A virtual secretary is an independent contractor who provides support to a business from a remote location. Virtual secretaries are also known as virtual assistants, and they typically work from their home offices, providing services for multiple clients. Companies which need executive support but cannot afford to employ an in-house secretary may use a virtual secretary, and virtual secretaries can also provide temporary support, or work at odd hours, providing as many or as few services as a company needs.
Virtual secretaries have their office equipment, and they have an extensive skill set which enables them to do things like establishing an Internet presence for a business, communicating with clients, creating newsletters, updating and maintaining databases, making travel arrangements for their clients, coordinating conference calls and video conferences, answering phones, handling routine inquiries, and performing various desktop publishing tasks.
Most have extensive document preparation skills which include drafting business letters, proofreading office publications, preparing booklets and informational fliers, designing brochures, and generating other communications. Virtual secretaries can also organize visual presentations, develop materials to hand out at events, and handle administrative tasks ranging from ordering business cards to organizing a data management system.
Some virtual secretaries also do bookkeeping, managing the books for their employers. They can also perform office management tasks, managing an office remotely so that a company does not need to hire an office manager to work on site. A virtual secretary may also have a highly specialized skill set, as in the case of a virtual legal secretary who assists a lawyer or a medical secretary who handles administrative support for a medical office.
When a client contacts a virtual secretary to establish a business relationship, the secretary and client discuss the needs and expectations, and the secretary creates a customized plan which works for the client. For example, a client doing business in the United States might hire a virtual secretary in Australia to maintain a presence during Australian business hours, or someone who requires executive support at odd hours might hire a virtual assistant to be on call at all times to do everything from making last minute flight arrangements to quickly generating a business letter.
People who work as virtual secretaries usually have experience in office environments as executive assistants, administrative assistants, office managers, or secretaries. They may have also attended school to acquire professional skills such as knowledge of software programs used in office environments or database management skills. Virtual secretaries can set their own hours for work, taking on as many clients as they feel comfortable with.