« Work life balance? Christine Lagarde made sacrifices | Main | 7 Tips for Stress-Free Vacations »

Virtual assistants are win-win for all

My friend Jessica collected hundreds of business cards at a recent networking event. She started stressing about how she was going to find time to sort them and scan them into her database. But at that event, she met a virtual personal assistant and decided to hire her to do the task. She says the experience was life changing. She went on to hire the VA, Toma Rusk, to do all kinds of other to-dos.

Some days, I wish I could take all the small, pesky chores off my to-do list and give them to someone else to handle. While hiring a virtual assistant is great for busy business owners trying to do it all, it also is a great career for anyone who wants flexibility and income. 

One of the best websites I found to learn about the industry is virtualassistantassistant.com. A quick pulse of the industry shows independent VAs charge from $20 to $40 an hour. One woman I interviewed told me she charges a four-hour minimum upfront before she will take on any work.

Here's my column from today's Miami Herald with more info on the topic:


The Miami Herald

At your virtual service: a great balance solution

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Virtual assistant Amanda Haynes has clients from around the world.  Haynes picks up mail for one of her clients on Monday in Miami.
Virtual assistant Amanda Haynes has clients from around the world. Haynes picks up mail for one of her clients on Monday in Miami.
When Amanda Haynes started her Miami business four years ago, she had no idea whether she could make a living as a virtual personal assistant. “I wanted flexible hours. At the time the job situation was not good, and working from home seemed appealing.”

Haynes’ husband, a website designer, created a site for her and sent a few customers her way. Within weeks Haynes had a full schedule — making bank deposits for an attorney, scanning business cards into a database for a small business owner and uploading digital photos onto websites for an artist. “There are people who don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done so they use me,” says Haynes, owner of My Task Handler.

Today’s working professionals are busy juggling work, chores, kids and growing to-do lists, sending them on a perpetual search for better work/life balance. More often, they are turning to virtual personal assistants like Haynes to unload tasks they are pressed to complete.

Nell Merlino, founder of Count Me In, a nonprofit organization that supports the growth of women’s businesses, says virtual assistants are the behind-the scenes contributors to the success of women entrepreneurs: “I think women business owners are starting to see how much more money you generate by having someone take care of your administrative tasks.”

Indeed, according to a 2009 survey by the Alliance for Virtual Businesses, a global consortium of virtual assistant trade organizations, the profession tripled over the previous five years.

Sharon Williams, owner of the24hoursecretary.com, says the profession has attracted career changers and employees downsized during the recession: “It’s an opportunity to generate their own income on their terms.”

Most virtual assistants work from home offices and receive their instructions by phone, e-mail or text messages. The average full-time virtual assistant in the United States bills hourly ($20 to $40 an hour), by project or on retainer and grossed $45,000 in income in 2009, according to the Alliance for Virtual Businesses survey. The popularity of the concept also has lured dozens of administrative outsourcing firms such as Rent a Smile or Red Butler that provide remote assistants, most located in India or the Philippines.


Click to read more: