Defining the Various Levels of the Virtual Assistant Industry

By now you have no doubt heard about the latest craze in the business world – Virtual Assistants (VAs). But I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that you have been misinformed of what this industry is all about.

Do a quick Google search on the term Virtual Assistant. You will find that there are a bazillion entries that come up. Ok, maybe that is exaggerating a bit, but you know what I mean. Take a closer look though. You will have links that give you information on the

VA industry, links that are for the VAs themselves (training, programs, etc.), links that point to websites claiming to be VAs who can’t even turn on a computer (sorry, had to vent there a bit), overseas VAs, VA staffing agencies, call centers – the list goes on and on.

There are so many different types of businesses virtual assistant classifying themselves as Virtual Assistants, no wonder you are confused as to what is what. To help you understand the VA industry a bit further, here are a few definitions to keep in mind.

A Virtual Assistant is–

– Someone who runs a business and they are the only entity in that business. Meaning, they do all the tasks themselves for their clients with the exception of specialized tasks such as web design, graphics design, etc. of which, they would sub-contract the work out.

– Someone who has more than one client. Only one client stipulates you are an employee in the eyes of the IRS

– Someone who provides more than one type of service. Traditionally, VAs perform administrative tasks such as word processing, desktop publishing, calendar and email maintenance, meeting set up, industry specific tasks, travel plans, etc. However and here is the kicker – to be called a VA, they should be doing more than one type of task for their clients on a regular basis. For example, someone who only does bookkeeping is a bookkeeper; someone who only does web design/maintenance is a web master, someone who only provides transcription is a transcriptionist, etc. However, that does not mean to say that the VA can’t specialize in one area, but they should also be providing other types of services as well.

– Someone who can be physically located in any part of the world. Yes, there are some very good VAs located in other countries, just be careful to find the best one that fits your business needs, and not just on price. More on “over-seas VAs” in the section below.

– Paid directly by the client.

– Someone who work best with a small number of ongoing clients, typically on retainer

A Virtual Staffing Agency is –

– More like the “Kelly Services of the VA industry” (temp agency). These are traditionally huge conglomerates made up of several thousands of “VAs” .

– There are a few US/Canada based VSAs that run using VA contractors compared to employees.

– This is where I would also classify a good portion of the” over-seas VA” companies that you see popping up all over the internet thanks to Tim Ferris his 4-Hour Work Week book. These companies run physical offices where their employees come to work every day and perform the tasks assigned to them.

– The client pays the Agency; the Agency pays the staff or team. Therefore, someone who works for/with a Staffing Agency, the Agency is their client, and not the end user. So, if that someone is only working with/for the Agency, an no other outside clients, then they are considered an employee by the US Government standards, and should not be referring themselves as a VA, regardless of how many “clients” the Agency assigns to them.

– Traditionally, the services are paid at a lesser rate than that of an individual Virtual Assistant, but not always the case.

– Agencies tend to have a high volume of short-term clients, or clients that only want one or two things done on a routine basis.