You may work alone in your virtual office every day, but fortunately you're not alone as a virtual assistant. There are people and groups to help you. Although you can become a virtual assistant without any training, organizations and schools offer training and job placement to help you succeed. They also can give you opportunities to network with peers and potential clients, and even a virtual convention to attend without leaving home.
The biggest part of your training occurred on the job before you decided to go out on your own. Working in an office, you learned the administrative skills and picked up industry knowledge that'll help you succeed as an office assistant in the virtual world. What you may be missing most is knowledge about how to run your virtual business successfully, including how to find clients.
Here are some places that offer training or job referrals, or both, for new virtual office assistants:
Virtual Assistance U describes itself as "an online training/coaching eAcademy site." For approximately $1,500, Virtual Assistance U offers a 20-week program of online classes, workshops, projects and individual coaching. While the training site does not provide job placement, it does pass on information from companies seeking virtual assistants.
International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (IAVOA) offers a 10-week training program with Virtual Business Training. The program focuses on starting a virtual assistant business and includes mentoring. With the Reva Training Center, IAVOA also offers online classes and mentoring for real estate virtual assistants and provides referrals for businesses seeking virtual assistants.
International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) is a not-for-profit trade association that offers certification for virtual assistants and real estate support specialists. For certification as a virtual assistant, the applicant would review the study guide and take an EthicsCheck exam ($45 for members) and then the CVA exam ($120). The CVA exam assesses skill in word processing, accounting, data management, Web design and digital literacy.
IVAA also provides members with benefits such as mentoring, networking, information sessions, a member directory and free Web site hosting.
The Alliance for Virtual Business (A4VB) is a consortium of virtual assistant groups who want to educate businesses about the role of virtual assistants. The consortium provides virtual assistants with mentoring and information about classes available through Web organizations and schools.
A4VB also hosts the annual Online International Virtual Assistants Convention. Without leaving home, virtual assistants can attend seminars, visit exhibit booths and network with colleagues.
Looking for training close to home? Try local schools and community colleges. Black Hawk College in Moline, Ill., for example, offers a two-semester virtual assistant certificate program. Because courses are online, you don't have to take time off work to attend classes [source: River Cities Reader].
Once you have your business operating, the challenge may be finding clients. Mentoring offered by the associations we've mentioned can help. You also may want to post your services at Web sites such as guru.com and freeagent.com that hook up businesses and providers of contract services.
But your best source of clients may be through referrals from other clients and networking. You can attend job fairs, join local business groups and do a local promotional campaign for your services. Don't forget to set up a professional Web site for your business so that potential clients can see what you have to offer.
For lots more information about virtual office assistants and related topics, check out the links on the next page.