plans, here’s one possible answer. Don’t get a “real” job – be a virtual assistant.
Virtual assistants, who are self-employed and work from home, set their own hours, schedules and receive tax benefits. The virtual assistant profession, a relatively new idea, is made up of entrepreneurs who use today’s modern mobile technologies like blackberries, cell phones and wireless Internet to complete administrative tasks that used to be limited to the office. These assistants provide “administrative, creative and/or technical services” using “advanced modes of communication and data delivery,” according to the International Virtual Assistant Association Web site.
Earning between $25 and $35 an hour, virtual assistant tasks range from administrative duties to event services. They typically fill out and fax paperwork, confirm business appointments, update databases, design brochures and business cards and book hotels.
Clients are enticed to hire virtual assistants to save time and money. By outsourcing to independent workers who aren’t part of the company staff, businesses don’t have to provide their virtual assistants with typical employee benefits, such as health insurance, and companies can conserve office space and equipment.
Debbie Tester, president of the International Virtual Assistant Association, said the industry has grown tremendously over the last few years and will continue to blossom thanks to new advanced technologies.
“Businesses are recognizing the many benefits of working with independent virtual assistants such as such as efficiency, cost effectiveness and the ability to collaborate with experts in many different niche areas such as writing, marketing, Web site support, telephone answering services and more,” Tester said. “With tools such as Web conferencing and VOIP (voice-over-Internet protocol), shared virtual workplaces continue to evolve and advance.”
Jenny Claggett, 32, started her career as a virtual assistant four years ago outside Dallas, Texas. Before taking up her new job, Claggett worked as a fifth-grade school teacher and an education director for a business organization. She’s now able to be a stay-at-home mom and a virtual assistant at the same time.
“The VA lifestyle is attractive; you have a better quality of life, you benefit financially and are able to spend more time with your family,” Claggett said. “I don’t have to spend four hours in a car traveling to and from work anymore.”
GW’s think-tank The GWU Forecast of Emerging Technologies has evaluated this profession and in their article “A Continuous Assessment of the Technological Revolution,” it states the virtual profession is part of a larger technology revolution in the employment sector.
According to the study, which has been ongoing since 1990, “a revolutionary innovation is occurring in all scientific and technological fields. This wave of unprecedented change is driven primarily by advances in information technology, but is much larger in scope that the Information Revolution – it is a Technology Revolution.”
And to be this type of assistant, all you need is a phone, computer and an Internet connection. Thanks to the technology revolution, virtual assistants can make a living by sitting at their home offices and completing “virtual work” for clients across the country or around the world.
“The VA industry is on the cusp; it’s at a perfect place and if you can get in now, soon you will be able to write your own check,” Claggett said. “It’s all about being at the right place at the right time.”
This article appeared in the October 23, 2006 issue of the Hatchet.