We are excited to be launching the first officially registered, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting the Virtual Assistant and Freelance community as it grows!

The transition from VIP VA to the Association of Professional Virtual Assistants (APVA) has been a long time coming and it is exciting to be able to officialise what we have been doing as an organisation for the past 4 years.

We wanted to put together this guide to give clarity around the background to the APVA, our mission and how we intend to support the industry as it continues to evolve.

Background

VIPVA was launched in 2015 as a membership organisation for the VA Industry, to support existing VAs with best practice and the growth of their businesses. Over time we expanded to offer training and coaching to existing and aspiring VAs looking to enter the market. In 2017 we put together and launched our accreditation based on the extensive feedback from the industry we had received stating the need for more regulation. Shortly after this, we formed our Advisory Board to aid impartiality and ensure that the direction of VIPVA was right for the growth of the industry.

It has always been our vision to be the leading professional organisation for the VA Industry, and we are now realising this vision with the evolution into The Association of Professional Virtual Assistants.

Why

Our surveys, and the 2017 survey in particular highlighted a need and desire from within the industry for better regulation and a way for professional VA business owners to stand out from the crowd.  Coupled with the growth of self employment in the UK and the continuous growth of the VA industry, it feels the right time to officialise our accreditation process and create the not-for-profit Association.

Working as a VA is not just a job title, it is a profession and we are online business owners in our own right. Those in the financial, construction and HR sectors are regulated to ensure they are providing a professional and ‘safe’ service to their clients, the time has come for the same to be the case in the VA industry to ensure that both clients and VAs are protected.

Becoming a professional association requires us to meet certain criteria (such as registering as a company limited by guarantee and having an advisory board) and over the last few months we have been working to ensure that we meet these and can now step forward as an official industry body for VAs.

It’s good to have an accreditation from a professional body when you’re in business, and to date, I’ve been proud to say that I’m a member of the Society for Editors & Proofreaders.

Janice Gilbert

WordPerfect VA

 Company Structure

The key component of any professional association lies in the way that the company is setup – APVA is a company limited by guarantee – this means that any profits made by the company are reinvested to benefit YOU, our members.

The Association of Professional Virtual Assistants Ltd (APVA) is registered in England and Wales with company number: 12475870

As part of this we have two key documents that state our objectives and how the association is being run. You can access copies of these below:

Accountability

A professional association cannot function as such with just one person making the decisions and deciding the vision.  We have our Advisory Board in place that challenge, give insight and hold our team accountable as well as help to set the strategic direction of the Association. Our board is made up of professionals working within the industry who all have different levels of experience and can provide us with sound advice and guidance as we grow and develop.

You can find out more about our board here.

Strategic Partners

We are proud to have some amazing strategic alliances and key partners in place already, and are also developing relationships with other key organisations who understand and support our mission and can help and guide us further as the association grows. These include specialists in insurance, legal services and financial services.

We will continue to grow our strategic partnership base to ensure that they represent the objectives of the organisation as well as meeting the needs of our members.

Our current key partnerships are with Koffeeklatch and PolicyBee.

No matter the size of your business, being professional in the day-to-day running of it is vital. It could be the difference between success or closing-up shop.

It’s easier to know what ‘professional’ means when there are guidelines to direct you, which is why regulation is a huge benefit. 

Regulation ensures you think about the core functions as well as the day-to-day activities. Thinking about these will ultimately help your business run smoothly, everything from business set-up and having recognised training and qualifications, to having measures in place to protect yourself like the right professional insurance if anything were to go wrong.

PolicyBee

Team APVA

Running this organisation takes a team and we are proud to have a diverse team supporting us with admin, marketing and the implementation of our objectives.

You can find out more about our team here.

Regional Networks

Our industry may work virtually, but over the last 3 years we have been growing our regional networks so that we can grow our relationships through collaboration across the country. We are pleased to say that we now have networks in the following locations, with plans to launch more in the next year:

  • Birmingham
  • East Midlands
  • Essex
  • London
  • Surrey & SE London
  • SW London & Surrey
  • West Sussex

You can find out more about our regional networks here.

Industry Standards

We launched our industry standards in 2017 and these were really well received by both the VA community and business owners as it allowed them to know that they VA they were working with was professional setup.  We were the first, and are still the only organisation to vet and check each application that comes through.

As an IT trainer who has invested heavily in personal development and qualifications, it is wonderful to see the Virtual Assistant world embrace accreditation and standards. Helping VAs stand out as they can show that they really are the best. 

Shelley Fishel

IT Trainer, Tomorrow's VA

Our requirements have been amended as the industry has evolved and we have embedded both robust approval processes as well as annual reviews for all accredited members.

