Freelancers, or virtual assistants, provide the services which many firms, particularly small or medium enterprises (SMEs) and businesses in the early stages of their development, need but can not always afford on a full-time salaried basis. By paying for those services as and when they need them, they are effectively sharing the wage bill with the freelancer's other customers. It is an arrangement which suits everyone involved, and from which everyone benefits.

Some of the services which can be asserted by a contracted freelancer are ones which may otherwise have been beyond the means of a small business owner. Not every entrepreneur can afford to hire a personal assistant, for example, but by outsourcing the work of a PA it is sometimes possible to have such services provided on demand, saving both on the wage bill and on the expense of unproductive employee retention during periods of relative inactivity. By using resources such as People Per Hour, where freelancers can offer their services and businesses can look for help, a match can quickly be made.

The International Virtual Assistants' Association even operates its own members directory as a useful tool for companies who are looking for some help.

Concentrate on Building Your Business

Other functions which can simply be delegated to an outside service provider include accountancy, web design, search engine optimization, graphics and images, market research to gather information of customer trends and content design and management. In fact whole swathes of the operational side of the business can be placed into the hands of the virtual assistant, leaving the entrepreneur free to concentrate on the task of growing the company.

In terms of setting yourself up in business as a virtual assistant or freelancer, the first step would be to identify an area, or areas, in which you specialize, or for which there is a demand which would appear as yet to be unsatisfied. The next, and of just as much importance, is to establish a presence and build a high profile on the web which will enable potential customers to find you and to see what it is you have to offer them. One good way of achieving this would be to set up a blog and to keep it updated with fresh and interesting content. It is worthwhile adding to your portfolio by building a Facebook page associated with the service you offer.

Working as a freelancer offers the freedom to work as you please, and without being committed or beholden to one specific employer. It works for both parties which is why it is increasing in popularity through the US and elsewhere.