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What Is A Virtual Assistant? - A Real Human Response

Michelle Dale - Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When googling "what is a virtual assistant" you'll find all sorts of formal responses like this one. This week I have put this message together for virtual assistants and other online service providers including freelancers and contractors around the globe, and the millions of clients who hire us. This is what a virtual assistant actually is...

What is a Virtual Assistant? (or VA)

A Virtual Assistant first and foremost is a human being. They generally have a head and a body.

They eat.
They sleep.
They have families.
They have friends.
And they like to enjoy personal time.
Many of them also love their work, and being a Virtual Assistant is a passion (really!)

A Virtual Assistant is generally also a business owner, hence why clients don't have to pay all those cumbersome extras like holiday or sick pay, or other employee benefits. The thing is though, even though the VA is not an employee in the legal sense of the word, many will feel or allow themselves to be treated as such by their clients.

Virtual Assistants are in the business of assisting clients by providing services in various areas such as administration, marketing and creative projects and tasks.

As the label indicates, they do this virtually, most of them from their homes and many from a room they have converted into an office space, but some work from the corner of their bedrooms, or even at a kitchen table with a family pet, for company and in many cases, their young child. Some adventurous Virtual Assistants are digital nomads working from a laptop on top of a mountain or at a beach cafe.

In some cases a Virtual Assistant has been established in business longer than their clients, some may even be far more successful in business than their clients, although many never let it show.

When looking for a Virtual Assistant, clients can weigh up all sorts of things, such as training, experience and skill sets. These are all extremely important, and you don't want to overlook them.

But when it comes to finding a Virtual Assistant nothing is more valuable to a client than a VA who actually cares about the client, and their business. This can often be taken for granted and when that happens the VA/client relationship usually falls apart.

We've all heard the saying, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

It's generally advised if you want the Virtual Assistant to care about your business, that you care about your Virtual Assistant, nurture their human qualities and you'll hands down have the best asset you'll ever have in your business.

An asset that can elevate your business, streamline it, point out the weak spots, help you grow, the ones who are branching out into consulting or management can even make your business more profitable, but despite all these wonderful benefits to your business, they do what not many other people can - they give you the gift of time, more time so you can pursue your own various human being activities that make your life worthwhile, like spending more time with your family or pursuing a hobby or interest. Someone who can support you in doing this is someone you should definitely give thanks to, regardless of whether you pay them for their time or not.

Because paying someone for their time does not grant you permission to not be grateful for them or treat them like a robot, dollar amount or underdog, which sadly does happen a lot in this industry, particularly when the VA is struggling to make ends meet.

Let's face it, if someone treated you poorly, I bet the person who did wouldn't benefit at all from it right?

It's that simple.

An occupational hazard of a Virtual Assistant being human, is human error. Sometimes Virtual Assistants make mistakes (I'm sure you've made a few, everyone has) and in most cases they'll kick themselves about it, will probably lose sleep, even dwell on it for days, and really the best way to handle this is to find the quickest resolution to the problem, and put measures in place to prevent it happening again. This is your responsibility as a business owner to ensure this happens in your business when mistakes are made.

This is not a "one size fits all" message - some Virtual Assistants are incompetent, untrustworthy, unreliable, inefficient and more... If this is the case then metaphorically speaking, like the clothes we've outgrown, or the batteries that have run down, we need to replace them.

If you have experience working with Virtual Assistants and it has consistently been a less than desirable experience, this is not the norm, and if you have found that it is, you may want to rethink your methods of hiring and working with your Virtual Assistants as there's something there that needs addressing.

For a majority, my bet is, your Virtual Assistant is pretty awesome and probably is someone who takes care of your business.

Be thankful for them, not just this week during Thanksgiving, but every week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my clients, but with a very special thanks to my Virtual Assistants, and on behalf of clients all over the world, thanks to all Virtual Assistants who are making the lives of their clients a little better every day - it doesn't go unnoticed!

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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