Standards within the VA Industry?



Last April at the National VA Conference Jacky Workman at IAVA suggested a voluntary code of conduct for virtual assistants. I’m very in favour of this, and as you know, Approved SVA members have to agree to some general conditions if they join up.

However as I was updating some SVA Approved members today it occurred to me that there should be some sort of service standard for each of the services. e.g. call answering - calls should be answered within 3 rings, manned between 9am and 5pm Mon-Fri as a minimum, with less than 5% of calls going to answerphone within these hours…just an example.

Perhaps we could agree some general guidelines on here - here are the list of services:

Collections / Credit Control
Human Resources / Personnel Services
Invoicing / Billing
Appointment Setting / Diary Management
Database Management
Desk / Internet Research
Desktop Publishing / Word Processing
Mail Merge
PDF Creation
PowerPoint Presentations
Printing / Print Management
Resumes / CVs
Spreadsheet / Database Design
Travel Planning / Booking
Call Answering / Receptionist Services
Email Filtering
Fax Diversion
Mail Forwarding / Holding
Real Estate Support
Sales Support / Order Processing
Virtual Office Management
Event Management / Party Planning
Marketing Support
Newsletter Production
Project Management
Telesales / Cold Calling
Copy / Audio Typing
Copy Editing / Proofreading
Data Entry
Legal Transcription
Medical Transcription
Translation (French)/(German)/(Italian)/(Spanish)
Digital Photography
Graphic Design
Search Engine Optimisation
Web Design
Business Coaching


PS. The Approved scheme is almost ready to relaunch and you’ll be able to check your listing and apply for Approved membership online from next week - don’t worry, we’ll send an email reminder too!


I definitely agree that there should be standards that must be adhered to and I do try and answer calls within 3 rings, more often that not within 2.

I think the othe main service for standards is audio work i.e. most files can be transcribed from 3 times instead of within 4 and I try and stick to this - advise the client that it can be up to 4 times and then when they are invoiced for less they are happy. Also, transcription of interviews not all work requires the umms and aahs unless stated by the client who requires this to ascertain the reaction of the interviewee for example.


It would be very nice if, when stating on promotional material that your business is an “approved member of SVA”, you could have words to the effect that to become an approved member you must adhere to certain standards - with a link to said standards on the SVA website possibly?

It would certainly be useful to be able to show potential (or existing) clients what these standards were to assure them that we are professionals and members of a professional body.

I’d be happy to help with what looks to be a mammoth task.


I agree with most of what’s said, but the office manned 9-5 Monday to Friday is not possible if you’re out meeting a potential or existing client!

The industry accepted standard for transcription is x4 recording time. I have had this take longer with poor recordings and so while Lindsay’s point about clients being happier with costs when invoiced less is good, I have continued to stick to an hourly rate charge for transcription which rises when the quality is poor and is the base rate when the quality is studio quality or good otherwise.

As for verbatim transcriptions (umms, ers, ahs, etc) these definitely take a lot longer as you tend to ‘not hear’ those when transcribing.

As for the approval thing, I also believe that people should belong to a professional organisation.


I think Caroline meant if you’re offering a call answering service, rather than as a general “being in the office” and available for work.

For things like CVs we should probably agree a set format that we all use unless client wishes/needs to use a particular layout.

I’m all for agreeing a set of standards, but the big problem is how to enforce it. I have enough trouble ensuring that VAs applying for Approved status follow the simple guidelines for their web sites and putting on the logo, let alone more specific quality standards. I’m sure if Caroline did a quick email out to all Approved members requesting a response within the timescale as set out in our conditions of membership that the majority wouldn’t comply!! However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.


I agree that there should be set standards in the industry - this would hopefully stop just anybody out there claiming that they are a VA when they don’t have the necessary skills.

Enorcing it could be a problems but I think we should give it a go.



I’m definitely not suggesting SVA enforces these! :laughing: What a nightmare that would be!!!

However I think there should be some sort of voluntary code whereby if you’re offering a particular service then you should adhere to a set of standards. There are so many definitions of a VA that it’s hard to compare like for like when choosing a service.

Hm… more thought needed - perhaps we could all take 3 and come up with a definition and post it on here for comments?



Perhaps we should also provide a definition of what each service is as there is some confusion/overlap in terminology.

Think this will be one for the Christmas holidays when we’ve got a bit more time.


Good idea - Xmas project there!!!
(I thought that was just me that goes into hyper organising mode???)


I think that sounds like a good idea - I would be willing to come up with a definition for 3 services.


There was a set of standards on various things like costings etc which came out from the States some years back. I have a copy somewhere.

I don’t think you can standardise a CV - a joiner’s CV for instance, will be very different from a professional consultant!


But the format would be pretty well the same, even if the words, qualifications and experience are different. Have been looking at a lot of CVs recently and they vary considerably. If you’re an employer trying to wade through hundreds of CVs in different formats with information placed at the top, bottom or not entered at all - it must be a nightmare!!


:open_mouth: You have spare time at Christmas? :laughing: :laughing:


I do all my Xmas shopping in October because I can’t stand shopping in crowds, and I wrap it all on the first weekend in December to get me feeling Christmassy. So whilst everyone else is tearing their hair out I am a serene picture of calm!!! :smiley:

And it’s usually a bit quieter on the client front so I get a bit of a break.

We’re going to Craig’s mum and dads for Christmas dinner this year instead of lunch at my mum and dads, so we get a long lie too!!!


Ah, well now
If you’ve already done your Christmas shopping, how many treats did you buy yourself (and puddy) this year? :laughing:


Well you see that’s the other thing - if you start in October those nasty retailers are less likely to put fabulous things which I must have under my nose!!! 8)