Posted on Tue, Jul. 12, 2011
Carl Juste / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
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.