The rise of the gig economy and the emergence of innumerable startups has changed the way businesses operate. Traditional businesses relied heavily on an elaborate hiring and training process because employees stuck around for long.

With the invasion of internet, the world has been moving fast. Businesses in present times don’t persist on such traditional means and that gave rise to the gig economy, where entrepreneurs and resource people could connect over the internet, despite being remotely located. This opened an avenue for hiring robust and diverse talent with the right kind of professional training.

Yes, we are talking about virtual assistants.

1. Understanding Virtual Assistants

In this section, we will now give you a walk-through to understand a virtual assistant better.

1.1 Who is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant is a college educated, highly skilled and professionally trained resource person, readily available to handle all your business related tasks. They are remotely located and mostly operate from their homes or sometimes, an office space.

Virtual assistants work across various time zones and their skill sets range from have generic like email management, calendar management, sending flowers/gifts, making travel plans, fixing appointments etc., to specialised skills such as content creation, book-keeping, web development etc .

1.2 How is a VA different from traditional assistants?

Virtual Assistants Traditional Assistants
Works remotely Physically present at your office
Shared-resource- Works for the time-bandwidth subscribed for- can work full-time Full-time resource devoted to your company
Professionally trained on various business tasks by the parent company You have to train them in-house which involves cost
Doesn't require any infrastructure to operate Requires an office space and support infrastructure to operate

Virtual assistants are becoming the go-to for many businesses and entrepreneurs owing to the flexibility of the resource and productive results. Virtual assistants is a refreshing change to a traditional employee as the amount of commitment is way less.

For example, it doesn't take time for your VA to get started. They're ready to roll! Just a day or two’s warm-up where you introduce your business and the kind of task you expect them to do and soon they will be on their own.  

1.3 What is the background of a VA?

Virtual assistants are increasing day by day as more and more people are taking up to the flexibility of the gig economy, which gives them a work-life balance.

All virtual assistants come with diverse work experience across industries and that’s the speciality of this. You can hand-pick the right kind of virtual assistant suited for your business.

Virtual assistants are graduates with plenty of work experience and expertise. They are hired by a parent company that manages these talent and gives a thorough in-house professional training. This also reduces your burden as you don’t need to micro-manage the employee or fret over the quality of task output.

Virtual assistants are spread across the globe and the cost of hiring a virtual depends on which region you’re hiring them from. Their geographical location also impacts their proficiency in English.

So before you consider getting yourself a VA, consider three major factors- Cost, English Proficiency and Quality of Output.

2. Why do you need a VA?

Time is a limited resource and as an entrepreneur, you are required to focus on the bigger goals of the company. Business growth cannot be linear in this internet dominated era. A company has to spread its tentacles far and wide in order to surge.

Here are three reasons why:

2.1. A virtual assistant will automate your recurrent, mundane tasks.

A major chunk of your day is freed up because you don't have to worry about the recurrent, less important tasks. This gives you more time to plan, strategize and focus on larger business goals.

2.2. Virtual assistants are on the rise and as an entrepreneur, there are many ways you can use this changing trend to your benefit.

Virtual assistants are cost-effective and a flexible resource, making it extremely lucrative for entrepreneurs and startups. You can avoid burnouts that come with the responsibility of playing multiple roles and managing more than you possibly can.

For example- If a virtual assistant plans the travel and manages reservation for your next conference, you can focus on the preparations. If they can help with your presentation edits, footnotes etc., then you can work on the larger idea and let them handle the smaller things.

2.3. Hiring a virtual assistant is less-trouble than hiring in-house

You can hire a virtual assistant for the amount of work that requires to be done. Why must one invest on paying an assistant full-time when you can pay them just for the number of hours that they have worked for. Virtual assistants come with multiple subscription options that varies across companies.

Also, there are no attached benefits or perks to be paid to a virtual assistant, unlike an in-house employee.

3. Virtual Assistant Profiles

A virtual assistant is trained and experienced with a lot of business related tasks. There are different kinds of virtual assistants available to manage various aspects of your business. Here are some of the tasks that your virtual assistant can do.

