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The Virtual Assistant
As a small business owner, outsourcing work to Virtual Assistants is fast becoming a popular and intelligent decision. The business owner saves enormous amounts of money by cutting the costs of offices and equipment overhead as well as expensive benefits packages.
The 'Virtual Office' creates an enormous amount of personal freedom and independence for both the small business owner and the virtual workers. The dedication and commitment that virtual workers demonstrate testifies to the satisfaction derived from a home office setting.
Being on the cutting edge of this profession offers tremendous opportunity for technical savvy entrepreneurs to secure a viable and stable home business opportunity. A good business plan and well thought out marketing campaigns are crucial to the organized success of a Virtual Assistant in both securing enough clients and/or work to meet their budget goal as well as adequately being able to balance clients and deadlines.
Virtual Assistant's actually would be well advised to embrace a business partner or utilize a team of trusted colleagues to entrust overflow work to. The standards of a good Virtual Assistant aren't easily met and establishing a virtual network of quality workers isn't an easy task. Any overflow work that you outsource must exemplify the same care and quality as your own or you stand the chance of alienating your clients.
As the owner of a home business resource specifically geared toward professional mothers seeking home based work, I am often approached for advice on how to become a Virtual Assistant and also receive many inquiries about what skills are required to be successful in the field.
To gain and retain clients, my main advice is to maintain your professionalism in all of your interactions with your client. As much as it is a leap for you to give up the 'security' of working in a corporate office, it is also a very new concept for business owners to outsource their work to a team of 'Virtual Workers' who they may likely never even see face-to-face. There is a great level of trust employed in this relationship and your professionalism in correspondence and phone calls will go a long way in securing their trust.
Furthermore, I advise you to pay great attention to your accuracy and final product that you submit to your clients. Meet all of your deadlines, and know at least two days ahead of time if you are not going to be able to meet them. Communicate that to your client before the project is late and keep in communication on a daily basis from the beginning to the end of all projects with brief status reports.
Make yourself easily accessible through email, telephone and instant messenger. You should have access to whatever instant messenger service your client prefers. The most popular are ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo. Be certain to set your instant messengers to save your history so that you can easily refer back to client request or comments without having to solicit the client to repeat what they already have said.
A rule of thumb is to remain in communication with the client, but don't waste their time. The client should end their work day each day with a sense of real gratitude of the skills, organization and trustworthiness you bring to the table. They should know that you are available to converse with at almost any time but you do not bother them unless it is absolutely necessary.
In the end the presence of a Virtual Assistant should prove to make the company more money because the owner and other business team members can focus on income producing areas of business that they otherwise wouldn't have as much time to do.
The most common and I would say necessary tools for the job are the most current version of Microsoft Office. You should have and be comfortable using Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access. You should have either Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage and know the basics of HTML and ftp'ing files to and from servers.
So much of a Virtual Assistant's work is based online that it really is crucial to have DSL or Cable internet access. You also want to have a good computer that you can rely on.
There is so little expense in running a virtual office that I don't believe it is wise to cut corners with your computer, software and other office equipment. Having the latest technology on hand and continuing to acquire and master new skills will increase your desirability and worth in the eyes of your clients. It will also demonstrate your commitment to your career.
When a client begins to trust you with important responsibilities and invests the time in training and familiarizing you with the procedures of their particular business, they need to be able to depend on you and to know that you are committed to your work.
In short, with administrative skills and above average technical savvy, coupled with an organized and professional approach - a career as a Virtual Assistant is definitely a viable and rewarding option.
About The Author
Lori Redfield, owner of FreelanceMom.com, http://www.freelancemom.com is a Virtual Assistant, Freelance Designer and Internet entrepreneur. To sign up for her monthly newsletter, visit http://www.freelancemom.com/newsletter.htm
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