How to Become a Virtual Assistantby Michael Dirk on 07-06-2012 in The Blog Room
Become a virtual assistant and you can have a lucrative career, but many people considering the move into the virtual work industry still wonder what they would need to provide virtual services from a remote location. Virtual jobs, while provided by an employer like anywhere else, still allow virtual assistants to work for themselves. This means they must start their own business and create a plan for how to make it as profitable as possible. Start-up costs for an at-home business can be a bit expensive, but experienced virtual assistants can tell you there are other software and hardware options similar to the industry standards, but with a much lower price tag.
One of the most convenient aspects of providing virtual services is it can be done from the comfort of home. Virtual assistants save money by doing their virtual work in a home office instead of renting space locally. However, they do need to ensure they have space for their equipment and room to work. This might mean a spare room that can serve as a home office or an empty dining room that can double as work space. It does not matter where the work space is as long as it is large enough and can allow the virtual assistant to complete their virtual jobs to the specifications of the client.
Before any virtual work can begin, some basic equipment and tools will be needed before being labeled as a virtual assistant for hire. The business can't get started without a reliable computer and internet. Many prefer to have a more high-speed internet because employers and virtual work are found and secured via the internet. It is important to have an Internet connection that uploads and downloads quickly in case you need to transfer large files or graphics. It's also important to choose a provider that is recognized as reliable, so there are few lapses in service. Other equipment includes a printer, fax, and scanner. It may be bulky and cumbersome to have all three machines in one office, so many virtual assistants prefer to purchase one machine that has all three capabilities.
Employers occasionally prefer other means of communication, and it's important to accommodate these requests. The office should come complete with a telephone to be used for virtual work purposes, and if necessary, a separate telephone line. Others opt for a little more sophisticated option by using a VoIP telephone service with softphone. This allows virtual assistants to make phone calls through their computer and to transmit their voice over the Internet. A softphone has all the same capabilities as a normal phone, including flash, call waiting, hold, and transfer features. In order to use this technology, it may require a set of USB headphones, a headset that is used to transmit the speech and plugs directly into the USB port of the computer.
Sometimes, employers prefer to simulate a face to face meeting via a webcam. Popular video messaging sites, such as Skype, should be downloaded to the computer in order to be used whenever necessary. Furthermore, in order to participate, virtual assistants need a webcam and a microphone. Laptop computers typically come with these features as standard options, but they can still be purchased separately if if you're using a desktop computer. Virtual assistants can gather the information about their virtual work regardless of what method of communication the employer prefers. There is no one standard option in the virtual services industry and most virtual assistants find themselves using a combination of all.
As far as software is concerned, the type needed may vary depending on a virtual assistant’s area of expertise. The first type that is a necessity, regardless of what virtual services are provided, is email software. Microsoft Outlook is typically regarded as the best in business. Along with email, it's usually necessary to have some sort of office suite for word processing, spreadsheets, or slideshow presentations. This is absolutely necessary for obtaining virtual work, but many of the options come with a higher price tag than virtual assistants are willing to spend during their start-up phase. OpenOffice is a popular office suite, as it is completely Microsoft compatible and offers the same features and is completely free. It can be downloaded completely free from their website at www.openoffice.org. The last requirement is professional PDF software application. Some Virtual assistants use Foxit Phantom PDF Standard for Business, which you can get for $50 if you contact the company and ask for a coupon. The more well-known version, Adobe Acrobat Pro, normally sells for around $200 or more.
Other forms of software are optional, depending on the type of virtual services offered. Graphic designers and artists need to find a cheap alternative to the usual Adobe Photoshop which runs anywhere from $400 to $600 in price. Cheaper alternatives that work just as well are Paintshop Pro X4 (only $65 in comparison) or Photoshop Elements 10 (which costs only $90). Virtual assistants whose virtual work includes web design services will need a web design program also known as an HTML editor. More experienced virtual assistants tend to use the more expensive option, Adobe Dreamweaver, which will cost $400. Those who are just starting their virtual assistant business might find it useful to purchase a cheaper alternative, Microsoft Expression 4 Web Pro which only costs $127 and is the best alternative as of this writing. There are of course hundreds of cheaper and even free alternative HTML editors available. Just do a search on Google and you will find a lot ready for download. In addition, web designers might need FTP software to upload files to the client's server, but many HTML editors come with this type of software built-in.
Starting a virtual services business can be challenging with all of the different options available. Although they do not sell any of the products themselves, the Virtual Assistant Directory (Virtual-Assistant-Directory.com) can assist those in the virtual work industry. The staff at Virtual Assistant Directory are knowledgeable about this area and is available to answer all questions about hardware, software, and VoIP systems for no charge at all. In order to access this assistance, visit their website and talk to a staff member, available online and in real-time to answer questions.