Properly Trained Virtual Assistants – also known as Administrative Consultants – Can Be Powerful Small Business Resources
Guest Post by Vernessa Taylor
Virtual Assistant vs. Administrative Consultant
It is virtually impossible to provide small business customers the level of service they expect if you lack professionalism, an appropriate skillset, and real-world practice doing things the right way. It doesn’t matter your nationality, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. All that matters when you present yourself as the virtual assistant of choice is that your skills are up to par. There is a baseline that should be the plumb line of any VA business endeavors. Your clients will (or should) expect you to measure up.
Virtual Assistants can step up their game with education, training, professionalism, and the right tools of the trade. Here are some suggestions for making the role of virtual assistant a true game changer and not a monkey wrench thrown into the workings of already cash-strapped small businesses. This starts with education — formal or informal — and training.
If Virtual Assistants were seen less as “secretarial support” and more as professionals in their realm of expertise, would the bar be raised, the standard level of service set higher? Danielle Keister seems to think so and has built an entire cottage industry around what she terms “administrative consultants,” totally eschewing the very notion of a “virtual assistant.” She makes two points that virtual assistants could use as foundational, taking the essence and adapting as a kind of personal mission. 
- The best way to describe administrative support is that it is the collection of ongoing tasks, functions and roles that keep a business organized, moving forward and humming along smoothly. …
- The “virtual assistant” term only confuses people. It creates misconceptions that make establishing a business-to-business relationship much more difficult than need be and causes a whole host of misunderstandings and misalignment of expectations. The word “assistant” itself inherently puts you in a subservient role in the eyes of clients.
While it is unlikely that Virtual Assistants will forego their titles in favor of the one Keister prefers, the industry could undergo some changes that ensure the type of quality control that helps beat this small business recession. Pete Ekizian makes this connection when he reminds business owners not to surrender their responsibilities in the name of outsourcing.
Virtual Assistants are small business resources. Because of this, Internet Marketer Stella Anokam recommends small businesses outsource tasks to freelancers — like those found inexpensively on Fiverr — but also teaches those businesses how to qualify virtual assistants — before they engage them. Business owners peek under the hood, looking in every corner, which doesn’t leave any place for unprofessional, unqualified workers.
Education and Training
Study to show yourself approved . . .
Knowing the difference between education and training is a good place to start. Here are some simplified meanings that show the distinctions.
Education involves strategic planning, critical thinking, problem solving, analyzing, understanding, and grasping general concepts.
Training involves acquiring knowledge of how to perform a specific task.
Back to the Basics: Reading and Writing
Are the basics a no-brainer? Not according to Marcie Hill who just compiled a set of startling facts on literacy that, unfortunately, holds true today for a high percentage of adults. Not to imply that today’s Virtual Assistants are illiterate; the point is that a strong grasp on the basics is foundational and a key to ongoing success.
- Take a refresher in grammar usage. Text messaging, 140 character brevity, and communication shorthand have stunted the use of grammar in personal communications. It returns to its rightful place in business communications. In other words, it just won’t do to not know how to “speak correctly” and translate correct speech to a written form.
- Keep the links to your favorite online dictionary and thesaurus handy. Fanciful spelling and license with words goes out the window when your client asks you to take his cryptic notes and write-up his recent meeting with his client.
- Brush up on (or gain mastery of) writing skills, including composing letters, writing reports, and preparing documentation.
Resources such as the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) offers tips, techniques, and even podcasts that will move you in this direction. The OWL has remained one of my all-time favorite resources over the years.
Educate yourself by seeking out opportunities (online or offline) to gain knowledge in key areas related to working with a diverse clientele. Examples include:
- project management
- relationship building
- customer relationship management
- document management
- interactive web technologies
Go for depth and breadth;, you can gain the training to specialize in an area as interest is piqued or the times demand that you know (which they do, already).
Invest in Your Own Training
Indisputably, these are tight economic times. Every dollar has to count. Even so, training is an investment that should yield a return when the training received is put to good use. Not all training costs a lot of dollars or rupees or drachmas or shillings or euros or . . . This entertaining but informative slide show highlights the types of training Virtual Assistants need in order to be competent and competitive.
Virtual Assistant Training
Investing in your own training means
developing related skills or “skillsets.”
One such important skillset is research.
- How to perform it
- Where to find relevant sources
- How to analyze it
- How to cite it
- How to write it up
- How to present it
Related to conducting research when requested, it is also important to know where to find research that has been conducted by others. That is, how to find answers relevant to your field of work that have already been packaged in a ready-to-use format.
Lastly, develop new skillsets by finding out what is in demand, then acquiring the training you need.
Gain Virtual Intelligence
In order to gain virtual intelligence about what small businesses are using to carefully weed out the unqualified, look in the places where the clues are scattered. Reading up on the recommendations made to those who will hire you about will yield rewards for the diligent.
- One such place is Anokam’s Fiverr Outsourcing Guide.
- And fellow Virtual Assistant Alicia Jay offers sage advice to her business clients — The Three C’s to Consider When Hiring A Virtual Assistant — which is appropriate for business owners everywhere thinking about hiring extra virtual hands.
- Don’t miss finding out what NOT to do, either. Some tips on how to avoid infractions that harm, more than help, small business customers can be found in Virtual Assistant Comment Spam; and GrowMap shares many tips on why it is important to comment the right way.
- TIP from Gail at GrowMap: Make it a point to pay attention to what niches others operate in and what their specialties are. Connect with other virtual assistants and researchers via Skype, IM, email or phone so you can share quick suggestions and resources.
Numerous other sources scattered around the Internet will clue you in about what small businesses desire in a Virtual Assistant.
Education and training position virtual assistants to serve as qualified small business resources. Virtual Assistants can step up their game by acquiring solid, in-demand skill sets and striving for professionalism.
Thanks for reading today.
Any lessons you’ve learned and want to share?
- Are you a virtual assistant?
- Have you engaged in formal training?
- How have you taught yourself?
- Are you a small business owner who uses virtual assistants?
- What have been your experiences?
Image Credit: Re-commercialization Therapy for Hikers by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig/HikingArtist.com via Flickr, licensed Creative Commons.
As a Technology Consultant, Vernessa Taylor works with both online and offline business owners. She writes about small business systems such as project management and customer referral systems at CoachNotes Blog. Follow her on Twitter @CoachNotesBlog. More articles by Vernessa here on GrowMap.