I had an interesting email conversation with a colleague recently about the promotion of admin support (virtual assistants) via Elance. I wanted to know why he wasn’t promoting the use of Virtual Assistants instead through other sources? This is also a follow on from my post “What Do You Think Of When You Hear…?” His response to me was rather interesting – it is always good to see things from the other side of the fence at times to help keep us on track.
Comments he made were that he’d had bad experiences from local VAs, and that it had not been a positive experience. I’d told him of an international group that had been working on plans for developing standards in our industry over the past 12 or so months and he made the comment that he was glad to hear steps were in place for making our industry more professional.
More professional? I’ve emailed him back to find out if the ‘local VAs’ were stand alone VAs or belonged to VA networks – still waiting to hear back on that one. But it concerned me that he felt our industry had to be made more professional and I really do believe this stems from the fact that over the past 3 or 4 years, many non-professionals, i.e. those without a corporate work experience background, had entered our industry. They saw an opportunity for using their computer and internet connection to make money at home and grabbed the title ‘Virtual Assistant’ to describe what they were doing. More than that but many sites like Elance had followed suit and then new organisations had developed for the sole purpose of employing large groups of mainly non-professionals to do data entry, transcriptions, etc at the low end cost ratio.
What does that mean to us today? It’s all the more important to maintain our professionalism and continue marketing to the general public and educating them on what a ‘real VA’ is. The birth of this industry saw experienced admin/secretarial people from the corporate world move back home to work, using the technologies that became available.
More and more professionals entered the arena, bringing with them a wide variety of skills, thereby increasing the services we provide collectively as an industry.
We brought our professionalism home with us and continued in that vein. But today there are many out there who do not have this work experience at all, and many with different levels of education.
If you are a professional VA but haven’t yet connected with a Virtual Assistant network, then I encourage you to do so. It will give you the opportunity to get to know your peers and share ideas and possibly resources, but more than that, it will allow you to show the general public that you belong to a professional organisation in the industry. Many of the networks have minimum criteria to be met and they also assist in the promotion of the industry and help you get further exposure to the client base. And when developments do take place in our industry it’s the networks that will be advised and then they can let their members know.
Let’s all work together to continue educating the public about Professional Virtual Assistants and how we can truly assist them in their business support needs, without them fearing that they are going to get support that doesn’t really know what it’s doing.