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“Virtual Assistants Wanted” – Venture Capital Fuels Trend

By Christine Durst & Michael Haaren

Jan. 17, 2013 

Virtual assistants, who provide administrative support remotely, have been around since the 1990s. But now venture capital is boosting the trend, creating more opportunities for job seekers with administrative experience.

Here’s the story.

Background: Office Support Meets the Cloud
In the early 1990s, co-columnist Chris (who is credited with founding the virtual assistant industry) began offering administrative support from her home office to a distant client via the Internet. In 1999, the two of us founded the International Virtual Assistants Association (the industry’s first professional association, at IVAA.org), and turned it over to its members as planned at its launch.

The “VA” movement soon spread to Canada, the UK, Australia and beyond, boosted by Skype and other distance-closing tools. Often, VAs were independent businesspeople, working for their own account. Now, companies also hire large numbers of VAs and provide their services to a variety of customers, from CEOs to Realtors to consultants and other busy professionals.

VAs also handle a broad array of tasks, ranging from basic word processing to concierge assignments and “personal assistant” roles.

Zirtual Ramps Up                
In the venture-capital development, VA provider Zirtual.com just received $2 million in funding from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, the Mayfield Fund and others. Zirtual has reportedly hired 100-plus VAs and continues to accept applications from all states except (for the time being) California.

For more on Zirtual’s operations and funding, see http://tinyurl.com/agqz9aq. For Zirtual’s own details on “Zirtual Assistants,” go to http://team.zirtual.com.

In terms of pay, the VAs at Zirtual reportedly keep 50 per cent of what they bill, though hourly rates haven’t yet been confirmed. VAs running their own businesses can earn $25 per hour and more, depending on their specialty. (One independent VA we know billed over $10,000 in one month, though the tally of hours was quite high.)

Other companies, too, specialize in concierge and related services. VIPdesk.com, for example, often hires home-based concierges in the US and Canada. These positions include paid online training and benefits, as well. (Check the VIPdesk site for periodic openings, which often fill quickly.)

Beyond the VA trend, the larger “virtual help” movement is expanding, too, as time-starved individuals of all kinds seek assistance from a growing pool of home-based workers. While companies like US-based FancyHands.com compete with Zirtual – with similar companies weighing in from China, India and the Philippines – sites like TaskRabbit.com and Fiverr.com overlap on their niche.

TaskRabbit.com, which we’ve mentioned here before, lets customers find remote helpers to do everything from picking up the dry cleaning or walking the dog to organizing a database virtually. And Fiverr lets you earn $5 and up for anything from singing a birthday song over the phone to giving a brief Spanish-language lesson on Skype.

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Christine Durst and Michael Haaren are leaders in the work-at-home movement and advocates of de-rat-raced living. Their latest book is Work at Home Now, a guide to finding home-based jobs. They offer additional guidance on finding home-based work at www.RatRaceRebellion.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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