Some people get hung up on the term VA or Virtual Assistant and I responded to a query awhile back, inadvertently upsetting the person who asked the question. That wasn’t my intention at all.
She’d asked about using the term ‘Virtual Assistant’ and if that made clients disrespect us. I didn’t think so and my answer was taken in the wrong way. Sometimes, how we write can be misinterpreted for the way it was intended.
But perhaps I should add some context to this. The original VA is a lady named Anastacia Brice. She was working for a business coach in the USA back in the 90s and as she was travelling around the country in an RV while doing his work he named her his ‘Virtual Assistant’. The term very much means assisting someone on a virtual basis and can be used for almost any type of service these days, but originally it related to those who provided secretarial and administrative support. Which is how I began in 1994. I didn’t like the term when I first heard it a year or two later but gradually learned to accept it and feel it’s a great way to describe how I (and all of us) support clients.
The important thing is for those who are choosing to work in this way to understand that you are a service provider, not a sub ordinate or an employee. You need to develop a business mindset and be the one in control of the rates you decide to set (negotiation is fine but it shouldn’t be the client who sets your rate for you) and also be the one to show the client (not the employer) how you can help them.
When you’re new to this, and especially if you’ve come straight from a job (or still in one) it’s so easy to mistakenly treat a client like an employer, but so important you work hard not to do this. They come to you for support, advice and direction and, while you need to learn about their business and how it works, that doesn’t mean you need to learn from them how you should be providing a service. Hopefully no-one comes into our industry with no experience at all – you should all have a good amount of working experience behind you (I always say minimum 5 years but some feel different about this).
So whether or not you call yourself a VA is entirely up to you, however it does mean you’re a part of the VA Industry because of the way you are providing your services – something that is needed by so many business owners these days. Feel free to Google about Anastacia, you’ll find a write up in Wikipedia about her and Thomas. And enjoy what you’re doing or plan to do. This is a great industry with fantastic communities, and I am so grateful for this way of working which allows me to be home full time and be present for my family.
Kathie is the owner of VA Directory and is former past President of the Australian VA Association. She founded the Virtual Assistant industry in Australia in the mid 90s, having already been operating a home-based secretarial service. Today the VA industry covers a multitude of office-based services for clients worldwide.