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What Is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant (VA) is a remote worker who provides a variety of services such as customer support, administrative support, marketing support, and more – typically from outside of their client’s country. They are employed by a large variety of businesses, from every industry, as a way to improve productivity of in-house teams.

Dan Trujillo

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What Is A Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant, often referred to as a VA, is an independent contractor who works remotely to provide professional services to businesses.

The rise of remote work culture has facilitated the outsourcing of administrative tasks to VAs. This allows entrepreneurs, small business owners, CEOs, and freelance professionals to dedicate more time and resources to their core areas of responsibility.

Did you know 50% of the US workforce could be virtual by 2028?



50% of the American workforce is predicted to become virtual by 2028, representing a significant trend towards remote work and distributed teams. This widespread shift has driven increased attention to virtual assistants (VAs), who provide remote support in diverse areas like administration, customer service, and marketing. Understanding the role and potential of VAs can be valuable for both individuals and organizations navigating this evolving workplace landscape.


How A Virtual Assistant Works

Virtual assistants and in-house employees offer distinct advantages and differences for businesses. Virtual assistants are often hired on a contract basis, providing flexibility in terms of workload and duration, which allows businesses to scale up or down as needed with less commitment. In contrast, in-house employees typically have more stable job security, benefits, and potential for career growth within the company. 

When it comes to pay, virtual assistants are generally paid per project or on an hourly basis, which can be cost-effective for businesses as they only pay for the actual work completed. In-house employees typically receive a regular salary, along with benefits like healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off. Ultimately, the choice between a virtual assistant and an in-house employee depends on a company’s specific needs and priorities, with each option offering its own set of benefits and trade-offs.


What Does A Virtual Assistant Do?

After a successful onboarding, a virtual assistant can complete any task that can be performed remotely. While it’s certainly easier to just say “anything that can be done remotely,” businesses can leverage virtual assistants in several ways.

What does a virtual assistant do? Administrative tasks, HR and recruiting, bookkeeping, sales, marketing and social media, data entry, customer service, and more!

Here are just a few examples of the most common roles a virtual assistant can fill:

  • Administrative Tasks: Virtual assistants can handle a wide variety of “busywork” tasks that local experts often prefer not to juggle with their more specific, higher-end responsibilities. For example, filing paperwork, inputting data, managing inboxes, coordinating meetings, etc.
  • HR And Recruiting: A virtual HR assistant can help your organization vet job candidates, post job ads, and train new employees. In addition to recruitment, virtual HR assistants can keep files on employees and company activities, collect performance reviews, and connect employees with other service providers.
  • Bookkeeping: Outsource your accounting tasks to a virtual professional who is familiar with bookkeeping best practices. Virtual assistant accounting services can be applied to industries like law firms, real estate investment groups, and small businesses that want to ease the workload of their local employees.
  • Sales: A virtual assistant can be great for sales support as an inside sales agent, from phone prospecting tasks like warm and cold calling to lead screening, client follow-ups, and lead nurturing. They can also be responsible for analytics tracking and reporting.
  • Marketing & Social Media: Marketing virtual assistants can handle things like market analysis, photo curation, responding to comments and messages, posting scheduled content, and tracking and reporting analytics – while working from anywhere. 
  • Data Entry: Virtual assistants can fulfill your data entry obligations across a variety of industries like real estate and health care. If you would like your VA to adhere to a specific process, document the process and share it as a guide for your virtual assistant to follow as they complete their tasks.
  • Customer Service: Customer service specialists can respond to inquiries, provide tech support, schedule appointments, route calls and messages, and so much more. Teach your virtual assistants any client nuances during the onboarding process to streamline the transition for your customers.

“Our VA does a lot for us — she answers all the emails and replies to most of the inquiries, she answers the phone, she returns voicemails and she handles our intake coordination.”
– Keeley Teemsma, CEO, Refresh Psychotherapy


Virtual Assistant Skills And Job Qualifications

Virtual assistants come in a variety of experience levels and salary ranges. A mid-level virtual assistant can potentially bring the following skills and qualifications to the table:

  • Tech-savvy
  • Great communication skills
  • Knowledge of data management systems
  • Solution-oriented
  • Google Workspace proficiency 
  • Microsoft Office proficiency
  • Some level of higher education
  • Great customer service skills
  • Possible certifications
  • Prior VA job experience

If there is a specific skill you would like your new VA to possess, make sure to share that in your job description.


