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It’s certainly been a rapid change in the industry from when I started back in 2006 when the term Virtual Assistant (VA) was practically unheard of in New Zealand. If people I spoke to had any idea, they generally thought it related to an answerphone message or something that happened offshore, generally in India, how things have changed.
The industry is now thriving, and if Covid had any positive outcomes (there cannot be many), companies now fully appreciate that virtual working is possible; it can be very productive. Some have even enjoyed the lack of commute. Perhaps my favourite comment was from a law firm that always thought they could not use a VA or work virtually, but post-Covid admitted it was possible; it was a different way of thinking. Since 2020 VA Agencies and Freelancers have been growing rapidly, with demand continuing to rise.
Who uses a VA and what do they do?
Companies use VA’s for various reasons. The main being that the business wants to concentrate on what they are good at; trades, beauty salons, PT’s, SME’s etc. They are working in their industry all day and want to outsource the finance, creative and general admin areas to free up their time and use an expert in the area.
Others are one-person businesses that need help or want their company to appear larger than it is. You’d be amazed how many ‘about us’ web pages include photos of VA’s who appear to be staff in the business but work as VA’s, either contracting or freelancers.
Many use a VA without even realising it. If you employ anyone doing something online, they are virtual and, therefore, a VA. Think of graphic designers, web designers and bookkeepers. Even multinational companies employ VA’s as they may have expertise at a level their staff do not.
Perhaps the most significant misunderstanding as the years went on was regarding ‘what a Virtual Assistant can do’. Although we tried to change the name to ‘Virtual Professionals’ after the first conference, the term from the USA stuck. Some of us felt the word ‘assistant’ undervalued what this position meant. Often a VA will specialise in an area and have expert knowledge gained over many years.