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Bogged down by routine business tasks? Ever wished you had more time to concentrate on important business projects and the bigger things in life? If you’ve ever wished you had an assistant but didn’t think you had the money or the space for staff, think again. Cloud computing has created an entirely new career field–one which might benefit you. We’re talking about the virtual assistant (or V.A.). And don’t worry: A virtual assistant could be more economical and convenient than you might suspect.

The term ‘Virtual Assistant ‘was first coined in 1996 by Thomas Leonard, according to Stacy Brice, founder of the U.S.A. based Virtual Assistant Association. Brice was the first person to start the trend of a home based contractor of administrative services for an international client base. Some Virtual Assistant Services will also take care of personal business and errands, like a concierge service.

The only thing a V.A. can’t do for you is anything that must be done in person. But you may be surprised at what can be accomplished without physically being in the same office or country as you are, such as:

  • Make phone calls and schedule meetings
  • Conduct market research
  • Follow up on errands and appointments
  • Create and edit documents and legal documents
  • Update websites and add search engine optimization
  • Conduct real estate transactions
  • Answer your email
  • Update databases
  • Update invoices and receive payments
  • Manage recruiting processes

So how does cloud computing make the idea of the virtual assistant conceivable? Through the miracle of
the Cloud, phone calls to your business could instead be forwarded to your V.A. (through cloud telephone
services such as Vonage or Skype). You can meet and brainstorm with your V.A., even if she is across
the company, through cloud-based collaboration tools such as Google docs or online whiteboards. The
same kind of online collaboration allows you and your virtual assistant to work together to build and
update your website.

Some of the cloud-based services that will help you and your virtual assistant work together include the following:

Google Docs: http://docs.google.com

Zoho Desktop: http://www.zoho.com

Vonage: http://www.vonage.com

Skype: http://www.skype.com

Gmail at htp://www.gmail is arguably the best cloud-based email, since it not only allows standard emailing features, but integrates seamlessly with GTalk (chat feature) as well as with the aforementioned Google Docs.

Dabbleboard: http://www.dabbleboard.com

One other  favorite is O-Desk, at http://www.odesk.com. This cloud-based service allows you to hire someone to do work for your company and to monitor the person in real time. The O-Desk software is set on the V.A.’s side when she starts working, and then throughout the day, sends you auto-updates on the worker’s progress.

There are a host of others available. The point is that your business associates need no longer be tied to your physical office. The Cloud makes it possible for your virtual office to extend nationwide and even world-wide.