Accreditation for VAs – discussion on this topic seems to have dominated social media the past two weeks right? Well I for one couldn’t be happier – surely communication is key so we need to be talking about things. So here is my piece 🙂
In October, I launched VIP VA accreditation and a change to the current membership structure, awarding accredited VAs who meet our criteria (based on our publicised standards) and members a grade (from Student to Fellow) based on their relevant industry experience. This is a change that has long been a part of my vision and that I am incredibly excited about, though it has generated a few ripples within the Virtual Assistant industry that I am keen to address.
VIP VA was founded in 2015 to champion Virtual Assistants and promote the VA industry, and these ideas remain central to everything I and we as an organisation do. VIP VA was created by Virtual Assistants (specifically myself and the gorgeous and talented Amanda Slack) for Virtual Assistants (that’s you guys). The first-hand experience of my team and members – all of whom work as Virtual Assistants – allows us as an organisation to address and tackle legitimate issues that we have faced ourselves and believe to be widespread within the VA industry.
As part of tackling these issues, earlier this year we launched our ‘Time to EleVAte’ Campaign, as we firmly believe that the ‘Virtual Assistant’ role and term is widely misused, misunderstood and undervalued, and we want to change that. However, we of course acknowledge that the experiences of a few don’t necessarily constitute the ‘norm’ in any industry, so chose to carry out two surveys to form the report – one of VA business owners and one of non-VA business owners – to determine whether or not this was indeed the case within and outside of the VA industry. The report has just been published this week and you can view the summary here: www.apva.org.uk/campaigns-research
The results from our campaign suggest that we were correct in our initial assessment: there is currently a stigma associated with the VA profession.
Though the majority of feedback from the non-VA business owners we surveyed was positive, there was a widespread call for greater regulation in the ‘unregulated’ VA industry, with one respondent advising that ‘anyone can switch on a laptop and be a VA’. Ouchie.
Increased regulation in the industry, additional support to address any skills deficit, and introducing ‘checks’ to guarantee the quality of a VAs work were all potential ways given by the respondents to help elevate the VA industry in the eyes of non-VA business owners.
The results from within the VA industry were perhaps more striking, with an almost equal mixture of negative and positive feelings described by respondents when asked how they perceived the VA industry.
Some of those surveyed described the industry as ‘misunderstood’, ‘quickly becoming saturated’, and claimed ‘the standard is declining’, whereas others described the community as ‘supportive’, ‘collaborative’, and ‘a thriving community’. Similarly, although all VAs surveyed consider themselves to fall within the ‘VA’ spectrum, the broad range of job titles that they chose to use (see attached image) instead of the ‘Virtual Assistant’ term suggests that even if they haven’t experienced negativity associated with the term first hand, that VAs are aware of its existence.
Figure 1 – Virtual Assistant preferred titles
The ‘stigma’ associated with the term ‘Virtual Assistant’ is something we had believed to be an issue, and following our comprehensive analysis of the ‘Time to EleVAte’ survey results for VAs and non-VA business owners, we could see that this was a legitimate concern that we wanted to address.
It was following this industry analysis that we chose to launch our VIP VA accreditation, though we have been planning and developing our accreditation for a number of months.
VIP VA accreditation isn’t a whimsical flight of fancy. It isn’t about accrediting people for ‘being a VA’. It is based on an individual meeting strict criteria that we believe should be essential for every business owner, VA or otherwise. From checking that you have Professional Indemnity Insurance in place and are registered with the Information Commissioners Office if you handle data, to ensuring that you, your customers and your associates are all protected by appropriate contracts and agreements – we aren’t just ticking boxes for the sake of it.
VIP VAs aim is to comprehensively check that all accredited members are both committed (and legally bound) to protecting their customers’ interests and data, as well as their own. We check each and every application thoroughly before we accept or decline and we build key relationships with VIP VA members to ensure that they are staying up to date with what they need to continue to run their businesses as effectively and safely as possible.
VIP VA are proud to have pioneered the requirement for industry standards in the UK. However, what is important to us is the criteria that we have set out as part of our accreditation process. Having appropriate Business Insurance Cover, being registered with appropriate legislative bodies, and having testimonials that highlight your skills (plus all the other factors we take into consideration) are the important things – this is the industry standard we should all be aiming towards.
I strongly believe that when we invest appropriately in our businesses (not just financially, but also in terms of our skills), we help to ‘elevate’ the entire industry and take a definitive step away from the unskilled ‘Virtual Assistants’ out there who don’t have the knowledge, experience and passion for this industry that I know so many of you do have. And having the correct collaborative attitude to lift each other up is absolutely essential too.
VIP VA accreditation and/or membership isn’t for everyone – I know that, and I am incredibly happy for those who haven’t ever felt the impact of the ‘Virtual Assistant’ stigma on your business or don’t feel that the membership element would give you anything. And no-one is saying everyone has to believe what I believe or to be a part of it.
However, the fact is that there are business owners out there who are looking for reassurance when taking on a remote worker, and that there are Virtual Assistants out there who want to make it easy for their customers to recognise the steps that they have taken to protect themselves, and their clients, and VIP VA are here to help them.
VIP VA accreditation and membership is designed to help boost the reputation of not just our members, but the entire industry as a whole, and we will continue to do what we can to reduce (and ultimately, remove) any stigma associated with the ‘Virtual Assistant’ profession.
If you are interested in finding out more about becoming an accredited VA you can do so HERE.