Thursday, March 10, 2011

History of Virtual Assistance: The Evolution of a Profession

“Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last.” ~ Hamilton Holt

The time when virtual assistance became a professional job, more and more people are motivated to work as a virtual assistant. The air of casualness and the comfortable nature of this work have made the employment growth to escalate annually.
It all started in 1996 when Thomas Leonard, a Life Coach, had a telephone conversation with Anastacia Brice whom he used to call “Stacy”. Along with their phone conversation, Leonard has mentioned the phrase “virtual assistant”, and this gave Brice the idea on what to name for her business. Brice, who used to work with Leonard for a long time, liked that idea coming from her boss.

She then called her business as Virtual Assistant and tagged herself as such. That event marked the start of a new species of profession.

Although Virtual Assistant was established in 1996, it was a year after that Virtual Assistant was formally introduced to the public. So in February 1997, virtual assistance was publicly announced as a profession. That day was also the opening of AssistU, which is an organization intended for virtual assistants.

The two persons that became successful in this field are Brice who was from Baltimore, Maryland and Lora Davidek of Westminster, Colorado. Both Brice and Davidek stated in an interview that the reward of working as a virtual assistant is that you can be your own boss. It simply means that you are only working for yourself and not under somebody’s influence or power.

As the Chief Visionary of AssistU, Brice personally trained up to 1000 people as virtual assistants. She was also nominated in the 2001 Outsourcing World Achievement Award, which was sponsored by the  Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Michael F. Corbett & Associates, Ltd. She also launched Daily Assistant, the first ezine that was designed for virtual assistants.

In 1998, the Global Association of Virtual Assistants (GAVA) entered the scene, whi was managed by Amy Sarai and Julie Hewitt with the support of Thomas Leonard.

Later that year, another organization was set up by Christine Durst and Michael Haaren in 1999. This was called International Virtual Assistant Associations (IVAA), which was addressed to the United Nations (UN). The message they wanted to convey is to inform the public on how the virtual assistant model can be of assistance to people with disabilities to still be able to work despite their handicaps.

Several organizations about virtual assistance has since emerged:

On the same year, the International Association of Virtual Assistants (IAVA) was formed by Jacky Workman. Virtual Assistance University (VAU), managed by Janet Jordan, was opened in 2000. Aside from this, the International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (IAVOA) was also created by Fred and Shirley Gandee. On the same year, A Virtual Solution (AVS) was also founded.

At around the same time, IVAA started giving certifications for being a virtual assistant. The Administrative Professionals Week, formerly called as Secretary’s Day also gave recognition for certain individuals within a category. The first ever instructional manual for virtual assistants was written by Christine Durst and Michael Haaren. This is also the time that the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) introduced the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) openly.

In addition to this, Virtual Assistant Training Program (VATP) was formed by Mary-Lou Ashton. During this period, Anastacia Brice attended a conference in Virginia to discuss important matters about Virtual Assistant. The Delaware Valley Virtual Assistants Association (DVVVA) was then formed by Kathy Zengolewicz, Jackie Eastwick and Mary Motz in 2003. This period was also when Tawnya Sutherland started Virtual Assistant Networking. Soon after, Southeastern Virtual Assistant Group (SEVAG) was formed by Caroline Nelson in 2004.

In 2005, an independent publishing company named Career Press, discussed "The 2-Second Commute — Join the Exploding Ranks of Freelance Virtual Assistants,” and Gritty V, a blog by Danielle Keister was started. Miss Keister also founded the Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce (VACOC) that same year. Another organization, the Society of Virtual Assistants (SVA), was started by Caroline Wylie that provides help to virtual assistants in the United Kingdom.

Amid the periods of 2006-2007, Anastacia Brice was granted an Innovative Award. Tawnya Sutherland opened the site, in 2009 which was the first international virtual assistant certification program that ever happened.

Today, the virtual assistant profession is still evolving and advancing. Who knows what this profession could be capable of in a few more years?

*Update April 14, 2011: Corrected info based on a comment from Caroline


Evil Assistant said...

Hi - little correction - SVA ( has no affiliation with VACOC and still exists as a resource for UK based virtual assistants. Hope that helps!
Caroline said...

Hi Caroline,

Thanks for noticing. We double-checked our sources and updated the blog post. We apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused you.

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