3. Virtual Assistant
The nitty-gritty: With shrinking payrolls, there's been a jump in demand from small-business operators to executive-level professionals to hire virtual personal assistants to do various administrative tasks. Duties range from making travel arrangements to sending out letters and other support services that can easily be handled remotely via e-mail and phone.
The job can involve sitting for long periods, so take precautions to prevent eyestrain, stress and repetitive motion ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Look for openings and information at the International Virtual Assistants Association, or at virtualassistantjobs.com and teamdoubleclick.com.
The hours: Flexible, including split shifts and part time
Median pay range: $15 to more than $30 an hour
Qualifications: Employers increasingly demand knowledge of computer software applications, such as desktop publishing, project management, spreadsheets and database management. You should be skilled in both Microsoft Word and Excel (for financial statements). Two years' work experience in an office administrative function is helpful.
Virtual assistant training programs are available at many community colleges. At Portland Community College, for example, courses required to earn a virtual assistant certificate can be completed in two terms, and all of them may be taken online, although traditional in-person classes are available for most. While there's currently no set standard of certification for virtual assistants, the IVAA does offer three certifications that require passing a written test: Certified Virtual Assistant, Ethics Checked Virtual Assistant and the Real Estate Virtual Assistant. Hats off to the invisible workforce.