As my Day 5 Ultimate Blog Challenge post, I want to touch on a subject that may spark controversy in the Virtual Assistance industry, but I would like to share what I know is the difference between a Virtual Assistant and someone who is just a virtual worker or just works from home for a company or organization. When I was in search of a way to work from home, back in 2004, so I could be more present with my kids, never had I heard of what a Virtual Assistant was. It was still a brand new term for many and honestly it still is. But after A LOT of research and a HUGE desire to own my own business from home, I opened my own Virtual Assistance practice that same year and I still have a thriving practice to this day. The only difference now is I specialize in services that attract clients in website design, email marketing, product launches and social media marketing.
I want to start out with sharing with you the definition of what a Virtual Assistant is and I could have not found a better way to explain it than the wonderful Anastasia Brice, founder of AssistU, who ultimately coined the VA industry back in the 1990s. This is what she shares:
Virtual assistance is a branch of the administrative profession formalized by Anastacia Brice in 1997. The professionals are called virtual assistants, or VAs. VAs are micro business owners who provide administrative, operational, and sometimes personal support while working in long-term collaborative relationships with only a handful of terrific clients. Using phone, email, as well as other emerging technologies, VAs support their clients’ needs, across the board, without having to ever step foot inside the clients’ offices.
Now that you know what a Virtual Assistant is, you will not find in the definition above that we are an employee or simply hired help of a business. Note the phrase above, “long-term collaborative relationships”. As a VA, you work with fellow small business owners, assisting them in most administrative or back-end tasks, freeing up their time to do ultimately what they set out to do and that is not to work in their business, but actually work their passion. It’s a VA-Client partnership, not an Employee-Employer relationship. I came across a great article on the AssistU blog that lists the misconceptions of working with a VA. If you have a moment to read the article, you can find it here: “The Worst Misconceptions About Working With VAs”.
Why am I sharing this info with you? Surprisingly enough, you will find countless articles written and so-called VA companies that will promote that VAs come cheap and they need to be able to perform their services at any hour of the day. There was a book written, called the 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss, back in 2007. If you want to be able to be successful, you can follow his concepts to manage and free up your time in your business and personal life, blah, blah, blah. It may be a great read for some, but the one piece of advice that came from him was if you want to outsource your life, hire a VA that works in a structured overseas environment where there are a slew of VAs that can work cheap like $4 – $8 an hour. He said not to work with just one specific VA because they may not be available due to vacation or illness. Once I kept seeing this so-called popular book pop up all over the internet, I was insulted. These emerging VA companies would be popping up everywhere, especially overseas. Sure, it’s a great way to provide jobs for those that are technically inclined to do so and I’m okay with that. All you need is a phone, computer and a good internet connection and you’re in! I’ll admit when I first started out looking for project work, I combed contract sites like Guru.com and Elance.com to gain work experience in my practice. Imagine being outbid by those companies that would submit project bids as low as $4 – $8 an hour?! Or just a project bid of $25 – $50 when it would easily cost $200 – $300!
It took just one guy to shout it out to the world that you can get outsourced help really cheap. Sorry, but in my opinion, Tim’s advice tainted the concept of the VA industry early on. Since then, it’s taken many written explanations since then to point out that there’s a real difference between what a real Virtual Assistant is versus someone who works in a VA company setting and works for peanuts. It’s a good possibility that these companies may be hiring their help as employees too. Just to reiterate…VAs are NOT employees. Okay, rant over.
I didn’t want to get ahead of myself here, but I do want to point out that if you’re looking for an assistant to help you with managing your business in a specific area, be sure and do your homework first. Research and contact those VAs that resonate with your niche. Do know that depending on the expertise of the VA or VAs you’re contacting, their fee range could be anywhere from $25 – $100 an hour easily. There are also VAs that package their services and offer a monthly retainer and customize these based on your business model. It’s exactly how I offer my services. Most times, a VA professional will not list their rates on their website, but would prefer to consult with you first before offering a fee to work with you.
Lastly, I have provided below a comparison chart of a typical Virtual Assistant versus a virtual worker and what you should be looking for if you ever have the desire to work with one.
If you have any questions or comments to share about a Virtual Assistant, feel free to post them below and I’ll be happy to reply.
NOTE: I purposely chose the image at the top of my post because when searching for an image of a Virtual Assistant, it came back with mostly images of women smiling with a headset or a headset icon. I felt it did not represent the industry well, so I chose the “help” image instead. Loved it!
Please keep in mind that I may receive commissions when you click my links and make purchases. However, this does not impact my reviews and comparisons. I try my best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.