The Virtual Secretary
Spartanburg, South Carolina
Mother of Kaleb, 4
Business: Virtual Accuracy (virtualaccuracy.com)
Job description: Provides administrative support to small and home-based businesses
Start-up costs: $1,500 for computer and software
Annual income: $75,000 (hourly rate is $45)
Back story: While working as a TV producer, Noles earned extra money creating spreadsheets and doing other administrative tasks for friends in business. But when she adopted Kaleb in 2002, she decided she wanted to work at home. "My son was born with serious health problems, and it was hard to find daycare for him," Noles explains. At first, she did any administrative work she could find, but she's since begun specializing in providing support for executive coaches. Her husband joined her in the business after he was laid off in 2004. He took over marketing, graphic design, and technical support for the company, and together they've expanded their virtual firm. They've nearly quadrupled their number of clients in the last year by word of mouth, cold calls, and setting up a booth at a local trade show.
Best advice: "Target real-estate agents: They need help creating flyers for open houses and preparing marketing analyses. Send prospective clients a letter and brochure describing your services, and follow up by phone."
Toughest day at the virtual office: "Our business is completely dependent on our Internet connection. One day last winter, we had an ice storm and lost power for a few days. I had a deadline coming up, so I had to pack up my computer and go to a hotel where I could get online and work."