This post is a bit of a rant, but I see so many misnomers on discussion groups about people wanting to become a VA but not put in the commitment it requires. Below is a recent post I made.
Discussions I saw recently revolved around how old the VA Industry is and how long the internet has been around.
While the internet was ‘invented’ in 1983, it didn’t actually become available for world wide use till 1991 and the VA industry was birthed just 4-5 years later.
Here’s some info about the Internet:
On 6 August 1991 (that is 27 years ago next month), the World Wide Web became publicly available. Its creator, the now internationally known Tim Berners-Lee, posted a short summary of the project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup and gave birth to a new technology which would fundamentally change the world as we knew it. (Extract from The Next Web Insider)
And it was 1996 that I became aware of a new term for home-based secretaries, i.e. ‘virtual assistant’. You can read about the history of the VA industry here in Australia on my site. I had already been in business a couple of years by then.
A long-time colleague of mine in the VA industry, Sharon Williams, has produced a histogram of our industry which is worth reading. A snapshot here in this post. The homesecretaries group that Sharon mentions is the same group I mention in my About page and the owner, Linda is the lady I made contact with early 1996 not long after getting online.
If in doubt about the industry, it’s always worth checking the facts and who has been actively involved over the years. They are around – you just need to do the research.
I recently read an article about the 5 challenges of a business hiring a VA. What it assumed was that when people are seeking offshore VAs, they want full time VAs from the Philippines. Not so, I’m in Australia, but if I’m working for a client in the UK, USA or another country, then I would be considered an offshore VA. And what was outlined in that article seems to really only relate to VAs in a particular region.
VAs in the Philippines, and often other Asian countries, are mostly employed by agencies and, therefore, pretty much told what they can and can’t do and how they should operate. This article really gave false expectations of what business owners could expect when engaging all offshore VAs, rather than just a select group of VAs. No wonder the business world out there in general, is confused about our industry when even those involved in parts of the industry give out information that seems to make assumptions about the industry as a whole.
Here is my answer to the person who shared that article – and I’ve had several other VAs respond and like my comment, confirming my response.
Interesting the view of the VA industry above. Here in Australia, VAs work for several clients, not one, otherwise they would be perceived as an employee by the tax office and then all sorts of ramifications ensue. Australian VAs and those in the UK, USA, Canada, NZ and many other western countries all operate in much the same way, setting their own rates, choosing the hours they wish to work and the type of work they do. The large majority do work in home offices and are focused on their work – not home distractions. And many VAs are in it for the long-term, not as a stop gap. As a consequence, while some may start out as a Jill or Jack of all trades, they eventually settle into niches. It is not uncommon for our clients to engage the services of 2, 3 or 4 VAs to fill different roles, much like you would have several staff in a corporation to fulfill several roles. For my own part, I’ve been a VA for 24 years and I have clients who have been with me for over 12 years. I also run a network of VAs, the longest term member registered with me in 1997 and is still an active member.
As you would most likely conclude, from my comment above, the writer had indicated that VAs work 40 hours a week for one client, that it’s not generally liked that they work at home as they can’t be confirmed as putting in 40 hours (a trust factor here) and that it’s expected the VA can do everything, i.e. be a generalist. What is being described is very much a virtual employee, not a Virtual Assistant in the true sense of the phrase. VAs began as self-employed home based secretaries and it has grown from there, but at no point, ever, has the industry evolved into virtual employees. They are quite different. Just very frustrating when people insist on calling virtual employees, Virtual Assistants. No wonder people get confused.
Recently I asked many VAs (hundreds) via some VA forums, what did they used to do before becoming a VA? And then a day or two later, I asked the same VAs, what do they do now. Amazingly, or perhaps not really that amazing, many were providing services that related to their past roles before becoming VAs.
What does this mean to you, as a reader? Well, if you’re a potential VA, it means there is hope for you, as there is more than likely other VAs who used to do what you’re doing now. And if you’re a potential client of a VA, there’s hope for you, as it’s highly likely there are VAs who are experienced and equipped to carry out your business needs. Isn’t that great?
Whatever your need – become a VA or engage a VA, I have the answers for you on this website. You just need to explore the menu items on this website.
In the meantime, here is a list of what VAs used to do pre-VA and what they now do as VAs.
So, there you are, that’s just a small selection of the answers I got and they’re still coming through. Hope this gives you an idea of just how wide and varied the Virtual Assistant industry is!
There’s a discussion going on amongst the ‘senior’ VA members of our industry currently. We’re concerned about the number of new VA courses popping up claiming to be ‘certified’. It’s important for you all to know that there is no industry standard (as yet) and therefore there is no industry certification.
Some of the VA Associations in different countries have talked about it from time to time, and I believe the time is coming when these associations will do something about ‘industry standards’. But until that time there is NO course that is industry certified. There’s a big difference between receiving a Certificate for doing a VA course versus being listed as ‘industry certified’.
Some years ago, when I was running the only VA network in Australia I did provide ASO = Australian Secretary Online, whereby applicants had to meet certain criteria to be listed as an ASO. This was based on a process I had studied and experienced through an industry association at the time (1990s). That included education, references, experience and so on. I had an external board of people who processed the applications and marked them – it wasn’t done by me as an individual. They had a range of business experience and marked according to the criteria that had been created. During those years there was also MVA = Master Virtual Assistant of which I was a recipient as well. I did have to pass criteria to receive it. I later launched the first VA Course in Australia and the second in the world (to my knowledge at the time). The other one in the USA was launched the same month as mine – we later wondered if we should have collaborated but neither knew the other was working on the same thing. That person was Fred Gandee, who sadly is no longer with us. Fred, and his wife Shirley, founded the International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (IAVOA) in 1999.
However, today, because the industry has grown so much it seems that anyone can decide to set up a course, a pretty site and open their doors as a VA educator. I want to urge you to be aware that not all of these people have walked their talk or have the experience behind them. It is so important to check who is providing a course, their background experience and knowledge of the industry – not just what is being provided. We’ve all heard the stats about how a large percentage of businesses fail in the first 5 years. While granted, more survive now, than some years ago, it’s still 50% that fail in the first five years.
[Quote: It’s often said that more than half of new businesses fail during the first year. According to the Small Business Association (SBA), this isn’t necessarily true. The SBA states that only 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10. end quote]
How can someone who’s been a VA for only one or two years provide a course teaching you what is needed to grow a successful VA business? It would be wise to check that they have put in the hours to gain the relevant experience to teach you what you need to know to successfully build a VA business. It will be interesting to see if these courses and their owners are still in the industry in another 4-5 years’ time. Some may be, others won’t.