The History Behind the Virtual Assistance Industry

Updated 9/2/2022

So, what is the Virtual Assistance Industry? Let me explain a bit about the history behind this term. Being a secretary was the very beginning of The Birth of Virtual Assistance. Since the ’40s, the profession has evolved to include a wide variety of different services. Today it is referred to as administrative, but this is not the only category of services that belongs to this new & exciting profession. 

The Virtual Assistance Industry has a rich but little-known history of individuals and organizations that saw an opportunity. The opportunity in the work-at-home arena to develop and grow businesses that could support and sustain families. Many women and men walked the walk and talked the talk that propelled the industry to become the small business resource it is today.  

The Story:

The Birth of Virtual Assistance began its early beginnings with secretarial services during the forties. It’s safe to call secretarial services as the mother of virtual assistance. However, throughout its history, the virtual assistance industry strived to create a distinction from its “mother.” By making it a separate profession yet belonging to the same type of industry.

Collectively they are called administrative professionals. From their separation, virtual assistance has grown. It has advanced until it has become the global preference of business owners. So this is the birth of a profession that has become a worldwide phenomenon. It has permanently changed the world’s view on business ownership.


The Early Beginnings: Secretarial Services

It all began with shorthand when Sir Isaac Pitman invented the shorthand method in the early 1800s. He founded the first school for secretarial services. Only men were admitted to the school, and they were the only ones who could perform the said tasks, given the political climate during those days.

During that time, women were confined to only doing household chores. Not until a decade later, when typewriters were invented, were women finally joining the industry. And around 1930, the number of men in the secretarial services started to wind down. Can you imagine what women of the past would say about the Virtual Assistance Industry today?

The Next Steps

In 1942, the National Secretaries Association was born. It was founded to foster professionalism among secretaries in the US. And less than a decade later, the first exam called Certified Professional Secretaries was administered. The CPS Examination was a three-part exam covering the areas of office technology, management, office systems & administration. More than 66,000 people have achieved this rating since 1951. 

It was in 1952 that a special day called “Secretaries Day” was created, which later in the year 2000 changed to “Administrative Professionals Day.” The decision was made to recognize all individuals working in the field with different title names. 

Nearly three decades later, the National Secretaries Association was renamed Professional Secretaries International. Six years later, the Professional Secretaries International has renamed to International Association of Administrative Professionals, IAAP.  

The Birth of Virtual Assistance

Anastacia “Stacy” Brice began working virtually as a full-time home-based contractor with an international client. She provided administrative support, arranged travel plans, and provided personal assistance. Back then, the most prevalent medium through which people did administrative assistance from a remote location was by using the telephone and fax machines. It was only in 1994 that the internet was utilized to assist business owners from other places. 

The term “virtual assistant” was born in 1996. It commenced from a simple conversation between Anastacia Brice and life coach Thomas Leonard when the latter coined the term. This took place during a phone conversation they had together. With the idea already in Brice’s mind, she borrowed the term to name the new emerging profession, and in the next year, she witnessed how the profession was formalized.  

It was in 1998 that Anastacia Brice opened the first organization for virtual assistants called the AssistU. The years have had many more developments in this industry. In 1999, the International Virtual Assistants Association was created to respond to the growing number of people involved in the business. And just like any organization, it helped represent the profession to the world. 


The Growth Phase of Virtual Assistance

Virtual assistance has grown and created a unique distinction that has marked its identity worldwide. From being simply a sub-category of secretarial services, it equaled the profession. Later it surpassed it in measures beyond its beginning. Today, the work of a virtual assistant is getting more in demand in the business world.

More and more business owners prefer the services of virtual assistants over hiring a personal secretary. Here are the two economic reasons why:

1) Hiring a virtual assistant is cost-effective, and 2) work efficiency is achieved by the many different types of virtual assistants on the market today. 

Your Growth, Your Future

Knowing your history helps you understand your foundation. Where you came from, and most importantly, WHY you can build a long-term, sustainable business. It’s because of those that came before you, 10, 15, 20, 25 years ago – people who walked the walk and talked the talk. The people that spent many hours answering questions and overcoming obstacles. These people have paved the way for you to be in the Virtual Assistance Industry you’re in today. 

Please don’t forget where you came from because so many people went through challenging situations to get where they are in today’s world.

Your History is Your Future! 

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