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A few years ago, all the buzz was about a new breed of workers – virtual workers.  It seemingly offered a solution for those who’d been laid off from their traditional jobs as well as employers who needed the tasks completed, but just didn’t have the budget to cover the expenses involved with hiring a full time employee.  Many said it wouldn’t work and that there’d be some sectors that wouldn’t even be able to consider such dynamics, and particularly, the legal sector and the medical sector.  There were just too many confidentiality issues involved.  Still, some believed it would work and devised their own relationships with virtual assistants.  Some had their phones rerouted while others resorted to a modern version of the classic Dictaphone for their new virtual assistants who happily typed away somewhere else in the world.

We asked founder and career counselor A. Harrison Barnes how well these new relationships worked out and were they even still being incorporated.  “Absolutely.  Many companies – of all sizes – stuck with it and ironed out the details and as a result, these companies have established solid working relationships with their virtual assistants”.  In fact, says Barnes, many businesses include their offsite independent contractors in the office’s holiday festivities, even if it is by such methods as Skype.  One small construction company said its assistant live three hundred miles away, in north Oklahoma, but that she knew the company headquarters would have to reroute traffic due to road repairs being scheduled.  “Even we weren’t aware of this, and it’s happening right outside our doors.”  Like any good assistant, she sent out an email to the company’s clients, complete with a quick reroute to the company’s back entrance, and not only did the clients have a head’s up, but the on site employees did as well.  She subscribed the area’s online version of the newspaper, which she read every evening.  Clearly, this is a viable option if the assistant is a good fit for the company, said A. Harrison Barnes.

Thinking you might be a more formidable assistant in the virtual world?  There’s a lot to consider, say some now-veteran virtual assistants.  For starters, you’ll need to be able to:

  • Write properly, incorporate excellent grammar skills and be able to type fast – just as a traditional secretary would.
  • Stay organized!  This isn’t a job for anyone who isn’t self-disciplined.  You’ll have deadlines that must be met.
  • Having computer problems?  You’re pretty much on your own, says the founder.  Odds are, the arrangement includes you incorporating your own supplies, materials and work area.  This means if you can’t find a pen or need a new printer cartridge, it’s on your shoulders.  And if you do have computer problems, you’ll have to get it covered fast.

Remember, too, you’re an independent contractor.  This means the company you’re contracting for isn’t responsible for worker’s compensation, sick leave, retirement or pay raises.  Want more money?  You’ll need to be able to negotiate that when it’s time to renew your contract or, as many VA’s do, bring on more clients.

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