A Virtual Assistant, or VA, is a highly skilled professional who provides administrative support and other specialized services to businesses, entrepreneurs, executives, sales professionals, and others who have more work to do than time to do it.


VAs work as independent contractors, most from their own home, some from outside the home.  VAs use leading edge technology to communicate work assignments via the Internet, e-mail, disk transfer or such traditional methods as regular mail, overnight shipping, and even pick-up and delivery in local areas.  A VA’s services typically include internet research, word processing, medical or legal transcription, database management, e-mail handling, reminder services, bulk mailings, information processing, and any other tasks typically given to an Office Secretary or an Executive Assistant.  Many VAs also provide web development design and maintenance; meeting and event planning; desktop publishing; bookkeeping and business start-up consultation.  The services are endless, depending upon the VA’s knowledge, skills, and creativity.


The late Thomas Leonard, who founded Coach U and later Coachville, coined the term “virtual assistant.”  Thomas Leonard was a nationally recognized coach and speaker who bought a Winnebago and traveled all over the US from meeting to meeting; and therefore no longer had a brick and mortar building.  Thomas had an assistant whom he had never met that managed his business and life from afar.  Since he had never met this assistant, he once referred to her as his “virtual assistant.”  From then on he used this term when encouraging other coaches and speakers to utilize the services of a Virtual Assistant.  Before he passed away recently, he had partnered with several Virtual Assistants —most, if not all, of which he never had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face.


While there seems to be no dispute over who coined the term “virtual assistant,” you might find controversy over who was the first “official” Virtual Assistant.  There have obviously been home-based secretaries and word processors dating back to the 1980s.  However, when you consider the meaning of the word “virtual,” in the computer science sense of the word, you think ”computer.”  Until the popularity of computers, home-based secretaries may not have been thought of as being virtual until the mid-1990s, and that is only if they began to utilize this powerful tool called the Internet or if they even knew the term existed.  The word “virtual” would also indicate no physical presence, therefore adding more meaning since we are not physically located in our client’s office.


When comparing the role of a secretary to that of a Virtual Assistant, you will see similarities.  However, the two can differ greatly.  A secretary is thought to always be at the beck and call of her boss to administer such tasks as handling correspondence, maintaining files, answering phones, etc.  It took many years for secretaries to begin getting the recognition they deserved as assistants to executives and other levels of management.  As time goes on, more and more assistants are developing their skills allowing them to become vital and trusted members of the business team.  A Virtual Assistant working remotely doesn’t allow the boss the luxury of having someone at his beck and call, but they can become a vital part of the business team if the VA manages their business and the client relationship properly.   Virtual Assistant, by Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker



What is a Virtual Assistant, or VA?

Virtual Assistant Moonlight Madness