That was the question at a forum recently. The writer also asked about certifications and credentials. My answer is below.
Yes, the VA industry is growing and would you believe it’s been around since 1996? It first started in the US and Australia and then grew beyond there. A whole lot of other countries have jumped on board in the past 8 or so years.
When you talk about ‘placement agencies’ do you actually mean the Virtual Assistant Networks or agencies? There’s a big difference.
The VA Networks are membership based groups that provide VAs with listings on their databases and websites and as clients seek VAs the members are alerted to this. Or clients can contact the members direct. Members pay an annual fee to belong to the networks but all monies they earn from clients they get direct. So the VAs invoice the clients direct. Membership fees from the networks are a taxable item. VAs often join more than one network but shouldn’t be dependent on the networks to provide them with all their clients. It is important to also spend time networking online as well as networking offline – on a local basis. It’s amazing how much work can come through just through meeting other people and getting to know each other.
An agency works differently. The virtual workers are employed by the agency, the agency assigns a worker to the client and they pay the worker from the monies the agency has received from the client. So the agency actually bills the client, gets paid, and then pays the virtual worker. They may also be responsible for the workers’ taxes and insurances (this may differ depending on the country the agency is based).
Hope that helps with respects to how those two groups work.
Re credentials or certifications. It really depends on the type of work you plan to provide? Traditionally VAs were corporate secretaries and PAs so they brought with them the skills they used in those areas. Today that has grown to include other skills such as web based services, social media, bookkeeping, graphic design and so on. So if you’re offering bookkeeping, you should have suitable certification for that service. Here in Australia they have to be registered in order to provide the correct tax support services to clients. But that might not be the case in other countries. Graphic designers should also be suitably certified but there’s no legislation as such for them, as far as I know. However, generally, they would have attended Uni, College or similar to develop their skills.
For those providing transcription support, I don’t know if there are any certifications and the same would be for other types of support, such as social media. However, some of the VA organisations do provide certifications and/or training which assists VAs to show potential clients that they can indeed walk their talk.
Ultimately it’s the skills and experience you have that will be important to your clients. Having certification shows that you are dedicated to the professional development of yourself in your chosen industry and will certainly help some clients to decide to choose you.