What Is A Virtual Assistant?

On my Virtual Assistant Break Up? post I’ve received some very excellent comments.   In fact one theme has emerged and I’d like to devote a new thread specific to this important subject.

The issue is this:   There are different opinions of what the term “Virtual Assistant” does and will eventually mean.   I use the term very generically, basically anyone that is providing services to me that is remote and not an employee (the term employee can even be wildly interpreted).   Others see the term “Virtual Assistant” to be more specific, to be used only for people with the proper credentials.

In internet years the term is pretty old, but with books like “The World Is Flat” and “Four Hour Work Week” pumping up attention to the concept it has become more difficult to pin down an exact definition.   It will be interesting to see how the VA industry develops.  I’d love to have all of the people that commented on the Virtual Assistant Break Up thread to reply to this post with their thoughts on the following:

As the profession / industry develops and becomes more regulated and governed what do you think will happen with the term Virtual Assistant?

Do you think that:

1)  The term “Virtual Assistant” will become generic and new terms or co-terms will be used to differentiate certified providers from those that simply have a computer and an Internet connection.
2)  The term “Virtual Assistant” will become the identifier of certified / licenced professionals and other terms will be used to refer to people that, based on some of the comments above, should not be classified as “Virtual Assistants”

I believe that regardless of the certification and terminology used there will always be demand for low wage, lessor skilled providers.  For now I think 99% of the world is calling these people “virtual assistants” and it will be a long time, if ever, that the term “Virtual Assistant” only applies to certified providers with 5 years of personal assistant, office manager experience.

To those of you that consider yourselves associated with the traditional Virtual Assistant industry, what would you suggest we call these people that work remotely and independently at hourly rates but have never worked as a PA / office manager and are not certified or licensed?

19 Replies to “What Is A Virtual Assistant?”

  1. Actually ‘admin’ it was the other way around. The term Virtual Assistant was being used by the professional providers before the ‘lower wage, lessor skilled providers’ hit the scene and took upon themselves to start using the same title.

    I think you really need to start looking at the Virtual Assistant organisations there are around to get a true idea of what a Virtual Assistant is. The fact that a book or two was written which started using the term for other virtual providers doesn’t change how the industry developed or who is in that role.

    You’ll find many of the organisations listed at http://www.virtualassistantbusiness.com/virtual-assistant-organizations.html.

    You’ll find a list of definitions at http://www.vanetworking.com/what-is-a-va.htm.

    And you’ll find many, many books that have been written for the industry by industry professionals listed at Amazon and on many sites.

  2. Oh, you have opened up a can of worms…

    First, let me introduce myself… my name is Candy Beauchamp and I have over 15 years of experience, over 5 years of owning my own virtual assistant business. About 2 years ago, my husband was able to quit his job, and now works with me part time. I run an ever-expanding business and am very proud of how far I’ve brought it.

    I am also the President of the International Virtual Assistants Association or IVAA – http://www.ivaa.org – we are the largest non-profit VA trade organization – nearly 1000 members strong. You will note that we already have a few designations available to VAs. EthicsCheck, CRESS (Certified Real Estate Support Specialist) and the coveted CVA (Certified Virtual Assistant). All three of these are highly regarded within the industry. I subcontract out to several VAs myself and those that hold designations do have a better “chance” of working with me (for lack of a better term there).

    It takes a special person to be a VA. Not just anyone can do this work. I work with someone (my husband) so it’s not such a big deal for me, but it can be lonely work, you have to stay focused and ignore the other household items (I’m lucky that I have dedicated office spaces in my home for both of us). Anyone can type in Word, but only a true professional can do it correctly and end some of the frustration that I see clients go through. And yes, you pay a higher rate for that. I, myself, am one of the most expensive VAs that I know. But we are worth it.

    As for your questions, I really don’t know. It’s something I’ve been mulling over this past year as the industry has exploded. The Virtual Assistant term encompasses so much. I handle mostly bookkeeping, I have someone on my team that handles mostly writing, another that handles scheduling, another that does web design. All of these people are independent VAs – the most successful VAs that I know have niched that way and I have seen a trend to call themselves a “Virtual Web Designer” or something like that.

