Allow me to wallow in a bit of a flashback mood…
I promise this won’t me mushy… just a flashback. 😀
Sometime in 2009, at a reunion with friends, I was asked about the work that I do. I said, I am a Virtual Assistant.
“What is Virtual Assistant?”, they asked.
I answered, “Well, I am a work-from-home secretary.”
Remembering that conversation makes me cringe. (More on the reason why in my future blog posts…)
But then again I have to forgive myself because I was a newbie VA then. I didn’t know better.
Back to the story…
I started to get a lot of Facebook messages asking me about what I “really” do and how can someone be qualified to work as a Virtual Assistant.
So, “What the fudge is a Virtual Assistant?”
The outsourcing industry has evolved a great deal over the past few years primarily because more and more people are living a virtual lifestyle.
People from anywhere in the world are just a few mbps away. Thank you internet!
Technology has given business owners an innovative way to achieve greater results for their business.
And it also paved way to a new breed of professionals called the Virtual Assistants.
So exactly what is Virtual Assistant?
Here is how Wikipedia describes a VA:
“A Virtual Assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely from a home office.
Because virtual assistants are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits, except in the context that those indirect expenses are included in the VA’s fees.
Clients also avoid the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies. Virtual Assistants usually work for small businesses but can also support busy executives…“
Let me emphasize a few key points from the definition above and add in what I think:
|Wikipedia says...||I say...|
|VAs are self-employed; independent contractors rather than employees.||True. Now, what does it actually mean?
It's simple - it means that you are your own boss and employee at the same time.
|VAs provide professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance||True. Although, nowadays, Virtual Assistants offer a wider range of services.
Some are even more specialized.
Seasoned VAs now offer their services as project/online business managers, accountants, web designer/developer, copywriter, conversion specialist...The list could go on...
|VAs work remotely from a home office.||Yes. Self-employed VAs usually work from a home office.
But actually, self-employed VAs are location independent and can therefore work wherever there is an internet connection.
|VA’s clients are not responsible for any employee related taxes, insurance or benefits and other logistical expenses.||True. Being a self-employed professional, you are not an employee so you are not entitled to employee benefits.|
|VAs usually work for small businesses but can also support busy executives.||True.|
Now, who can be a VA? That’s another “big” question.
So for now, I’ll focus on the traits a person should possess to become a successful VA:
Self-disciplined and Focused
Working in a remote set-up can easily lure anyone to procrastinate or get distracted by a lot of things like – Facebooking, attending to your kids, watching your fave TV series, listening to a podcast you’re subscribed to, reading a good book, etc…
Therefore, someone who can exercise self-control or someone who is able to forgo instant pleasure, in favor of earning decent money and learning new skills will most likely be an awesome Virtual Assistant.
Resourceful and Tech Savvy
A Virtual Assistant should be able to find solutions to problems. You have to invest in your own training to acquire the skills you need to do your job.
Most of the time, a VA works alone and it is a good trait if you can be resourceful enough to look for answers by doing a Google search, enrolling in online courses, participating in online discussions, networking with experienced VAs, etc.
Don’t forget to load up on common sense too. 😉
Being tech-savvy will certainly give any Virtual Assistant an edge. Being knowledgeable with the important online tools and software will make you more of an asset than a liability to your client because you can’t expect your client to train you.
Outstanding Communication Skills
A good Virtual Assistant should be able to communicate effectively in English both in written and non-written form. This is a must.
You should also keep in mind that there is no such thing as over-communication with your client if you are a VA. Make sure your client knows all your questions and concerns. This will go a long way. This will also help in establishing trust between you and your client.
If you want to be considered as your client’s “strength”, be proactive.
It means you don’t just take orders from your clients nor expect to be micro-managed. You share what you know based on your previous work experience and offer your suggestions for any areas for improvement in terms systems and procedures, etc…
Trustworthy and Authentic
Last but not the least, a VA should be trustworthy and authentic. Your words should match your actions – deliver what is expected of you and if you can’t, be honest about it.
In other words, keep your agreements or renegotiate if necessary.
There you go! Two questions answered: What is a Virtual Assistant and who can be a VA…
So my when people ask me again “What is Virtual Assistant?”
I’d say, “Well, I am work-from-home secretary.”
Then, I’d cringe. 😉
Here’s an interesting definition by one of the experts in the industry, Michelle Dale. Watch this:
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