Why look for just another job, when you can embark upon a whole new career? Learn about the latest developments in careers for military spouses. With your mobile lifestyle, there are certain portable careers that can offer you and your family stability and future growth. If you have any topics that you would like to see us write about, feel free to email the editor:
Becoming a (Portable) Virtual Assistant

Having worked with a virtual assistant (VA) on my most recent book project, I can attest that this type of service not only provides terrific value for its customers, but also seems to be a lot of fun for my assistant as well. And since it’s designed to be done virtually, it’s the type of work that perfectly fits the military spouse “portable career” format.

What Do Virtual Assistants Do?

VAs generally work with business clients (from company executives to solo entrepreneurs and everything in-between) doing administrative tasks that the client may not have the time, skills or patience for. For example, this article from Entrepreneur suggests outsourcing these activities to a VA:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Online research
  • Database entry
  • Data presentations (for those of us with the design skills of a gnat)
  • Managing e-mail
  • Social tasks (for example, sending thank-you notes)
  • Travel research (and booking)
  • Scheduling
  • Business development (setting appointments, etc.)
  • Industry knowledge prep (scanning key media for industry trends, then providing summaries)

The International Virtual Assistants Association also has a terrific list of the types of services VAs can offer in their 101 Ways to Use a Virtual Assistant. Naturally, the services you would offer would depend on your specific skill set(s), or the ones you wanted to develop, but some of the additional services noted include:

  • Creating electronic newsletters and e-zines
  • Managing Internet marketing and social media efforts
  • Secretarial and telephone service
  • Transcription

The VA I worked with provided a range of business support services, but also specialized in working with authors. As you can see, the range of offerings you might provide as a VA are extensive and could be focused on those business support activities you most enjoy or are best at, assuming there is a market need for these skills.

How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant

There are four steps I’d recommend for getting started as a VA. The first three are designed to help you research this career path (and are free), while the fourth is only if you’ve decided this is something you’d like to pursue (it costs money!).

First, read up on the profession: Check with your local library for either or both of the following titles, which do a good job of covering the basics:

Virtual Assistant: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA, 4th ed. By Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker, Another 8 Hours Publishing, 2010.

The 2-Second Commute: Join the Expanding Ranks of Freelance Virtual Assistants. By Christine Durst and Michael Haaren, Career Press, 2005.

Although these books will provide a good, and positive, introduction to working as a VA, I’d also recommend reading a book from the other side of the equation, i.e., from the client’s perspective. This will provide a bit of balance that should give you a better sense of whether this is the type of work you’d enjoy. Along these lines, I’d suggest you check out:

Virtual Assistant Assistant: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working With Virtual Assistant. By Nick Loper, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013.

Second, get the inside skinny: Reach out to some individuals currently working as VAs and do some informational interviews. How long have they been a VA? What do they like the most about it? The least? Do they specialize or do all sorts of tasks (and which approach would they recommend?) What professional organizations do they belong to? The best known is the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA), which offers a Certified Virtual Assistant program, but there are also a number of regional associations. How do they market their services? What skills do they feel are most critical to succeeding as a VA? What other advice would they give?

Third, monitor the discussion:  LinkedIn has at least seven large VA-related groups (search on “Virtual Assistant” in the Groups directory). Join these groups and monitor the discussions – this will be a great way to see who’s doing what, who’s complaining about what, and where the professional trends are heading. This is also a great way to identify individuals with whom you’d like to do an informational interview; if you’re both members of the same LinkedIn group, you can reach out directly to them through the group.

Fourth, join the association:  If, after doing the research described above, you decide this is something you’d like to pursue, I’d suggest joining the IVAA in order to have a community to learn from, network with and reach out to for advice. A recent check with the website indicated a regular annual membership to be $137, a trial membership of 90 days to be $44.00.

Want more information? Check these sites:

For Military Spouses
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