Profile What they do
Virtual Executive assistant Manage inbox, manage calendars, schedule appointments, set reminders, travel arrangements and more
Virtual Office assistant Handle client enquiries, manage company database and spreadsheets, prepare meeting materials, maintain calendar, manage appointments and meetings and more
Virtual Receptionist Manage emails, manage calendars and appointments, customer follow up, file management, database building, create basic reports and more
Virtual Secretary Manage emails, manage calendars and appointments, customer follow up, file management, draft emails, create basic reports, manage client inquiries, prepare meeting/presentation materials
Virtual Medical Assistant Record maintenance, customer service, billing and accounting, manage appointments, EMR management, patient follow-up, insurance related work, ordering supplies
Virtual Project Manager Phone support, providing customer support, coordinating tasks between team members, replying to emails, managing logistics
Virtual Bookkeeping Assistant Manage bills, file receipts, keep financial records, manage payroll, payment follows, tax preparation
Virtual Marketing Assistant Conduct keyword research, blog promotion, create online marketing campaigns, Adword promotions
Virtual Email Marketing Assistant Draft campaigns, create mail templates and design, schedule mails, manage contact lists, add contacts, track analytics
Virtual Social Media Marketing Assistant Account setup, create catchy posts, content research, content scheduling, profile management, trends research, campaign management, measuring analytics
Virtual Content Writing Assistant Content for mailers, social media, blogs, website or anything promotional
Virtual E-commerce Assistant Product listing and categorisation, product research, add descriptions, image editing, order processing, manage returns and exchanges
Virtual Email Assistant Sort inbox, set filters, respond to mails, create mail templates, categorise mails, setting auto-replies
Virtual Real Estate Assistant real estate administrative, paperwork, social media engagement, customer relationship building, posting ads to sites, lead generation tasks, sales support and customer follow up
Virtual Administrative Assistant Manage calendars, organise inbox, maintain records, schedule appointments and set reminders, customer management, handling logistics
Virtual Hiring Assistant Sourcing candidates, telephonic screening, posting jobs on various portals, employment related communication, copy-writing for job ads, creating and managing all employment related documents
Virtual Personal Assistant Travel arrangements, calendar management, managing appointments, social media coordination, data research, recurrent task management, handling invoices
Virtual Research Assistant Travel research, database research, influencer research, Lead generation, Trends research, Product and market research
Virtual Travel Assistant Planning itineraries, managing reservations, travel booking, manage visa processing, Comparing the best deals, managing impromptu plans
Virtual Social Media Marketing Assistant Account setup, create catchy posts, content research, content scheduling, profile management, trends research, campaign management, measuring analytics

4. Benefits of hiring a VA

What could be better than hiring great talent at a cost-effective price and for the right kind of task? Yes, that’s the flexibility that virtual assistants offer you. There are numerous benefits of hiring them and we’ve compiled some for you to consider:

4.1. Hiring Flexibility -

You can hire a VA for a particular period or until your project requires. Each service provider offers various subscription packages from hourly, daily to monthly basis.

4.2. Pocket-friendly-

Since, they’re shared resource and being managed by a service provider firm, you’re off with the burden to take care of the hiring, training and other implied costs.

There is no health benefits, compensations, bonus involved. You only pay for the work done.

4.3. No infrastructure required-

Since virtual assistants operate out of home-based offices, you don’t need to set up a desk for your new employee, invest in a PC, internet and all those recurrent costs.

4.4. No micromanagement required-

Since virtual assistants are already a part of a service provider firm, they’re internally managed by their staff and are readily available to do your business tasks.

This makes troubleshooting easier as any problem can be conveyed to their management and resolved.

4.5. Professionally trained-

Virtual assistants are professionally trained on various business related tasks and are constantly upgraded by their internal management. This gives you a resource person with updated skill sets as per market trends.  

4.6. Changing is easier than ever before-

This is the best part of the virtual assistant world. You don’t like an employee, change it.

Service provider firms have made it easy by setting up a simple process where you can put down what is not going down well and request for a change. This saves you uncomfortable conversations, lot of time and simply, the hassle of it.  

5. Cost of hiring a virtual assistant

Since we’re talking about cost-effectiveness since the beginning of the article, it’s about time to actually analyse-

How must does it actually cost to hire a virtual assistant? This depends more or less on factors like level of experience required, type of service- specialised tasks cost more and the region from where you hire.  For example:

  • USA- A virtual assistant can charge anywhere between $10 to $35 per hour depending on what role you expect them to play. An administrative assistant will charge less than a marketing assistant or a financial expert.
  • India- A virtual assistant on an average charges anywhere between $8 to $25 per hour depending on the skills and expertise.
  • Philippines- A virtual assistant on an average charges anywhere between $6 to $14 per hour depending on the skills and expertise.

How cost efficient are virtual assistants? The answer is very.

