What it means to be a Virtual Assistant

15 harsh truths about what it means to be a Virtual Assistant

Because you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a Virtual Assistant, there’s often confusion and misunderstanding in the VA Handbookers Facebook group around what being one entails, and it’s sometimes described 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. It is definitely not a ‘side hustle’.

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 accountant to practice on you – 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 far 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 please don’t offer social media management if you don’t know anything about it. Posting a few updates on your Facebook page is completely different from formulating a business strategy and analysing the ROI.

6) Clients expect good service, they want someone with skills, they expect you to know what you’re doing, and they expect you to communicate well. They don’t know how it all works so they will look to 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 comes up with ways to make it run better. This is how they both build their reputation and prove they are worth the money. They understand their client’s challenges and objectives, and then they provide solutions to both.

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 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 because they could fire (or sue) you if you are not.

(I actually know people whose VAs have actually damaged their reputation, broken confidentiality agreements, taken their contacts and passed off their work as their own.)

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. Calling it a ‘side hustle’ implies it’s something you half-heartedly do in a half-assed way.

13) The more you charge the better you need to be. If you charge top dollar then you need to deliver a top dollar service.

14) Not everyone is suited to freelance life. It is not easy and does not suit everyone. There’s 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 easy 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 need to do the work in order to get paid.

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’ or something you should do while your kids crawl around your feet.

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, you need to focus intently on each client’s tasks, and you need to be able to deliver the work.

Because your business won’t succeed if you don’t.

Do you still want to set up your own Virtual Assistant business? With lifetime access and ongoing support, my online DIY VA course will get you there without the struggle.


Simone Streeter

This is a fine lecture, but how about something on what we can and should expect, in terms of respect, credit, and acknowledgement?

Joanne Munro

The blog post certainly wasn’t meant to be a lecture, however it’s about what it means to be a Virtual Assistant and not what it means to be a client. What you should expect in terms of credit, respect and acknowledgement from a client is covered in many of my other blog posts – but not this one.

Mary Derouiche

I agree point 15 is very relevant to me, I have to stop spending so much time trying to perfect my website which is a work in progress and “faffing about” with my logo, it is now important for me to get out there and get some clients!

Alice Bead

I don’t agree that it can’t be a side venture. I know very successful VAs that do it around a full-time job and are great!

Joanne Munro

Hi Alice, I’ve amended the post to make it clearer because you’re right – it can be a side venture, but it’s when people treat it as a ‘side hustle’ that problems start. It’s then seen almost as a scam and something people half-heartedly do just for a bit of pocket money. Whereas it’s a serious business. So yes, it can definitely be a (serious) side venture alongside another line of work.

Lindsey Brigadier

Absolutely loved this article!! As I’m still in the early planning phases of my business, this is exactly the fluff-free info I wanted and needed to hear. And it really confirmed to me that I’m headed in the right direction for a long, meaningful career. Thank you from Ohio, USA xo

Rosa Bosma Parker

Great post! It also annoys me when people think that being a VA means lots of flexibility… No, clients are the ones who get to be flexible. 🙃 VAs work around their needs (as long as requests aren’t ridiculous, of course).

Joanne Munro

I have to disagree with that one I’m afraid. I work with who I want, when I want and where I want. Many VAs think they have to bend to the will of every client, but actually, all business owners call the shots and decide the terms of their own business. VAs should definitely be accommodating but only within the confines of their own business model. So if you decide you want to finish every day to pick up your children from school, you make sure clients know your working hours. If they don’t want to do that, then both client and VA are able to look for a different match.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.