If you’ve ever read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, you probably have read the chapter about virtual assistants. It describes how you can improve your business and personal life at an affordable price. Just be sure to provide detailed direction and learn from your mistakes.
Belinda Stringer owns the domain name VirtualAssistants.com as well as the business behind it. She founded the company back in 1999, well before Tim’s book made the job popular with the masses. Belinda spent some time discussing the domain name and the story behind it with me.
Mike: VirtualAssistants.com is a job board for virtual assistants. What exactly can a virtual assistant do for me and can I afford it?
Belinda: A Virtual Assistant is someone who can help you with various business tasks that you would like to take off your plate. This can be administrative tasks such as letters, calendar management, travel arrangements, email management, spreadsheets, or other tasks such as research, writing, transcription, or customer service. Anything you can think of that someone could do online for you and not have to be physically present, a Virtual Assistant can do for you.
Virtual Assistants can work for an hourly rate or a per project rate, and since you are not paying taxes, medical benefits, paid vacations and such, it is more economical for a business owner to hire a Virtual Assistant.
Mike: I have read that you started the business in response to the high number of virtual job scams that exist. Tell me more about your experience.
Belinda: Well, back in 1998, working virtually was just getting started. I worked as an Operations Manager of an employment agency and started to look into working from home. Since I was new to this, I applied for what I thought was a good job but it turned out to be a total scam. This was an eye opening experience for me and I learned there are many crooks who try to take advantage of innocent people looking for work from home employment. So at the beginning of 1999, I decided to create a private virtual job board where we prescreened the jobs to verify that they were legitimate so people could feel safe applying to the jobs that are listed on our job board.
Mike: The domain name you have could not be better for your niche. Tell me how you acquired the name? Are you willing to share what you paid for the name?
Belinda: I was on a forum and it mentioned Virtual Assistants – which I had not heard that term before. So I thought I would go to a domain name provider and see if the name was available. It was, and so I purchased the name from Network Solutions for I think it was 39.99 in February of 1999.
Mike: How much do you reply on other forms of traffic such as paid advertising as opposed to simple type-in traffic? Do you know what percentage of your visitors come from just typing in the domain name?
Belinda: It is about 25% advertising and the rest is type in traffic and social media posts. We do advertise with Google and Bing adwords but it is a small amount. We also do a lot of social media through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The majority of people visiting the site come from just searching via Google or Bing and social media posts.
Mike: As an online business owner, what is your opinion of all the new TLDs available today (ie .club, .xyz, .store)?
Belinda: For the right company it might work, but otherwise I just don’t see those working as well as a .com domain name. People are just really used to typing in .com at the end of a domain name.
Mike: Even with a great name, running an online business can be difficult. What have you found to be the largest challenge you have had to overcome and how did you do it?
Belinda: Gaining people’s trust. With all the scams out there, it is a challenge for most people who are new to this to tell who is really honest and not a scam. I think this is always a challenge, but we make every effort to always do the best for the people who register on our site. We kind of take this personally and we really do go the extra mile in making sure the jobs are legitimate, updated daily and we respond to our customers or any inquiries immediately.