Laptop covered with colorful adhesive notes
Hannah Dixon says it's important for virtual assistants to address the three biggest misconceptions about the job head-on, in order to be successful.Westend61/Getty Images
  • Hannah Dixon, a virtual assistant coach, discusses the three worst parts of the profession.
  • She highlights issues like lowballing clients, being underestimated, and unrealistic expectations.
  • Dixon advises VAs to communicate their services, avoid low-paying platforms, and know their worth.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hannah Dixon, a 36-year-old virtual assistant coach, recruiter, and founder of The Virtual Excellence Academy, living in Mexico. It's been edited for length and clarity.

After "falling" into becoming a virtual assistant 10 years ago, I did the job for years juggling admin, tech, and creative tasks for clients worldwide. Eventually, I started making six figures a year, and I now coach others on how to become successful VAs.

One thing I've seen is that many people don't understand how VAs get paid and what they can do. Here are the three worst parts of being a VA, based on the most pervasive misconceptions people have about the job.

1. Fending off lowballing clients

Some clients think VAs can be hired for cheap. This misconception about how much VAs should be paid comes from our very source of income: our clients. Fending off these skeptics is one of the many things VAs have to deal with.

When I was starting as a VA and decided to sign up for a gig site, I took on a project to write a 1,500-word article on a topic that ended up taking me days, not hours, to research. I ended up doing five days of work for $5. The platform I used had the option to tip freelancers, but the client who hired me chose not to.

I learned quickly that some people believe VAs can be hired for next to nothing. I'd argue that almost every VA has come across the lowballers who've been taught that it's acceptable to offer outrageously low pay for skilled labor. It can be very demoralizing if you come across this attitude in your early days.

Oftentimes, online gig platforms that allow rampant race-to-the-bottom pricing, and greedy agencies that love to profit from the labor of skilled overseas workers are to blame. To overcome this, VAs should avoid low-paying platforms and instead focus on intentional networking to find clients who recognize and value their services appropriately.

It boils down to self-worth and continued upskilling — believe in your ability to command higher rates.

2. Being underestimated

Many believe that VAs have a more limited scope than they really do. Some potential clients view VAs as solely capable of simple administrative tasks. While virtual administrative assistant work is a very needed service, it's just one piece of a large and ever-expanding puzzle. Overcoming this misperception involves clear communication with your clients about the full range and depth of services you offer.

For example, using specific titles like "Podcast Manager" or "Graphic Design Geek" can immediately convey your specialization beyond the basics. If your expertise lies in high-level administrative work, a title like "VA offering Bespoke Administrative and Operational Services" paints a clearer picture of your capabilities than simply labeling yourself as a VA.

Remember, a VA is simply someone who assists people and businesses virtually. You get to decide what this looks like for your business and how you describe this to others.

3. Unrealistic expectations

On the other hand, clients sometimes expect VAs to be "unicorns" capable of handling all aspects of their business.

The unicorn approach to VAs is unrealistic and overlooks the fact that VAs have specific strengths and specialties. VA service areas tend to fall within three buckets: creative, technical, and administrative, and often lean more toward one or two of these.

Expecting a VA to single-handedly transform a business isn't only unfair but also impractical. VAs should be hired to enhance and streamline business operations, not to be the sole solution for a business's success.

Addressing these three misconceptions head-on is important for VAs to be successful

Clients have asked me to take on tasks and projects that were out of my wheelhouse. With no obligation to learn things that don't interest me and to keep at what I do best, I referred them to other VAs in my network. Instead of feeling like I was letting clients down, I became a resource for them.

While dealing with these misconceptions is one of the worst parts of being a VA, I've noticed that it's improving.

As more small businesses and entrepreneurs begin to understand and value the true potential and varied skills of VAs, these outdated misconceptions are slowly dying. I've started to notice a gradual shift toward a more informed and appreciative understanding of this profession and a greater emphasis on fair and equitable business practices.

Are you a virtual assistant and would like to share your story? Email Manseen Logan at

Read the original article on Business Insider