We will continue to review and amend these requirements as the industry grows and evolves.

Our current requirements are:

  • At least 3 months in business (or working with at least 2 clients)
  • Competent data storage/backup plan
  • PI Insurance – minimum £50,000
  • PL Insurance – minimum £1million
  • Cyber Insurance
  • Appropriate Terms & Conditions for business – these are the ones you issue to clients
  • Appropriate policies (GDPR – privacy, cookies, AML if relevant, Website Terms)
  • Business address and phone number on your website (if you are a Ltd company your company registration number as well) – as a minimum your business adddress should be on your privacy policy.
  • Testimonial or Reference – one piece of feedback form a recent client or previous employer
  • Photograph
  • ICO Registration (if working in the UK)
  • Domain specific email
  • Photo ID

I think industry regulation and standardisation is essential, to ensure a level of qualification and professionalism is achieved and maintained.

I’ve learnt first-hand, that working with the wrong VA can be a stressful and costly mistake to your business.

Having now worked with an accredited VA through APVA for several months, the difference is astonishing and it’s elevated my business development.

Working with the right VA for you and your business, means you can increase your productivity and business growth, because you have the support, reliability and professionalism that you need. Regulation and standardisation can only be a positive step in which that can be achieved.

Nikki Roy

Corporate Health & Wellbeing Client, Body Mechanics Remedial

Providing a roadmap for your VA journey

We are here to support you at every stage of your VA journey.

We are currently developing tools to help you identify the next steps for you and already offer training and membership options that we are confident will provide you with support whatever stage your business is at.

In addition to this we are the only VA training provider with CPD accreditation, which means that if you take our VA Foundation Course you will receive CPD points – this is great for those looking to launch their business whilst still in employment.

Supporting the growth of the Industry

The role of any professional Association is to work with you to support the growth of the industry and ensure you are kept informed of key developments in the business world.

We have always done this and are looking at new ways to share key information with you and to champion our industry to business owners over the coming months.

We love working with APVA and it has been a pleasure to support them over the years. The work they are doing to regulate and professionalise the VA industry is much-needed and really important as it grows and evolves. Well done guys for pioneering this!

Andy Lambert

ContentCal

Questions

If you still have questions, you can take a look at our FAQs below, or please do get in touch – we’d love to chat to you more about our mission for the industry: hello@apva.org.uk

Is this an elite club?

Absolutely not, this association is here to support all VAs, OBMS, and freelance business support professionals no matter what their background, location or stage of the journey to self-employment they are at.

Who is this for?

This is for all those who work in a business support capacity to business owners – you may not call yourself a VA but if you identify as being part of the industry as an online business manager, social media manager, virtual business support partner or something else entirely our association is here to support and accredit you as a professional online business owner.

VAs do so many things, how can we accredit them?

Our accreditation isn’t about accrediting your skills, so it doesn’t matter what range of services you offer – we are about showcasing the fact that you are setup correctly and can offer a safe and professional service to your clients.

Aren’t there other professional associations out there already? Why do we need another one?

There are other organisations providing support to the VA industry, however we believe that none of them meets the key criteria to become a professional trade body and that is what we now are. The key things for this are as follows:

  • Set up as a company limited by guarantee
  • Have an independent board
  • Work to further develop the industry
  • Provide robust accreditation for the industry
Why should I pay for accreditation when I already meet the requirements?

We want the VA Industry to be on a par with other professional service providers, we know that many of you are already working within our industry standards and that is great. However clients need to know that they are working with someone who is set up properly to make it easier for them to find the right support for their business. By joining us a member you can show your clients that you are invested in the professionalism of your business in the same way a bookkeeper, accountant, member of the construction industry does with their professional registration.

Shouldn't this be free?

We’d love to offer this for free, however as with other business sectors, professional accreditation is something you need to pay for. Whilst we aren’t out to make a profit, we do have overheads to cover – for example ensuring our accreditation is robust means we need systems to check and confirm your meet our requirements. We believe that the fees we have set for this are comparable with other industry bodies and should be seen as an essential business expense.

Does APVA have a process for dealing with complaints about accredited VAs?

Yes, we do. Our complaints process is published on our website here: https://www.apva.org.uk/complaints-procedure/

Accredited members are required to resubmit evidence to support their accreditation on an annual basis, and any complaints will be independently reviewed by our board, and if we find that a VA hasn’t acted within our terms of membership their accreditation will be revoked. You can read our membership terms here: https://www.apva.org.uk/terms-conditions-of-membership/

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