Archive for the ‘Virtual Assistance’ Category


What is a Virtual Assistant?

October 14, 2008

When I tell people that I am a VA I tend to get one of three responses:

1.  “Oh, do you do websites and bookkeeping?”

No, that would require a web designer or bookkeeper.  I am a Virtual Assistant.

2. With head cocked to one side, looking at me as though there is a strange protrusion growing out of the center of my forehead.  Virtual Assistant?  What is that?

Invariably this person thinks that it is a side job or a hobby.  Something to bring in a little extra pin money (see my eyes rolling up in my head).

3.  Oh!  A Virtual Assistant!! Wow, that’s great, I don’t know what I would do without my VA

God I love these people! Only problems is they tend to have their own VAs and are not looking for another.  I give them my contact info and ask them to pass it on to friends that need a VA.

But what is a VA?  The traditional definition is that a Virtual Assistant, or VA is an administrative professional providing across the board administrative (and sometimes personal) services in long term, collaborative relationships. 

Simple right?  Well part of the problem is caused by folks in the corporate world expecting their administrative staff to be anything and everything, jumping on the hamster wheel, while being paid peanuts.  This mentality bleeds over into the Virtual Assistant world.  Clients bring this mentality to the table, and so do VAs that have not stepped out of the employee mindset.

On the other hand, there are many so called Virtual Assistant Industry Leaders that are leading the public, and VAs astray telling them that VAs should do all and be all.  That anything done virtually that can be considered providing assistance is Virtual Assistance.  Honestly, that is hogwash!

Virtual Assistance is it’s own industry with its own branding.  Do you call a librarian a bookkeeper?  After all, she does keep books.  And so do bookshop owners, boutiques, and publishers.  But we would never think to do that!  Why?  Because bookkeeping means ONE THING.  It is an industry in and of itself. 

Virtual Assistance is no different and the name should not be co-opted by folks doing other things.  Honestly, it’s not in their best interests and it only confuses the market.  If you happen to be a VA that also does bookkeeping and/or web design (or any of a myriad of other things that many toss under the VA umbrella) by all means advertise that you are a VA.  Then, separately advertise that you are a bookkeeper or web designer.  The latter often commands a higher price than Virtual Assistance, so why sell yourself short? 

Can you inform a bookkeeping client that you are also a VA, OF COURSE.  Can you create “Packages” that include these specialties in your VA offerings, again, yes!  But by treating them as separate and individual business offerings your marketing message is clear, you have a broader base, and people can find what they are truly looking for.

Using the Librarian analogy, how many of you would Google Bookkeeper to find a librarian?  Why do you expect potential clients to find a bookkeeper Googleing Virtual Assistance?  Let’s keep our message neat and clean so we stop confusing our market.


Are YOU a Virtual Assistant?

August 7, 2008

Get Thee to the 2008 Virtual Assistant Industry Survey

Adsurvey The 2008 Virtual Assistant Industry Survey is underway and if you are a Virtual Assistant, you are personally invited and encouraged to participate!

Every August marks the time of year when Virtual Assistants can contribute to the statistics and body of knowledge that is improving the industry’s understanding of itself and the education of its market. Sponsored by the Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce, over 10,000 Virtual Assistants from around the world are invited to participate.

Created by Virtual Assistants (the folks who know the industry best!), the Virtual Assistant Industry Survey is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey in the Virtual Assistant profession. With 101 questions, the survey includes detailed cross-sectional data that offers unprecedented information about individual and business demographics, market data and services. Other survey topics include:

  • Education, experience and credentials
  • Employees and subcontractors
  • Clients and target markets
  • Hours and services
  • Pricing and income
  • Training and continuing education
  • Marketing and networking
  • Success, profitability and entrepreneurship
  • Standards, Ethics and Educating the Public

This year’s survey focuses on how the media portrays our industry, what they’re getting wrong and what they’re getting right, our qualification standards and the issues that give a black-eye to the profession. Our collective voices can be heard and have a very real impact on properly educating those who work with us and write about us. That’s why it’s so very important that each and every Virtual Assistant take a moment to participate, be counted and have their say.

The 2008 Virtual Assistant Industry Survey is open to all professional Virtual Assistants. A copy of the 2008 Virtual Assistant Industry Survey Report will be provided at no charge to every participating Virtual Assistant at the end of the survey period August 31.

You Can Help Spread the Word!

By participating, each and every one of us makes a difference in shaping our industry. You can help us in the effort of giving every Virtual Assistant a voice by helping spread the word. Hey, it’s a great excuse for a blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn post, and if you belong to other Virtual Assistant forums and listservs, please tell everyone you can.

