The virtual assistant industry was founded in 1995 by Christine Durst. Since then it has evolved but picked up greater traction in the last five years. The Entrepreneur magazine listed virtual assistant industry as the fourth top home-based businesses in 2011.
With Virtual Assistant industry joining the bandwagon of business process outsourcing, the innovative business idea of online personal assistance at reduced rates is catching up like wild fire. This sums up the story of the rise of the virtual assistant industry across the globe.
Virtual Assistant Is The Latest Business Outsourcing
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) entails assigning a responsibility to a third party. In that sense Virtual Assistant industry is also a BPO. Operationally, virtual assistants are contracted to do specific tasks on behalf of a company. Thus the companies hiring virtual assistants save valuable resources such as time, taxes, staff benefits, holiday pay, office space and equipments. The ostensible aim of all business is to make profit. So hiring a virtual assistant ensures more profits and higher efficiency.
The virtual assistant industry has been evolving constantly over the years as a practical, win-win solution for many businesses. The best thing about the VA is that the profession is not necessarily defined by a specific skill set or a particular location. Today, virtual assistants handle all functions of a business including typing, transcription, database administration, graphic design, desktop publishing, customer service calls, bookkeeping, website maintenance and market research. With the need for virtual assistants growing each year the desired skill sets are also becoming diverse over time.
Today thousands of virtual assistants are working worldwide. This number is set to grow exponentially in the coming years considering the increasing number of small and medium sized businesses looking to hire more virtual assistants in the coming years.
It is estimated that by 2014, approximately 90 percent of all small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will have a web-presence and will unleash online marketing. That means more than 30 million companies going online! Many of these companies will need Virtual Teams to run their business and online initiatives. So experts are projecting a scenario of shortfall of virtual assistants to meet the emerging demand!
Demand for virtual assistants
At the moment, India and the Philippines are leading providers of virtual assistant services in the world. virtual assistants Service grew about 20 percent in terms of Annualized Contract Value in 2011. This was claimed by the Everest Research Institute of Finance and Accounting Outsourcing.
Virtual Assistant Services
Following are the major virtual assistant Services on the table though more and more services getting added to its ambit.
- Data Entry
- Database Management
- Affiliate Support
- Online Promotions
- Call Centre
- Copy Writing
- Book Keeping
- E Commerce
- Search Engine Optimization
- Medical Transcription
- Website Building
- Web Design
- Web Content Writing
- Website Maintenance
Now the big question, Who is a Virtual Assistant ? Simply put, Virtual Assistant is an independent contractor working on a contractual basis for one or more clients on a number of business tasks. Investopedia too defines virtual assistant as a contractor providing administrative services to clients while operating outside the client's office.
It has to be borne in mind that a Virtual Assistant is a tad above the normal office employee. The Virtual Assistant must be considered a professional entrepreneur paying own taxes and selecting own clients. It is a case of functional partnership and there is no employer/employee relationship between the client and a Virtual Assistant.
Why virtual assistants?
The opportunities for virtual assistants and Virtual Services are rising as businesses are cutting costs and not willing to keep full time employees to manage day to day functions like drafting of contracts, correspondence, legal briefs, creative writing, management support, sales support and similar services.
The study of Brenner Information Group reveals that over 400 industries and business verticals will seek the assistance of outsourced VAs. So the demand for virtual assistance will only grow in the time to come.
virtual assistants perform quality service to their clients in a problem-solving mode. So they should provide their clients with easy and practical solutions. A good Virtual Assistant needs a graceful set of skills to provide efficient customer service:
- Professional Skills
- Educational Skills
- Personal Skills
- People Skills
The education skills required are good computer skills, analytical skills and perfect office skills. Personal skills are a must for any Virtual Assistant. They include good language skills, originality, time management and creativity of the work produced.
The Virtual Assistant should possess the correct attitude and work within a team. The virtual assistant should have good communication skills and a pleasing personality.
In order to succeed, a Virtual Assistant should be able to access and use various forms of communication such as Skype, Instant Messenger programs and technologies to communicate with clients. They should have the latest versions of software, upgraded personal computers, anti virus software, internet connectivity, and necessary equipments in communication.
According to a report from IT analyst firm Gartner, the job opportunities of virtual assistants are multiplying. Along with the rapid rise in its numbers are changes coming up in the characteristics of virtual assistants. The report states that able virtual assistants will finally evolve into Brand Agents. So the trend of hiring Virtual Assistnts will only intensify. From large corporations to millions of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who are very cost-conscious will seek VAs.
Need for Specialized Skills
Michael Russer, author of The Obsolete Employee, writes â€œTo be consistently successful as a VA, one needs to specialize rather than run ragged trying to be everything to everyone.â€
The VAs must know what niches are in demand and what to specialize in. There is a huge market for VA Specialists – Blogger VAs, Social Media VAs, Online Event Planner VAs, Affiliate Marketing VAs etc.
The social media opportunity is stupendous. virtual assistants can connect with their target audience through social media sites such as Linkedin.com, Facebook Groups, Ryze etc. virtual assistants who consistently tap into these targeted online channels can reach out to small/medium business community and position themselves well to attract new clients and income opportunities.
virtual assistants can also tap into local businesses by cultivating local business associations to spread awareness. If their marketing and networking is effective there will be no shortage of work despite periodic fluctuations in outsourcing volumes.
Cost Advantage from virtual assistants
No Virtual Assistant requires the luxury of an office of a client. They also do not need demand payroll tax or other employee benefits to do their work. So these are obvious cost savings on the part of clients as the Virtual Assistant will do the job exactly the same way the client wanted it to be done.
For example, if a business needs only a few hours of administrative work, hiring a virtual assistant makes sense because he needs to be paid only for the exact hours he worked unlike the year long costs being paid by the client to retain a full time employee.
Moreover, virtual assistants remove all tensions associated with hiring office based assistants. Unlike office staff, a Virtual Assistant provides round the clock service.
Most business owners and CEOs admit that partnering/hiring with virtual assistants reduces stress, increase revenue, eliminates administrative headaches and allows the business to grow by unshackling the business owner from non-core tasks that do not make business sense.
Who would not wish to get those tasks off the desk by sending one email or getting away from the burden of taxes, insurance, lunch breaks, phone calls!
Let Businessmen Relax!
Now an interesting question. How about holidaying in Miami yet getting all your professional work done unhindered...? This might have sounded bizarre a few years ago. Not any more. As you have seen it, virtual assistants are there to take care of your responsibilities and worries and offer you the best returns on your investment. Let businessmen relax!