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Given the explosive growth of the Internet as a virtual marketplace, it’s fair to say that anyone engaged in commerce includes an online space in his or her business model. At the very least, the lone entrepreneur can be contacted through an email address. However, most companies, large or small, maintain a web site to showcase their products and services. Depending on the nature of trade, the company may provide additional online features as well, such as an article database or an expert advice forum. Then there are viral marketing and social networking strategies to deploy, such as e-books, newsletters, blogs, webinars, and podcasts.
While all of these tricks of e-commerce are attractive in terms of increasing customer base and contributing to the bottom line, it takes manpower to organize and facilitate these tasks. The problem that many companies face is that it’s just not cost-effective to hand some of these administrative duties off to a marketing director or other salaried person whose main focus is in operations. It makes even less sense for senior level staff to use their executive offices to field customer service requests instead of meeting face-to-face with potential clients. In effect, establishing an online business presence equates to the creation of a virtual office. With it comes the necessity to think outside the physical boundaries of bricks and mortar to come up with virtual office solutions.
For many companies, this time and resource management dilemma is often resolved by contracting with a virtual office assistant. Also known as a V.A., this person can be expected to possess well-honed skills in working effectively and creatively in an online environment. They may work as an independent contractor, or they may represent a virtual office solutions management company. In fact, such companies can provide entire virtual teams to work remotely from various locations, which translates to around the clock from different time zones.
The scope of potential virtual office solutions is quite broad and always changing according to trend. At the basic level, virtual assistants can provide services to handle various day-to-day administrative tasks, such as customer service, word processing, bookkeeping, and file management. However, they can also assist with more integrative projects, such as content management, market research, appointment scheduling, budget development, etc. Of course, these remote helpers can also be “on site” when it comes to hosting and moderating certain online activities, such as live chat events and web meetings.
When considering what types of virtual office solutions may be needed, it’s helpful to take an inventory of business objectives and rank them according to priority. Of course, this task list will look considerably different between industries. However, independent virtual assistants and teams are usually comfortable in an equal variety of business settings. In fact, they commonly work with non-profit organizations, retail distributors, law firms, medical facilities, travel agents, and book authors and speakers. In addition, many virtual assistants specialize in one or more areas.