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No matter how many years you spend as a Virtual Assistant (VA), you’ll hear some myths about our industry that will make your blood boil. Though we’re part of a new breed of creative, knowledgeable and highly focused entrepreneurs who do valuable and specialized work, some people out there still believe in a number of myths that demean and discount our entire profession.
The most important thing is that you remain secure in the value you offer your clients, and don’t buy into these uninformed lies. You also have the power to advocate for yourself, educate your clients and spread awareness about the real facts of what you do, and you should take every opportunity to do so.
Here is a look at just some of the B.S. myths VAs face and the truths you can use to dispel them.
This is number one both because it’s harmful and because we hear it on a regular basis. It demeans both VAs and the traditional, highly skilled secretaries who were actually the lifeblood of their organizations. Secretarial work has historically been low paid because media and society have always portrayed it as unskilled labour (think of how many times we’ve heard people remark that anyone can type up a document and run spell check!). VAs get lumped under the same category.
In reality, traditional secretaries were crucial to the success of their companies and had a diverse range of responsibilities, including file organization, office management, correspondence, and reception. When used to their full potential, VAs help their clients increase the success of their businesses every day and depending on their skills, may take on project management, marketing, administration, or other work.
This one originates from misunderstanding the value we can offer as VAs and the role we can fulfill for our clients. Many assume we all do the same types of tasks and or that we have limited skills, when this just isn’t the case.
It’s true that VAs often do a lot in a day, including completing the monotonous but necessary tasks their clients don’t have the time or inclination to do, but the smartest VAs are also intentionally choosing certain fields, making them their niches, and becoming experts in one or more areas. These fields may include product launches, email campaigns, and online business management. VAs who specialize gain an advantage in a highly competitive market and become invaluable assets to clients who need their expertise.
It’s just as damaging when clients set their expectations unrealistically high as when they set the bar too low. Whether it’s because we missed something during the onboarding process or they happen to be a challenging client, they sometimes assume you’re waiting for their call, expect you to shift your schedule to accommodate their time constraints, or don’t know how long all that work will take to complete. This causes you both stress and frustration and can erode the relationship you’ve worked hard to build.
In order to sustain your practice, you need more than one client. You’ve got your own business to run and need to devote time to it. You can often prevent or address misunderstandings early on by pre-qualifying clients to ensure you’re a good match. Communicate with them clearly and effectively about your mutual expectations, availability, the types of work you do, and important aspects of your relationship. Prioritize the most important tasks and ensure your contract includes provisions for rush fees in the event of an emergency.
Some people who believe this myth are stuck in the antiquated belief that workers can only be productive during certain hours of the day and that you have to be able to see them. Others have been burned by arrangements that didn’t work out, and still others aren’t aware of the data that indicate professional remote workers are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Wherever this belief comes from, it’s imperative that you address it before it threatens existing client relationships or prevents you from building a new one. The first thing to remember is the trust factor: before you sign a client, you two need to establish a mutually respectful relationship based on trust, respect and communication. With this foundation in place, you can tackle any issues or misunderstandings that crop up.
Also, you became a VA so you could work on your own terms and transform your dreams into reality. You have the right to decide where, when and how you work, and you know which environment you work best in. Thanks to the power of the inter-webs and a multitude of productivity, communication, project management and other tools, you can manage projects professionally and transparently, keep your clients up to date, and provide stellar customer service without stepping foot in their office.
With these facts, we can educate potential clients, friends, relatives and anyone else who makes statements or asks questions around these topics (and maybe even turn them into advocates!).