Many people ask me what the difference between a virtual assistant and a personal assistant, or a virtual assistant and a concierge, for that matter. These are important distinctions to make before deciding to set up your new business, because each one suggests very different responsibilities to your potential client.
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Virtual Assistant, Personal Assistant or Concierge?

Many people ask me what the difference between a virtual assistant and a personal assistant, or a virtual assistant and a concierge, for that matter. These are important distinctions to make before deciding to set up your new business, because each one suggests very different responsibilities to your potential client.

Virtual assistants are much like administrative assistants. They mostly work from home by themselves, or a centralized office with a few others, as we do. Their tasks are generally limited to the administrative, too, such as transcription and typing, correspondence, and mass mailings.

And speaking of mailing, we find Stamps.com really helpful in that regard. We hate going to the post office and waiting in long lines, even if it is for our beloved clients! With Stamps.com, we dont have to. For $80, we got a 4-week free trial, free postage and a postage scale, which youd have to admit is quite a deal. With support for most address book software, mass mailings can actually be easy!

In contrast, a personal assistant can be asked to do some of the administrative stuff, but the emphasis of the position isn't usually concentrated there. We have found, in our varied and storied careers, that personal assistants are generally asked to do more, well, personal things, like picking up dry cleaning, making vacation plans, picking up children from school, etc.

This position is great for people who love to be on the go, and hate staring at a computer screen all day. And in order to do it, you're going to need a great cell phone with Blackberry capability, so you can stay in touch with your client, hisor her spouse, and any kiddies. Cingular has a great Blackberry phone that's less than $150 when purchased with a new service plan. Great coverage and the ability to text and email from your car? Bring it on!

The concierge may be the most misunderstood of all three fields. Many people assume that concierges work solely from hotels, providing guests with extra services, such as booking transportation to and from the airport, helping with theater or concert tickets, and arranging for secretarial services while in a certain city. But you can start your own concierge business, whether or not you are affiliated with a hotel.

If you decide to do this, your target client will most likely be those who are new to the city, such as temporary workers, new arrivals, or people who are in your city for purely business reasons. Helping these people find the level of service they're seeking can be very lucrative, as well, since many have expense accounts for business and can be a bit freer with cash and tips (we all love that!).

Reading up a bit on concierge businesses is important before taking that crucial first step. The Concierge Manual takes you on a step-by-step journey to creating your business, designing a brochure, and even potential legal issues. Don't be without it!

But just because these three are related but different fields doesn't mean you can't mix and match. We include concierge services in our service package for AssistantGirls.com, because we are located in Los Angeles, a large American city that experiences an enormous amount of business travel.

One resource we couldn't live without is our Zagat Guides. Whether we need the number of the hottest new restaurant in Beverly Hills, or need to make a suggestion for hotels in Baltimore, or nightlife in New York, these kick-butt little guides make all the difference. And isn't that why they hired you in the first place?


Copyright 2006 AssistantGirls.com. Alyson Mead is founder of AssistantGirls.com. She spent eight years as a book editor in New York, working for companies such as Scholastic, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, Glencoe, Steck-Vaughn, Silver Burdett & Ginn, Prentice-Hall and others. She has published hundreds of freelance articles in journals such as Salon.com, ChickClick, MSN.com, In These Times and many more, and ghostwritten several book projects.

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