    I, personally, prefer Virtual Professional. BUT honestly? At the end of the day, if I do a good job and you walk away happy with the work that my company has provided and you tell your friends, you can simply call me Candy 🙂

    Anyway, just me muttering…

  3. I’m not sure what I would call myself as yet. I plan on doing face to face visits aswell, I’m and administrative contractor i guess. Or at least I will be when I’m up and running.
    The term virtual assistant is very wide and generic and yes anyone can take on that title despite experience but unless you actually have the skills to back it up, then its not something that can be used lightly, you are just virtual really and no help whatsoever.

  4. Fantastic comments, thanks so much for posting!

    It sure will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years in this industry. There has been a LOT of attention paid to the two books I mention on this site (“The World Is Flat” and “Four Hour Work Week”) and the hundreds of blogs that post about them. Millions and millions of people are grabbing onto the term “VA” and associating it with the “$4 an hour” providers… I know I did and do. Is this wrong? I’m not convinced it is, and I would be surprised if it doesn’t get “worse” before it gets better. Only time will tell what will become of this term and what it means.

    In general, I can see how this would be very frustrating and upsetting to providers that use the term “virtual assistant” to refer to themselves but feel they are much more qualified to do so.

    Keep commenting on how you think this will shake out!

  5. The difference here is in the capital letters. A college grad can provide a virtual assistant service but is not a Virtual Assistant. I can pull a tooth with a pair of pliers but that doesn’t make me a Dentist.

    If someone sticks a sign above their door and proclaims to be a service provider, would you use them or would you first check their credentials, experience and references? The industry is self-regulating but posts like yours clearly illuminate that regulation is necessary to avoid confusion between Virtual Assistants and those providing virtual assistance.

    It should be possible for a Virtual Assistant to meet all your requirements including the menial stuff because that is where their skills lie; effective multi-tasking. A virtual assistant on the other hand, may only be able to handle one or two tasks.

    When it comes to outsourcing, you get what you pay for. If you opt to use someone with a lower cost of living who speaks English as a second language, you have to set your expectations lower and realise that mistakes may slip through. For example, using ‘lessor’ instead of ‘lesser’. The extent to which these apparently minor mistakes impact on a business may cost in the long run.

  6. While, until recently, the industry had no established minimum standards and any Mary, Joe and Janet can label themselves a “VA”, there are leaders and members of the Virtual Assistant community who believe the industry should minimally be guided by a set of standards that can be applied industry wide.

    To that end, in late 2006, a committee of VAs situated around the globe surveyed VAs, gathering suggested minimum qualifications. The results were compiled into a Core Competencies document developed as a benchmark of skills, knowledge and experiences for individuals interested in becoming VAs as well as practicing VAs.

    The final document will be published in the near future and widely circulated amongst various VA organizations, training programs, the general business community, etc., as well as be available for VAs to post on their individual Web sites. It will assist in the continuing and often daunting campaign to promote the use of qualified VAs and help dispel the misconceptions that anyone can call themselves a VA, and, VAs are “low wage”, “lesser skilled” individuals.

    Bulleted draft of the Core Competencies can be found at the Alliance for Virtual Businesses Web site, the leading advocacy, education and publicity organization for administrative virtual professional entrepreneurs.


  7. I am going to have to agree with Sharon, Minerva, Candy and Kathie. Just because you have a computer, Internet connection and a document program does not make you a Virtual Assistant.

    Several newer authors have slapped the VA industry recently. They have stated that you can get a VA for $4.00. While this may be true, you can get an overseas VA for $4.00 where their cost of living is drastically less than most industrialized societies. Are they going to be great? Maybe if you do not mind translating anything you receive to English when you are done or correcting a slew of grammatical errors, but then isn’t that why you wanted with a VA in the first place (to get it done right, the first time)? After looking at some of the VAs that these authors have recommended, they are no longer charging $4.00 an hour. They were $15.00 the last I checked (8 months ago) and have likely increased since then to meet the demand.

