Outsourcing is now so common that NBC now has a prime-time television program about outsourcing! The use of virtual office assistants has become more common in recent years, and will probably continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
Virtual office assistants do most everything that an office assistant would do in a traditional office. The difference is that virtual office assistants perform this work remotely – even from home. Virtual office assistants may also work for several different offices if the offices need only part-time assistance.
Virtual office assistants are frequently utilized by freelancers and self-employed people who are fairly tech-savvy. These freelancers or self-employed individuals may find that they could benefit from some office or administrative help, but frequently do not need to hire a dedicated office assistant. Some of these freelancers or self-employed people may even work out of a home office themselves and not have adequate office space to accommodate an office assistant! Author and businessman Timothy Ferriss makes regular use of virtual office assistants to allow him to live his 4-hour workweek lifestyle .
You will probably want to decide in advance what type of services you will offer (based on interests and skills), and what hours you will be available for customers. Working in a specific niche may be beneficial as hours and services may be similar between businesses in the same niche.
Deciding what type of services you plan to offer will also be useful in deciding how to set up your home office. The services you offer will impact your needs for phone service, computer software, and other office equipment.
Browsing bulletin boards like craigslist.org can be a good source of leads for this business. Searching for ads posted by self-employed individuals or freelancers seeking part-time, freelance help may be the easiest way to secure the first client. These ads are posted by people who have already decided that they need an assistant.
This will also help to inform you as to what type or services may be in demand in your community.
Direct marketing to potential customers can also be effective. Contacting any possible small businesses or freelancers directly can also be beneficial. Community organizations like the Chamber of Commerce or other civic or business groups can be a great way to meet freelancers and self-employed professionals in your community.
Focusing on one particular niche industry can be convenient for the virtual office assistant. This could present the possibility for a conflict of interest though, since you may be privy to confidential information from several competing clients. Disclosing any potential conflict of interest in advance should help to alleviate any problems with this issue.
Outsourcing continues to grow in popularity, even as US companies are reluctant to hire permanent workers. Virtual office assistants represent a fairly new development in the outsourcing model, but this service can be very useful to a freelancer or self-employed person who only needs limited office assistance.
1) Outsourced. Site accessed on 21 October 2010.
2) Timothy Ferriss. The 4-Hour Workweek and Timothy Ferriss. Site accessed on 21 October 2010.