Are Virtual Assistant Jobs the key to work at home success?

Virtual Assistants (VAs) are getting a lot of Google love the past few days.

As unemployment continues to permeate the economy, job seekers are looking for an easier way to check cheddar without the demoralizing interviewing process. But can working as Virtual Assistant lead to success in your PJs? I’d say… possibly. I don’t come from an entirely unbiased perspective. I’ve VA’d on and off for a while, and there’s one thing it isn’t: easy money. Established VAs can certainly rake it in, but it’s not without pitfalls.

First off, before you go investing in expensive memberships and trade organizations, remember that the industry is largely unregulated. A membership in an organization such as the IVAA (The International Virtual Assistants Association) may give you support or help you network, but no one can at this point independently certify VAs to a point where you can lean on it for clients. You need skills- good ones, updated ones, provable things that will attract clients and make your services competitive. Which leads me to…

India. India is chock-a-block with talented VAs that work for less than $5 an hour. It may seem that being located in North America is a selling point, but when it comes time to invoice, clients will remember that your services are far more expensive than those by assistants overseas. A recent article in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution sugarcoated opportunities for VAs, but the reality is that high-earners are few and far between, and bear in mind a whole frickload of the time you spend working is not a billable task.

Virtual assistants perform administrative duties and other tasks from home on a contractual basis for business clients. They command roughly $20 to $75 an hour, depending on geographic location, personal circumstance and skills.

“A company can hire multiple virtual assistants to do different types of tasks, like office management, Web site design or accounting,” Opong said.

Also, remember that there are very, very few “virtual assistant jobs.” You will be constantly out looking for clients, like a horny guy on Craigslist. You will be the one-night-stand of administrative employees. And as Fox Business points out, scams are rife, preying on those desperate for a paycheck:

Two years ago, when The Rat Race Rebellion began tracking at-home jobs, there were 30 scams for every legitimate opportunity. Now, with 4,500 to 5,000 work-at-home job ads screened weekly, the Web site finds 57 phonies for every one that’s for real, says Christine Durst, CEO of The Rat Race Rebellion.

Sites like HomeWithTheKids outline opportunities for would-be SAHMs and SAHDs, but all the VA attention seems to have brought the site down for now. Parents should bear in mind that kids are still as annoying as hell when you’re trying to get work done, and the rule about kids making noise while you try to talk on the phone is even more true when it’s a client on the other end.

If you’re really interested in being a VA, the best place to get information (for free) is popular forums like the Virtual Assistant Forums. No one there will “certify” you or provide e-courses, but there’s a wealth of information for those who really have what it takes to succeed in an industry where your basic secretary is a dime a dozen. Chances are, if the competition in getting a bricks-and-mortar job is too steep, you’ll need to shore up your skill set by learning some new things before you can compete in what’s becoming a rapidly oversaturated field.