Having run a successful Virtual Assistant business for nearly ten years, I am frequently asked What is a Virtual Assistant. I suppose the term is not familiar to everybody and it can sound like quite a strange concept. The question is then followed with “Why would I use a Virtual Assistant?” Let us look at the idea of the Virtual Assistant and the reasons why people and businesses choose to employ one.
I would describe a Virtual Assistant (VA) as. Someone who works for a small business or organisation but not directly employed by them. They are accountable for the work they do on their behalf. They are, in effect, a subcontractor who provides secretarial and/or administrative support.
The duties of a VA can include scheduling activities such as meetings, organising travel, social media, customer service, email campaigns, book-keeping and much more. A VA can work from their office (they might, for example, rent office space in a shared building), from their home office, or from the offices of their clients. They can also do a combination of any of these.
The definition of a Virtual Assistant on the Wikipedia website is as follows:
“A Virtual Assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is an entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office…. They usually work for other small businesses, brokers and consultancy groups. Reports state that there are as few as 5,000-8,000 or as many as 25,000 Virtual Assistants worldwide; the profession is growing in centralised economies with “fly-in, fly-out” (FIFO) staffing practices.” www.wikipedia.org.
There is currently a debate in the industry about the title of a Virtual Assistant and whether ‘we’ as an industry should change it. The general feeling is that the title ‘Assistant’, (to those who aren’t familiar with the industry), doesn’t give an accurate impression of the variety of roles a VA can fulfil.
I believe there are four types of Virtual Assistants:
- Virtual Assistant (VA). A VA is someone who can assist their client with some secretarial and administrative tasks, usually on a short-term project basis. Equally, they may undertake individual jobs over a period; for example, creating a database from business cards.
- Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA). A VPA is someone who works in close collaboration with a small business owner, providing secretarial and administrative support. The VPA will be there long-term. The relationship is similar to that of employer and employee. Nevertheless, the VPA will only visit the client once or twice a week, and despite the longevity of the relationship, is self-employed.
- Virtual Executive Assistant (VEA). A VEA is someone who works in close collaboration with a small business owner to provide secretarial and administrative support. A VEA could be part of the business development strategy for the company. The VEA is an important part of the business, becoming one of the planners and authorising partners.
- Personal Assistant. A PA is someone who works for one person in one organisation. However, in the VA world, many VAs call themselves PAs as many employers/clients understand this term better.
What is a Virtual Assistant
In conclusion, the answer to What is a Virtual Assistant is that the role has many different nuances. However, the role is primarily an administrative role that helps people and businesses undertake the numerous administrative activities.
This is an extract from my book entitled Becoming a Virtual Assistant and avoid the Mistakes I made.