Because virtual assistance is an unregulated industry and you don’t need any formal qualifications to be a VA, there is often confusion and misunderstanding in the VA Handbookers Facebook group around what being one actually entails. Because I’m also tired of reading articles that portray the profession as being an ‘easy side gig’, I thought I’d explain what it actually means to be a Virtual Assistant.
What it means to be a (good) VA
1) Just because there aren’t any formal qualifications, doesn’t mean you don’t need to have any skills.
2) It’s not something that you can just ‘have a go at’ or something that brings in easy money. You need to be good at what you do and work hard to ensure your clients receive an impeccable service.
3) Running a business is hard work and shoddy work or mistakes should not be made if you are pitching yourself as a professional organiser. You wouldn’t want your electrician or hairdresser to be using you as a guinea pig to practice on – you pay them good money to know what they’re doing.
4) People go into this industry because they have good admin and organisation skills. If your top skill is making websites and you love doing it then you’ll make more money as a website developer/designer.
5) Offering everything to everybody is not a good business model.
6) Clients will expect a good service, they will want you to have skills, they will expect you to know what you’re doing, and they will expect you to communicate well.
7) If a client has to chase you, you’re not good at your job.
8) A good VA adds value to their client’s business. They come up with ways to make it run better instead of just waiting to be told what to do. This is how they both build their reputation and prove they are worth the money.
9) Every other freelance industry requires skills and virtual assistance is no different. I can’t draw so I’m not a tattoo artist. I have been asked too many times by upset, angry and disillusioned clients to fix their last VA’s mistakes.
10) At the very least you need to know how to spell – especially if you offer copywriting, editing or write anything online for your client. If my VA couldn’t spell, I would replace her with one who could actually help me with my business.
11) You are entrusted with someone else’s business – it’s a special relationship that needs to be managed carefully and professionally.
12) Treating virtual assistance as an easy sideline or charging peanuts brings the entire industry into disrepute and you will struggle to succeed.
13) The more you charge the better you need to be. Undercharging lowers the reputation of the entire industry, but charging top dollar and not delivering value does the same.
14) Not everyone is suited to freelance life. It is not easy and does not suit everyone. That is fine.
15) Although it’s also not rocket science, you do need to be good at what you do. Faffing around with logos, colours and company names is fun, but clients only care about how you communicate and deliver.
That’s how you get paid and that’s what makes it a business and not a hobby.
Apologies for my bluntness (I can be very forthright I’m afraid – it gets me into a lot of trouble sometimes!) but I want to get across that virtual assistance is a serious profession and not an ‘easy gig’.
Whilst freelancing does bring a level of freedom, it’s also incredibly hard work. You need skills, you need to be able to manage client expectations as well as your own time, and you need to be able to deliver the work or else your business won’t succeed.