Specific VA Skills


Sparked slightly by a post I saw on Facebook claiming that PAs have the same skills as VAs… Certainly there is a LOT of crossover, but I know excellent PAs who are hopeless as VAs. I see it very much as two separate skills.

What skills do you think are unique to being a VA (as opposed to a PA)?

Off the top of my head I’d say the business side of being a VA is usually alien to someone who has been a traditional PA… The working virtually thing can be difficult to get your head round if you are used to being sat beside a boss.


I agree with you Caroline - the business aspect is different including financial records and doing everything yourself. At heart I’m very much a traditional PA but I figured out 12 years ago when my last boss was made redundant that I needed to adapt if I wanted more freedom to work where, when and with whom I chose. Marketing myself was not something that came naturally, nor was having to search for IT help. A Team PA is probably used to juggling 2-3 managers who all know each other but I always had demanding jobs as PA to one person; as a VA I found myself juggling multiple projects for each of multiple independent clients who were entitled to equal priority. I think where being a traditional PA can really help as a VA is continuing to treat everyone as though they are the person you are sitting next to.


I used to work for a team as an assistant… It’s still not the same as being a VA, because there’s always an overarching hierachy where someone in the chain decides who is more important and whose tasks come first… As a VA, you don’t have that and often have to make judgement calls on whose “urgent” is actually most urgent.

It’s stressful and especially if you haven’t had to say No to bosses, it can land you in hot water exceptionally quickly as a VA.


Some great answers here - one of the questions, I always used to ask my clients was “what is my level of authority and/or powers of delegation?” So in the military we would be issued with a letter that laid out how much we could spend financially or before seeking higher authority approval. What levels we could make decisions without reverting to a superior. I think these are equally important questions as a VA as it can be hard to know what you can and cannot do when you are not sat with someone day in day out.


I agree with all of you and especially juggling multiple projects for multiple clients can be very demanding. I have found my project experience has helped with this and doing a project/work plan for all pieces of work helps to identify any critical timelines or clashes with delivery.


I’d never thought of doing it like that Amanda - certainly I get authorisation for X number of hours on specific projects occasionally. But that limit of spending would work really well with one of my clients - I’m going to nick that!


I do something similar with my clients. Almost all of them are on retainer and I’ll ask for clear minutes of authority, requests etc. So it is all spelled out - but I also make sure I have one person who is my liaison so I can send an email saying, ‘um…’

For some larger clients where there area a dozen or so people involved in what I’m supporting I’ll ask for specific named liaisons for each aspect.

Always good to be asked, ‘why did you/didn’t you do that?’ and point out they told me to/or not to


Caroline - I think a good VA is someone who has an entrepreneurial facet to their skill set, they need to be willing to go looking for work, run their own business and want to. I’ve mentored a couple of people now who were very keen to work remotely etc. but part way through the process (in one case after the two clients they had dried up) realised that they didn’t want to do the hustling/networking etc. so happily went back to work for a larger company.

Knowing yourself, and what you’ll be happy with is important.


I think the ability to hustle is so important - not in a “Sales is my life, I’ll sell eskimos ice” type way but in a self-motivated, “I’m responsible for making sure the bills get paid, and I actively go seek work”.

I’m kinda fortunate that I’ve been in business so long it sort of just rolls in - but that’s because I spent YEARS hustling!!!


Was just having a chat with another VA who is just starting out, and thought of another set of things - mentioned on the forums quite often. The knowledge that you are worth the money you are charging, having boundaries in place to keep yourself sane, being willing to chase for money where necessary and on occasion turn work away.


That’s a really tricky one - is it a specific skill? I guess the mindset is part of it - I’d never really thought of it like that myself, an enlightening view as ever Wendrie!


I view the VA/PA discussion as follows: A VA can assist with a range of tasks and in many cases I am assisting entrepreneurs to grow their business and will often have nothing to do with a PA role - more an extension of the business owner. My background is in marketing and sales so I assist in these areas mainly with a range of other support activities thrown in. If you are being a VA to a larger organisation I suspect you are taking the role more as a Virtual PA.


Interesting Fiona - I do think different VAs work under different types of arrangement - I guess I was thinking more on a universal VA scale… but perhaps that’s the point: There is no such thing as “the average VA”.