Virtual assistant consist of two words, virtual and assistant. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, Virtual is an adjective meaning existing on a computer or on the Internet. Assistant is a noun which means a person who helps someone. An assistant is a person whose job is to help another person to do work. Combining both words, a virtual assistant is a person who helps another person to do work remotely using a computer.
On Wikipedia (an online free encyclopedia), a virtual assistant is commonly abbreviated as VA. A virtual assistant is also known as virtual office assistant. A virtual assistant is self-employed working remotely at home using the Internet and a computer. A virtual assistant provides creative, technical or professional administrative assistance to clients. A virtual assistant is an independent contractor and not an employee.
Early Beginnings - Invention of Shorthand and Rise of Secretarial Services
In 18th century, Sir Isaac Pitman invented the shorthand method aka Pitman shorthand (a method of writing which consist of symbols use to increase speed and brevity of writing) and founded the FIRST school for secretarial services in Bath then in London. Due to political climate, only men are admitted in that school and women are confined at home doing household tasks. Until a decade later, the typewriter was invented then women started to join the industry. Eventually, men in the secretarial services started to decline in 1930s.
In 1942, the National Secretaries Association NSA was founded in order to promote the development of professionalism among secretaries in the US. A decade later, CPS (Certified Professional Secretaries) begun. It is a 3-part examination covering areas of office systems, administration, and office technology.
To recognize all individuals working in the field, a special day called Secretaries Day in 1952 then changed later to Administrative Professional Week in 2000 was created.
Many years later, National Secretaries Association NSA was renamed to Professional Secretaries International PSI then to International Association of Administrative Professionals IAA.
Through the use of a telephone and fax machine, Anastacia “Stacy” Brice began working virtually as a full time home-based assistant providing administrative support, travel planning and personal assistance. In 1996, the term ‘virtual assistant’ was born from a simple conversation between Anastacia Brice and Thomas Leonard. During their conversation, Thomas created the term then Anastacia borrowed the term to name the new emerging profession.
In February 1997, Anastacia Brice opened AssistU, the first organization for virtual assistants. AssistU still an existing business until now. Then in 1999, International Virtual Assistants Association IVAA was created to help represent the profession to the world.
Since the 90s, Kathie Thomas had been already working from home as a home secretary. She established "A Clayton's Secretary" which was registered in March 1994. Kathie first went online in January 1996 then established the first network of online secretaries in the southern hemisphere in April 1996 named asecretary.com.au now vadirectory.net.
The demand for virtual assistant services will continue to grow as it will increase to $5 billion by the year 2018 according to Virtalent. Since the advent of financial crisis in UK, startups and small businesses continues to hire virtual assists in order to continue streamlining their businesses cost-wisely.
Because of high demand for virtual assistants, various platforms and marketplaces were created online such as Fiverr, Upwork, PeoplePerHour, etc. Virtual assistants will continue to use these marketplaces to get more clients and earn. These platforms will aide businesses and startups find their dedicated virtual assistants.
Rate of services will be a stiff competition among seasoned virtual assistants and newbies in the world. Among the low-paying virtual assistants are in Southeast Asia or Asia. Though the competition is high amongst VAs still the demand for VAs is huge worldwide. Surely small businesses and startups will always choose a cost-effective efficient virtual assistant.
Online search trends on Google graph data revealed that virtual assistant is always constantly trending. On Google regional interest search among the top 6 are Philippines, US, Australia, Canada, UK and India. On online search using Google AdWords, the top 10 keywords related to virtual assistant are Assistant Philippines, Internet Jobs, Virtual Receptionist, Find Assistant, Work Online, Virtual Marketing, Virtual Executive, Home Jobs, Assistant Philippines, International Virtual Assistants Association and Entry Jobs.
