4 Reasons I Hate the Term “VA”

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7 Replies to “4 Reasons I Hate the Term “VA””

  1. Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan)

    I come from the days when “secretary” was not a bad word, though it always had some sort of negative connotation. I had plenty or secretaries in my former career. After the whole Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill mess and the over-reaction to that and the craziness that followed with the advent of sexual harassment training and such, I STOPPED hiring female secretaries as I just didn’t want the hassle.

    Now, I have a VA – coincidentally a guy – and a “team” that help me in my endeavors though I’ve not met IRL one of ’em!

    It’s a different world…

    1. Erica Cosminsky


      I think you round-about-ly brought up another point that I like to make. It’s not a negative thing to be a secretary or a VA and it’s not bad for a man to be either. One of the best personal assistants I’ve ever had was a guy. He was awesome to have around. I really preferred to have him do my office shopping and he was great around my daughter. Years ago, all secretaries were men and did well at it.

      The stigma against secretaries and male assistants is just wrong.

  2. ShannonP

    Excellent article! Thank you.

    I love what you said about the titles of empowerment and how changing your proofreader’s title to Project Manager changed and improved the dynamics of the relationship.

    1. Erica Cosminsky

      As part of my grad school work, one of things that I continually find is that money isn’t typically as much of a motivator anymore. While, of course, it’s necessary, adding the components of an improved relationship dynamic can make the difference between a warm body and someone who is actually fulfilled by their work.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Michelle

    TOTALLY agree with you, Erica! I have so many thoughts here. A few of them:

    #1. The term “VA”/”virtual assistant” has also been co-opted by low cost outsourcing-to-India type companies – I was on the phone recently with a client and used the term VA, and it became very clear that what he meant when he said VA (that type of outsourcing to India agency) was different than what I meant when I said VA (a well-paid person to help you run your biz).

    #2. I think this ties in with your number one, above – but something about the term “assistant” makes people think that the gig is lower value and thus requires lower pay. I will NEVER forget this time, last year, when a business owner that I greatly admired put the word out that he was looking for help. The position was sort of a project manager/VA hybrid with an emphasis on customer support. I sent in an application for the position with a (what I thought) reasonable hourly price. (And I spoke to a few friends who submitted applications & they priced similarly, so I wasn’t an outlier.) If the public face of what this person puts forth as their profits is accurate, then they could pay the rate – let’s put it that way.

    So imagine my disappointment/disgust when a few days later, I see a tweet from this biz owner that says: “Reviewing applications. I find it interesting that some people seem to think what’s essentially a customer service position is worth $(x)/hr.” (“x” being the rate I quoted!)

    First off, the opposite of tact = discussing applicants and their rates in public, where they can see you.

    Second off, I feel like this is a really awful attitude to have towards people who are helping you out in your business – really, if you’re running a six figure plus business, why would you be cheaping out on the person that’s handling your customer service? Your customers & clients ARE your business. And this is the attitude I see a lot of people having with a VA – they’re kind of like “Oh, I want one, but I don’t want to pay more than $15/hour!” Yikes, y’all!

    I think there’s also a lesson here about being clear on what you want/need in a job position – essential for delegating well. ‘Cause when I read that job listing, it did not read as “essentially customer service”. (If I read the same job listing now, I’d probably say it was closer to an online business manager than anything else, actually!)

    Anyways, so that’s the longest comment ever, but in short – yes! Great post Erica and a great discussion that we as business owners need to be having.

    1. Erica Cosminsky

      Amen! It’s kind of like car washes. Sure you can get a $3 car wash but don’t expect it to be to the hand-dried and polished quality of a $25 car wash. Or a few weeks ago I bought an umbrella stand for my patio umbrella. People were dogging the $7 plastic stand from W-Mart for not lasting more than a year. Seriously they were expecting $70 quality for $7.

      Shocking that someone was so tactless to share quotes and his opinion like that openly. That is the exact mindset I am disgusted to see and he’s spreading it. You really get what you pay for, and as far as hourly rates go, I find that most higher priced services actually work faster and save you money.

      Most of my client works goes into being clear on job positions and descriptions- figuring out what your end goal is before delegating is SO important. Changing those key factors halfway through or after you’ve hired someone is a cardinal sin. Like I mentioned about my VA- if I try to expand and ask her to do a new task and she simply isn’t the right person for it, she tells me. I posted on my blog a few weeks ago about a client who was a graphic designer but was taking on bookkeeping tasks and basically any thing thrown his way rather than saying no I’m not a good fit for this. I know we’ve all been there, but focusing on what we are really good at is why we ARE worth the rate we charge.

      I could go on and have the world’s second largest comment but my point is people need to get past that derogatory, lower-life-form mindset towards their assistants and realize how valuable they are to their customers and businesses.

    2. Loretta

      Michelle stole my comment ~LOL~ seriously, ditto what she said.

      VA is the new WAHM ~ the term is being devalued all over the web and people have this notion in their mind of someone they can underpay and load a ton of work onto. It’s truly frustrating. We need to make up a new word for what we do.

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