    However the more important discussion here is What Is a VA? The root of being a VA starts with “owning” a business that means you will have business expenses, a business plan, a marketing plan, some kind of relevant education, relevant experience, etc. See the link in Sharon’s reply above.

    You cannot call yourself a lawyer just because you are good at arguing. You must go to school and pass an exam just to be called a lawyer. Then you must work your way to the court room before you can start “arguing”. It is not as simple as attaching a name tag to your shirt. You have to work toward it.

    Dale Noles, Head Coach of VATraining.com
    President of VirtualAccuracy.com
    President of the Core Competencies Committee under the Alliance for Virtual Businesses

  8. I admire everyone for sticking to their guns on this daunting (as Sharon mentioned) task to demarcate “Virtual Assistant” to only refer to a specific group of trained and certified service providers.

    Ok, for the sake of argument, let’s say that VA becomes a more regulated term like Doctor, Lawyer, Real Estate Agent, etc. If that happens, then what shall we call the people to whom are referenced in the “Four Hour Work Week”? For example, people who help process legal documents are often called Paralegals or Legal Document Assistants.

    It’s going to be an uphill battle to change VA from a generic term into a specific term for certified professionals. This will never happen until a generic and more widely available term is created and widely distributed to refer to the $4 an hour, uncertified providers. Until then book writers, journalists, bloggers, and the $4 an hour uncertified workers will continue to use the term Virtual Assistant.

    The Question: What term should we use to refer to these uncertified individuals?

  9. I shall also begin with a brief introduction. My name is Jeannine Clontz, I have more than 30-years of administrative, sales, and customer service experience, as well as ten years owning my own Virtual Assistance practice.

    I am a past-president of the International Virtual Assistants Association, in fact, I joined their ranks back in 1998 as one of their first 30-members. I have seen the industry change and grow over these past 10-years.

    As with any budding industry, there will be growing pains and misunderstandings, as well as, downright unscrupulous people who will claim to be among your ranks, but are simply a passing fancy to muddy the waters.

    While I consider myself to be a Virtual Assistant, I condiser the industry to have developed into Virtual Assistance. The reasoning I have behind this is that initially, most Virtual Assistants provided administrative (what used to be called secretarial) support.

    That has changed as more and more people have found the advantages of being able to hire highly skilled professionals, working as independent contractors, who can improve their productivity, offer them a higher level of expertise, etc., all on an ‘as needed’ basis.

    Nowadays, we find the industry includes professionals who can provide specialized support such as, bookkeeping, website design and maintenance, REALTOR support, coaching, legal and paralegal support, consulting, IT support, writing and editing, and the list goes on. We as an industry are no longer just admin support, we are so much more.

    As far as training and education, I highly recommend it for anyone in any field. Honestly, do you want to have dental work done for pennies on the dollar at the local dental college, or do you prefer to go to a licensed professional? I have a whole host of certifications, and while they probably aren’t so important to my growth now, they certainly helped to propel me to the current status I now enjoy. Especially for anyone who may not know the benefits of working with a Virtual Assistant, these certifications and designations are indeed important, and vital to strengthening our industry.

    Yes, you can find providers of all sorts of products and services at well below what might be considered ‘normal rates’, but we do get what we pay for most times. It’s all in the eyes of the purchaser as to what is acceptable at what cost.

    For some, having a VA handle their administrative tasks at $4 an hour, and having to do some of their own editing, works for them. Some people don’t mind having to retrain and start all over every time their $10 an hour VA goes out of business because they’ve realized you simply cannot run a business, and stay in business, charging those types of rates, no matter how good your skills are.