Benefits of Virtual Assistants

Hiring a virtual assistant can be a strategic move for businesses looking to streamline operations, increase productivity, and reduce overhead costs. Here are some common benefits that come with bringing a virtual assistant on board:

  • Cost Savings: Virtual assistants often work on a contract or hourly basis, reducing the need for overhead costs like office space, equipment, and benefits.
  • Increased Productivity: Virtual assistants can handle time-consuming tasks, allowing in-house employees to focus on core business activities.
  • Access to Diverse Skills: Businesses can tap into a global talent pool to find virtual assistants with specialized skills, from graphic design to social media management.
  • Flexibility: Virtual assistants can be engaged as needed, providing scalability for busy periods or project-based work without the commitment of full-time employment.
  • Enhanced Work-Life Balance: Delegating tasks to virtual assistants can help business owners and employees achieve a better work-life balance by offloading administrative burdens.
The benefits of using virtual assistants for your business

How To Hire A Virtual Assistant

Many businesses opt to partner with virtual assistant companies to hire their remote workforce. The provider handles the recruitment, vetting, and administrative aspects of hiring virtual assistants, streamlining the process for businesses. By doing so, companies can tap into a pool of pre-qualified candidates, ensuring they get the right fit for their specific tasks and requirements.

These providers often have access to a diverse talent pool with a wide range of skills and expertise, making it easier to find the perfect match for your business needs. They also handle the administrative aspects, including payroll, benefits, and compliance, reducing the administrative burden on businesses. Lastly, reputable VA providers tend to have robust vetting processes, ensuring that the virtual assistants they recommend are reliable, skilled, and capable of delivering high-quality work, providing peace of mind to businesses seeking remote talent


How Much Does A Virtual Assistant Cost?

Pricing will always vary by region for any professional. The average cost to employ a local assistant full-time in California is $21 an hour, or $59K per year after other fees are taken into account, such as insurance, benefits, and PTO.

A virtual assistant, with the same level of experience and skills as an in-house employee, is an average of $1,988 per month, or $24K per year.

That’s roughly $34K in savings, for the same kind of reliable, experienced professional. Here is a breakdown of hourly, weekly, monthly, and yearly virtual assistant costs:

(source)

Average Cost Of A Part-Time Virtual Assistant
Per hourFrom $7 to $35 an hour
Per week (20 hrs)From $140 to $700 a week

Per month (80 hrs)

From $560 to $2,800 a month

Per year (960 hrs)

From $6,720 to $33,600 a year

Virtual assistants are capable of more than administrative tasks, data entry, and social media management. They can be remote executive assistants, and personal assistants, and can even help you scale your business.

Want to run the numbers based on your state? Check out our calculator below:


Virtual Assistant FAQ

Still have virtual assistant job-related questions?

How Do Virtual Assistants Work?

Virtual assistants work similarly to executive assistants or personal assistants — the only difference between the two is where they log in to work for you. They are just as reliable, loyal, and anxious to work as local employees. Save time, money, and the mental health of your local professionals by leveraging the age-old practice of outsourcing specific work to proven virtual assistants. 

What Are The Duties Of A Virtual Assistant?

The duties of a virtual assistant can be tailored to the needs of your company. Common VA duties include: Responding to client emails Uploading content to social media, Cold calling sales leads, Scheduling weekly meetings, and Reporting on data analytics. A virtual assistant can also double as a personal assistant who is capable of organizing your professional and personal life. Scheduling doctor’s appointments and tracking your personal finances are all part of the personal assistant job description.

What Skills Does A Virtual Assistant Need?

A virtual assistant should be a great communicator, a team player, and extremely tech-savvy. Your VA will be responsible for troubleshooting virtual problems, so they should also be proficient in software like Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, and Zoom.

How Do I Find A Virtual Assistant Who Specializes In My Industry?

Many virtual assistant service companies state which industries they serve on their website. You can also search by experience and specific skills on services like Fiverr. MyOutDesk hires virtual assistants for a variety of industries so as to provide a wide variety of capable professionals for just about any business. Many skills and talents overlap between industries anyway, meaning a proven virtual assistant is often capable of serving various industries in similar roles.

What Are The Risks Of Hiring A Virtual Assistant?

The main risk associated with virtual assistants is the lack of physical presence, which can lead to communication difficulties in times of need or not knowing what exactly they’re working on. You can mitigate these kinds of risks when you have tracking applications for keeping in touch with your assistant.


Save Up To 70% On Hiring Costs With a Virtual Assistant.

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Dan Trujillo

Dan Trujillo

Writer at MyOutDesk

Dan, based in Sacramento, California, has over 5 years of experience copywriting for the virtual assistant industry. He produces content for social media, blogs, case studies, and publications with MyOutDesk.

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