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Virtual Assistants

What is a Virtual Assistant? Definition, Costs, and Where to Find Them

Virtual assistants have been around since the internet became a staple in people’s homes. Businesses saw the convenience of an assistant working from their respective homes and not needing to come into a physical office to do their job. As you may expect, this sentiment rings particularly true in 2022. In fact, recent world events have gotten both employees and employers to realize the benefits of remote work.

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant can do almost anything that an in-house assistant can do short of grabbing you a cup of coffee. All kidding aside, VAs perform essentially the same supporting functions and tasks that an employer needs from an assistant. These tasks are typically administrative in nature, but VAs can be quite flexible with the range of tasks assigned to them. 

Businesses are turning to virtual assistants because of the attached benefits. Aside from the ones already mentioned, web-based businesses especially do not have to worry about the cost of renting out a room or office space to work in. Not only that, but other costs such as utilities and transport benefits are something companies don’t have to worry about. Smaller businesses can especially benefit from this, but larger businesses have also hired VAs and even VA teams to handle certain tasks. 

A virtual assistant can offer everything short of their physical presence and tasks that require that. Even with this caveat, virtual assistants offer a convenience that can’t be ignored. Plus, technology is growing at such a rate where the need for physical presence is less than it was even 5 years ago. Answering emails, taking messages, placing food orders – all can be done in the comfort of their own homes. 

What Tasks Can a Virtual Assistant Do?

A man writing notes in front of a laptop.

Assistance is such a broad term and can encompass a wide variety of services. In the same way, the duties that a virtual assistant can perform depend on the needs of the hiring party.

As mentioned, administrative work such as answering emails, compiling important documents, working a spreadsheet, setting appointments, and managing calendars, are some of the more common tasks associated with virtual assistants.

However, some virtual assistants can be well-versed in other services like social media management, marketing, content creation and other creative media. Some can be Amazon experts or have experience working in SEO. 

The possibilities are honestly endless. With such a diverse assortment, as an employer, you should be thorough during the hiring process. Because no two VAs are alike, gauge the capabilities of each VA you interview and see if their unique skillsets will be a valuable addition to your team.  

Here are some examples of common tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Invoicing
  • Taking and making calls
  • Data entry and database management
  • Calendar management
  • Email management
  • Lead generation
  • Paying bills
  • Report creation
  • Customer service
  • Newsletter creation
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Graphic design
  • Photo editing
  • Training and presentation material creation and preparation
  • Transcription
  • Form creation
  • Document proofreading and editing

Where Can You Find Good Virtual Assistants?

The best place to find a virtual assistant is through a recognized service. Most of these established companies have websites where you can check all their details. You can also verify their credentials online and get real-life advice on how good they really are from review sites.

The hiring process can be quite daunting, and sitting through hundreds of interviews isn’t the most appealing idea. It’s more than just skill, too. You want someone that you can work well with.

Thankfully, the best companies offering VA services can help you find the person that best matches the needs and demands of your business. These companies can help you find VAs who have the level of professional experience that you and your clients are looking for. These agencies can also provide flexible and fair pricing options.

Here’s a list of places to get started:

How Much Are VAs Paid?

How much it will cost you to hire a freelance virtual assistant largely depends on four main things:

1. how large of a task you are delegating

2. how long the task will take to accomplish

3. the individual rate of the VA

4. their level of experience and skill.

In general, freelance virtual assistants charge from $5-25/hour depending on several factors.

Let’s take a deeper dive into some of these main elements that affect the rate to hire a virtual assistant. 

Experience and Expertise

When you hire a VA who has worked with other companies before, you are hiring someone that has a level of professionalism. This hire is less of a gamble than someone new to the space. Great VAs are versatile, dependable, resourceful, get the job done in a timely manner, work well with others, and can communicate effectively. You can expect more from experienced virtual assistants, but naturally, that does come with an increased rate. 

Leveling Up

When you interview a VA, make sure to get a good idea of what their main skillset is. Then you can probe further for their more nuanced abilities or unique knowledge that could bring greater value to the company. Note that VAs may be flexible, but they are not miracle workers. If the scope of the work you need done is beyond their abilities, you will need to find someone else or hire another person to perform those specific tasks. 

Admin skills and knowledge of Microsoft Office or Google services are to be expected, but if the job requires technical expertise, finding VAs to fit the role will be more difficult. This will definitely cost more than someone who handles the more common tools like these. Just know that you get what you pay for. In that vein, a VA well-versed in the specifics of a platform or service you’re using, for example, is a worthwhile investment. 

If you are looking for specialized services, make sure to note that clearly in the job description. List down the non-negotiable skills they need to possess. If the VA meets those requirements but doesn’t possess certain secondary skills, determine whether it is worth investing in on-the-job training or if you should spend resources looking for someone else. 

Type, Scope, and Schedule of Work 

This is the general rule: the more you expect one person to be able to do, the higher you should expect to pay. You cannot expect one person to perform the job of 5 and pay them the same rate. Additionally, you cannot add on more work than originally discussed and not expect them to ask for a higher rate. 

When it comes to hiring, there’s a few ways you can go about it:

  • Per-project 
  • Hourly
  • Discuss a set price based on the project
  • Per contract with a set number of hours 

 Assess the length of projects and which would make more sense and would be fair for both parties. Additionally, if a project is larger or you foresee it to last longer, you may want to consider hiring a team of VAs who can get the job done more efficiently than one person. 

Location

The rates that virtual assistants charge vary depending on where they live. This can be one of the biggest factors that determines how much they charge for their services. 

Although they may not be commuting to a workplace, there are other expenses that VAs do have to cover. They pay for their water, electricity, rent, and internet. Their cost of living in their respective countries will determine how much they charge. VAs can come from anywhere in the world, and it is certainly possible to find a VA that not only fits the job description but also fits your budget. 

You should also consider the working hours of your VA. Sometimes it can be hard to communicate through live calls when time zones are too dissimilar. Alternatively, you might want someone who works while you sleep, so that work is getting done regardless of the hour. You may even strike a balance where you’re both awake part of the day to provide an opportunity for questions, feedback, and progress updates.

Tips to Hiring Virtual Assistants For Your Online Business

A man smiling and giving a thumbs up.

We have a lot of technologies today that allow most people access to a virtual assistant. What you need to remember is that not every country has fast and stable internet, and you need to make sure that the person you hire has a quality connection.

Don’t expect a super high-speed hook-up, either, and with a backup to boot, if you want to pay something like US$5 per hour. That’s asking too much because it’s simply not feasible on the VA’s end.

Where Can I Learn More About Working with VAs?

A great place to start learning more about working with a virtual assistant is right here on our blog! We have a wide array of posts on looking for, preparing for, hiring, onboarding, and maintaining relationships with virtual hires.

You can also become an Outsource School member where you’ll gain access to our Cracking the VA Code course along with 15+ other courses and playbooks on outsourcing.

Conclusion

We are here to help you on your journey to making your work life easier by bringing a virtual assistant — or two or three! — into your business. Reach out to us for more information, and even guidance that speaks into your personal needs and unique business setup.

By Julia Valdez

Julia is a career freelancer and agency owner turned coach for those seeking abundance and victorious living. A professional teacher and decades-long lover of the art of words on paper and the stage, she loves sharing actionable advice on life-changing topics. When she’s not helping freelancers and other small business owners grow, you can find her sharing lots of laughs over little crazy things.

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