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GUILDERLAND: Office tasks done at home

There's a new trend forming in the administrative world, and it's giving many former experienced administrative assistants a chance to call their own shots and work from home.

They're called virtual assistants, or behind the scenes partners that handle key administrative, clerical, technical and personal tasks for clients. Unlike administrative assistants who typically work for large companies and are often overwhelmed with phone calls, meetings, and the occasional unwanted visitor, virtual assistants are independent small business owners that typically have years of experience in the administrative field and work directly from home.

Most of time, they work through e-mail without ever having to deal with their clients face to face.

Rosalind Harris of Guilderland, a former executive assistant with 25 years of experience working in local banking, retail and insurance industries, started her own virtual assistant business in January called Instant Assistant, LLC.

A recent graduate of the Entrepreneurial Assistants Program, a 12-week course that teaches budding entrepreneurs the necessary skills needed to build their own business, Harris works full- time as a project manager for The Center for Economic Growth, and works part-time nights as a virtual assistant mostly for nonprofit agencies. She also subcontracts with clients by referring them to other virtual assistants she feels would be suitable for a position.

Harris said she thought about a job like a virtual assistant before she knew it existed.

"I had been telling people that I'd love to be able to combine what I really enjoy, which is supporting senior level executives, with working at home," she said.

She said becoming a virtual assistant appealed to her because she felt she would be much more productive without the interruptions she faced while working in an office.

"Anything the on-site assistant can do, the virtual assistant can do," she said.

Harris said solo business owners and nonprofit organizations can greatly benefit from having a virtual assistant because they only get paid for the hours they work, and the companies don't have to worry about providing benefits or vacation time.

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