The ‘When Can You Call Yourself a Virtual Assistant’ Debate

In the ‘About’ page of The Freelancealot Herald we write:

Some people have very strict views of what a ‘Virtual Assistant’ (VA) is, and what it isn’t. Our view is this: a virtual assistant is someone who ‘supports a business or individual remotely‘, whether that be with long-term clients or ad-hoc projects. We don’t only see ourselves as ‘Virtual Assistants’, but also as freelancers working off site (in our own office, in other words, and the not the client’s).

I’m readdressing this point now as I’ve just read an interesting post on the Home Office Warrior blog which discusses this subject.

The crux of the debate is this: are you a Virtual Assistant if you take on ad-hoc/piecemeal projects?

Some virtual assistants are adamant that a VA is a long-term support role, and only that. Those of us who do take on the occasional one-off project to help an individual or business out when they really need it, are viewed to be outside of the ‘virtual assistant’ industry.

My comment on the post includes the following:

If I can support an individual or business on a ‘virtual’ basis, then I’m happy to take the work on – what’s more important to me are the ethics of the person/company I’m going to be working with and whether I have the skills and experience to carry the tasks out.

And contrary to the comment on Faction C in this blog’s post, I don’t come cheap and have 13 years experience in the real world of business – what I am is flexible in my use of the term Virtual Assistant. And being flexible is, in my opinion, one of the most useful qualities to have as a VA, along with initiative….

And in my opinion:

The point of the word ‘virtual’ in the title stresses that we work virtually, ie remotely, off-site; the word ‘assistant’ encompasses many things — and is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as ‘someone who helps someone else to do a job’ – and one can assist (or support) in various different ways. There is nothing in the term ‘virtual assistant’ that restricts what type of work we, as an industry, take on, what length of time the working relationship should be, or how we bill for that work.

Individuals, small businesses, or large corporate organisations looking for someone to outsource their overload of work to don’t have time to figure out which side of the fence you, as a virtual assistant, sit on. They just want to know whether you have the time and skills to do the job and whether your fees are within their budget. Whether you prefer to call yourself a secretarial service, a teleworker, freelancer, remote worker, or virtual assistant just doesn’t come into the equation.

Most virtual assistants provide secretarial services on both a one-off and long-term basis. So if you want to outsource a project but your fingers are hovering over the keyboard wondering whether to type ‘virtual assistant’ into the search engine, do it, you’ll find most of us will be able and happy to accommodate you.

[WARNINGBlatant Horn-blowing Ahead: Please visit our Secretarial page to see what secretarial services we at have to offer]