    Where I will wholeheartedly disagree is in the statement that 99% of the world is seeking low wage, lessor skilled providers. I do not believe that at all. I am a part of a network of thousands of Virtual Assistants from all across the globe that I know to be running successful and thriving small to medium-sized businesses. Our clients are talented, well-educated, savvy entrepreneurs and corporate leaders who understand and value partnering with us to enhance the potential and growth of their businesses and benefit from our vast knowledge base acquired and accumulated by our connections to other successful businesses worldwide.

    Most people who think because they can type they can be a VA have, or will leave the industry in about 2-3 years, once they realize it’s really not all about your expertise, but equally as important, it’s about having the ability to run a business. Charging rates that maintain and grow your business is what keeps you in business.

    Knowing and understanding how to market and run a business far outweighs the success I have come to know as a result of the good service and stellar skills I bring to the table. You have to have a good mix of both to be a successful VA and stay afloat in the Virtual Assistance industry!

    Just my opinion, of course! 🙂

  10. I’ll start with an intro too! Lyn Prowse-Bishop, Australia’s first Certified Master Virtual Assistant, I’ve been in private practice for nearly 8 years after having spent over 15 in corporate settings as an executive level PA. I’m active in the VA industry, sitting on the Steering Committee of the Online International VA Convention and also the international committee which fine tuned the Core Competencies for VAs that Sharon mentioned above. I’m also founder of the Australian Virtual Business Network (http://www.avbn.com.au) which prequalifies and reference-checks all members so that potential clients are sure they’re going to partner with best-in-class providers.

    First let me say that I believe the industry doesn’t need regulation as such – but more balanced and even-handed EDUCATION of the global public. This is what is trying to be done by many of us in the industry, but unfortunately we are up against people like the authors of the books you mention.

    The term “virtual assistant” is being bandied about nowadays purely because leaders of the industry (like Kathie Thomas and Sharon Williams) have done such a great job getting the term known and into general usage. Unfortunately, the hobbyists, the serviced offices and the cheap labour market countries have latched onto the term in order to increase their own profile on the Web and draw more traffic.

    I agree, there is a market for $4/hour providers – incidentally I understand that since that book came out, the organisations charging that fee have had such an increase in business that they are now charging nearer to $20/hour for their services – there will always be people wanting their job done for the cheapest price possible.

    It’s important though to understand – as a potential client – what you’re looking for: do you want a document typed up at the cheapest price possible, or are you looking for an ongoing partnership with a professional – much like you would get by hiring a personal assistant? If the former, go the cheap labour route and remember you’ll need to check the results very carefully (as was the case in the UK where the medical profession there had to rethink their use of cheap labour market services when the substandard results were the cause of threatened legal action from patients); if the latter do your research and go for a professional service provider who knows what they’re doing, who has experience. And as I tell all my potential clients – reference check in the same way you would for an employee. Whilst a VA is not an employee, they still should be able to provide you with referees drawn from an existing client base. Go for credentialed service providers if this is important to you – bearing in mind that there are some great providers out there who aren’t credentialed as it is not so important in some countries as it is in others.

    It all comes down in the end to what YOU as the potential client are after. Long-standing, mutually beneficial, profitable relationships are better formed with virtual assistants who know their stuff, are professional business owners (as opposed to hobbyists), have years of experience in their area of specialty and can utilise the technologies now available to help you in the areas you need assistance.

    I don’t think the term ‘Virtual Assistant’ can ever be regulated simply because of the global nature of the industry as well as the fact that VAs specialise in many different niche markets. However, I do think that the term can be DEFINED and that potential clients can then source individuals who fit that definition.

    And I think it bears repeating again, admin, what Kathie Thomas said: The term Virtual Assistant was around long before it was used by the authors of the books mentioned. It already WAS a specific term – and unfortunately the problem has been caused by their application of it in a generic way. Educating THEM is probably highest on our list of priorities.

    Lyn Prowse-Bishop, MVA ASO CAVB
    Executive Stress Office Support: http://www.execstress.com/
    Founder – AVBN – http://www.avbn.com.au/

  11. Admin,
    To answer your question “what shall we call these uncertified providers?
    “, we can simply wait a short time and then call them employed. They will not be able to stay in business charging at these rates and when they are unable to provide the top quality skills expected of a VA (and I assure you, my clients expect the BEST), they will have to close their virtual doors and get a job.

