Understaffed? Virtual assistants may offer the help you need
Michelle K. Massie
Harris has an assistant who always seems to be there for her--even
though they're not based in the same city or even in the same
state. Harris, a Chicago television producer and promoter, last
year hired Vonetta Booker-Brown, a "virtual assistant"
based in Bridgeport, Conn., to answer her phones and handle other
office-type duties. Now, says Harris, "I can concentrate
on running my business without getting overwhelmed by administrative
assistants, or VAs, are typically home-based, self-employed workers
who handle everything from travel arrangements to bookkeeping.
The twist is that they aren't physically located in the same place
as their employers. Typically, they are hundreds, if not thousands,
of miles away, and they stay in touch with their bosses by phone,
e-mail and fax. The market for VAs has grown large enough in recent
years that today there are several trade groups that represent
workers in the field, including the Virtual Assistants Association
and the International Virtual Assistants Association.
can use a VA, from a corporation to a small-business owner,"
says Rebecca Trelfa, a virtual assistant who entered the field
through AssistU.com, an online VA training, certifying and networking
group that was founded in 1997.
assistants] are an excellent choice for someone who does not need
the physical presence of an assistant to run errands or do on-site
assistants usually have to pay for their own benefits and expenses.
Clients typically hire them on either a project or a retainer
basis and sometimes take on more than one at a time. Hourly rates
for VAs usually start at $30. However, the compensation rate may
vary, depending on skills and services.
a VA can make a small company seem larger or help a self-employed
person appear to have a staff. Says Trelfa: "I used to have
a dedicated phone line for one of my clients in my home office
and would answer it as if I were just at another one of my client's
have also become something of a status symbol. Says Booker-Brown,
who operates a virtual-assistance business called Right Hand Concepts:
"When a client's customers see that they have an assistant,
it lends a certain legitimacy to their business in the minds of