Common Myths about Virtual Assistants
The understanding of what a Virtual Assistant is in the UK is at times still unclear for some, so I thought I would share some of the most common myths about virtual assistants that I have come across.
Many of the common myths I have heard or been asked about are based around the remote aspect of working with a virtual assistant. In the UK there is still some misunderstanding about virtual working and how hard people will work remotely, without having that managerial presence around them, meaning people think that those working in these roles aren’t working as hard and won’t be as dedicated or professional. But this is so untrue. So let me explain quickly what a virtual assistant is “A virtual assistant is a person who provides support services to a business from a remote location. Administrative tasks are most common for virtual assistants, but they may also assist with any other elements required by the business.” https://www.thebalancesmb.com/virtual-assistant-1794441
So what are some of those common myths about virtual assistants?
A VA will need to be trained.
Absolutely not. VA’s have already established numerous years of experience and training via their previous career and roles, which is one of the key benefits of using a VA. You get to tap into this readymade knowledge and skill set. The variety and sector/industry experience you can find amongst VA’s is impressive. If you have bespoke internal systems, or industry requirements or rigorous protocols, then, of course, you will need to show them the ropes. But you would with any member of your team. But there is no need for hand-holding or “on the job training” they are proactive members of your team, often with a very strong sense of ingenuity who seek out new learning opportunities, which is all for your benefit. The right VA will have the required skills already established.
It’s expensive to hire a VA.
This thinking is misleading. In most situations, working with a VA is cheaper than if you were to employ a permanent office member of staff, with the same skill and experience level of the VA or Virtual Business Support services. When you partner with this type of virtual service provider, you save on equipment costs. You don’t need to supply them with an office/desk space, a computer, a phone, stationery, cover expenses and other employment costs such as holiday, sickness, NI, pension, maternity, paternity or benefit packages etc. All these ‘hidden’ costs are often forgotten about when considering hiring a VA as the cost is given in an hourly rate or retainer rate (meaning a set cost for a certain amount of support.) Which to some is viewed with immediate surprise of the figure. But the common mistake and misunderstanding I come across is the conversion in the hirers mind of that rate compared to the rate you would pay an employed member of staff. But what is often forgotten is that with a direct employee rate you do not advertise it with all the above-mentioned overheads and employment costs. So you will often see on a recruitment ad an hourly rate of perhaps £13 per hour and then see a VA rate for say £25 per hour and immediately recoil and say no way I cant I afford that, it’s expensive! However, this is misleading as the VA rate is upfront all-in rate, making outsourcing often a more affordable strategy than many assume.
VAs work in their pyjamas.
I love this question, especially as we have all found since the changes COVID -19 have presented, that working from home, doesn’t mean we sit around in pyjamas all day and watch TV. However, there is also not a need to get up and put on our suit and tie, or office workwear to look the part. What you have to remember is being a VA is their career and business and is treated in that way. They are focused and dedicated on their work.
Yes working from home for anyone can present challenges with family, pets, doorbell rings and other occasional interruption. But when it comes to providing a service to a Client, VAs are professional people.
Their skills and service are their advert to the world, so providing a high-quality service is at the essence of their work. One misconception is that VAs don’t meet clients face to face, you will find an even split of VAs who will attend face to face meetings and provide adhoc on-site support. You will also often find VA’s at networking, because it is one of the few opportunities for them to raise their visibility in front of an audience as a professional business owner. VAs take their work and business very seriously and want it to succeed, so turning up in pyjamas is not part of their professionalism.
Office staff are more qualified than VAs.
This myth makes me smile. As you really can’t determine someone’s level of ability or qualification based on whether they are sitting next to you in the office.
All the VAs I know and have worked with have years of experience, expertise and on the job training and knowledge in the corporate work, before they set up their own business offering virtual support services.
You will often find that many VAs were Senior Administrators, Executive Assistants, Office Managers, Personal Assistant, right up to an executive level, bringing knowledge and experience to your business. It’s essential to be aware that many VAs may also have formal qualifications, such as degrees, diplomas etc.
VAs take longer to complete work.
VAs are no different from a member of your team who is based in the office. They are very task-orientated and will deliver to deadlines. What you need to remember is that you are acquiring an experienced resource from your VA and with this comes competency and speed. Often VAs will deliver their services more promptly as they work remotely so do not have distractions or office politics to get in the way. What is essential to assist in the efficiency and timeliness of the work, is to establish clear goals, deadlines, and expectations.
My information and business data won’t be confidential if handled by a VA.
VAs are business owners themselves and therefore have a good understanding of GDPR and maintaining privacy and confidential records and information, whether that is for their business data or when dealing with their clients. They will be familiar with ICO/GDPR requirements. VA’s act both as data controllers and data processors depending on the work so in most instances, you will find they are registered with the ICO in the UK. You can always ask for proof of this by seeing their ICO registration number.
In terms of dealing with confidentiality, then this is always at the forefront of all the work provided by a VA. Some clients will prefer to have a non-disclosure in place. Your VA may ask you to sign a service agreement, confirming how they treat your information both during and after the project has been completed. If you’re still concerned, ask the VA to sign your own confidentially agreement.
VAs just do admin.
Absolutely not, a virtual assistant is a skilled and experienced business support provider. They have a wealth of knowledge and are very proficient and capable of providing the support you need whether that is general day to day admin, or more specialised skills such as content writing, digital marketing, project management, managing busy mailboxes and calendars, report writing, or providing a managerial level input and support, the list is endless. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that when you work with a virtual assistant they will be more than capable and compete to accomplish the project and work you require.
So hopefully this has squashed those common myths about virtual assistants and helped you realise just how valuable a VA can be in helping to boost your business’s productivity. Think of it this way. How an owner spends his or her time might be the most significant factor in the success of the business.