Getting Ready to Open Your Virtual Doors

There’s more to being a virtual assistant than performing clerical duties — at least that’s the way things have been heading for this now increasingly diverse role. From managing social media accounts to formatting different published materials can be just as common client tasks as data entry and typing. With so many specialty niches available, virtual assistants can choose to work in the areas that their skills are most suited for. If you are considering entering this industry, there are a lot of attractive benefits: no commute, no office dramas, and possible the freedom to make your own hours.

The role of a virtual assistant is constantly gaining higher demand and getting more diverse. Roughly five percent of all new people becoming VAs are broadly skilled young women. To make themselves stand out from all of the other work-at-home mothers and administrative assistants, they can choose to advertise themselves as specialists. Virtual assistants with extra experience in web design/administration, social media accounts, internet research, copywriting, or personal assistance can offer a wider range of services to clients. This ability to customize their offerings makes the ability to comfortably work from home look even more attractive.

It’s not just the virtual assistant industry that’s expanding, but the entire trend of working from home. In a few years, the global market for online work will be around five billion dollars. Businesses are starting to take advantage of the benefits that come from having employees in virtual work places or home offices.

That makes the present a great time to start thinking about virtual assistance as a career option. If you’re new to being a VA, here are some tips to help get you started:

Reading Catch Up:

Choosing your office

If you are able to take over a whole room, rather than just a part of one, it is highly recommended. Ideally, the room shouldn’t be used for anything other than your office, and should not contain items that will distract you or create noise. Not only will you be able to declare your home office on your taxes, but there is something incredibly fulfilling to be able to close your office and “go home” for the evening. It creates a defined boundary between “work life” and “home life.” If there’s a television in the room, get rid of it. Loud pets or appliances should be moved to another room. Having enough space to fit in office furniture, like your filing cabinets, desks, tables, or stationery shelves, needs to take priority. Always make sure you have the ability to hook up a phone line in the room and that you have enough power outlets.

Employ some Feng Shui:

Creating your workstation

Remember that you’re going to spend all of your time sitting and working at the same desk every day. It may be tempting to get a small desk to conserve space or save money, but doing this will not give you enough room to work comfortably or stretch your legs. You’re going to be sitting in your chair for long periods of time so also make sure you buy a comfortable chair that won’t hurt your back and can be fully adjusted.

Buying your technology and supplies

Again, keep your comfort in mind. Staring at a badly-positioned monitor for long periods of time can be painful. Using a mouse that’s the wrong size or a keyboard that doesn’t suit your hands is also bad for your posture.

You will want a way to back up your work, like using a portable hard drive. Instead of buying a copier, a scanner, and a fax machine, look at getting an all-in-one printer. Not only are they much cheaper but they are also a great way to save space in a small home office. Items like laminators, binding machines, and shredders are more specialized items, so unless you need them for a specific role, you can wait to get these.

Setting up your phone system

There are several options available when setting up a new phone line, and it’s important to consider which one best suits your needs. If you know you will have reliable and fast internet, Skype is a possibility. In addition, RingCentral and Google Voice also options.

What about mobile phones? If your signal is always strong, then go for it .. just be wary when you answer your “business line” when you’re not in your office. The backgrounds sounds don’t give off a professional image.

Also, consider hiring someone to pick up your calls when you are out of the office or already on the phone. Unanswered calls can drive potential clients away and you may be able to find a reliable call-handling service to pick up your overflow.

Scheduling your work day and putting boundaries in place

When working from home, there are two common scenarios that will occur. The first one will have you loosely hopping in and out of work and getting very little done, mostly because you can’t get focused. The second will have you working nonstop and forgetting about the rest of the world. Choosing your work and choosing your hours can only be effective if you’re sticking to those hours.

Decide what your work hours are going to be — this doesn’t need to be 8am-4pm or 9am-5pm, it can be any set hours that work best for you, like 10am-4pm. Let your clients know that these are your work hours and that you can be contacted during this time. Let your friends and family know as well, and stress to them that these are work hours, and that being at home doesn’t make any difference to your availability.

It’s important to stick to your hours and not do work outside allocated work time. It’s also important to focus on your tasks and not get distracted while you’re meant to be working.

Listening to your body clock

If you know you’re not a morning person and it’s going to take you hours to get focused, then consider not starting your work day until later on in the morning. If you’re making your own hours, then it’s best to choose the ones where you are going to be the most focused and motivated.

Keeping your errands and chores out of your work day

It can be tempting to tidy up throughout the day or quickly put a load of laundry in the machine, but this will break up your work day. The dusting, the dirty dishes, the mopping — all these things need to wait until your work is done or you have a day off. If you really feel the need, you can always do little things while you’re on your breaks or while you’re waiting for your lunch to cook.

About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:

logo1bSince 2006, Out of the Office has offered ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, content writing and offering creative solutions for your business success.

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