    On the other hand, people who say that overseas providers with English as a second language cannot provide these skills, are being quite generic. I am sure there are some out there with exceptional skills who, because of their econonmical structure can charge less. However, as Dale said, even the people who started charging less are increasing their rates – I can only assume those individuals are skilled to have been able to do so.

    I do ask though, that instead of assuming and writing the worst case scenario about VA’s, that you support those of us who work extremely hard and do provide a good face for VA’s throughout the world.

    Rosie Murphy
    Virtually Yours
    VYVA Network Manager

  12. Hi all,

    As someone who specializes in teaching entrepreneurs and small business owners how to accomplish more by delegating, I’ve learned to refer to “virtual teams” vs. virtual assistants. I have found that to grow your business, you need a variety of experts who may be offended by being called a VA.

    I also found that many virtual assistants don’t fit the model that many fast-growing businesses need. They need more of a full-time contractor who works from their own home while many VA-trained contractors want to serve a variety of clients.

    It appears that the industry is getting ready to take a leap forward to respond to the overwhelming success of outsourcing tasks to virtual teams.

    Melanie Benson Strick
    Million Dollar Lifestyle Business Coach
    & Virtual Team Building Expert

  13. My thoughts on what a VA is.

    My background is 20+ years in the business sector working for various companies and industries including as an Executive level PA to multinational overseas corporations. I find it very hard to believe that anybody can come into the industry with no work experience in the business environment or other sector of the workforce where you would have picked up and honed the skills that you need to assist your clients and to run a business.

    A true Virtual Assistant will be working along side their client in a professional capacity, forming an alliance with them to help promote their businesses. In the end this is where the VA gets their job satisfaction from thereby furthering and benefiting their own business via “word of mouth” referrals, testimonials etc. It is a matter of pride in their work to give the client added value by going that extra distance and to do the best they can for their clients and most VAs’ preferred client base would be long-standing clients that they can form a valued, mutually beneficial relationship with although VAs are happy to complete one-off projects as well. I personally would prefer to work for fewer clients and become more involved in their businesses as an independent contractor.

    True anyone can call themselves a Virtual Assistant but it is up to the potential client to check the background of the VA and determine for themselves whether that person can provide the services that they require and this is where certification and association membership would come in to help the client gauge if the VA can fulfil their requirements. Generally your chosen VA would have contacts, colleagues or associates that can help you find other services that you may require that are not able to provide.

    Kind regards
    Monika Newman

  14. I just wanted to reply to Melanie’s post. “Offended” by being called a VA?? I guess this is precisely the problem we have – defining a VA. I can imagine you’d be “offended” if you’re a general manager or a lawyer or whatever … because “virtual assistant” connotes “secretary”. But I’ll point out again that Virtual Assistants – real, PROFESSIONAL virtual assistants, have transitioned YEARS in senior executive PA roles – oftentimes being in charge of other administrative staff and the running of large corporate offices – and are now entrepreneur business owners – just like the clients with whom they partner.

    The very nature of our industry means that we CAN serve a variety of clients – but it is misleading to say that all VAs do – as many work just for one or two clients.

    In addition – “virtual teams” can be made up of lots of virtual assistants. It sounds like your reference to virtual teams is more linking remote EMPLOYEES virtually. This might work for some organisations but certainly does not take advantage of the cost savings of partnering with a VA over employing more staff. Apart from not having to pay on-costs associated with those staff (which would be applicable whether they’re remote or in the office), you only pay a VA for time on task. Many of my clients are paying 1/3 the monthly bill of an onsite employee simply by contracting me.

    VAs are also much more motivated than employees – whether in a virtual team or otherwise – as they have a vested interest in their client’s success.

    I also question the term “VA-trained contractors”. I’m not sure what this refers to. See above re VAs transitioning years in corporate settings. Very few VAs have participated in “training” per se as they bring a wealth of experience from traditional employee roles to the partnership.

