Virtual assistant (occupation)
A virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely from a home office. Because virtual assistants are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits, except in the context that those indirect expenses are included in the VA's fees. Clients also avoid the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies. Clients pay for 100% productive work, and can work with Virtual Assistants, individually, or in multi-VA firms to meet their exact needs. Virtual Assistants usually work for other small businesses. but can also support busy executives. It is estimated that there are as few as 5,000-10,000 or as many as 25,000 virtual assistants worldwide. The profession is growing in centralized economies with "fly-in fly-out" staffing practices.
Common modes of communication and data delivery include the Internet, e-mail and phone-call conferences, online work spaces, and fax machine. Increasingly Virtual Assistants are utilizing technology such as Skype as well as Google Voice. Professionals in this business work on a contractual basis and a long-lasting cooperation is standard. Typically 5 years of administrative experience in an office is expected at such positions as executive assistant, office manager/supervisor, secretary, legal assistant, paralegal, legal secretary, real estate assistant, and information technology.
In recent years Virtual Assistants have also worked their way in to many mainstream businesses and with the advent of VOIP services such as Skype it has been possible to have a Virtual Assistant who can answer your phone remotely without the end user's knowledge. This allows many businesses to add a personal touch in the form of a receptionist without the additional cost of hiring someone.
Virtual Assistants consists of individuals as well as companies who work remotely as an independent professional, providing a wide range of products and services both to businesses as well as consumers. The virtual industry has changed substantially as it attracts others new to the field.
Virtual Assistants come from a variety of business backgrounds, but most have several years experience earned in the "real" (non-virtual) business world.
A dedicated virtual assistant is someone working in the office under the management of a company. The facility and internet connection as well as training are provided by the company. The homebased virtual assistant worked either in the office sharing environment or in their house. The general VA are sometimes called an online administrative assistant, online personal assistant or online sales assistant. A virtual webmaster assistant, virtual marketing assistant and virtual content writing assistant are specific professionals that are usually experienced employees from corporate environment that started to set up their own virtual offices.
In popular culture
Virtual assistants were an integral part of the 2007 bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Ferriss claimed to have hired virtual assistants to check his email, pay his bills and run parts of his company.
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- Ferriss, Timothy The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich' Crown (2007)
- Maney, Kevin (October 7, 2007). "Tim Ferriss Wants You To Get a Life". Portfolio. Retrieved 2008-03-21. "..if you have a virtual assistant, let them go through your email and respond when necessary"