Virtual assistants can be hired for the amount of work required to be done and for the required period of time. There are numerous service providers that can connect you with really competent and trained virtual assistants.

Each company has its own payment or subscription models but generally, it ranges from hourly to monthly or even annual basis. Some companies also allow you to discuss your requirement and present you with customised payment options. Some companies allow you to pay on the go, as per the usage while some take payment in advance.

6. How to find the right VA

Now that you’ve decided to hire a VA, we’ve tried to make it easy for you. Here are 4 stages to help you find the right virtual assistant for your business.

6.1. Things to consider before hiring a VA

If you’re contemplating about hiring a virtual assistant, there are a few things that you must keep in mind.

Hiring the right kind of VA for your business matters much more than simply hiring one. Since you’re going to work remotely as a team, it is necessary to ensure that the person being hired, fits your bill.

a. Ask for work samples

The best way to start off is to ask for work samples. For example, if you’re looking for a VA for content creation or social media management, you can ask them for their sample posts or social media pages that they’re working on.

But if you’re hiring an administrative assistant, asking for a work sample might be inappropriate. In that case, the best way is to connect over the phone. Have a conversation, clear the air out by asking questions related to their work experience.

b. Connect over phone or a video call

In the initial stages of getting to know someone, it's better to converse over the phone and best to be able to watch each other- a video call. This helps understand whether the person fits your bill or not.

You can also warm up and find out more about your virtual assistant's professional background, work experience, strong areas, weaknesses and more.

c. Decide on the exact tasks to be delegated

Another really important thing to setup before hiring a VA is to decide on the exact tasks to be delegated to your VA. Having a clear checklist of what needs to be done and the quality standards of the output must be clarified right at the start.

6.2 Where to find the right VA online?

There are numerous virtual assistant services available online like Zirtual, Wishup, Brickworks India, Upwork etc. You can find their websites, sign up to connect with their sales team who will then take it forward. Each company has their own process of finding you a VA and setting up work but mostly, it’s very simple.

Do a research on the company’s services to find out if they’ve been doing quality work. This will help you steer ahead of all arising confusions in your hiring process.

6.3. Setting up work and process

Once you’ve hired a VA and have decided what to delegate, it is very important to set up a work process to ensure that it sails smoothly. Here are few things that you must surely setup before starting work:

a. Communication channels

It is very important to have a transparent communication channel between you and your VA to ensure that both of you are on the same page. Set up various modes of communication and do not limit yourself to anything that can bring the work to a standstill.

Stay connected on whatever that is mutually convenient, like phone calls, video conferences, text messages, emails etc.

b. Work tools

Thanks to the internet, there are numerous work collaboration tools available to make remote working extremely comfortable and productive. Team collaboration tools like Slack, Asana, Trello etc., help you to create the work community and get the team connected to each other.

There are tools available to set up weekly or periodic meetings like Zoom which allows large number of people to join the meeting room.

Since technology is going to be the catalyst in alienating the distance, set up all the required work tools to make the journey ahead smooth.

c. Company and work orientation

Your virtual assistant is new to the organisation and requires some amount of hand-holding. This is definitely going to take lesser resources than orienting a traditional employee, but it needs to be done.

Give a small walk-through to your virtual assistant on your business, project that is being delegated, quality standards expected, the company's workflow etc.

d. Reporting Mechanism

Keep track of work. It might seem very troublesome and time-consuming, but no it's not, if done effectively.

Setting up a report mechanism is quintessential to a healthy remote working relationship. Since, both of you are not physically present at a location, there has to be some way of setting accountability to work.

Find a mutual way to track work being done and remaining in the pipeline. This will help you understand loopholes and how to make your VA more effective. Most of the companies offer a reporting mechanism when you hire a VA. But in case there isn't, go ahead and set up one.

Most importantly, keep it simple.

e. Healthy Feedback

Never ignore feedback. Consider this, if there is work getting done at a constant speed with no review. Will the outcome be great? Not necessarily.

There has to be some way to review work that is being done. Since your VA is new to your business, it might take them some time to reach your quality expectations. The only way for your VA to learn is when you give them a feedback.

Remember that any feedback must be aimed at bringing out the best in a person or project. Encouraging feedback when communicated in a pleasant tone works the best.

f. Support for Troubleshooting

Find a reporting mechanism, means to communicate, troubleshooting options etc. Let your VA feel that there is good enough support in the initial times to get a hang of your business. Keep communications clear and list down your expectations clearly.