    As Monika says – if clients approach the use of virtual assistants as they would approach employing staff – ie by background and reference checking potential candidates and ensuring they can do what they say they can – then the partnership can be a very successful one for all concerned.

    Lyn Prowse-Bishop, MVA ASO CAVB


  15. I could not say it better than all of the individuals who previously posted.

    A brief introduction, my name is Heather Villa and I am a Certified Management Accountant with my Masters in Business Administration and my Masters of Science in Management. I am also the founder and CEO of IAC Professionals.

    I began providing accounting services to small and medium sized businesses about six years ago and due to demand from my clients I hired several “administrative assistants” to work out of my office and provide “VA” services to my existing clients. Our administrative volume has expanded drastically in the past year.

    A Virtual Assistant is an assistant who works virtually. People sometimes confuse that with an Administrative Assistant. Not all Virtual Assistants perform Administrative Tasks. Some provide bookkeeping, some web design, some administrative, some writing, some research etc. etc. Each provider should clearly define what they can and cannot do.

    Most successful providers have a team of individuals that can help with a task that they may not be qualified to perform.

    What I have found in my experience as hiring VA’s to complete my clients work is that you have 4 types of VA’s (using this term very freely, as that is what they classify themselves):

    1. An offshore individual working out of their home – this provider typically charges $6 per hour or less.
    2. An offshore company (such as GetFriday etc) who have assembled a staff to provide services to their clients – these providers now (since raising their rates) charge from $10 – $20 per hour.
    3. A US Individual working out of their home who probably have some administrative assistant experience – these providers charge between $8 – $20 depending on their geographical location.
    4. A US Team (while they may be various individuals working from various homes – they work together) or highly qualified and experienced professional – these providers charge from $18 – $50 per hour.

    There are benefits and downfalls for each of the above, however, one should ask themselves the following:

    1. Are you hiring a VA to make your life easier or more difficult?
    2. Are you ready to baby-sit or handhold your VA?
    3. Do you really want to explain to your VA “how” they should do the tasks needed?
    4. Do you not mind not being able to communicate with your VA during your working hours and have them work on your tasks while you are sleeping?
    5. What is more important quantity or quality?

    Those answers will help you determine what type of “VA” is best for you.

    However, just one “clue”. A recent client tested us and an offshore provider at the same time, conducting the same research. He charged them $6.00 per hour, where we charged him $17.50 per hour. Our work was completed in 2.5 hours and the offshore provider completed his in 8 hours. Our report contained things that the other providers report did not. Needless to say we got the contract and the client said “while I thought I could not afford your prices, it equals the same when you compare time and quality”. That is the key to most of it. Most “qualified” VA’s know what they are doing and how to get it done efficiently.


    Heather Villa, MBA, MSM, CMA

  16. Heather, again you’ve got some excellent points!

    One item you made me think of regarding outsourced / offshore providers is the trade offs between cost, schedule, and performance. At different points in my life and within my business I’ve been able and willing to “sacrifice” schedule and/or performance to decrease costs. There is nothing wrong with this approach, just as at times it is appropriate to increase cost to improve schedule and/or performance. I remember working with a really good service provider who gave me a quote on a project and said, “Cost, schedule, or performance… choose two!”

    Example: In college I developed a site that began growing like crazy (http://www.outsourcedmylife.com/rentacoder-outsourced-programmers.php). I needed the system re-built into a system that could sustain the growth but I didn’t have the financial resources to pay an experienced, self managing developer / project manager. I was willing to use a less experienced and extremely less expensive provider. Yes, I had to “baby-sit” and manage the project myself, doing system architecture and bug checking, but I was able to get the project completed based on the resources available.

    I think different situations call for different approaches or even a mixture of utilizing potentially all 4 types of the “VA’s” Heather mentions above.

  17. Exactly! If you have the time to project manage your own tasks and projects than your cost will be greatly reduced. That is why there are so many “VA’s” in the market, because there are so many clients with different needs.

