Virtual business

As we all know, corporations are merging, downsizing or relocating. Profitability appears to be more important to corporations than loyal employees. The right job is becoming hard to find. One startling prediction projects that up to 70% of the jobs that will be available in 2010 haven't even been invented yet.

No doubt then that we all need to think more creatively about our future livelihoods.

Virtual business associates are doing just that…

What on earth is a 'virtual business associate' you ask? Answer: a virtual business associate partners with clients (ie other business owners) and uses technology to deliver their services. These individuals are downing the employee shackles and re-inventing themselves and a whole new vocabulary to describe their new SOHO (small office/home office) status, such as
• Solopreneur   • Micropreneur   • Free agent   • Freelancer          • E-lancer   • Independent contractor

One thing is for sure and that is they are new business owners that are starting to appear in our national statistics. According to the latest figures release by the ABS, nearly one million Australians work from home. Although this figure includes employees completing part of their work offsite for their employers, ie telecommuting, this is over 10% of the entire workforce. About half these people are women and 76% are over 35 years of age.

Excellent opportunities for women

Given the statistics above, it is no wonder that virtual business associates are fast becoming part of a booming, cutting-edge service industry and anyone with the right experience and expertise is bound to find a bright future in this area - particularly if you're a woman. Almost 85% of the growing number of virtual business associates (VBAs) who have gathered in an on-line community to collaborate and share expertise are women choosing to take responsibility and control of their lives by creating a flexible, technology-driven future for themselves. They choose not to do the daily commute, the corporate wardrobe or ask permission to take time out when children are sick or have their school sport carnival. Their new slogan is - 'have modem, can deliver'. Women are standing out as keen early adopters of technology that can make their life more flexible.

Visual is not essential

One managing director of a large seafood business prefers to outsource all his correspondence to his virtual associate whose expertise is writing. The benefit being that she can work at times that fit in with raising her three year old daughter and her client has work waiting for him in the morning when he arrives at the office. They've never met face-to-face and all their communication is via the telephone, e-mail and, amazingly, snail mail! This particular virtual associate also copyedits for an author based in the US and they have never met either.

Focussing on core business

One of the benefits of partnering with a VBA instead of taking on the employee burden (employees can cost up to twice their annual salary) is that you can continue to do what you are good at ie your core business, and you can outsource the rest, which might be, depending on your business:
•    Bookkeeping
•    Database Management
•    Event Management
•    Diary Management
•    PR/Marketing Support
•    Website Maintenance

A business and life coach who runs a busy coaching practice has recently partnered with a VBA who does all of the above, except the website maintenance because that's not her area of expertise. There is someone who can help though and they are just a click away.

Another export solutions company outsources all their grant and tender document preparation to a VBA. It is more cost-effective for them to do this as opposed to having an employee because they do not have to provide the following:
•    Office space
•    Office equipment
•    Superannuation
•    Workers compensation
•    Professional training and development

Ten things to know about working successfully with a VBA

Partnering with one of these 21st century business associates may take some getting used to and may involve entertaining new work paradigms. Here are some things you may need to know:

  1. VBAs have opted out of the daily commute, the corporate grind and the office politics - they know that there is more to life than being an employee.
  2. VBAs have chosen a new lifestyle/workstyle and very often are balancing work with other important activities in their lives eg parenting, studying, leisure pursuits.
  3. VBAs are also known as entrepreneurs and free agents and have a professional service to offer.
  4. Remember that working with a VBA is a business-to-business relationship, not an employer/employee or boss/subordinate relationship. If you ever feel tempted to treat a VBA as an employee - don't.
  5. Take the time to speak with several VBAs before deciding which one you would work best with, although you may choose to partner with several depending on their areas of expertise.
  6. VBAs will want to learn all about your business so they can provide you with outstanding services so tell them as much as you can about yourself, your business and your future goals.
  7. Be specific when outlining the services you require eg bookkeeping, appointment scheduling, copyediting, desktop publishing, IT support, PR support, telephone answering, writing.
  8. Make sure you draw up a written contract detailing the exact services, time period and payment method that have been discussed verbally.
  9. Decide how you are going to communicate over the term of the contract eg mainly by phone, mainly via e-mail, face-to-face once a month.
  10. Keep an open mind and explore different ways of working with your VBA, especially when new technology presents itself.

Virtual business and the future

An Australian report which estimates and maps employment relocation in the global economy and new communications environment, reveals that:

"Organisations are 'electronically outsourcing' information-based work to firms or individuals located in cities, regions, or countries that previously would not have been considered. The Internet allows large firms, small firms and even home-based businesses to compete for such work across a wide area, potentially the globe."

Virtual business associates work locally and globally and are part of a future that is already here. Remember - 'have modem, can deliver'!

For further information about this new work style visit the Australian Virtual Business Network at www.avbn.com.au
 
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