Popular freelance industries online for VAs and clients are Elance, Upwork, Guru, Freelancer, and People Per Hour. Elance and Upwork (formerly oDesk) emerged which created chaos amongst clients and VAs. Upwork now became a place full of scam and low paid jobs. Elance is now dying. Fiverr became one of the best “affordable” freelance industries online as they created new perks to sellers and buyers to choose from like Standard, Premium and Pro gigs with extra gigs.
Nowadays, more and more VA companies in Asia are popping like a mushroom and still more self-served VAs to come around the world. Because of the VA trend, numerous influencers emerged online some are just wannabes. Top influencers like Nick Loper, Chris Ducker, Tawnya Sutherland, and Michael Hyatt are among the few.
Are freelancer and virtual assistant the same or are they different? This is a long-tailed question most people would like to know, which lead to my research about it. In my research, I found that there are only a few videos and articles related to this query. Among this, very few, here is an important answer to this question.
We already knew what is a virtual assistant, so we need to know what a freelancer is. From the dictionary, a freelancer is a person who works freelance. According to Wikipedia, “a freelancer or freelance worker is a term commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term.” Most freelancers do work in the cultural or creative industries such as music, filmmaking, writing, computer programming, web design, graphic design, etc.
• Type of Work - They both are similar in the type of work. Both are highly efficient in the creative as well as cultural industry type of jobs in pursuit of boosting the client’s business marketing efforts.
• Equipment and Resources – Both are using the Internet, a computer (laptop, desktop) and other devices (iPad, iPhone, and a lot more) necessary to do the job.
• Employment Status – Both are self-employed individuals.
• Time – Both have flexible time to complete a task.
• Location – Both work from home or do home-based jobs.
• Earnings – Both have the ability to earn better than an employee or even more.
• Time and Duration - A freelancer does work on a particular task for a short-term period or per project basis. This means, when a freelancer completed the task for a few days, weeks or months, he is free to leave that client and sort out new ventures from new prospective clients to work on a new project. On the other hand, a virtual assistant works for a long-term basis for a few clients.
• Number of Clients – Since a freelancer works on a per project basis, he does work on various types of projects for many clients. A virtual assistant works on many projects, but limited to a few selected clients since they are working on a long-term basis. Most virtual assistants today work with one to three clients on a daily basis, but for a long-term period.
• Payment – A freelancer is being paid on per project/task basis only while a virtual assistant gets payment on a monthly basis like a salary.
Almost any type of jobs or project can be done by a virtual assistant similar to a freelancer with the aid of the Internet, other devices and computer software or programs. Jobs most virtual assistants do can be sorted out from various freelancing websites like UpWork, Fiverr, Elance, etc. Among the popular few, I will state as follows:
• Creative Jobs – This includes the use of software from Adobe and other similar software such as Illustrator, PhotoShop, InDesign, etc. A virtual assistant does his creative skills, creating mockups (PSD, Ai, JPG, PNG, etc) for a client’s web-related tasks. A virtual assistant do illustrations, graphic designs, banners, flyers, photo editing, logo designs, icons, etc. This also includes web development or website creation in which a virtual assistant does use his computer programming skills particular coding in HTML using programs like Notepad ++. Also included on this list are other creative-related jobs.
• Writing – This is the most popular skills a virtual assistant does. A virtual assistant writes various materials needed by the client such as articles, blogs, letters, forms, eBooks, etc. Also a virtual assistant can easily manage to do transcription jobs such as medical, legal, seminar, or a webinar audio transcript transcribed into a word text document.
• Management – A virtual assistant can play a role like a personal assistant in which he is capable to manage all sorts of management skills required by a client such as scheduling appointments, handling phone calls (inbound or outband), record keeping/bookkeeping, meetings, note taking or even planning your trip, and a lot more. In addition, a virtual assistant also do CRM or SMM kind of jobs which are management relationships between a client and customers using CRM software (Hubspot) and social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc).
• Others – These are unmentioned tasks in which a virtual assistant capable of doing which are not as popular compared to the ones I mentioned above.
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