    Some people are natural supervisors as well, they NEED to be “in” what is going on and may prefer to manage the projects.

    Other people want to wash their hands of it and just want it to get done.

    Each person should address their individual needs and decide what is the best method for them.

    However, it is also the responsibility of a VA to address the client’s needs as well. If the client needs something that you cannot handle, you should not take the position, and I think this is where alot of the problems occur. Not all providers can perform every task, even though they think that they can.

    An example:

    If you at a 5 point Market Research Analysis and outsourced it to an Individual VA (whether overseas or locally) and needed it within 2 weeks, they would be wrong to take the position. Any qualified candidate would know that a 5 point Market Research Project cannot be completed in 2 weeks by one person, and typically one person could not complete all 5 points anyway, unless they were an expert in everything fron finance to publicity to statistics.

    Another example:

    If the client has an ongoing project and wants status reports via skype every hour throughout the day any “team” VA’s in the US should not take the project because they know they could not meet those demands. With multiple clients and customer service, unless 8 hours a day is dedicated to the client it is impossible to meet those demands.

    The main problem that clients have come to me with is their past experience and the “VA’s” over-promising and under-delivering.

    It is imperative that both sides know what street that they are walking and if the destination is possible together.


    Heather Villa, MBA, MSM, CMA

  18. I think what is happening here is that people are seeing Virtual Assistants for something other than what they are. They are like Personal Assistants only Virtual and when the industry began they were primarily people with admin/secretarial skills and often PAs from the corporate world. Many people have brought new skills to the industry and so it has expanded but they should still be skilled people. And no VA should ever take on a job they are not skilled for – that can make them lose confidence and force them out of business quickly, but it is also damaging to the industry.

    A VA is not a bookkeeper but could provide bookkeeping services additional to the services they’re providing. The same for web design and maintenance, database management and a number of other things. Research is something they are often asked to do, same with transcription. But no VA is a ‘master of all trades’, many specialise in niche areas and if a client needs a multitude of tasks done then they should be seeking to work with 2 or 3 VAs, and not just the one. They certainly are not Market Research Analysts as mentioned above and if there are VAs who do this work they would be few and far between.

    By the way there is frequent mention of VAs in the US versus countries with lower costs of living – VAs are also in many other countries of similar standing to the US, including Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and France amongst others.

    While we know that wikipedia entries can be changed by anyone for the most part, it often has fairly accurate information. The definition there (currently) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_assistant is a fairly good description. Many of the so-called ‘VAs’ working with agencies today closely match the description of the temp worker, except they are working remotely, instead of onsite.

    A list of definitions from major Virtual Assistant organisations globally can be seen at http://www.vanetworking.com/what-is-a-va.htm. Incidentally, VANA from which this list is seen, is the largest VA organisation currently and would represent a large percentage of professional VAs operating in around the world.

    Kathie M. Thomas, MVA, ASO, VA Coach & Trainer
    Principal, “A Clayton’s Secretary”
    http://www.vadirectory.net and http://www.vatrainer.com

  19. As you mentioned earlier about the book “Four Hour Work Week” pumping up attention to the concept of a virtual assistant, you must also take into consideration that not all who recommend going this way has actually done so themselves and have an ulterior motive. If you are paying attention to their link to the book at Amazon, you will see that it is an affiliate link, which means this person is receiving a commission if you decide to purchase this book. So of course, they are going to “sell” you on this concept because it is the “hot” topic of the day. I have already come across two blogs that were word for word about how they utilized their VA overseas—come on, what are the chances of two different business owners, in two different industries, having the exact same conversation with their VA?

    Do you always take what you read or hear as “gospel truth”? I hope not. You must look at what they really are doing and that is selling you a book so that they can make that wonderful 10% commission.

    In my opinion, you should not call yourself a virtual assistant if you do not own your own business and/or sub-contract with a virtual assistant business. You are only taking in typing for extra income.

    Sue Rogers
    Owner, Rogers Executive Administrative Services

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