What do you picture when you think of a personal assistant?
Is it a well-intentioned ingénue with a steep learning curve like Andy from “The Devil Wears Prada,” or a secretly wise verbal punching bag like Lloyd from “Entourage”? Andy and Lloyd have something in common that today’s assistant doesn’t: They’re in the next room.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the newest iteration of the personal assistant is the virtual assistant—meaning not a robot or disembodied voice from the computer, but a person miles (or hundreds of miles) away, helping you out from afar.
Think about the tasks on your to-do list you might want to outsource to someone else: They’re probably less likely to be things like “clean out my closet,” which requires a physical presence, and more likely to be things like “clean out my inbox,” or “book my trip to Texas,” which can be done online or on the phone.
According to the Journal, businesses have been employing virtual assistants for a while now, but the trend is starting to catch on for people in their personal lives, as well. Virtual assistants come from all avenues: college students looking for side jobs, retired people doing the same or parents hoping to work from home.
People in need of their services find them through online subscription services like Zirtual, or through a site that lists freelancers like Elance or oDesk. The assistants earn $8-$50 an hour, depending on their skills (some tasks are more along the lines of paralegal work than going through inboxes, and fees increase accordingly).
With the rise of personal assistants outside the office, two opportunities present themselves: One to better manage your time (after all, time is money!) by having someone states away check minutiae off your to-do list, and another to earn extra cash by helping people with theirs.