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Thinking of becoming a VA? Read this first…

With increasing uncertainty in all industries, one industry is seeing PAs flock to join it. The virtual assistant sector is seeing a swell of PAs looking to join its ranks. The lack of lockdown commute has seen three times the number of new applications for industry organisation SocietyOfVirtualAssistants.co.uk – but there are very specific skills in demand.

Founder Caroline Wylie explains: “20%* of our members reported an uplift of work during lockdown – and this tended to be from clients wanting to switch to an online offering, so digital media VAs saw a big uplift offering services like webinar hosting, digital marketing and social media marketing.

“Unfortunately, we’ve also seen 60%* be negatively affected – and it tends to be those offering traditional VA services like diary management who have been hit hardest. It’s not all bad news those – historically VAs have fared well during recovery from recession as businesses who might not necessarily have considered using a VA look for more flexible ways of dealing with their admin. We actually saw hourly VA rates go up during the financial crisis of 2007/2008.”

So, what do potential VAs need?

Best practice guidelines for UK VAs were created back in 2007, but essentially you need to have:

  • a proper email address;
  • a website which has a contact mailing address and proper GDPR compliant contact details;
  • data backed up securely offsite;
  • professional indemnity insurance;
  • be registered with ICO for data protection & HMRC for tax (if you want to offer bookkeeping/accountancy you also need to be suitably qualified and be MLR registered with HMRC).
  • and ensure you only offer services which you are fully competent to deliver.

What training do VAs need?

Roughly half of the VA industry is self-taught. Usually PAs will struggle with the ‘running a business’ element of working as a VA – marketing is the number one thing they struggle with. Google Digital Garage runs free courses which are widely recognised by clients.

Wylie warns: “During lockdown we’ve seen a huge number of VAs with just two years’ experience start to offer training. Ideally your trainer should have completed at least five years as a VA themselves, with it being their sole income. The past few years has seen an explosion in these rogue trainers. To combat this we have a list of Approved VA Trainers on our website: societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/approved-VA-trainers

What services are most in demand in the post-covid period?

  • Online workshop facilitators
  • Website designers/developers
  • People with a wide spread of clients (lots of different clients in varied industries)

SVA Virtual Assistants CIC Covid survey August 2020

  • 20% were experiencing an uplift in work – 60% have been negatively affected.
  • Around 40% had been able to access grant funding.
  • Just under 13% have had to take out loan funding.
  • A little under 20% of the industry were uncertain if they would be in business next year.

* = SVA Virtual Assistants CIC Covid survey August 2020