These days the Virtual Assistant role is much more varied and exciting than simply carrying out secretarial duties. From desktop publishing to social media account management, VAs can choose to specialize in certain areas and leverage their creative or logistical skills.  The freedom to work from home and escape the commute and office politics is also a big draw for women entering this diverse and rapidly expanding field.

Best of both worlds

According to VA Success Group, a provider of free advice for Virtual Assistants, 5% of all people entering the market are young, multi-skilled females, who are joining the ranks of administrators and work-from-home mums.  To differentiate their services, VAs can choose to pitch themselves as niche specialists such as: social media assistants, virtual researchers, virtual copywriters, PAs or website designers.  With the plus side of working from the comfort of home and the option to customise their offering to match their skill set, this career option has massive appeal.

The trend of home-working is also growing rapidly.  According to Staffing Industry Analysts, by 2018 online work will be a $5bn global market and currently, self-employed freelancers account for 1.7 million of the UK’s 4.2 million business owners.  Increasing demand from businesses keen to save time and money by using Virtual Assistant services rather than employing people means that there’s never been a better time to consider this career option.

To help aspiring Virtual Assistants to get their new career underway, Justine Curtis, founder of the UK Association of Virtual Assistants and co-founder of the VA Success Group offers the following advice:

Justine Curtis

Create a dedicated space that is your ‘office’

Ideally, your office should be a dedicated space – an entire room if possible, or, at least, a sizeable part of one. You will need a clear space to work, which has enough power sockets and a phone-line connection nearby. Make sure your workspace is free from noise and distractions, such as a TV or washing machine.  Also, think about the additional room you will need for other necessary furniture (filing cabinet, stationery storage, etc).

Create a permanent, comfortable and healthy desk space

When choosing a desk, make sure it has large enough area to accommodate the work you will be doing. It is tempting, particularly when using a small space, to choose a small desk or a cupboard workstation. Just make sure you have enough room to spread out.  Make sure the chair you choose is fully adjustable and comfortable. You will be spending a lot of time at your desk, so a healthy posture is essential.

Computer and additional equipment

You will be at your desk for extended periods, so ensure that your computer screen is at eye level and use a proper keyboard and mouse. Consider a large external hard drive for backing-up and storing large files, and make sure you also have an online back system.

Consider an all-in-one printer, scanner and copier, as it saves space. You will also need a shredder for disposing of confidential documents. You may need a binder, laminator and guillotine. Again, only invest in these if you need them for a specific job, or for your own marketing use.

Set up your telephone system

First, you need to consider whether you will: use your home telephone number; get a new, dedicated business line installed; use Skype (if you have excellent broadband); or, register a non-geographic (0844) number that will divert calls to your home number during office hours.  Each option has its benefits, so consider carefully which is best for you before making your choice. Do not use more than one, as they will all ring together!

Do not use a mobile phone number as your main business number. This will destroy your credibility, as it screams ‘one-man-band’. If you want to use a mobile, divert your landline to it using BT Call Divert.

Set up professional call handling for when you are away from you desk

Who will answer your telephone if you are on a call or out of the office? There is nothing more likely to lose a potential client than an unanswered enquiry call. You cannot be at your desk every minute of the working day, so set up a real, live-person call-handling service.

Set up specific work times and create boundaries

Although one of the joys of working from home in your own business is that you can work whenever you choose to, unless you set specific work times, one of two things will happen. You will either spend all day dipping in and out of work and end up achieving very little, or, you will find yourself working all the time.

Set specific hours of work and concentrate only on work during that time. Make sure your family and friends know that you are working during those hours, so you are not disturbed. Also, make sure that your clients know your hours of work, so that they contact you when appropriate. It is fine to have different working hours from the standard 9 to 5, but make sure your clients are aware of this. They will be frustrated if they can’t get hold of you. And, you do not want constant interruptions outside of your work time.

Arrange your household chores so they do not interfere with your work schedule

Make sure you do not get drawn into doing your household chores when you should be working. No one likes a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, or damp clothes in the washing machine, but these can be sorted out to fit in with your working day. Do the washing up while you are waiting for the kettle to boil when making a cup of tea or coffee. Hang out the washing while your lunch is in the oven or microwave.

Plan your time around your body clock and lifestyle

Are you a morning person? Some people work better in the mornings, others are more effective later in the day. When is your best time? Working for yourself means that you can be flexible enough to schedule your day around your most effective times. If your concentration is better in the mornings, use that time to work on projects that require concentration.

For further free advice on becoming a Virtual Assistant visit

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