This month saw the launch of the 12th UK VA Survey, compiled by SVA Virtual Assistants CIC. In a strange year for all businesses, we were curious to see how the virtual assistant industry had coped through the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Did VA businesses grow as more businesses looked to use flexible online admin experts?
- Did VAs suffer as their clients went bust or closed the doors, cutting costs?
- Did the vast numbers of new VAs entering the industry devalue what we do?
- Have prices gone up – or down?
- Where should you be marketing as a VA now that face-to-face marketing is out?
Debates raged on the forums about whether new VAs were “playing” as a side gig… and, as ever, tempers frayed over the thorny issue of pricing. Whenever this happens, inevitably those who shout loudest get heard most – but it doesn’t always reflect what is actually happening inside the average VA business or even in the majority of VA businesses. After all, if these VAs are so busy, why are they always online on groups/forums?
So, the UK VA Survey really does seek to answer some of those questions which people get cagey about answering online, in case they get shouted down. It is anonymous, however it does ask for an email to send free copies of the survey to, if you are one of the first 10% of the industry to complete the survey – this year over 420 VAs received free copies.
You can buy a copy here for £35
This year we had lots of info on pricing – including how to gauge subcontract VA rates for multiVAs – and the usual info on where to find clients, what industries use VAs, how to market yourself, and a special section on the impact of Covid on the virtual assistant industry.
Then and Now: 10 years of Virtual Assistant Statistics
We thought it would be fun to look back at the very first UK VA Survey compared to today.
Age Profile of UK Virtual Assistants:
Figure Age of VAs in 2008 compared to 2020
* Figures taken from 2020 v11 of UK VA Survey
As you can see, it is unusual for young VAs to enter the industry, suggesting that a number of years’ experience is required before launching their own business. Encouragingly, we have a growing number of older VAs as they remain in business, showing longevity. The “oldest” VA this year had been servicing clients for 29 years!
Location of UK Virtual Assistants:
In 2008, 48% of virtual assistants were based in London and the South East, compared to 35% today. This exodus seems to have been relatively nearby with East/South West seeing a marked increase in numbers of VAs.
Business Formats for UK Virtual Assistants:
Some things remain relatively unchanged – VAs tend to opt for Sole Trader business formats, (72% in 2008 vs 80% in 2021*).Home working was the norm in 2008, with 80% of VAs working from home, with 97% doing so in 2021*. Bear in mind, tech has evolved to allow people to work from home more during those 12 years: VOIP, broadband speed improvements and easier file sharing have meant less need for offices in general.
Marketing for UK Based VAs
The biggest difference to the VAs of yesteryear was undoubtedly the marketing. 56% of the VAs were listed in Yellow Pages. 79% were using face to face communication regularly with their clients. And (bless them) some were still using a fax machine!
Networking, their website and referrals were however the top methods for getting new business… Referrals still top the 2021 results for being the most effective methods of getting new business, being 6 x more effective than Face2Face Networking*.
We also dug a little deeper into the social media results this year; we’ve long suspected LinkedIn is reconnecting people with existing contacts rather than converting cold leads, and that building personal relationships on Facebook is creating clients rather than Facebook advertising driving traffic to your page. The results were very clear: Over half the new business gained from LinkedIn was from existing contacts and on Facebook 4/5 new clients came from their Groups*. Instagram featured for the first time this year.
How much money do UK VAs make?
The 2008 results of the VA Survey is tough reading: the majority of VAs made under £10k,and while prices ranged from “Under £10” to “Over £36” in the scale, the majority of VAs charged between £16-£25 an hour. In 2021, the mode rate charged is £25*, but overall the average VA rate is £27.17/hour*. More experienced VAs, ones who have a team, and those with specialist skills will be able to command higher prices, and those without those resources will probably be earning a little less
* Source: UK Virtual Assistant Survey v12 – for more information please visit: www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk
Caroline has been a Virtual Assistant (VA) since 2004 in her business, Virtually Sorted. With a background in music and advertising, she worked in the creative industries for over 10 years, both in London and Glasgow. Trying to avoid wearing a suit every day, Caroline switched into entrepreneur mode and has never looked back.