Virtual Assistance Grows In Popularity

Several sites report increases in the number of requests for people who can perform a wide range of personal and professional tasks remotely.

What's the Latest Development?

People wishing for their own personal assistant may want to look online: Fabio Rosati, chief executive of the freelance site eLance, reports that the number of virtual assistants who found work via their site in 2012 jumped 44 percent from the previous year. On another site, oDesk, requests for virtual assistance increased more than tenfold between 2008 and 2012. Both sites involve individuals working for hourly rates, while others specialize in outsourcing assistants for a monthly fee. One of these sites, Las Vegas-based Zirtual, offers 10 hours from a US-based worker for $197.

What's the Big Idea?

Virtual assistance in various forms has been around for a while, but more people are using these services for a wide range of personal and business tasks. The assistants themselves range from college students to the semi-retired, and can live in the same city as their client or in an entirely different country. Brooklyn-based entrepreneur Marc Plotkin turned to Zirtual for help because, he says, "I was in the workaholic mode of, 'I don't have time to be more sociable.'" Indiana resident Danielle Johnson now gets about $700 a month to manage aspects of his personal life, such as lunches with friends. She also helps empty his in-box, which receives over 1,000 e-mails a day.

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