Be A Part Time Virtual Assistant And Work From Home

the market for virtual assistants is still growing in the UK. Why not try short contract work?

What’s involved?

A Virtual Assistant is someone who works from home supporting a business or person. The idea was originally American.

Traditionally the role secretarial and admin based. Move forward a few years and the concept has expanded to include just about anything you care to mention. It could be simply working through a “to do list or telephone answering and message taking, IT programming, writing or even posting articles online.

Virtual assistants now come in all sorts of ‘flavours’: some are employed by companies, some get work through agencies and others are freelance, getting work under their own steam. It’s the last type of virtual assistant we’re highlighting as you can do project work, that frees up your time for other things.

It’s your experience that counts

It’s not the kind of job that anyone can do – you’ll need real experience in your chosen field. You don’t need qualifications to be virtual pa: just a decent level of expertise and a way to market it.Why is demand growing? Flexible working is really taking off. As businesses have shrunk and more people value working at home, a whole industry has sprung up around providing virtual services.

A virtual PA is self-employed and depending on how you get your work responsible for chasing up payment. Agencies have sprung up all over the place but take a close look at their terms. It shouldn’t cost you anything to get on their books. Although virtual assistants can work full time there are project based opportunities that would allow you to earn more without being full-time 365/52. However this is skilled work and can be quite specialised.

The more specialist your skills, the more you’re likely to earn per hour. But there is also room to be creative with the services you are offering. If there’s a shopping virtual assistant (and there is) anything is possible. You will need a fully functional home office complete with computer(s), printers and scanners: the usual trappings of running a business from home.If you’ve got a good background as a pa, programming or seo or marketing or specialist secretarial skills this can be a realistic way to become self- employed. Here’s a list of the categories from the Alliance of UK Virtual Assistants:

  • Transcription Services
  • Bookkeeping Services
  • CV’s
  • Database Management
  • Desktop publishing
  • Dissertation and Manuscript Services
  • Editorial Proofreading, Editing & Writing
  • Event Management Services
  • Legal Secretarial Services
  • Mailshots
  • Marketing & PR Services
  • Medical Secretarial Services
  • Presentations
  • Project Management Services
  • Research Services
  • Spreadsheet Services
  • Telephone Answering
  • Translation Services
  • Virtual Office Management & Email Filtering Services
  • Website Design and Build
  • Website Submission Services
  • Word Processing Skills

If you opt for project based work rather than a long term who says you can’t boost your income? This list is included so you can see the broad range of skills being offered. And here’s the really cool thing. It’s definitely not exhaustive. The range of tasks that a virtual assistant can get paid to do is almost endless. From being an admin on a FaceBook page to checking flight time tables, typing transcripts, translating, seo writing..it really comes down to what you can do that another business or person will find helpful.

In the UK the virtual assistant market is not fully established, but it’s going to be huge!

What can you offer?

A skills audit will help you decide what to offer. Be honest. Focus on where your experience lies. Whether it’s programing languages or spreadheets and word processing you should make a list of the software you can use or the services you can provide. One thing to think about is whether your skills are up to date.If you’ve been taking a break or not worked for years you need to be familiar with current programs. This applies even if your skills lie in marketing or PR or copy writing. For example, if you worked in a press office 5 years ago things have changed quite a bit.

How demanding is it?

Virtual PA work can be full time and quite restrictive. If you don’t want that kind of commitment opt for work that doesn’t require you to be tied to the house and which you can do more flexibly. Originally all virtual assistant work was for large corporates, who’d expect nothing but the best. You can still be the best in a different market i.e. providing virtual services to smaller companies.

You’ll need a company

When they are self-employed you’ll see that virtual assistants always use a company structure rather than stay as what’s known as a sole trader. One benefit of doing this is to help you track expenses. You can check the availability of names here but there are lots of alternative websites.

From your clients point of you they don’t have to worry about your tax or NIC because you deal with it. They pay you by an hourly rate so only pay for what they use but we can see virtual assistant jobs in the future where the terms are being paid for the task or service.

Don’t forget to register with HMRC as self- employed. It’s unlikely you’ll have to worry about VAT if being a virtual PA is only a part time business. Also make sure your broad band is reliable enough to run a home business.

Finding work

There are a number of agencies you could sign up with. But note that they will be charging clients upwards of £100 a day and you will only earn a fraction of that. The high fees charged means that clients expect a very high standard of work.

You may not feel confident enough just starting out to sign up with an agency. If you want more flexibility there is another way to get work. But first test your service on friends and family. Ask them about pricing but also do your own research about whether your service is worth £15 per hour or £25.

Advertising and networking

Because the virtual assistant idea is a relatively new one, businesses tend to stick together. So look for opportunities to list your business in specialist directories. Don’t omit local online directories either. Daft though it seems, some clients may prefer to use a local virtual PA!

The Society of Virtual Assistants supports virtual assistants at all levels and operates s forum for networking and help. The site is free to use. The site has two different types of membership: approved and standard. If you don’t have experience then the standard membership is for you. It’s for individuals who are looking to become a virtual assistant.

If you can, set up a basic website for yourself. This isn’t as hard as it sounds – you can use simple blogging software (such as Blogger or WordPress). You don’t need to be a computer buff to use them! Having your own online presence is important. It’s a useful way to show off your CV and experience to potential clients. You can also link your blog or website to Twitter and Facebook.

Resources