The field of virtual assistance is one of the fastest-growing and in-demand, according to a 2004 report by the American Marketing Association, and shows no signs of diminishing anytime soon.
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How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant

You may not know what to do about it, but you know you hate working in an office. It may be the environment, the boss, your co-workers, or simply that you want to spend more time at home with your kids or family. You need a change, and you need some help. That's what we're here for.

The field of virtual assistance is one of the fastest-growing and in-demand, according to a 2004 report by the American Marketing Association, and shows no signs of diminishing anytime soon.

The reason is the drastic expansion of small business in the United States. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employers in the United States, and there are approximately 22.9 million small businesses in existence now. That's a lot of people who will need a lot of administrative assistance, from correspondence and bulk mailings, to travel arrangements and calendar maintenance, as well as help with research and presentation materials.

Of course, people who have previous office experience have a decided advantage as they're getting started , and many find that some of their first VA clients come from their former office relationships.

When starting a VA business, though, it's best to think about how you want to structure it. Will it be full-time or part-time? And how do you want to pay your taxes? Most people choose sole proprietorships, in order to keep initial expenses low. Establishing a sole proprietorship means that any profits you make must be reported in your personal income tax forms, and any expenses incurred in running the business can be deducted, by reporting the deductions on the appropriate forms.

In order to get started, you may want to use Legal Zoom, a wonderful service that can file your sole proprietor paperwork and deal with the subsequent public notices required by law. Theyre quick, easy and can have you up and running in practically no time. Because you've got better things to do with your time.

Now its time to think about the services you want to offer. Most clients will assume a minimum capability with the internet and email, so its important to have a working computer with a reasonably fast processor (512 mHz or faster is best). You will need an Internet Service Provider (ISP), such as AOL or Earthlink, and a modem (a cable modem or DSL are best for receiving large files, but they're not required. However, you may find it very frustrating trying to work with dial-up), as well as a decent amount of memory for storing your files, and those of your clients (20 GB or better is best).

Secondarily, you will need a fax machine, preferably with a dedicated (separate) line. It becomes very difficult to do business if you can't send and receive faxes while on the phone. If a fax machine is prohibitively expensive at first, we love Call Wave. It's a great software that can help you send (and receive) faxes directly from your email inbox. Another great function is that it can take phone messages for you, through an online answering machine. You'll never miss another important call again!

Next, you'll need some great software, so you can advertise and deliver the greatest number of services for your clients. The most popular program by far, whether for Mac or PC platforms, is Microsoft Office. It has a word processing program in MS Word, a spreadsheet program in MS Excel, and a presentation program in PowerPoint. Lastly, you get MS Outlook, which is a program to compose and send email and store addresses. It also comes with its own junk mail filtering capability, so if you're going to invest in one program right off the bat, this is the one you should get.


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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