If you have been following this series on virtual assistance, then you’ll recall the last two articles focused on six tough questions to ask when considering virtual assistance (or virtual assisting) and then what services to offer. This article will focus on becoming a certified virtual assistant or CPVA or CVA (depending upon the certifying institution).
Will you need to become certified in order to become a recognized virtual assistant? The answer is “no” because the industry is currently not regulated. Now, that is not to say that you might still WANT to become certified for your own personal satisfaction and/or from a marketing perspective.
Depending upon the client, some clients will prefer a certified virtual assistant over a non-certified virtual assistant. Also, with certification comes the recognition that you have completed a certain level of training and testing as well as are being held up to a higher level of standards and performance. It is definitely a confidence booster as you place the certification after your name on your business card or in your email signature.
So where can you go to receive this certification? There are many places both online, offline or a combination of the two to go to receive certification based on how much time and money you want to invest. This article will focus on the most recognized and widely accepted certifying institutions.
Traditionally since the early 1990’s, Red Deer College in Alberta, Canada has offered a certificate in virtual assistance. Even though students were required to complete most of their studies at the college there was offline training as well. Traditionally the course took just under a year to complete and receive certification. The program is currently still available for those living in or near Alberta.
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Then along came the exclusively online institutions offering VA certification via online teleclasses, telebridges, and what is now considered the virtual classroom. An example of this would be AssistU which offers the CPVA (Certified Professional Virtual Assistant) and MPVA (Certified Master Virtual Assistant). Owned and established in 1996 by Anastacia Brice, a former VA turned VA coach, the program now offers a Virtual Basics program. This self-study program is offered for $515 which is down from the original price of the original training program which was a 20-week intense online training program for over $2,000.
VAClassroom.com offers online classes and certifications in “niche” or specialized virtual assistance such as internet marketing (Internet Marketing Virtual Assistant) and social media (Social Media Virtual Assistant). The classes range from $300 to $500 dollars, and there is no prerequisite for taking the certifications. And yes, you would be able to place the IMVA or SMVA after your name.
Another option is VANetworking.com which also offers both an apprenticeship-type program (periodically throughout the year) as well as a self-study program called the VBSS (Virtual Business Startup System) for about $997. While it is considered self-pace, it does include coaching with Tawnya Sutherland, the founder of VA Networking and the VBSS. She will also mentor you towards a certification at www.VACertification.com. There is also a designated private section of the VANetworking.com web site for only the VBSS students.
Yet another way to receive VA certification is through Virtual Office Temps where you can study on your own and take the test for a non-refundable $95. The three study manuals are listed on their web site and you have 24 hours to complete and pass the test. Retakes are $50 to receive your certification or VOT-CVA. There are also a wide range of specialty VA certifications offered as well in proofreading/editing, real estate or other niches. These are an additional $75 after taking the VOT-CVA for $95.
And what if you still really need to work and can’t afford it or find the time? Well, there are two options.
You may go to VACertifcation.com, and click on apply and present your application to their board to see if you qualify to be “grandfathered” in after being a virtual assistant for one year. The cost to submit your application and other documentation is $75.
Or you can do what I did and that is set up your own apprenticeship program with a potential client. At the time all of the certification programs were much more expensive than they are now, so I set up my own apprenticeship program. Now, with the costs being as low as they are, I may reconsider my decision.
If you do set up your own apprenticeship program be willing to work hard and to work for free, but learn the ropes. You will “graduate” with a great client reference, portfolio, and experience. If you’re truly an entrepreneur/business owner, you won’t let a little thing like time and money get in the way of your dreams! There will always be those clients willing to do this for the free work and/or the bartering of services.
I also joined the VANetworking.com for free (still is) and read every post I could and asked questions. I also learned the value of networking with others in the industry.
So, do you really need to be certified to become a recognized virtual assistant? Again, “no” but you might want to be certified. There will always be those clients who are willing to work with you based on a good client referral or your past employment.
Then again, there are those clients who will only work with a VA who is certified.
Only you can decide whether certification is right for you and when to begin the process. Good luck in your decision.
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Check back again next week for Part 4 in Leisa’s series Understanding Virtual Assistance.