Lending a virtual hand: How a virtual assistant can help you

Tracey Porter

An unexpected redundancy gave Sam Spence the greatest gift she never knew she wanted.

After dedicating more than two decades to life as an executive assistant at one of the four big banks, Spence was told she no longer had a job or any means of supporting herself, and was forced to think on her feet.

Three years ago she put her existing skills to use by setting up Executive Virtual Associate.

At its core, Australia’s thriving Virtual Assistant (VA) industry exists to provide secretarial and administrative support to businesses offsite.

Spence – who claims to be Australia’s only Ethics Checked Virtual Assistant accredited by the International Virtual Assistants Association - says VAs offer support remotely from their own offices, using their own equipment.

“We take care of most things that would be delegated to an office-based assistant, such as newsletters, website updates, social media, document design, follow ups, appointment setting, event planning, online research, the list goes on and on. There isn’t much a VA can’t do without the aid of the internet.”
Anne Villavieja, of Virtual Office Angels, says VAs are viewed as an inexpensive way for corporate offices, home-based businesses, private individuals, students or travelling executives, to obtain essential secretarial and administrative support on a part-time or job-to-job basis without the cost of a full-time, on-site employee.

Virtual Assistants can be a great resource, even if only temporary for micro businesses to help manage peak workloads.

Most VAs charge package rates or hourly rate payment options, depending on the task required.

As at 18 July 2015, the average wage rate for an administrative assistant in Australia was $20.27 per hour. Hourly rates for VAs generally range from $25 to $65 while packages vary from $250 to several thousand dependent on the project.

“Virtual Assistants can be a great resource, even if only temporary for micro businesses to help manage peak workloads, accomplish task/projects that have been put off, or maybe even allow the business owner to take a break from their business,” Spence says.

Cathryn Fuller says she was motivated to set up her VA business, Online Office Assistants, after having children and struggling to find flexible part-time work.

Fuller says her business offers full range of secretarial, transcription, word processing, document formatting and typing services for her clients.

In addition, she also does some legal secretarial work as well as occupational health and safety systems management.

Fuller, whose client base is very varied and includes sole traders (such as myself), government departments, universities, lawyers, medical professionals, accountants, students and consultants, says one of the key advantages in employing a VA is the fact small businesses only pay for the hours worked. As the VA works from a home-based office, no time is wasted on office politics, mandatory breaks and personal issues while there are also savings to be had across payroll tax, superannuation, sick and holiday leave and training, she says.

Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter is a career journalist whose mug shot appears everywhere from daily newspapers and online news sites to business and consumer magazine titles.