What a time to be alive: as technology advances, we're all hurtling at lightning speed toward a new economy and a new way of working. The eight-hour workday seems to be going the way of the dinosaur while desktop computers are becoming a scarce sight. A tell-tale sign of this shift is the continued growth of the contract worker sector—the freelancer who works in the so-called "gig economy," often offering services and expertise from home. Intuit predicts that by 2020, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be made up of freelancers.
As is the case with every new cultural shift, there are plenty of misconceptions about remote contract workers—often called virtual assistants—who provide everything from administrative work to marketing management over the internet. Let's dispel a few of the most pervasive myths.
Myth #1: Anyone with an internet connection and a computer can be a virtual assistant
While there are certainly random people on the internet who may claim to be experienced virtual assistants who have neither the skills nor the expertise required, there are also conspiracy theory YouTube channels and phishing scams. We recommend none of the above. VAs who work with trusted companies are thoroughly vetted and hired as carefully as any other potential employee.
Learn more about how Trusty Oak hires VAs
If you're considering becoming a VA, this is an essential part of the equation: striking out on your own can have its advantages, but working as an independent subcontractor through a verified company can give you the legitimacy and access to clients you need. Both have their advantages to weigh.
Myth #2: VAs are just secretaries and personal assistants—but online
Some people hear the term "virtual assistant" and think of an administrative or personal assistant—and that's where their assumptions about VAs begin and end. In reality, VAs can perform a whole host of tasks and support businesses in myriad different ways, including but not limited to secretarial work. Here's just a smattering of what virtual assistants can do:
- Social media management
- Marketing strategy
- Sales support
- Customer service
- Schedule management
- Email management
- CRM support
- Proofreading, writing, and editing
- Content management
- Website design
- Graphic design
Myth #3: VAs require less onboarding and less communication
Some business owners incorrectly think hiring a VA won't require as much onboarding as a typical in-house employee. The problem with this idea is that it decreases the likelihood of having a fully productive relationship with your VA. On the contrary, the most successful VA/business relationships involve consistent communication and a thorough onboarding process to get everyone on the same page. Once the initial project and task expectations have been established, you'll be able to delegate effectively to your VA. This sets you up to have let your VA work independently and without much oversight—but it requires an initial period of training, delegation, and communication.
Myth #4: Hiring a VA means outsourcing internationally
Perhaps as recently as five or so years ago, the term "virtual assistant" may have brought to mind a call center in another country—and all the potential pitfalls or logistical nightmares associated with that. In reality, there are countless virtual assistant companies that are U.S.-based, and Trusty Oak is proud to be among them. With the best virtual assistant companies, you'll have access to your U.S.-based VA via phone and email.
Myth #5: VAs are all work-at-home moms
Here's another myth: being a virtual assistant is only for work-at-home moms. I'm one of many work-at-home moms employed as a virtual assistant, and I'll be the first to say this is a great job for anyone who'd like the flexibility to spend more time with their kids. I'll also be the first to say this is a great job for anyone, period, who wants something beyond the traditional 9-to-5. Some VAs choose the work-from-anywhere life so they can travel, while others keep their "day jobs" and pursue their true passion through virtual assistant work. Some VAs are searching for a better work-life balance that the typical office can't provide. Others are finishing their undergraduate or Master's degrees while working as a VA. There are all kinds of reasons people choose the VA life.
Myth #6: VAs are unreliable freelancers who may "go dark" and waste your money
Some business owners are nervous to hire a virtual assistant because their new assistant won't be physically in their office to keep an eye on. This added layer of distance makes some people anxious that they'll send money into the dark hole of the internet and never see any results for their investment. Like Myth #1, the answer to this concern is to work with the right company. When you choose a reliable, trusted VA business, you won't be left with unsatisfactory or uncompleted work.
Myth #7: VAs are more expensive than in-house help
Finally, let's address myths about how much it costs to hire a VA. Some entrepreneurs assume they can't afford a VA, only because the actual investment seems like a daunting unknown. The truth is, VA service costs vary greatly and depend on what kind of help you're hiring. Your costs will be wildly different if you're hiring on-demand, hourly, as-needed assistance versus purchasing a comprehensive marketing plan or a complete website redesign. In general, virtual assistant services can save businesses money through contracting—there's no extra benefits packages for VAs since they're not employees of your company, and you won't have to buy them a computer or pay for their office space.
As technology continues to advance and remote work becomes the norm, VAs are likely to grow in popularity. Still fuzzy on virtual assistants? To learn more, contact us or scroll through our frequently asked questions.