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The Age of the Virtual Personal Assistant Is Here

By Libby Kane

NEW YORK (Learnvest) — What do you picture when you think of a personal assistant?

Is it a well-intentioned ingenue with a steep learning curve such as Andy from The Devil Wears Prada, or a secretly wise verbal punching bag such as 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 or retirees looking for side jobs or parents hoping to work from home.

People in need of their services find them through online subscription services such as Zirtual or through a site that lists freelancers, including Elance or oDesk. The assistants earn $8 to $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).

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