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