The Virtual Assistant profession can trace its humble and unpretentious beginnings as a source of livelihood for unemployed workers and stay- at- home mothers.
Back then, the Internet was limited to government agencies and the personal computer was only found in offices. Home- based workers were providing secretarial and personal assistant services for offices and nearby construction sites.
By 1995, the Internet became available via dial up service. It was crude but it made information readily available and work more efficient. By 1996, the term Virtual Assistant was officially coined by Anastacia Brice, who was running a business that managed the administrative work of many law offices.
When the Internet became more accessible with the introduction of broadband technology in the year 2000, it opened more opportunities for people who wanted to work remotely from home.
But the explosive growth of the virtual assistance industry can be linked with the volatile and turbulent first decade of the new millennium.
Events such as 9/11, the 2003 collapse of global equities markets, the war on Iraq, worldwide recession, the 2009 Eurozone Crisis and the near bankruptcy of several powerful economies like the United States and Spain put global business conditions on a tailspin.
Companies all over the world were looking for opportunities to streamline costs in order to remain profitable. Outsourcing became the go- to solution and this can be seen by its growth trajectory from 2000 to 2015.
Outsourcing not only provided businesses with an immediate solution to address sluggish demand. It also provided opportunities for people who were laid off or could not find available work.
From an option for laid- off workers, virtual assistance grew to become a profession that offered a stable career. The industry opened its doors to accommodate diverse skill sets that were increasing in demand from various businesses.
The Virtual Assistant was no longer just a Personal Assistant or a Secretary. You could find a Virtual Assistant for any job you want managed remotely. Eventually, new terminologies such as freelancer, telecommuter, remote worker and home- based worker were created for appropriateness.
The United States continues to lead the world in virtual assistance. More US companies are hiring remote workers in order to streamline costs, improve productivity and lower the attrition rate. A survey by Gallup showed that in 2016, 37% of US workforces were comprised of telecommuters.
It is estimated that by 2020, more than 50% of US workforces will be composed of telecommuters.
The growth of the Virtual Assistant was foretold as early as 2012; one year after Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo! integrated remote workers into the organization.
Around the world, home- based work was already part of the workforce set up particularly in China (85%), India (77%), France (72%), the United Kingdom (71%) and Brazil (61%).
By 2014, 24% of Americans were already doing part- time online work. This number figures to go up because of 2 factors:
- Growing uncertainty and volatility in global business conditions;
- Increasing demand for outsourced services in order to keep costs manageable
While the United States has led the way, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are not far behind. It is estimated that by 2018, the virtual assistance industry will be worth $US5 Billion.
For businesses with tighter budgets, a viable option would be to contract the services of virtual assistants from remote locations such as the Philippines and India.
This should not be a stretch because the Philippines and India have been the consensus top 2 destinations for global outsourcing.
The Philippines’ outsourcing industry has been growing at roughly the same pace as the global outsourcing market. It has grown by 46% since 2006 and is expected to experience an annual growth rate of 20% until the year 2020 in the short term.
India continues to be a favorite destination for IT and back office work. Its outsourcing sector has been growing at an annual rate of 50%.
As its opportunities for outsourced work grew, so did their market for the Virtual Assistant.
According to online job platform giant, Elance- Upwork, of the 8 million virtual assistants and freelancers in its community, one million are Filipinos.
What makes the Philippines a rich, lush source of talent for a Virtual Assistant?
High Level of English Proficiency
Tagalog is the national language but English is the primary medium of instruction in schools and of communication in business. A 2012 survey by Global English ranked the Philippines number one in the world for Business English.
High Literacy Rate
The Philippines has one of the highest literacy rates in the world at 96.2%.
Global Melting Pot of Cultures
Foreign companies will have an easy time working with Filipinos. The Philippine culture has been influenced by traditions and practices from of years of colonization by the Spanish, Americans and Japanese. Filipinos can work well with different nationalities.
As discussed earlier, India has welcomed virtual assistance work as early as 2012. You can find a Virtual Assistant in India who is immensely talented and capable of managing your business’ IT requirements.
India has been the world standard for IT services. In fact, the jump off point of global outsourcing could be traced from its working relationships with US companies at Silicon Valley in the mid- 1990’s.
Aside from the Philippines, other countries in Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia and China have been making inroads in the virtual assistance industry.
The latest advances in technology have made it easier to bridge oceans and connect with a Virtual Assistant in the Philippines, India or Singapore. While some concerns on communication and cultural barriers remain, these have become largely inconsequential.
A more proactive approach in managing virtual teams, frequent communication and preliminary research on history and culture have greatly mitigated these concerns.
Perhaps a remaining barrier for greater engagement with the Virtual Assistant from a remote location is the ongoing problem on infrastructure. The Philippines and India, while having great success in outsourcing have curiously poor Internet facilities.
Those problems are mostly rooted with government policy which are highly protectionist and have created barriers to entry in key industries such as telecommunications and public utilities.
Contracting the services of a Virtual Assistant is a smart move to improve efficiency in your business. There are many talented virtual assistants around the world.
Do not let pricing be an issue; it is not indicative of the quality of work. A Virtual Assistant from the Philippines can be as good, if not better, than one from the United States.