One of the best ways to manage your VA and ensure good performance is to measure the quality of work at intervals to address all the troubles that are affecting your work.  

6.4. Retrospection

You’re bound to experience ups and downs when you hire a remote employee as remote working is slightly different and takes a bit to set in. Once it’s grounded, it will be one of the best business decisions that you’ve ever made.

If you feel that your VA is not a great fit, you can always ask for another person or look for a new service provider altogether.
Sometimes, things don’t work out well due to numerous reasons. It’s better to act upon it than stressing on it to work out.

7. Frequently Asked Questions

We've answered some of the most frequently asked questions about virtual assistants to make it convenient for you:

7.1. Can a virtual assistant work full-time for me?

Yes, virtual assistants work on an hourly basis and you can hire them as per your requirement. If you require support on a full-time basis then you can go ahead and engage a virtual assistant full-time.

7.2. Does a virtual assistant have fixed holidays?

Virtual assistants are managed by a parent company. Hence they are subjected to the company's policy which has it's holiday schedule. You have to ask your VA for the fixed holidays that they have in the year. Also, different companies follow different weekly-offs. This depends a lot on the geographic location of your VA company.

7.3. Will a virtual assistant adjust to my schedule?

Yes, that's the essence of a virtual assistant. They will adjust to your schedule, time-zones, changing work plans and more. You can hire a VA from anywhere and they will be more than willing to work as per your time schedule and requirements.

7.4. Where can I find affordable and good virtual assistants?

There are numerous virtual assistant sites that provide professional and trained virtual assistants. You can check out their websites and connect with the sales team to take it further. Here are few to name: Zirtual, Wishup, Brickworks, Belay, WERVAS, Red Butler etc.

7.5. What are some of the tasks that a client outsources to a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is equipped to work on numerous business related tasks. Whether a generic task or specialised requirement, there is a lot that can be done. Here are some tasks that can be outsourced to your virtual assistant to begin with-

7.6. How do I make sure that my virtual assistant takes the responsibility of my tasks?

Reporting mechanisms help a lot here. Set up mechanism to receive reports and work updates from your virtual assistant. Voice calls, maintaining shared google sheets with status updates will help you keep track. There are some tools available for reporting as well like Timecamp which has graphic reporting options as well.

Communication is the key. Period.

7.7. Are virtual assistants worth the subscription charge?

Yes. In fact, if you compare hiring a virtual assistant(VA) vs. hiring a full-time employee, virtual assistants are a far more cost-effective option.

Virtual assistants are a very flexible resource and when used effectively, they can be extremely profitable in the longer run. If you're new to delegation, then a little bit of homework would be good to make it worth the penny.

7.8. How much time can you really save if you hire a virtual assistant?

There's a limit to how much you can accommodate in a day. There's also the larger goal that you need to focus on, to steer your business. Also sometimes, you might not have the skills required for a particular task like content creation, designing etc.

How much time can you save depends on how much time do you spend on doing those recurrent, boring tasks. If you hire a VA, you will be surprised to see how much time you save in a day.

8. Resource References

Virtual assistants have been a rage since their inception. Here is our compilation of some really useful resources that will help you explore more about virtual assistants:

8.1. Quora-

Quora is a platform buzzing with questions and answers,pouring in everyday about virtual assistance. There are lot of conversations from entrepreneurs, virtual assistants company founders, virtual assistants themselves and much more. You can follow the topic here:

Some of the most highly read VA articles are:

8.2. Books

Here are some books that are widely read and very helpful in understanding the VA concept and how to use them efficiently:

8.3. Blogs

Here is a compilation of some really interesting virtual assistant advice from some brilliant bloggers:

Here are some blogs that will help you stay updated on the virtual assistant market trends:

8.4. Videos

Do check out these videos to get a simple and quick clarification on your VA related concerns:

Final Thoughts

A virtual assistant can be really helpful if you’re looking for some experienced resource person to help you out with recurrent tasks that are eating up your time.They are extremely reliable, trained and professional in their approach towards your business. It can be a win-win situation if there is a bit of effort taken if you hire carefully, assessing if the person would fit the role.

Since virtual assistants are remotely located, it will take some pro activeness to set up a transparent communication channel and independent work process from both parties. But a little leg work and the rest of the journey is smooth and successful.  

Getting Started Hiring a Virtual Assistant virtual assistants
Upasana Iyer

Upasana Iyer

A virtual assistant at Wishup, trained mental health professional with an ardent love for writing. Upasana has over a decade's experience in writing and translation in the media industry.

Read More