I woke up one day and realised that my son was nearly 16 and I almost didn’t know how he got to that age. Hold on a minute – I thought – it was only yesterday that my Thomas was going to nursery, and then was in primary school. That time, that much more time that I could have spent with him, I realised I had spent working incessantly for corporate firms or for public bodies. I have been a working mother for the whole of my son’s life – but that does not mean that I have not missed spending more and better time with my son.
That day, I realised things had to change before it was too late. And that is how – and I have said this many times, I know – I started thinking of exploring ways to make a realistic income from home.
So, if you are having a wake up call like mine, but don’t know where to start from, maybe you should look at your skill set and work from there. You have always worked in admin environments, have excellent organisational skills – those transferable skills which make you so desirable by so many different businesses. But you no longer want a 9-5 office based job. Well, have you ever considered working as virtual assistant?
Working from home as virtual assistant
In order to get this type of business going, you must have a sound background within the personal assistant or secretarial role working for corporate firms. This is because in order to get started working from home as virtual assistant, you will have to market your skill by sending out curricula vitae (or CV) showing evidence of your past experience.
In order to get your home based business going as a virtual assistant, initially you may want to use the help of specialised employment agencies (normally online based too) to circulate your CV to as many of their client as the agency feels you may match the requirements.
Once a potential employer has expressed interest, you may be invited to sit a phone interview – the potential employer must be given the opportunity to assess the validity of your claims to be professional, organised, excelling in multi-tasking and conversant with an array of word document softwares.
However, once the employer decides to hire your services, the contract of employment is between yourself and the employer directly, where the employer pays you directly.
All you need to do this type of work is a good computer or laptop and an excellent wi-fi signal. Otherwise, and like with many other home based jobs, your home with all its comforts become your castle, but it also becomes your ‘office’.
Who is suited to work as virtual assistant
I believe the biggest requirement to be a successful virtual assistant is the fact that you may have build experience in a previous corporate environment.
For this reason this job, I feel, is perfectly suited for newly parents, who have been successful personal assistants before having children, but now struggle to go back to work due to lack of child care or simply as they actually enjoy being at home with their babies. My biggest regret in life is not to have been brave enough to choose this career path with my son was little!
The one I outline just now is the perfect avenue to pursue this alternative career working from home. However, you may need to work from home as you may have to care for somebody, or purely as you want a change of scenery from the old office based employment. Whichever your motivation may be is irrelevant. What is paramount, however, is for you to have built some experience of personal assistant skills on the field, so to speak – working from home you are very much left to your own devices, and if you have not yet learnt how to cope with organisational skills or with self-discipline or even with the more technical Microsoft Office packages, there will be nobody else teaching you, as in fact you would have in an office. Working from home, and particularly in this role, you must have feet firmly on the ground!
Pros and cons of working as virtual assistant
The pros are all around the same as working from home in any capacity. Organisational freedom is the main one that I can see.
But be careful on this point. You will still have a contract of employment with somebody – which means you will still have a boss of sort. The contract of employment may be short term, or renewable every so many months, but you will still have to receive instructions from the boss or manager that employs you.
The difference between working for a boss in an office environment and working from home as virtual assistant is however more detailed than this, if you look at it with business oriented eyes.
The arrangement between yourself and a boss has to be profitable for both. The boss may save in office expenses or in additional employment related expenses. For you the difference stands in the fact that you can work for more than one person at the same time. And because you charge your employer per hour, you can charge far more than the equivalent of a permanent salary. I believe the ongoing rate for professional VAs is in the region of the £40-50 per hour. That is far more than you would ever get paid by any firm for a permanent contract.
At the same time, you benefit from the flexibility of going through your email inbox at 6am in the morning (which sometimes is required when dealing with other continents, where the time difference may affect the speed of a virtual conversation) and to organised the rest of your working day as you please.
The only disadvantage of working as a virtual assistant, as mentioned above, may be in the fact that you work on short term contracts, and as such you miss out on the perks you may benefit from when working for a firm on a permanent basis.
Firms often do not pay you as well when employing permanent staff – and that is certainly the case of personal assistants, where the rate of pay is never even close to the £50 per hour! But they tend to compensate by giving you perk – these may include discounted membership at the local gym, or free entry to heritage sites, or meal vouchers at chains of restaurants. You get the gist.
The choice ultimately is yours. Personally, as I don’t go to the gym, nor do I like to dine out, I’d sooner get paid better and do without perks which I would use or enjoy.
Likewise, many employers offer competitive pension schemes. However, once you are paid a competitive rate as a virtual assistant, you can equally find competitive private pension deals, which will pay off substantial salaries later in life.
Virtual assistant, but not only
Working as a virtual assistant is one of the many forms of freelancing. As such, its applications are endless. Imagine how many different roles fall under the enormous umbrella of admin duties. From data entry clerk to customer adviser, to travel agent – the list is endless.
If you think carefully of how much can be done from home via internet, there is virtually hardly any job that could not be done from home.
And if you look around enough, you will be able to find many virtual vacancies, from the most skilled project managerial or executive roles to the most straightforward clerical data entry.
There are many websites advertising virtual admin positions. As with all online based ventures, you must be careful and wise enough not to fall trap of scams. But there are also a lot of genuine opportunities which it’s a shame to miss out on, when they could change your quality of life.
Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to test this method of home based opportunity yet. I am myself still working on a part-time basis as customer adviser and, although I have worked as personal assistant for many years in the past, customer advisory is where I would like to remain. But, whilst working part-time in an office, and the remaining of my time dedicating to my affiliate marketing business, I haven’t managed to actively seek virtual opportunities yet.
The question is: would I want to try it one day? And, do I think it is good business and good money?
YES, definitely YES to both questions!
And yes, I have mentioned the word ‘marketing’. Because of course, and like with all job opportunities, you need to sell your skills and your experience. Ideally you would want to put together a really strong CV, and initially you need to persevere in advertising your abilities on multiple online platforms. But once you start building your reputation through positive employer’s feedback, there is no limit to virtual job offers you will receive. The ball will be in your court as to how many hours you want to work on such avenue per week. And that’s where we can see the true benefit of working from home: you become your own boss.
If you have already had experience of working from home as virtual assistant, and can suggest a trustworthy online employment platform where to find good deals, please leave your comment below. Share with me and with my readers what your thoughts are below.
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