It’s no easy task to pin down exactly the definition of “virtual assistant.” The term is most likely applied to a person who functions like a personal assistant, but does it online or virtually. However, the term gets used, and perhaps misused, to describe a variety of activities.
In the typical definition, virtual assistants are self-employed individuals who have cultivated a clientele (often other business owners, particularly real estate agents) in need of their services.These services might include administrative tasks (like managing email), creative or technical skills or support services for business and personal needs.
Sometimes business owners might hire an assistant who would take care of social media needs Virtual assistants could be asked to handle anything from acting as an off-site personal secretary to being a remote project manager for a business.
However, this kind of virtual-assistant home business is not the same as the “virtual assistant jobs” you may see advertised online. There are some legitimate companies offering virtual assistant jobs similar to what a self-employed virtual assistant does, but many of the jobs advertised in this way are something quite different.
Virtual assistant is a term that is often applied to people who do short tasks on sites like MTurk, where people earn small amounts by performing very small tasks online. These are also called microjobs.
But, in fact, the term virtual assistant might also be applied to people who do just about anything online because--as with any position title that leaves room for interpretation--people interpret it differently.
Some of the positions that you may find advertised as virtual assistant jobs are in reality data entry positions, call center work, sales, bookkeepers and/or translation jobs. They may be legitimate work-at-home jobs, but they also could be scams. And they may not be what you have in mind if you your goal is to work as a virtual assistant.
Other positions, offered on task sites might be “assistant jobs” but not exactly virtual. For instance, companies such as TaskRabbit or Gigwalk or other micro job sites are an online way to connect people who need small tasks performed with those willing to perform them. However, these jobs are more often done in person--not virtually. So, these are not necessarily work-at-home jobs.
And then there are home business “opportunities” for virtual assistants. These may well be scams so examine them carefully for the signs of a work-at-home scam. Be wary of classes that will certify you as “virtual professionals” or the like. Legitimate virtual assistant home businesses were built by the hard work of their owners--not purchased online.