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Overworked? Understaffed? Virtual assistants may offer the help you need

Paula Harris has an assistant who always seems to be there for her--even though they're not based in the same city or even in the same state. Harris, a Chicago television producer and promoter, last year hired Vonetta Booker-Brown, a "virtual assistant" based in Bridgeport, Conn., to answer her phones and handle other office-type duties. Now, says Harris, "I can concentrate on running my business without getting overwhelmed by administrative tasks."

Virtual assistants, or V.A.s, are typically home-based, self-employed workers who handle everything from travel arrangements to bookkeeping. The twist is that they aren't physically located in the same place as...

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