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 admin 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 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. People are crying out for good administrators so don’t think you need to offer social media management if you don’t know anything about it.
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. They don’t know how it all works so they will need you to lead them.
7) If a client has to chase you, I’m afraid you’re not very good at your job.
8) A great VA adds value to their client’s business and come up with ways to make it run better. 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 by many disillusioned clients to fix their last VA’s mistakes, their bad experience made them doubtful of my skills (I had more to prove) and of outsourcing in general.
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. Virtual Assistants are administrators – that’s what they do.
11) You are entrusted with someone else’s business which means it’s a special relationship that needs to be managed professionally. There is a lot of trust and you need to be meticulous with their data, confidentiality and details.
12) When people treat virtual assistance as an easy sideline or charge peanuts, it brings the entire industry into disrepute and makes it harder for everyone to find work and be charged what their skills are worth.
13) The more you charge the better you need to be. If you charge top dollar you need to deliver top skills and service.
14) Not everyone is suited to freelance life. It is not easy and does not suit everyone. There is no job security, no regular income, it can be lonely, you need to manage your own time, you need discipline, you need to communicate well with sometimes difficult people. you need to steer your own ship and it is not east to move from an employee mentality to thinking like a business owner. That is ok though.
15) Faffing around with logos, colours and company names is fun, but clients only care about how you communicate and deliver. You have to get some work in and done at some point.
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 admin 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.