If you know how to switch on a computer, open up emails, use Word and can navigate a few other office programmes, and can connect to a reasonable WiFi connection, you could be a virtual assistant. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! In this ‘I’m not sure, I’ll Google it’ era, it’s possible to feel a bit like an expert in most subjects in under 30 minutes. But let’s get one thing straight – calling yourself a VA and being a successful, professional and skilled VA are VERY different.
The vast majority of VAs that I speak to have moved into this line of work because they developed transferable skills in a previous self-employed role, or in employment, and are proficient and skilled in the vast majority of services that they offer to their customers. Clearly, they aren’t going to be an expert at everything from the outset – no one is – but by having a core offering of tasks in which they are able to provide high quality support, they have the ability to bring in recurrent business in whilst they study and gain practical experience in any ‘new’ skills they want to offer. Unless you’ve got time (and a pot of funds) to dedicate solely to developing your knowledge and skills, starting a business when you are unable to service your customers in a cost-effective, efficient and good quality manner is likely to result in failure. One 2019 article from the Telegraph stated that 660,000 new companies are registered in the UK every year, but that 60% of those businesses go under within three years and 20% cease to trade within 12 months (source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/01/24/start-ups-across-uk-going-bust-need-careful-management-economy/), so why wouldn’t you want to give your business the best chance possible and offer a service that customers actually want and are willing to pay for?
Even when you’ve established a professional VA business and invested in your skillset and the financial and legal necessities of business ownership (from Professional Indemnity Insurance to Terms of Business documents, Cyber Insurance to Hiring Agreements, etc.), it’s easy to call yourself a VA but you need clients in order to make your business a success. I can safely say that if you rush into offering VA services without having developed the high-quality skillset necessary to deliver acceptable outcomes to clients, even if you do have a fair few customers in the pipeline early on in your VA journey, the likelihood is that they will dry up. Referrals from customers and peers are an essential part of marketing yourself and building a sustainable and long lasting VA business, so take time to make sure that your skills are up to scratch before you start offering new services to your customers so that you get some great reviews, referrals and repeat business from all your hard work.
So, long story short, anyone can be a VA but it definitely takes skill, experience, and a comprehensive and responsible business set up to be a successful VA with a sustainable and long lasting business. And who doesn’t want to be the latter?