Rosemary Zalewski, 38, had done a lot of different jobs—teacher, events coordinator, marketer—but had never run her own business until last year. Now she has people working for her, not in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, but on the other side of the globe. Zalewski's business, virtualhires.com, connects websites in need of technical work with her virtual staff in the Philippines. As increasing global trade has heightened competition, businesses of all types are willing to pay to outsource services they did themselves. "Businesses are increasingly looking at core competencies," says Michael Morris, a professor of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University. But outsourcing occurs at home as well. Gayle Buske's business in Colorado, Team Double Click, recruits only American workers looking to make some extra money and places them with businesses looking to outsource administrative work. Buske started out posting a few ads on the Internet looking for freelance writers, never intending to start a business. But she now directs the placement of 51,000 potential virtual assistants. She sees her work not only as a business but as a fulfilling service, since she helps people find work that doesn't require a 9-to-5 schedule. "It's so much fun to help people work from home. I know these people are there for their kids when they get on the bus in the morning and when they get home," Buske says.
What does it pay?
This business is extremely new, so pay information isn't available. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean pay for employment, recruitment, and placement specialists was $52,720 in May 2007. But most of these specialists do not run their own businesses. Zalewski says she charges her six clients $1,000 a month apiece. She expects to more than double her number of clients by 2009.
What kind of background do you need?
The job's open-ended nature means that backgrounds can vary. One constant, however, is the need to understand people's work records and what it takes to make them qualified to represent your business. "We see so many people, and with 51,000 people coming through, everyone thinks they have great skills. But everyone doesn't," Buske says. So, experience with recruiting, hiring, and management is a great asset. Previous connections with the corporate world also help develop contacts with businesses in need of virtual assistants. If you're interested in managing people overseas and don't have foreign contacts, fluency in that country's language and familiarity with its culture are major pluses.
How do you get started?
Starting out, Zalewski had only her home, her savings from her income of $70,000 a year from her corporate job (which she left to start this business), and a laptop. "The start-up costs are quite low," she says. Her biggest cost early on was hiring a consultant she knew through a friend. This consultant connected her with her virtual staff in the Philippines and still manages that staff. Zalewski has developed a specific niche, and that has helped her find clients. Her niche is affiliate marketers, which are websites that promote certain brands and get paid by the sellers of those brands as affiliates. For example, you might have a website that sells various goods, and the website gets its money from the makers of those goods based on every click they get. "To build these sites takes a lot of time and a lot of upfront work," Zalewski says, and that's where she and her virtual staff come in.