The Value of a Virtual Assistant

A recent story by Hazel Sanchez at CBS New York (@HazelCBS2NY) has sparked mixed reactions within VA communities on social media platforms such as Google+.  The story is being followed by the global Virtual Assistant community based on the comments being posted on Google+ and LinkedIn.  Whilst the story suggests that the services of a VA can be acquired for as little as $6 per hour in the New York Tri-State Area I, and many other VAs believe the news report does not go far enough to explain the value and merits of individual VAs.

“Virtual Assistant” is a very wide open term which covers a variety of roles just as the term “consultant” covers a multitude of roles and skills.  No-one would ever expect a “consultant” to charge as little as $6 per hour (less than minimum wage).  Instead consultants are seen as professional skilled people who sell their services based on their experience and the market in which they operate.  Similarly, VAs vary enormously and have a wide variety of skills and experience.  If they chose to work in the real world, different pay grades are applied for a variety of administrative and support roles across a range of industries and niche markets.  It is common sense that this is true for the virtual world too.  However, not all business support workers are able to translate those skills to work as a self-employed business owner whilst being able to maintain and develop their skillset in line with changing technologies.

It should be stressed that some Virtual Assistants focus their business on lifestyle management, others are only interested in business support whilst you will also find VAs who are happy to mix it up and do both lifestyle/personal management as well as business support.  The CBS story stated that VAs work through a “reputable company” which implies that VAs operate like virtual temps through an agency.  The truth in my experience is that most VAs are self-employed business owner/operators and are proactive networkers.

The UK Virtual Assistant industry at least is already establishing common guidelines that are deemed to be good practice and led by industry leaders such as Lucy Brazier (@lucybrazier) and Carmen MacDougall (@VAtrainingpro) have established a VA Mastery Course so that serious VAs can attain a recognised industry accreditation.  Indeed the National VA Annual Conference has been running since 2007 which is pretty much the industry’s answer to the Oscars.  The industry guidelines for VA rates are based on the fact that clients are paying for the time and expertise of their VA and it is considered unfair to charge different rates (rates are generally in the region of £25 – £30 per hour across the board regardless of where you or your clients live and higher rates are applied for other specific skills such as blog and copywriting).

It is gratifying and encouraging that the services of Virtual Assistants are recognised and gaining acceptance but I sincerely hope that any further reporting on the rise of the VA in our modern world will more accurately reflect how valuable a resource this highly skilled army of support workers are to the changing business world.

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