The rise and rise of the virtual assistant

The impacts of the global pandemic which first loomed into our field of vision here in Australia in early 2020 has wrought disaster, mayhem and destruction across the board. As we braced for impact, many businesses buckled up for what was undoubtedly a very rough ride through the ups and downs of 2020, and unfortunately, the aftermath is the certainty of uncertainty…the fact that we just don’t know what’s around the corner even as we settle into 2021. For many businesses, the effects and ramifications have been far-reaching with some simply curling up their collective toes and disappearing into the void, simply unable to ride out the storm.

Enter the Virtual Assistant Industry. Perhaps you have never heard of Virtual Assistants (or VAs as they’re more often referred to), and if that’s the case, you possibly need to know about them because, for small businesses especially, these home-based admin professionals are the cost-effective, highly scalable and incredibly flexible alternative that many have been searching for, and are now turning to in droves to help them navigate a path to success.

The Virtual Assistant Industry has been around since the internet became a “thing”. Whilst it is a global industry, in Australia, it has been growing steadily since the early 2000s with most Virtual Assistants coming from highly skilled corporate EA, PA or administrative backgrounds (marketing, bookkeeping, online business managers) and gradually gaining more momentum in the past 10 years as a flexible and low-risk career option for those who want some work-life balance – most often women with families who need flexibility, and are sick and tired of the work-day commute, or those who just want a change and to be their own boss.

At the beginning of 2020, those who were already established VAs were able to ride out the COVID storm safely. Some found their work cut back initially as their clients tightened their belts, but when businesses realised that “life has to go on” and lifted their heads for air, VAs were right there to help them rebuild and grow in a flexible and scalable way…something that is incredibly difficult to achieve in a traditional employer-employee business model. Because VAs are business owners themselves, they have their own equipment and generally only charge for the time spent on the tasks they are engaged to carry out. They can provide ad-hoc or ongoing support, and unlike employees, VAs clients don’t need to shell out super, sick leave, payroll tax.

The truth is that the way we work has changed, and it is doubtful that we will return to the way it was pre-COVID. In fact, most businesses who have survived have done so because they grew new business muscles that included the ability to respond swiftly and incorporate solutions for their businesses, and lives, which embraced the online world, and the use of cloud-based applications and innovations. For many, the fact that remote work was an effective option also had a flow-on effect which was the realisation of the now obvious cost-saving benefits that came with adopting a remote or “virtual” operating model.

Ingrid Bayer, Founder & CEO, the VA Institute and author of “Future Proof Your Career: everything you need to know to build a successful and profitable VA business