What is a Virtual Assistant?
Maybe you’ve heard of a virtual assistant but aren’t quite sure what it means or what exactly a virtual assistant does. Let me try and explain.
A virtual assistant (also known as a VA) is usually someone who has years of experience and specialist skills in a key business area – creative, financial, administrative, IT – and has taken the step from working for an employer to working for themselves as a self-employed freelancer. They can then offer their skills to clients or customers on an as needed basis, being paid by the hour for work done, or charging a flat rate for a package of key services.
As the world gets more connected, with smartphones and cloud computing, it is becoming possible to move away from the traditional office set-up with desks and departments for each business area. Companies, especially small or start-ups, can no longer afford to rent and fit out large spaces for staff, especially if they do not need them full time.
Instead, there is now the option to hire in the experts when they’re needed.
Graphic designers are a great example as most businesses have minimal graphic requirements, but occasionally need great marketing materials designed or want to have a brand overhaul, but can’t afford to have someone sitting around waiting for this to happen. So they outsource the work to an expert and pay a package fee to them. There are no other overhead payments as these are managed by the contractor (freelance graphic designer), just a flat fee for the work required in a mutually agreed time.
This model is now widening its reach to other business areas and administrative support is one of the biggest growing examples in recent years.
When I returned to work after maternity leave, advances in technology meant that I didn’t really need to be in the office any more. I worked from home one day a week, and there was very little that I couldn’t do from a desk in my spare room, but my bosses liked having me around as a presence for them and visitors. However, they were rarely there and we mostly communicated by phone and email as they undertook business with worldwide colleagues and clients. And then they bought a coffee machine and learnt how to use it themselves! The traditional PA was almost redundant!
When I had my second child, I made the decision not to return to commuting and took a clerical role in a local school while I figured out what to do next. The Virtual PA option kept calling me, and this summer, I decided to take the plunge and start up my own VA business. I have aligned myself as a virtual PA as my background is as an Executive Assistant and Personal Assistant, however my blog writing experience means that I can also offer social media support to clients if requested.
In the years since I left the corporate world in London, technology has moved on apace and now it is even easier to work remotely with clients (and colleagues). I am fast learning the best apps and software to manage my work and introducing clients to those that will help them become more efficient at work too.
Of course, I am really enjoying the flexibility of being able to choose my hours and work around my children’s needs. However, I am most enjoying the diversity of my role as I work with clients from different industry areas and different needs. From photographing toilets to advising on how to start a foodie blog, no day is ever the same and I am constantly learning new skills that I can then offer to clients.
If you’ve ever wished you could afford some help with your business (or personal life), now is the time to get in touch and discuss how I can make that an affordable reality. With no sickness or holiday pay, no maternity/paternity pay, no desks, computers or printers to buy, no national insurance or pensions to add on, it really isn’t as expensive as you think to have an assistant “virtually” by your side!