Feel free to copy and paste text and graphics as you like from any of these sources:

Office Press Release:

Gritty VA Blog Post:

Survey Page:



November 22, 2007

If you find yourself bogged down with the business of running your business, you may need a Virtual Assistant or VA. A VA can set up systems and procedures to free you from time consuming tasks that eat away at your billable hours. Finding the right VA takes time. Because the work is collaborative, it is important that you find the right fit for you and your business. Too often, business owners become overwhelmed and decide they need help. They contact a Virtual Assistant without knowing why and have the wrong expectations. Here are seven common mistakes business owners make when trying to hire a Virtual Assistant:

1. They don’t understand what a Virtual Assistant is or does

A Virtual Assistant is a highly skilled administrative professional working from his or her own office, utilizing their own equipment. Virtual Assistants are not at your beck and call, they work more like an attorney, accountant or billing service providing you with a set number of hours per month on a retained basis. It is your responsibility to make sure you use those hours. A few VAs will also take on “pay-as-you-go” (PAYG) work as well. A competent VA should have a minimum of 5 years working in upper level administrative positions in the brick and mortar work place before stepping out to start their own business. They may, or may not have additional training or certificates.

What a VA does is create a collaborative working partnership with you to help you succeed. They create systems and procedures to streamline your business and help it flow in a logical, intentional way. They do the things that eat away at your time and prevent you from being most effective.

2. They don’t know what they want their Virtual Assistant to do for them

Virtual Assistance is the new buzz word and often business owners’ call without knowing what they want their VA to do. That is certainly okay if you are over burdened and don’t have a clue yet what you should handle or your VA should handle. But before you contact a VA have an idea of what the administrative tasks are that you do on a regular basis. Know the types of administrative jobs that are bogging down your business. Take time to think about what it is you are doing that is eating away at your time as well as things you just hate to do. A quick way to do this is to take one week and write down all the non-billable, administrative things you do and the time it takes to do them. See how much more money you would be making if even 50% of that time were billed to your clients. Or for those looking for more free time, what fun things could you do with those free hours? Chances are, the right VA will love what you hate!

3. They shop for price and not for value

Stop thinking in terms of “how much will this cost me” and think of how this will save you time, energy and yes, in the long run even money. We all know that running ourselves ragged is not the answer to a successful business. “Work smarter, not harder” is the mantra of small business owners, and VAs are the smart solution.

4. They expect their VA to be and do all things

In this day and age, so many people are looking for someone that does it all. VAs are not bookkeepers, web designers, and graphic artists. They are first and foremost administrative professionals. That is not to say they cannot perform some of the duties typically assigned to a bookkeeper, web designer and graphic artist. And some will over these services at a different rate as part of their VA packages. Most are able to handle some billing, update existing websites and use graphic artwork to create brochures, newsletters or presentations. And if a VA or VA company says they can do anything and everything, beware. Every VA has their strength and weaknesses and the smart VA will know what they do best and not accept work that they don’t do well. You may find that two 10-hour retainers with two VAs works better than 1 20-hour retainer with a VA that might not do some things as well.

5. They have an employer/employee mentality

If you find yourself thinking of a VA in terms of being an employee, stop and ask yourself. Would you ever think of an attorney that you have hired on retainer in that manner? Probably not. VAs are consummate professionals that do not need babysitting nor do they jump just because you called. They are in the business of making your business run smoothly and if you have constant “emergencies” that need immediate attention, you either are holding on too tight or have hired the wrong VA for your business. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who needs to control every aspect of what your VA does, then perhaps a part time in house employee is best for you.

6. They do not respect their VA’s system and procedures

Many small business owners do not respect the VA as an equal in business. They forget that their VA has several clients and walk all over their boundaries. Since a VA works with – not for – several clients, it is important that their time be respected and the procedures they set in place adhered to.

7. They don’t look for a VA that is targeting their specific market

If you are a business coach, speaker, attorney, or horse breeder, do your due diligence and look for someone that is specifically targeting your profession. If you cannot find one that is in your exact field, then broaden your search a bit. By finding someone in your field, you are going to find that special connection of someone who speaks your language and understands your passions.

When searching for a Virtual Assistant, be sure you fully understand what a VA is and what he/she will do for your business. Look for one that is targeting your market, someone that speaks your language and understands your business. Realize that a superior VA will not be or do all things. Drop the employer/employee mentality. Understand that you are working with a business owner, like yourself, providing a service and partnering with you for mutual benefit. Understand the terrific value a VA will bring to you and your business. Respect their time and procedures. They are busy professionals just like you. Last, but not least, honestly appraise your ability to trust and let go. Can you trust another individual to do the work and use your time and money wisely? Even VAs that hire other VAs struggle with this one. It’s hard to let go of “your baby”. But letting go might be the most rewarding thing you do!