The History of the Virtual Assistant Industry
An Introduction to the Topic of the Virtual Assistant History
I decided today to write a bit more about what it is I do and why. Thought about the beginning, at least for me, say about 15 years ago. I was exploring how to earn a living from home and learning how to make my way through the virtual world, otherwise known as the Internet.
A vast world it is to. You can communicate with any one at nearly any time. Time zones are the limit to real time communication with someone on the other side of the globe from you. Yet, we can make friends, create business partnerships, and interact with any one who has a computer and an Internet connection, even cell phone service. Technology is both amazing and yet limited only by one’s imagination.
A View of Time
15 years does not seem that far away, yet when you look at the history of technology and the capacity of the Internet, it feels more like a life time. Can you keep up with the changes? New apps, software, and gadgets all designed to improve and increase productivity and income.
Nothing works unless you work it, however. Meaning that you can have all the best in technology and if you do not know how to use it, or pick it up, turn it on, it means nothing. Dust collectors.
A View of the History of the Virtual Assistant Industry
Looking up the history of the virtual assistant industry I found several links to a variety of histories. The date of the first VA seems to be 1996, I cannot remember if it was then or a few years earlier that I decided to work from my home, actually my kitchen table. But the date seems to hit a memory cog.
History shows that the first assistants were in office, secretaries to administrative assistants, working from minimum wages to specialty niches offering an increase in wage and benefits. That has not changed for the virtual assistant. Competition however has grown, due to the Internet. Wages are as low as $2 p/hr for virtual assistants who work in the Philippines, India, and other countries. Gratefully many prefer those of us who live in the same country and rely on our skill sets. It pays to specialize.
Where Would I be Today
Had I stuck to my goals, fulfilled my dreams, no telling where I would be today. However, I let others talk me into forgoing the virtual world and working in someone else’s office for less pay and more aggravation. Burnout was the trigger that sent me back to working part time at a shop and part time at home learning how to get set up and get started.
There are so many choices now. You can specialize as a real estate assistant (licensed or licensed agent), legal assistant, pick an industry and someone needs an assistant. Hone your skills and you become invaluable. Specialize in one or two industries and you open the playing field.
My History and Experience as a Virtual Assistant
My experience has developed through working for non-profits, attorneys, real estate brokers and a tax preparer. I have honed my skills at bookkeeping (Quicken, Quickbooks, Excel, and a couple of others), writing for business correspondence, flyers, brochures, and other presentations. My computer skills now include building, repairing, and troubleshooting computers. I can work on my own car as well, there is nothing to doing an oil change and spark plug change. 🙂 I am well rounded in my skill set, but I excel at teaching others how to do what I do. I have worked myself out of a couple of jobs, but now I find clients would rather let me do the work, because they do know how once I teach them, but have a preference to delegating. Yeah for me.
A Code of Ethics is Important
A code of ethics is also important. Be true to your word, if you cannot work with someone, then don’t. Let them know up front, with loving kindness. Your reputation will be all the better for it.
Interview the client, do not let them interview you. I believe it is a two way street, but far too often we get lost in the employer/employee concept and allow for someone to have authority over us. You are your employer. Create a list of your ideal clients, experiment with different industries. Get to know the personalities of those in those industries. Get informed to make a healthy decision.
Never let another dictate your skills or your fees. Create the contract to benefit both you and the client, make it clear. Have a contingency plan and a guarantee, delivery plan.
I have a canned draft proposal ready to edit and send to any potential client, as well as a list of questions I ask to ensure I am the right fit for them and vice versa. Communication is either by email or voice call, sometimes chat. Learn how to read what is written, there are key words that will give you an idea of the person you are dealing with. If in doubt arrange for a phone call.
NEVER BE DESPERATE FOR WORK. It comes through in all you do. Determine your income needs based upon bills and other essentials. Prepare for lean times. Ask for the support of others, sometimes you will need a cheer leading squad.
ALL WAYS BE HONEST WITH SELF FIRST. This also is translated into your interactions and work. If in doubt say so. Do not make promises you cannot keep.
Resources for Becoming a Virtual Assistant
My research and reviews of agencies offering training and information have netted a huge cache of links. Sorting them out is a task alone. I am providing you a few I have followed for more than a minute, looked into their offerings.
A Note: Consider this, many do need further training to hone their skills. Many wish to improve or adapt new skills. Do your research first before you pay for any services. You will find freebies and paid training, services, resources, etc. If you are seeking to save more than you spend, try the agencies that offer free training and testing.
You do not have to have a certification to show you know what you do. Experience is always the best choice.
If you want to start with a company try UpWork. They provide testing to prove your skill set to potential clients, a time keeper, and a payment processor. You are competing for clients, so you have to be on top of your game. Many who do work for far less than many of us. There are other sites similar to this, it is a good way to get your feet wet and try out different industries.
The VA Handbook offers some advice on setting up your website to get you started. Some great ideas and advice. Start with what you can afford, if it is free it is a good start.
I enjoy reading Entrepreneur.com, they have a wealth of insight, information and tips to being your own employer. You can read the suggestions on why one should pick a VA, what the suggested criteria is and learn how to develop your business to meet those suggestions.
The rest I leave to you. I like Google to search because I can find scholarly articles as well as news. Browse, interact, meet, and get to know how others are doing their business. It goes a long way in helping you develop your private corner of the Virtual Assistant Industry.
Questions? Need some help? Get in touch through my contact page, find me on social media sites.
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