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Demystifying VA Mythology

There are many misconceptions surrounding Virtual Assistance – some understandable, others laughable and many alarming.

Before I became a VA, I had no idea what a VA was. It was by chance that I came across the term when I attended an interview for an EA position (which I knew I was over-qualified for but was drawn to the term ‘home-based’ in the job description – a 4-hour daily commute to London had become more than soul-destroying).

I began extensive research to see if this was a viable option for me – how could I develop the skills, experience and knowledge I’d gain to become a VA. When I realised I could set up my own business and work for myself, I was determined to may it happen.

What was, and still is, most encouraging and reassuring is the support from the VA community -  the camaraderie – most VA’s believe it is essential we inspire and motivate one another. As one great VA once said, “Collaboration not competition  ❤️  When one of us wins we all do”.

From the many misconceptions regarding Virtual Assistance, is born the greatest obstacle most VA’s face – the notion that it won’t work and that they can’t be successful business owners.

A major change in perspective is crucial as these common prejudices are standing in the way of VA development & growth.

Here are just some of the misconceptions we need to expose and expel.

Myth #1

VA is a stop-gap until a ‘proper job’ is found.

I’m sure many VA’s, like myself at the beginning of their VA journey were told “that’s a great idea until you get a proper job”.

The current economic climate means finding work is a job in itself and finding meaningful employment is difficult and job security isn’t a guarantee.

But being a VA isn’t something you can do in the interim. Most VA’s opt to work independently as it gives them more control over their future and their career and they value the autonomy their VA profession gives them – it’s their dream job and as such, most VA’s are actual full-time business owners, dispelling the myth behind just moonlighting whilst working full-time or until a proper job is found.

Good VA’s are invested in their profession and its development.

Myth #2

Virtual Assistance is an easy option – anyone can be a VA

I can feel the outrage of many VA’s as they read this one. Being a VA is hard work. You need a strong backbone, a thick skin and the presence of mind when finding and dealing with clients as well as managing and maintaining a sustainable business – it’s easy to break under the pressure. As rewarding as it is, being a good VA and running a successful business is no easy feat. Amongst other things, you need to consider building a client base and good reputation, financial management, marketing, training as well as initially working long working hours to create and promote your business.

Myth #3

VA’s are mums or students looking to make extra cash as it’s easy money.

No doubt there are VA’s who are mums and students – I applaud anyone who can cope with being a VA AND bringing up a family/studying. Indeed, there are VA’s who are doing it for a little extra cash. But a majority of VA’s are business owners – and for most being a VA is their only source of income and their livelihood is dependent on their business success – running a business puts a significant amount of pressure on a persons’ time and energy. It’s a balancing act when you factor in other commitments and most struggle as being a good VA means working long hours. Starting a new business also comes with considerable financial constraints.

Myth #4

VA’s are expensive

This misconception is due largely to the difference between independent and agency VA’s and the choice is down to the individual when it comes to deciding which option to take. Due Diligence is advisable.

However, good VA’s who are business owners have carefully considered everything when setting up their business, especially rates for services. A good VA has not only done their research but has a wealth of skills, experience and knowledge which can be utilised in providing a first-rate service and their charges reflect this. Their business is dependent primarily upon reputation, testimonials and referrals. Why would they price themselves out of the market? An hourly rate may seem high but you only pay for the time they spend on your business and a good VA will make your business their priority – in this business, more often than not, you get what you pay for.

Myth #5

VA’s are for temporary assignments only

Many still believe that VA’s provide only ad hoc/project work. It is often more practical and economical to hire VA services via monthly packages once long-term admin tasks, etc., have been established.

Many business managers/owners have developed long-standing working relationships with their VA’s and they’ve become more business partner than assistant. A good VA’s intention is that they instil trust and confidence in their clients to develop a better working relationship. This is fundamental to a wholesome long-standing business partnership which is what a good VA strives for.

Myth #6

VA’s are unreliable

Sadly, there are some VA’s who are unreliable. They not only let down their clients but VA’s in general. I have experienced first-hand the result of this inexcusable behaviour. I had to bear the brunt of a client’s bad experience and their apprehension and reassure them about the efficiency in hiring a VA. This lack of professionalism has a huge impact on the VA industry, especially on VA’s starting out. This can create a lot of insecurity and doubt.

Any VA worth their salt knows the importance of reliability. It’s essential to business growth and development. It shows professionalism, consistency and trustworthiness – key factors in running a successful business.

A good VA will want to retain their clients so creating a good and lasting impression is crucial to them.

Fortunately, there are so many good VA’s who also collaborate with other VA’s to ensure clients receive exceptional service and assistance. It’s important they remain steadfast and never negotiate with themselves. As with most situations, you can’t allow yourself to be tarred with the same brush. This is where a strong backbone is required – proving your competence against someone else’s irresponsibility.

Myth #7

VA’s work 24/7

Home-based employment brings with it the assumption that you never clock out. Not so. Many VA’s specify times of availability and response and do offer an out of hours service. Which means the usual Friday evening downtime for most is a Monday afternoon for a VA!

Good time management, planning and preparation are central to providing a professional and efficient service. Meeting deadlines and prompt and effective communication is vital.

A good VA is a great organiser and multi-tasker – they need to be when working with several clients. Any successful VA will confirm that time management is essential to remote working. There are long and often late hours, but finding the right work-life balance is key to business survival.

Myth #8

VA’s are employees

In a word, no. VA’s are independent contractors.

VA’s work with their clients and not for their clients and their working relationship is a business partnership. Virtual Assistants do offer the same services an EA or PA would but not as an employee. A VA will stipulate in their contract that they work independently providing a service. Understanding the difference between employee and VA is paramount not only to creating a successful business relationship but also in establishing employment status with the HRMC.

It is not unreasonable to expect a VA to be resourceful, proactive and flexible, however, a good VA is a skilled and capable professional and unlike an employee does not need micromanaging.

A good VA has a vested interest in their clients’ business success - they are proficient, resourceful and reliable, and many business owners will attest that their VA is their greatest business partner.

A good VA values the autonomy of freelance work and strives to provide quality work to ensure a better quality of life. It has been said that remote, flexible working can be more productive and that the future is freelance.

"You can think of freelancing as volatile and risky, or as flexible and opportunity-rich. Doesn’t having multiple sources of income and multiple moneymaking skills sound less risky than putting all your eggs in one employer’s basket? Freelancing lets you shift gears when the world does" ~ Sara Horowitz