Before I started my own virtual support business, I read every available Internet magazine article, skimmed every blog, lurked in every VA forum, examined and quietly critiqued every known VA web site, and asked thousands of questions. After paying my due diligence, I felt I was ready to get down to business – well, almost.
In doing my research, I came across a number of Virtual Assistant Certification programs on the web, and like so many motivated individuals determined to use their experience, skills and creativity to full potential, I wondered if I might perhaps gain an edge by signing up for some of these training courses and/or certificates, which cost anywhere from $75.00 to $6,000.00, depending on how impressive you wanted to come across to potential clients.
Additionally, there are currently three (that I could find; there could be more) individual virtual assistants boasting the origin of the entire concept of virtual assistance, as well as several VA certification course web sites that lay claim to “setting the industry standard.”
Wait – Cue the cliché record scratch – Setting the industry standard?
I feel the need to stop and point out here that the idea of mercenaries or working freelance has been around since ancient times and I’ll venture out there and declare that fulfilling supportive tasks for an individual or company from home isn’t exactly novel.
Consider too, that the idea of generally accepted requirements to be met by virtual assistants across the board certainly would not work for a large number of clients who take advantage of virtual support. The needs of each client vary depending on the nature of his or her business, as well as how they choose to conduct that business.
An individual considering using their skills and experience to work for him/herself needs to be discerning in looking for clients. If you would have never been hired into a law firm because you’ve never had any legal experience or if you have no experience in the field of Real Estate then don’t expect to be patronized by law firms or real estate agents, respectively. Instead, perfect the skills you do have and confidently advertise those. Then you will be a “Master Virtual Assistant” without having to pay for the label. If in the future you want to expand your skill set, do the research, ask the questions and take the time to practice.
Now before you whip yourself into a huff and fire off that snarky comment or email to me, please be advised that I do acknowledge that there are individuals and companies on the Internet that are genuinely interested in helping ones set up their virtual assistant businesses. It’s just ridiculous to pay through the nose for a certificate or a label stating that you meet someone’s made-up standards (and by someone, I mean a fellow VA or group of VAs who got together, created study materials and testing based on what they feel a VA should know, and then whipped up a shoddy logo with which to award those who pay the money and pass the tests).
My purpose in highlighting this topic is not to berate individuals who have paid for these courses and labels, but to encourage the many creative and talented individuals out there who have a lot to offer to someone looking to utilize virtual support but don’t want to spend a fortune in start-up costs. In reality, more VAs than not have opted to go it without the certifications and many are very successful.
As for the VA certification companies, please don’t get me wrong, I do in fact think you’re quite brilliant for convincing so many VAs to pay your fees – just tone down your bold assertions as to the validity of your certifications.